In December 2008 a military junta seized power in a coup, hours after the death of former President Lansana Conte, and suspended the country's constitution. The junta, known as the Council for Democracy and Development, is led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara and has proclaimed Dadis Camara as the country's new head of state. Before the coup, Guinea was a constitutional republic in which effective power was concentrated in a strong presidency. Since 1994, the country's elections have often been boycotted by the opposition and criticized by international observers as neither free nor fair. The country has been subject to periodic civil unrest since 2006 due to widespread political and economic upheaval. Ongoing human rights issues include torture and abuse of detainees, killings and abuse of civilians, inhumane prison conditions, arbitrary arrests, prolonged pretrial detention, incommunicado detention, endemic corruption in the judicial system, and restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and movement. Violence and societal discrimination against women; prostitution of young girls; female genital mutilation (FGM); trafficking in persons; ethnic discrimination; forced labor, including by children; and child labor are also problems.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. Government's primary objective in the country is to promote a strong representative democracy that is led by a vibrant and informed civil society capable of peacefully advocating for necessary political and economic reforms. Currently the U.S. Government is focused on encouraging a restoration of civilian rule through free, fair, and transparent presidential and legislative elections. The U.S. Government also is committed firmly to improving respect for human rights and strengthening the press.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
While the U.S. Government has suspended much of its bilateral foreign assistance to the country in response to the coup, it continues to use diplomatic engagement to make progress on democracy and human rights priorities. U.S. programs reinforced electoral institutions, supported improved political processes, increased awareness of civic responsibilities, encouraged NGOs to provide civic education and advocacy for citizen interests, and encouraged citizen participation in local governance. The U.S. Government helped strengthen the country's national electoral commission through a variety of training programs, technical assistance, and sponsored study visits to neighboring countries. In addition, the U.S. Government trained 37 political parties on their roles and responsibilities in the conduct of national elections, and another 100 trainers and 11,000 voter registrars on the voter registration process. More than 595,000 citizens participated in U.S. civic education programs on peace and tolerance, and another 235,000 were informed about voter registration. The U.S. Government also facilitated several conferences for locally elected government representatives and civil society leaders to provide a mechanism for constructive dialogue on key issues.
Through speeches and frequent meetings with government officials, political parties, trade unions, businesspeople, the press, and other actors, U.S. officials advocate for stronger democratic institutions, reduced corruption, and improved electoral processes. Through outreach to youth, women, and other politically marginalized sectors, the U.S. Government encourages peaceful civic participation and a broader understanding of democratic principles. For example, in March 2009, the U.S. Government organized a two-day seminar for 200 community leaders focusing on womens' roles and responsibilities in the electoral process. Similarly, the U.S. Government conducted five democracy themed seminars with a group of 150 university students working towards a degree in political science.
U.S. public diplomacy programs also focused on strengthening the press, especially private radio, which has expanded greatly since the liberalization of the airwaves in 2006. In anticipation of the country's March 2009 legislative elections (currently postponed until October 2009), the U.S. Government supported a week-long training program for 20 journalists on how most effectively to cover an election. The United States provided transmitters to a private radio station and the government-owned Rural Radio to enhance their ability to provide election coverage and civic education. Other U.S. Government programs include numerous video conferences and speaker programs on elections, as well as democracy programs at U.S.-sponsored libraries in Conakry and Kankan. In addition a U.S.-funded NGO project seeks to provide media campaigns and increased civic awareness through community radio. Another U.S.-funded project offers journalism training to journalists in preparation for upcoming elections.
U.S. officials continue to press the government at the highest levels to establish a Human Rights Commission to investigate alleged abuses by security forces. Furthermore, the U.S. Government launched in May 2008 a Human Rights Working Group, which has more than 50 representatives from local NGOs, the private sector, and the government. It meets once a month to discuss a wide range of human rights topics, including trafficking in persons, violence against women, and rights for disabled persons. During 2008 the United States also funded several projects focused on reducing FGM. One such project in the Forest Region provided livelihood training to dozens of FGM practitioners so that they could afford to abandon the practice for another occupation. Another U.S. project supported outreach efforts to hundreds of communities in order to encourage entire villages to abandon FGM as well as the practice of early and forced marriages. The U.S. Government also supported an antitrafficking in persons project, which focuses on monitoring and assisting trafficking victims along Guinea’s border with Mali. In September 2008 U.S. officials hosted interdenominational Iftaar dinners to promote religious tolerance and understanding.