In 1958 Guinea voted in a referendum to be independent of Gaullist France. From 1958 until 1962 the country's President, Sekou Toure, tolerated multi-party politics. Thereafter, however, he started purging the country of its intellectuals and professional classes, and the government adopted a one-party state policy, an approach which was then very much in vogue in Africa.
Under Sekou Toure Guinea suffered a repressive, personal rule, which did not allow for the development of any autonomous political or social institutions. The ruling party and the state became one, and all organs of the state were subordinated to the executive, which, in essence, was President Sekou Toure. High level corruption became the norm. The state also assumed the character of the President's ethnic group, the Malinke. The regime purged or forced into exile members of other ethnic groups, while others were killed, tortured, "disappeared" or imprisoned under the Preventive Detention laws. This period also saw the economic decay of the country. Economic entrepreneurship did not thrive in a climate where scholarship and political discourse were interpreted as political dissent and thus not encouraged.
Throughout this period the official Guinean position on human rights held that people's collective rights took precedence over individual rights--an excuse that the government used to justify a lot of human rights violations. Guinea ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights in 1982.
Sekou Toure died in 1984, and the military under General Lassana Conte seized political power. General Conte promised to liberalize Guinea politically and economically, which he did to some extent. In the 1990s, as elsewhere on the continent, democratic forces emerged to demand a return to a multi-party system. Elections took place, although they also brought to the fore existing polarization between the three dominant ethnic groups, the Fula, Malinke and Susu. General Conte won the elections, although some disputed the results. He was sworn in in 1994 under a new constitution.
The Constitution makes explicit provision for the protection of individual liberties and freedoms. Since the elections, however, the government has been gradually sliding into dictatorship, tightening its grip over civil society. Opponents of the ruling party are subject to attacks and threats. The media as a whole remains state-dominated, and private press houses are intimidated. There is a strong military presence in the city of Conakry, with road blocks and interrogation at every stop.
The government refuses to recognize NGOs, which it views as "opponents". For example, it has to date refused to respond to the application for legal registration of the Organisation Guinéene de Défense des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen (Guinean Organization for the Defense of Human and Citizens' Rights). Civil institutions in Guinea are very weak and virtually non-existent. Where they do exist, they are run by people who have had no democratic exposure since the early Sekou Toure years. The judiciary, which is a vital organ in the protection of human rights, is manifestly corrupt and incompetent with very poor conditions of service. Police officers and the army are no less corrupt. In fact, corruption affects almost every aspect of social life, going hand in hand with poor economic conditions. Essentially, there is not even a modicum of modern democratic culture in Guinea.
HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
(Guinean Association for Human Rights)
The Association Guinéene des Droits de l'Homme was formed when some members of the Organisation Guinéene de Défense des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen (OGDDH) decided that the OGDDH had become very politicized, taking the side of one of the political parties. They broke away from OGDDH to form their own, independent, non-political human rights NGO, the Association, in 1992.
The Association's mandate is to promote and protect human rights in Guinea.
The Association has a General Assembly, which is the supreme decision and policy-making body. There is an Executive Committee, which is made up of the President, Vice-President, Secretary-General, Treasurer and Assistants.
The Association has visited prisons and made reports on its findings. It has embarked upon human rights sensitization and education programmes in Guinea, and has translated human rights instruments into the main local languages of Guinea. It also educated the populace on the electoral system before the elections.
(Guinean Children's Association)
During the reign of Sekou Toure a lot of children lost their parents and relatives, who were either killed or died in detention. After the coup d'etat of 1984, the country began to liberalize, and a number of such children decided to form an organization to defend their rights. The Association Guinéene des Enfants was created in 1992.
The Association's mandate is:
- to educate the public to prevent a repetition of the violations of the Sekou Toure years;
- to fight for the rehabilitation of those who lost their parents, property and education; and
- to convert the concentration camps of Sekou Toure's Guinea into monuments of remembrance.
A General Assembly elects an Executive Committee to implement its decisions.
The organization is involved in human rights advocacy. It holds demonstration to commemorate the massacre by the Sekou Toure government of its opponents in the 1960s and 1970s.
(African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters-Guinea)
A meeting held in Congo-Brazzaville in 1989 developed a pan-African initiative, the Commission Africaine des Promoteurs de la Santé et des Droits de l'Homme (CAPSDH), to deal with issues of health as they relate to human rights. In 1993 the Guinean section was formed to focus on the right to health within Guinea. CAPSDH also has sections in Ghana and Congo.
The main objective of the Commission is to promote human rights as a whole, with special emphasis on the right to health.
At both the national and regional levels, the supreme decision-making body is a General Assembly. There is a national Executive Committee for each country, which is empowered to implement its own national policies. The Executive Committee is composed of a President, Vice-President, Secretary-General, Treasurer and Assistants.
CAPSDH-Guinée has worked on the psychological rehabilitation of released political detainees, and held seminars on human rights.
(Guinean Organization for the Defense of Human and Citizens' Rights)
During Sekou Toure's rule no human rights organization or forum existed which permitted the citizenry to discuss political issues pertaining to the country. When the military took over, they promised some liberalization, of which some academics, journalists, and lawyers decided to take advantage. This led to the creation of the Organisation Guinéene de Défense des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen (OGDDH) in 1990.
The Organisation's mandate is:
- the promotion of human rights;
- human rights education and sensitization; and
- waging campaigns to protect human rights.
The supreme body of the Organisation is the General Assembly, which elects an Executive Committee composed of the President, Vice-President, Secretary-General, Treasurer, Secretary for External Relations, and various committees.
OGDDH has organized seminars and workshops for the public at large, and for members of the security forces. It commemorates notable human rights days, for example, the African Charter Day and International Human Rights Day (October 21st and December l0th respectively). It makes statements in cases of violations, and publishes an annual report on the state of human rights in the country.
- Nana K.A. Busia, Jr.
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