Wednesday 21.8.2019 in Latest Developments in Guinea Country PageFrench
Debate on replacing the 2010 Constitution
Opposition and civil society groups have denounced plans by the ruling party to replace the current 2010 Constitution. Although the ruling party - the Rassemblement du peuple de Guinée (RPG) - claims that the modification of the Constitution is necessary for the 'modernisation of institutions', the timing of the move - presidential elections are to take place in 2020 - makes observers believe this would open the door for president Condé to run for a third term. The 2010 Constitution limits presidents to a maximum of two terms of five years in office. The platform Front national pour la défense de la Constitution (FNDC; National Front for the Defense of the Constitution), consisting of members of the political opposition, civil society groups and trade unions, was formed on 3rd April 2019 in reaction to the debate on a new Constitution and the perceived ambitions of president Condé to replace the Constitution so as to extend his term beyond 2020. According to human rights organisations in Guinea the plans for a new Constitution may destabilise the country and lead to renewed political violence.
Protest against changes of the 2010 Constitution: one death, several injured
On 13th June 2019, one person died and at least 28 people were injured when clashes broke out during a protest in N’Zérékoré, a city in the south of Guinea. The protest was called by the Front national pour la défense de la Constitution (FNDC) to demonstrate against a potential replacement of the Constitution to allow president Condé a third term beyond 2020. Member of the FNDC Moïse Haba told Radio France Internationale (RFI) that the protesters were surrounded by security forces when gathering in front of the offices of a political party and young protesters started throwing stones when security forces used tear gas to disperse the protesters. The mayor of N’Zérékoré, Moriba Albert Délamou, previously banned the protest, and other protests, to 'avoid disturbances to public order'.
🔎[#GUINÉE] 🇬🇳 Un jeune manifestant a été tué mardi à Conakry lors de heurts avec les forces de l'ordre, après une marche avortée de l'opposition. Son leader Cellou Dalein Diallo @Cellou_UFDG, a été empêché de quitter les abords de son domicile. pic.twitter.com/MOLGjGt4Lf— Le journal Afrique (@JTAtv5monde) October 30, 2018
Opposition protests: several deaths
On 30th October 2018, one person was killed by a bullet, and 15 people injured in Conakry during an opposition protest. Previously, the leader of opposition Union des forces démocratiques de Guinée (UFDG; Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea), Cellou Dalein Diallo's house was surrounded by police forces, preventing him from participating in the protest. Police justified the measure by claiming it was necessary to ensure his safety. Authorities previously banned the protest citing the sociopolitical tensions in the country. As previously reported by the Monitor, two people died during opposition protests and 'ville morte' (dead city) protest actions on 15th -16th and 23rd October 2018, to denounce what opposition calls the manipulation and corruption in the installation of municipal councils by the ruling party.
According to Amnesty International, at least 18 people died in the context of protests in the 10 months between January 2018 and end of October 2018. An authentication of videos and photos of the protest on 15th October 2018 by the organisation verified the presence of members of the so-called 'red berets', a military unit that has been implicated in human rights violations in the past, holding lethal weapons. François Patuel of the human rights organisation commented:
"During this year , demonstrations in Guinea were marked by appalling violence on all sides, in particular an excessive use of force by security forces, and the deployment of a military unit known to have committed human rights violations risks to further aggravate the situation." (translated from French)
Two other demonstrators were killed by live ammunition as they defied a ban on an opposition protest in November 2018. The opposition had called for a 'ville morte' (dead city) protest action on 7th November and a protest on 8th November. Earlier that day, on 7th November 2018, clashes took place between protesters and security forces. A police officer succumbed to stabbing wounds sustained by angry protesters on 8th November 2018.
In November 2018, authorities deployed military units at key locations in Conakry, often used for protests, on the basis of a worsening security situation. On 15th November 2018, security forces dispersed an opposition protest in Conakry, where about one thousand protesters had gathered, according to media reports. Clashes between groups of young people and police, who were equipped with anti-riot gear, were reported in the district of Hamdallaye. The protesters condemned the impunity for police violence during previous protests, which opposition say has led to more than 100 civilian deaths at the hands of security forces.
In a statement on 17th April 2019, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called upon authorities to set up a special unit to investigate the deaths of several people in the context of protests. In particular, the human rights group demanded investigations into the conduct of security forces and others in 'unlawful acts during protests'. Protests were often violent, with clashes between protesters and security forces, according to witnesses and journalists interviewed by HRW in January and February 2019. Although the police leadership said that police officers are only allowed to use non-lethal weapons, such as water cannons and tear gas, during some of the protests, several witnesses said they saw automatic weapons at the hands of security forces. The interviewees also said the security forces have been involved in criminal conduct, such as theft and banditry.
On 5th April 2019, police detained 15 opposition members during a protest in Conakry against the re-opening of the National Assembly. In January 2019, president Condé extended the mandate of members of parliament, which ended on 13th January, until new legislative elections take place. The elections were due in September-October 2018 but had been postponed since. In May 2019, the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) of Guinea announced that legislative elections will take place at the end of 2019. Among those detained were Faya Millimouno, the leader of the political opposition party Bloc Libéral (BL).
