Alexis Arieff, Analyst in African Affairs
Nicolas Cook, Specialist in African Affairs
Congressional Research Service — November 5, 2009
The Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20540-7500
Guinea is a Francophone West African country on the Atlantic coast, with a population of about 10 million. It is rich in natural resources but characterized by widespread poverty and limited socioeconomic growth and development. While Guinea has experienced regular episodes of internal political turmoil, it was considered a locus of relative stability over the past two decades, a period during which each of its six neighbors suffered one or more armed internal conflicts.
Guinea entered a new period of political uncertainty on December 23, 2008, when a group of junior and mid-level military officers seized power, hours after the death of longtime president and former military leader Lansana Conté. The junta, calling itself the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD, after its French acronym), named as the interim national president a previously relatively unknown figure, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.
Some fear that rivalries within the CNDD, tension between Dadis Camara’s supporters and those who oppose his candidacy, and substantial economic challenges could pose threats to Guinea’s future stability. Guinea has never undergone a democratic or constitutional transfer of power since gaining independence in 1958, and Dadis Camara is one of only three persons to occupy the presidency since that time. After taking power, the junta dissolved the constitution and legislature, appointed a civilian prime minister, and promised to hold presidential and legislative elections. In August 2009, however, elections were postponed from late 2009 to early 2010 and Dadis Camara publicly suggested that he may run for president, contradicting his repeated previous pledges that neither he nor any other CNDD member would run for office. On September 28, 2009, Guinean security forces opened fire on some 50,000 civilian demonstrators in Conakry who were protesting the CNDD and Dadis Camara’s perceived presidential ambitions. The death toll is thought to exceed 150, and dozens of women were reportedly raped and molested by soldiers.
The protest sparked wide international condemnation and led many countries to suspend or further restrict cooperation with the junta. Following the coup in December 2008, the United States suspended some bilateral development aid and all security assistance to Guinea, in line with congressional directives, signaling a hiatus in what had been a cordial bilateral relationship during much of the Conté period. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s governance and humanitarian assistance programs, which comprised a substantial portion of the U.S. aid budget in Guinea before the coup, were not affected by the suspension; nor were U.S. pledged contributions toward Guinea’s electoral process. After the September 28 crackdown, the United States called for Dadis Camara to step down, and announced visa sanctions against CNDD members and certain associates. The African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and European Union (EU) have imposed an arms embargo, with the AU and EU further instituting targeted sanctions on CNDD members and associates.
This report analyzes developments since the military’s seizure of power in December 2008, Guinea’s relations with the United States, and U.S. politics.