Guinea was probably first populated in Neolithic times ; Stone implements from this period are found on the west coast, in the Baga region. The first inhabitants were probably the baga people, a collector, hunter and fisherman who lived on the Fouta Djalon Plateau. The Bags were later displaced to the coast of the Susu, who were settled in the upper part of the Niger Valley, where they founded the Mali kingdom.
The oldest known history of Guinea dates from the 11th century AD, when the area was part of the Ghanaian kingdom. Up to the 15th century, the area was essentially populated by Mandinka people; malinke in the east, dialonke in the central regions and susu in the west. The Toucouleur and Fulani people immigrated in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The first Europeans to come to Guinea were Portuguese (1445). After them came both French and British, who occasionally traded on the coast. Until the 19th century, it was common to call the entire coast from Nigeria to Senegal Guinea, where Upper Guinea covered the stretch from Senegal to Sierra Leone, and Lower Guinea from Sierra Leone to Nigeria. Guinea became a French colony in 1891 and incorporated into French West Africa in 1904.
In 1946, the country became a French overseas territory, and the nation’s inhabitants thus French citizens, with the right to send deputies to the French National Assembly.
After World War II, four political parties were active in Guinea. In 1952, Ahmed Sékou Touré became Secretary General of the Party Democratique de Guinée (PDG), which was part of the West African Party Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA). He became mayor of Conakry in 1955 and deputy to parliament in Paris in 1956.
In the elections to a local national assembly in 1958, PDG occupied 57 of the 60 seats. As a result, Sékou Touré became Vice President of a Government of Guinea.
In 1958, France offered its colonies membership in a French commonwealth. Guinea was the only one to say no, and the country went into immediate independence after a referendum. On November 2, 1958, Guinea became an independent republic, with Sékou Touré as president. The decision led to France severing relations with Guinea and withdrawing all its personnel and equipment from the country, making the development of the country more difficult. France also did not support Guinea financially and the country received financial assistance from other countries, especially from Eastern Europe.
In the early 1960s, an attempt was made to merge the three states of Guinea, Ghana and Mali, based on radical Pan-African thinking especially promoted by Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah, and supported by Touré. However, formal union formation never led to any real integration. President Touré established a one-party government and introduced an authoritarian regime.
Guinea supported the liberation struggle in neighboring Guinea-Bissau, which was a Portuguese colony. In 1970, a group of opposition Guineans in exile joined forces with Portuguese forces in Guinea in an attempt to overthrow Touré and weaken the liberation struggle. Another attempt to remove the president was made during a riot in 1976, but Touré remained seated until his death in 1984.
After Touré’s death, a group of officers seized power in a military coup. These were led by Colonels Lansana Conté and Diarra Traoré, who became president and prime minister respectively. The National Assembly was dissolved and the power added to a military council. The country’s only permitted party, PDG, was dissolved. Political prisoners were released from prison camps and prisons, and Guineans in exile began to return. The post of prime minister was abolished in 1984, and in 1985 the deposed prime minister Traoré tried to seize power through a new coup, but failed and was subsequently executed.
Introduction of democracy
Although Traoré, like Touré, remained in power, thus creating a form of political stability, there was an opposition to his regime, led by the country’s traditionally strong trade union movement. In 1987–88, protests broke out in the capital Conakry in protest of economic conditions, and in 1990 and 1991 there were major strikes. This political pressure helped Conté announce a plan for the introduction of democracy in the fall of 1991.
A new constitution was passed in a referendum the same year and opened up the possibility of establishing political parties. Thirty political groups joined the opposition democratique national (FDN), led by Mamadou Bâ. Several parties were formed in 1991–92, among them the Parti démocratique de Guinée (PDG) – a revitalization of the party that ruled for 26 years during the Sékou Touré. A new political transition body took over for the military council. In 1992, most military members resigned from the government. One of the first parties to register was the Rassemblement populaire Guinéen (RPG), led by Alpha Condé. Lansana Conté was among those behind the Parti de l’unité et du progrès (PUP), while Mamadou Bâ led the Union pour la nouvelle republic (UNR).