Dispersal of student and teacher's protests
On 4th June 2019, clashes between student protesters and security forces broke out on the campus of the University of Labé, in northern Guinea. One student died from injuries sustained during the clashes, and several others were injured. The protest started by students of the sociology department, in solidarity with two other students whose presence during exams was made mandatory despite them being hospitalised after been involved in a road accident. University authorities requested the assistance of police officers to contain the protest. An investigation was opened while the university authorities and the Minister of Education condemned the heavy-handed response of the security officers.
On 14th February 2019, security forces dispersed a sit-in of a group of contract teachers, using tear gas, when they tried to gather to march to the Ministry of National Education and Literacy to demand their admittance, without condition, to the civil service. The contract teachers replaced existing teachers who went on a recent three-month strike. Some of the protesters were reportedly injured, while others were detained.
La Guinée a une nouvelle loi qui vise à protéger les gendarmes qui utilisent les armes à feu des poursuites judiciaires.— Jim Wormington (@jwormington) July 4, 2019
Avec la Guinée au bord d’une crise politique, la loi pourrait favoriser l’impunité en cas de nouvelles violations des droits humains.https://t.co/oDBB7XDju6
National Assembly passes law on the use of weapons by gendarmes
On 25th June 2019, Guinea's National Assembly approved a draft law on the use of weapons by gendarmes, outlining when they can use lethal force. Human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticized the law, saying that it fails to outline that firearms can only be used when there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury. Additionally, they fear that the law will lead to even more impunity as the explanatory note of the law mentions the need for the protection of gendarmes against 'vengeful' prosecutions.
Corinne Dufka of Human Rights Watch commented:
"With political tension rising ahead of the 2020 presidential elections, the last thing Guinea needs is a vague law that appears to give gendarmes too much discretion to resort to lethal force."
On 7th May 2019, a court in Kindia sentenced seven members of the platform Front national pour la défense de la Constitution (FNDC; National Front for the Defense of the Constitution) to a prison sentence of three months and a fine of 500,000 Guinean francs (54 USD). The seven - Boubacar Barry, Thierno Mamoudou Diallo, Mohamed Camara, Amadou Soumah, Sylla Mohamed, Mamadou Celou Diallo and Mohamed Keita - were arrested on 4th May 2019 at the stadium Fodé Fissa in the city of Kindia, where president Condé was to launch the festivities for Guinea's 61st anniversary of its independence. According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the seven were wearing t-shirts printed with 'No to Constitutional Changes', and were charged with 'obstructing the right to demonstrate' and 'disturbing public order' under articles 625 and 561 of the Criminal Code. An appeal court in Conakry acquitted and released the seven on 13th May 2019 on grounds that the offence was not committed.
Arbitrary arrest of journalist
On 26th March 2019, judicial police officers detained journalist and editor of conakrylive.info Lansana Camara after a complaint by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mamadi Touré, who accused the journalist of defamation following an article in which Camara allegedly raised questions on the amounts of unbudgeted import of fuel to be used by the Ministry. The arbitrary detention of the journalist occurred despite the decriminalisation of press offenses in 2010, and was condemned by national media organisations. Camara was released on 2nd April 2019, following a solidarity march organised by media organisations such as the Union of Professionals of the Private Press (Syndicat des professionnels de la presse privée - SPPG) and fellow journalists. The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) said that the day prior to Camara's release, the investigating judge at the Magistrate's Court of Conakry rejected an application for Camara's release. The MFWA condemned the arbitrary arrest:
"We condemn the treatment of Camara like a criminal in what is clearly a civil matter and urge the authorities to discontinue all criminal proceedings against him."
Assault on journalists covering strikes and protests
On 30th April 2019, two journalists were attacked while covering a protest, against a possible third term of president Alpha Condé, in the city of Kankan, in eastern Guinea. Malick Diakité from Horizon FM and Alhassane Diallo from the news site Guineealerte.com were beaten and their equipment confiscated by a group of persons believed to be supporters of the ruling presidential coalition - the Alliance Arc-en Ciel.
On 29th October 2018, a police officer of the mobile security intervention brigade assaulted two journalists in the suburb of Kipé in Conakry, said the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). Kadiatou Diallo of Lynx FM and Mohamed Nana Bangoura of Mosaicguinee were covering a teacher's strike when they were assaulted. There is no known motive for the assault.
National media regulator suspends journalist's accreditation
National media regulator Haute autorité de la communication (HAC; High Authority of Communication) suspended the accreditation of journalist and correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI) and Agence France-Presse (AFP) Mouctar Bah in a decision on 14th November 2018. The decision followed a complaint from the Minister of Defence with regards to a reportage of Bah, published by RFI and AFP on 8th November 2018, on the killing of two people in the context of the opposition protests of 7th November (see under the section of Peaceful Assembly). In the reportage, Bah cited witnesses and reported that the lethal shots that killed the two were fired by security forces, who were identified by their red berets. The HAC substantiated its decision by saying that the journalist was 'failing to verify information', that there was a 'lack of proof' and 'lack of balance' in his report, despite Bah's repeated efforts to contact representatives of the security forces in order to get their comments. The HAC further said in its decision that 'any new application for accreditation in favour of Mister Mouctar Bah will not be examined by the college of Commissioners until the end of February 2019'.