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Assessment for Malinke in Guinea

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Malinke in Guinea, 31 December 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f3a891f.html [accessed 17 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Guinea Facts
Area:    245,860 sq. km.
Capital:    Conakry
Total Population:    7,477,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

It is difficult to determine how likely the Malinke are to engage in protest activity. Without a clear understanding of the political climate in Guinea, assessment is difficult, if not impossible. It is known that they are not currently facing any economic discrimination, but they are subject to politically discriminatory policies. It is also known that the Malinke possess some of the characteristics commonly found in groups engaging in militant activity, such as significant group concentration and experience with government repression. It is unknown if the group has been involved in protest, and they appear to not be cohesive enough to mount any sort of militant campaign to overthrow Conte. Because it is unknown if the group has made any demands of the government, it is impossible to guess if the group is likely to protest the demands not being met. One additional issue which needs to be considered is that the government appears to be more concerned with the Malinke compared to other groups, possibly due to their being the favored group prior to Conte's rule. However, Guinea has not had a history of ethnic violence, Conte claims to be making reforms, and the Guinean People's Rally, the main Malinke opposition party, appears to be committed to democratic practices.

Analytic Summary

The Malinke have long been found in the region that now comprises Guinea (TRADITN

= 1). While they are found mainly in the Northern region of the country (REGIONAL = 1), they have migrated throughout Guinea in search of better economic opportunities (MIGRANT = 3, GROUPCON = 2). Malinke is a separate language (LANG = 1) not spoken by other ethnic groups in the country; otherwise, these other ethnic groups are very similar (RACE, CUSTOM, and BELIEF = 0).

Guinea gained independence from France on 2 October 1958 after rejecting the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, which would have resulted in the colony becoming a self-governing entity within the French Community. At independence, labor leader and Malinke Ahmed Sekou Touré, head of the Guinean Democratic Party-African Democratic Assembly (PDG-RDA), became president. During almost 30 years in power, Touré pursued a socialist agenda that resulted in harsh repression of all opposition to his rule. Nearly two million Guineans were thought to have left the country by 1983 to escape the government's repressive activities. France cut all aid to the country on its withdrawal, and Touré developed ties to the Soviet bloc until the early 1980s.

After decolonization, the Malinke occupied a position of special status in Guinea due to the common ethnicity of Sekou Touré. Resentment between the Malinke and other ethnic groups grew, but Touré, though faced with several coup attempts, managed to keep ethnic violence in check during his tenure as president. Touré died in 1984. Before a permanent successor could be chosen by the ruling party, the armed forces seized power in a bloodless coup, and Col. Lasana Conte, a Soussou, was appointed head of the government by the Military Committee of National Reformation. The PDG-RDA and the legislature were dissolved, and the Constitution suspended. With the rise of Conte, the special status held by the Malinke was transferred to the Soussou. The Soussou have maintained this status to the present day. Currently, the Malinke are quite fractionated and lacks the cohesiveness necessary to challenge the Soussou effectively for power (COHESX9 = 3).

In October 1985, Conte, like many African heads of state, began restructuring the economy in line with World Bank and IMF prescriptions. Towards the late 1980s, internal and external pressure on the government led to political reforms. In late 1988, Conte proposed the creation of a new Constitution, and a year later he proposed a transitional government. In November 1990, Conte appealed to exiled Guinean political leaders to return to the country. Many returned, including Alpha Conde, a Malinke and head of the Rally for the Guinean People. The transition to multiparty rule was marred by violence in Guinea. For example, as many as 60 of Conde's supporters were arrested after they protested his summons to a police station in Conakry for possessing "subversive materials." In another incident in 1993, anti-government protesters were fired upon, resulting in as many as 18 deaths. President elections were finally held in December 1993. The main contenders included President Conte, Alpha Conde (RPG), Mamadou Boye Ba, a Fulani and head of the Union for a New Republic (UNR) and Siradiou Diallo, also a Fulani and head of the Party for Renewal and Progress (PRP). The polls resulted in the election of Conte with 52% of the vote. However, the opposition claimed the elections were unfair, and relations between the government and opposition parties were strained. Legislative elections took place in June 1985, and the opposition again complained of harassment and irregularities. The opposition then joined forces in the Coordination of the Democratic Opposition. Incidents over the next few years substantiated the opposition's allegations that the government harassed its members. For example, the RPG's headquarters in Conakry were ransacked and damaged by fire in November 1996, and opposition leaders were periodically arrested.