However, the opposition was divided, and in 1992 there were again several violent clashes between supporters and opponents of Conté. Extensive riots erupted after the elections were postponed both in 1992 and 1993, with several killed. The same thing happened before the presidential elections in 1993. This was won by Conté, who was re-elected in 1998 and 2003. In 2001, the constitution was changed by referendum – to allow Conté to fill office for more than two periods, while increasing the presidential term. from five to seven years.
The vote, as well as the subsequent presidential election, was boycotted by the opposition. Only one candidate, Mamadou Bhoye Barry from the Union pour le progrès national (UPN), voted against the president. The first free elections of the National Assembly were held in June 1995, and the PUP gained an absolute majority with 71 out of 114 seats; RPG became the biggest opposition party.
In 1995, several parties and organizations joined forces in an opposition front, the Coordination de l’opposition démocratique (Codem). A military coup attempt was turned down in 1996 – soldiers then went to action for better pay and terms of service. The PUP, along with allied parties, won the new parliamentary quake in 2002, winning 85 of the 114 seats, with Union pour le Progrès et Le Renouveau (UPR) as the second largest party. While local elections were held in 2005, the scheduled parliamentary elections were postponed in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Guinea had long limited experience with democratic governance after independence in 1958, first with the Sékou Touré until 1984, then Lansana Conté. Only in 2010 did a democratically elected president come to power: Alpha Condé. After the formal introduction of multiparty government in the early 1990s, democracy still had restrictions, while there were several popular protests against the regime – including repeated demands for the president to step down, as well as pressure to change the prime minister. Conté was under intense pressure to relinquish his position due to his long ailing health, and questions raised about his ability to hold office.
From a market in Conakry. The woman in the foreground wears a dress with the image of Sékou Touré, the president who ruled from 1958 to 1984.
Conflicts after 2000
Guinea has a long tradition of a strong trade union movement, which also plays a national political role. It was both the 2006 and 2007 general strikes ; in 2006 significantly over economic conditions, in 2007 more to influence the political situation. The trade union movement then cooperated with other political forces, including with demands for Conté’s departure, whereupon the president introduced the state of emergency. Parliament’s subsequent decision to revoke the state of emergency meant a political defeat for the president.
The strike in 2007, and other protests, led to violent clashes with the order of power, and over 100 were killed. Both in 2007 and 2008, there was an uproar within the army, including demands for higher salaries.
In addition to short periods of democracy, Guinea is listed by Transparency International as one of the world’s most corrupt countries. Ethnic contradictions and tensions within the army are also part of the picture, and there have been fears of civil war in Guinea, such as in neighboring Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast – with further regional destabilization.
In 2005, former President Charles Taylor was linked to a reported assassination attempt against President Conté. During the riots in 2007, the Liberian and Sierra Leone presidents visited Guinea to discuss measures that could prevent political unrest from spreading, within the framework of regional cooperation on security. Concern for national and regional security is also the development of recent years, with Guinea and other countries in West Africa becoming an important transit area for drug smuggling into Europe, which has undermined parts of the state apparatus.
Around the turn of the millennium, Guinea was indirectly involved in the conflicts in neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone – which were in many ways closely linked to each other and which also led to the destabilization of Guinea. The civil war in a third neighboring country, the Ivory Coast, from 2000/01, the civil war in Guinea-Bissau, as well as ethnic unrest in Ghana and the uprising in Senegal’s Casamance region, contributed to the fear of destabilizing the entire region. Guinea received close to a million refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone, and up to 100,000 Guineans were internally displaced as a result of fighting in the border areas and after a guerrilla fighting against the government of Liberia established bases on Guinea’s side of the border.
President Conté supported the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) group, which fought against Charles Taylor’s regime. Nearly 100,000 Guineans also fled home from the Ivory Coast after the war broke out there.
Liberian guerrillas have also recruited soldiers in Guinea. From the early 1990s, there was movement of both guerrilla soldiers and weapons across multiple borders, including to Guinea, where social and economic problems also gave rise to unrest in the early 2000s. An armed uprising broke out in the southeastern part of the country in 2000 – an area close to the war in Liberia. A group called the Rassemblement des forces démocratiques de Guinée (RFDG) claimed to be behind the uprising, which aimed to overthrow President Conté. Another group announced that it, with the support of the Liberian government, would launch a national uprising against Conté.
