Populations at Risk Previously Studied Situations


Political and ethnic tensions in Guinea, exacerbated by the recent election, leave populations at risk of mass atrocity crimes.
BACKGROUND: In November 2010 presidential elections paved the way for Guinea's first civilian government in five decades. However, a full transition to civilian rule has been undermined by the delay of legislative elections that were originally scheduled for 2011 and have been postponed at least four times.

Following UN-mediated talks between the government and the opposition from June to mid-September, elections were finally held on 28 September. However, allegations of voting irregularities have delayed the release of results. The opposition pulled out of the electoral process on 3 October and withdrew from UN-brokered talks on 8 October. The government of Guinea has denied allegations of electoral fraud, though international observers have confirmed irregularities marred the elections. Despite mounting tensions, there have been no reports of violence to date.

Prior to the election, disagreements over the organization and date of the elections resulted in opposition protesters and security forces in Conakry engaging in violent clashes. These incidents have resulted in the deaths of 50 people between March and August 2013, with the security forces widely accused of using excessive force. The violence has deepened hostility between Guinea's main ethnic groups, particularly the Malinke and Peuhl, whose members are predominately affiliated with the government and opposition, respectively.

Excessive use of force and ethnically motivated violence is not new to Guinea. In September 2009 government forces opened fire on a peaceful protest in a Conakry stadium while also committing widespread sexual violence. At least 150 civilians died as a result, with the majority of victims being ethnic Peuhl. While several high-level figures have been charged in relation to the massacre, none have been tried so far.

ANALYSIS: Despite a relatively peaceful vote on 28 September, the current political situation remains tense. Further delays in releasing results and failure to mediate the electoral process could potentially result in violence. Excessive use of force on the part of the security forces has previously gone unpunished and erodes people's trust in government and the justice system. Ethnicity and power are closely connected in Guinea, while communal identities are routinely manipulated to serve political interests. Instability is compounded by high rates of youth unemployment and a weakened economy.

The government of Guinea requires ongoing assistance from the international community in order to uphold its Responsibility to Protect and prevent any post-election violence.

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: Mr. Said Djinnit, UN Special Representative for West Africa, played an instrumental role in facilitating the government and opposition's agreement to hold the 28 September elections. Faced with rising political tensions inside Guinea, on 5 October Special Representative Djinnit appealed for calm. The Special Representative also called for disputes of Guinea's election results to be settled through the Supreme Court. These sentiments were echoed on 8 October in a joint statement by the United States, France, European Union and Economic Community of West African States.

NECESSARY ACTION: Any electoral disputes must be resolved through the Supreme Court in a timely manner. The international community should continue to provide assistance to Guinea as part of a long-term strategy of engagement with the government and opposition as the country attempts to complete a full transition to civilian rule.

The government must end impunity and strengthen the rule of law. Those who incite or carry out violence on the grounds of ethnicity or political affiliation must be held accountable. The government needs to investigate the deadly election-related clashes between protestors and security forces that took place between March and August this year. All perpetrators of grave human rights violations must be brought to justice.

Security sector reform should be rigorously implemented and must include a strong human rights component. The government must ensure that the security forces exercise restraint when confronting peaceful protests.

Last Updated: 15 October 2013