Conte's Unity and Progress Party (PUP) is seen as dominated by Soussou while the RPG is seen as a Malinke party. The PRP and UNR, Fulani parties, merged to form the Union for Progress and Renewal in 2000. Elections in December 1998 were marred by violence and opposition allegations that they were unfair. The opposition claimed the government used troops to break up their party rallies, and foreign election monitors were refused permission to oversee the election process. Official results indicated that President Conte (PUP) had won with 56% of the vote, while Ba (UNR) came in second with 25%, and Conde (RPG) came in third with 17%. Aside from the political transition process, Guinea is also challenged by its role as host to 700,000 (as of 1998) of the region's war refugees.

Very little information from Guinea reaches the western media, and therefore not much information is available on the current status of the Malinke. There is no evidence that they face any demographic disadvantages (DEMSTR03 = 0) beyond the large amount of refugees which have flooded into Guinea from war-ravaged Sierra Leone. It is known that a ban on political organizations exists – all political meetings must be approved in advance by the government, thus restricting all opposition meetings. Public policies toward the group are inadequate to counterbalance social discrimination (POLDIS03 = 3). However, the Malinke face no apparent economic discrimination (ECDIS03 = 0). In addition, no evidence of conflict between the Malinke and any other ethnic group exists (COMCON03 = 0), which may be a function of either the lack of information on Guinea or Guinea's effective job of maintaining positive ethnic relations throughout its history. The Conte government has a history of arresting Malinke political leaders such as Alpha Conde, usually releasing them after several months in detention. Amnesty International reported incidents of government repression in both 1999 and 2000, but never identified the ethnic group affected by these repressive acts. It must be assumed that some of this repression is aimed at the Malinke, due to the fact that they comprise a large percentage of the population and that they are a contender to the Soussou. This repression has included both arrests and some cases of torture being inflicted on those who are in custody.

Due to the ban on political organizing, it is also very difficult to determine what the Malinke want from the government. Despite the ban, the Guinean People's Rally – a party which represents mainly the Malinke – exists, thus indicating that the Malinke want more influence over Guinean affairs. Currently, the Malinke appear to be excluded from the political process. Due to the repression reported by Amnesty International, it can also be logically assumed that the group would like these practices to come to an end.

Before decolonization, the Malinke had a history of opposing the colonial authorities (PROT45X = 2). After 1955, those protests ended. There are also no reports of protest activity by the Malinke since they lost their favored status in 1984. Either this is an accurate account, or the government has prevented word of these protests from reaching the Western media (PROT03 = 0). The only known instance of militant activity by the Malinke was in conjunction with the Fulani in 1996, when dissident soldiers killed senior officers loyal to Conte (REB96 = 3). Since that point, no other rebellious activity has been reported, which again may be a function of media reporting restrictions (REB03 = 0).

References

Degenhardt, Henry W. ed. 1987. Revolutionary and Dissident Movements: An International Guide, A Keesing's Reference Publication. London: Longman.

Horowitz, Donald L. 1985. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Lexis/Nexis Research Software: various news wires including BBC, Deutsche Presse Agentur, Agence France Presse, and the International Herald Tribune. 1990-2003

Keesing's Contemporary Archive, Keesing's Record of World Events. Annual. London: Longman Group Ltd.

Minorities Rights Group. 1989. World Directory of Minorities, St. James International Reference. Chicago and London: St. James Press.

Morrison, Donald George, Robert Cameron Mitchell, and John Naber Paden. 1989. Black Africa: A Comparative Handbook. 2nd ed. New York: A Washington Institute Book.

Murray, Jocelyn. 1990. Africa. Cultural Atlas for Young People. New York and Oxford: Facts on File.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID). November 1998. "Guinea: Potential Sources of Conflict and Instability."

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