In 2000, there were serious attacks against the cities of Guéckédou and Macenta. In this remote part of the country there were also ethnic contradictions. In connection with the local elections in 2001, these contradictions came to the surface, and there was a clash between two ethnic groups in Nzerekore – Konianke and Guerze. Ethnic groups in Guinea gladly associated themselves with their tribal friends in Liberia, who supported various actors in the Liberian civil war. The Conakry government equipped local militias in the area, which in 2000 were deployed to Liberian guerrillas who attempted to invade Guinea. The contradiction between konianke and guerze also has a religious side, the former being essentially Muslim, the latter Christians and animists.
In December 2008, President Conté died, and a group of officers led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power. He appointed a council to govern the country, and this military junta promised to hold elections within two years; Camara proclaimed herself president. As a result of the unconstitutional shift of power, Guinea was suspended from the African Union. The coup created fears in the region of renewed instability in Guinea. Army divisions opened fire on a mass demonstration in Conakry in September 2009 demanding that Camara not run for election 2010, but resign.
According to a national human rights group, 157 were killed and over 1,200 injured; According to the government, 57 were killed and a UN tribunal later identified 156 killed. As a result of the violence, the AU, the EU and the US imposed sanctions on the regime the following month, while China strengthened its relations with offering Guinea loans to gain access to the country’s significant natural resources. The UN set up a tribunal to investigate the incident. In December, the tribunal concluded that Camara was directly responsible for the killings and that the country’s military junta should be indicted for crimes against humanity. The abuses also included at least 109 girls and women, including in the form of rape.
In December 2009, President Camara was shot by one of his soldiers and flown to Morocco for treatment; then to Burkina Faso in 2010. This led to further uncertainty about the further development in Guinea, and at the 2009 tampon the former colonial power warned France against civil war if Camara returned to the country. In January 2010, Camara announced that he would not run for president and supported the transition back to democratic rule from his neighbor’s exile. However, the ethnic and religious conflicts of interest did not diminish after the transition to democratic governance, and in 2011, the president, Alpha Condé, was subjected to unsuccessful coup attempts in 2011.
After independence, relations with France improved throughout the 1960s, but never became as close as those of other former French colonies in West Africa. In the 1960s, Guinea focused on the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, as well as on Ghana and Mali, which together with Guinea decided to establish a political union. Relations with France were re-established in 1975 and improved after the death of Sékou Touré, especially after the democratization process began in the 1990s. In 2000, the French-speaking group called on aid workers to Guinea to suspend aid because of the trial of opposition leader Condé.
Relations with the Soviet Union diminished during Touré, but improved again after his death, after which relations with the United States were strengthened in the 1990s. A military cooperation agreement with Russia was signed in 2001. Unlike the EU, which has also criticized Guinea for lack of democracy and human rights violations, France has provided considerable development assistance. French companies have, among other things, invested in the country as a result of the privatization of state-owned enterprises. Guinea has also received significant financial support from Libya and China, among others.
In recent years, Guinea has been more actively involved in regional politics, including the ECOWAS partner organization, and through it sent the troops to the peacekeeping force in Liberia, ECOMOG. In 2002, President Conté opposed the proposal to deploy an ECOMOG force on both sides of the Guinea-Liberia border. From 1990, Guinea strengthened its military presence along the border with Liberia, but the war in Liberia led to the illegal movement of soldiers and weapons across the border. In the fall of 1999, Guinea and Liberia agreed to end hostilities in the form of alleged support to rebels in the other country. After the uprising in southeastern Guinea in 2000, the situation deteriorated again.
In 1991, Guinea also sent troops to the ECOMOG force deployed in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone Presidents Joseph Momoh, Valentine Strasser and Ahmed Kabbah all sought refuge in Guinea after being deposed in the 1990s. In 1999, Sierra Leone accused Guinea of launching a military offensive against insurgents in Sierra Leone, while Guinea in the late 1990s accused the governments of both Burkina Faso and Liberia, as well as the RUF guerrilla in Sierra Leone, for backing destabilization in the country.. In 1998, Guinea sent troops to support the government of Guinea-Bissau.
The leaders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone met in 1999 to revitalize the regional Mano River Union (MRU). The three countries met for peace talks in Morocco in 2002, and agreed to strengthen border security. MRU was established in 1973, Guinea member in 1980; Ivory Coast joined the Union in 2008.