Guinean President Alpha Condé is visiting the United States this month to attend the United Nations General Assembly, and to reportedly drum up investment from American investors.
Condé will be keen to promote Guinea’s improved economic prospects, driven by growth in the mining sector and soon, he hopes, by electricity from a series of hydropower projects.
But a key question is whether current political uncertainty about Condé’s future will lead to further rights abuses. Limited by Guinea’s 2010 constitution from running for a third term, Condé supporters – including the ruling party – have asked him to amend the constitution and run again. On September 5, he instructed his ministers to undertake “consultations” on a new constitution.
If the government does pursue a new constitution, Guinea is likely to see a new round of opposition demonstrations, which have often led to violent clashes between security forces and protesters. During protests in 2018, security forces shot and killed at least 12 people, while demonstrators killed 2 law enforcement officers.
As political tensions mount, there are signs the government is willing to violate human rights to suppress dissent. The government has effectively banned all street protests. Security forces have tear gassed those who defy the ban and arrested dozens of demonstrators opposed to a new constitution.
The government has done little to ensure security forces committing abuses against protesters are held to account. It has failed to bring to trial soldiers implicated in the 2009 stadium massacre, in which more than 150 peaceful protesters were killed. If the government wants to demonstrate a real commitment to fighting impunity, it should set a trial date for the massacre and establish a special taskforce of judges to investigate more recent abuses occurring during demonstrations.
When meeting with President Condé this month, world leaders and policymakers should underscore that respect for the freedom of the government’s opponents is paramount. They should urge him to end any blanket ban on demonstrations and only prohibit protests when strictly necessary to preserve public order.
Only President Condé knows his plans for his political future. But all Guineans, regardless of their political persuasion, have the right to express their opinion at such a critical moment for Guinea’s democracy. And they have a right to justice when security forces are responsible for unlawful deaths.