Guinea bids farewell to late leader

December 27, 2008

Guinea has paid its final respects to Lansana Conte amid a vigorous attempt by the military junta that seized control in the wake of the president's death to gain international legitimacy.

Supporters and even critics of Conte, Guinea's ruler for 24 years, were among tens of thousands who took part in funeral ceremonies in Conakry, the capital.

Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, the junta head and self-styled president, could not be seen at the ceremonies.

But the second-in-command, General Mamadou Ba Toto Camara, paid homage to Conte, whose rule was marked by corruption, rigged elections and political repression.

"We will accompany him to his last resting place and we pray God to give us the courage to continue his work of tolerance and peace for the welfare of Guinea," Toto Camara said at a national stadium packed beyond its 20,000 capacity.

Meanwhile, shots were heard in the capital and suburbs late on Friday after a  curfew came into force.

A military source said it was only a question of "dissuasive" firing to encourage  people to go home. Al Hassan Sillah, a journalist, told Al Jazeera that the gunfire came from soldiers enforcing the curfew.

State funeral

Conte's coffin, draped with Guinea's red-yellow-and green flag and escorted by presidential guards, was driven around a stadium as the crowd stood and applauded.

The body was later taken to a mosque and then to the village of Lansanaya, around 120km northwest of Conakry, for burial.

Earlier, the coffin was displayed at a ceremony held in the parliament building.

Among the mourners were the presidents of Guinea's neighbours, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast and Joao Bernardo Vieira of Guinea-Bissau.

Jean Ping and Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the heads of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, were also present along with civil and military officials, and Conte's wives and children.

Despite frequently denouncing Conte for "pillaging" the country, trade union leaders were among those paying respect with messages of condolence to his family.

Charm offensive

Beset by calls from abroad to return the country to civilian rule and stage elections, Moussa Dadis Camara has invited foreign envoys to meet him "to reassure the international community".

He won the allegiance on Thursday of Ahmed Tidiane Souare, the former prime minister, who addressed him as "Mr President" and told Camara that he and his ministers were ready to serve the junta.

Camara, who has already appointed a military-dominated governing council in place of the civilian government, assured Souare of his safety and told him that military rule was only temporary.

The junta, in a statement read on national radio, said it would  first hold an "informational meeting" at 1000 GMT on Saturday with "representatives of civil society, political parties, religious faiths and unions".

A second meeting would take place at noon (1200 GMT) for representatives of the UN, the European Union and African Union and the Group of Eight leading industralised countries.

The coup has attracted widespread international criticism, particularly of Camara's decision to rule out elections for at least two years.

In a new statement on Friday, former colonial power France urged Guinea to organise free elections within six months "so that the people of Guinea can freely express its will".




Guinea is located in Western Africa. It has had a rich and special history. Choosing independence in 1958, ahead of its neighbours, Guinea fell victim to a "socialist experiment" by the dictator Sekou Touré. Isolation, poverty and oppression has marked much of its history, but also political stability in contrast to its neighbouring states. The Lansana Conté regime has opened up and initialised some democratisation.


However, presently there is a threat of civil war in Sierra Leone and Liberia spilling over to Guinea. Fighting has been fierce between government troops and terrorists sponsored by the Liberian government and the Sierra Leonean RUF. Entire regions have been depopulated, especially around the border town Guékédou. Women and children are the main war victims and rape is common. There is a major ongoing effort to expell the so-called rebels and hinder Guinea from falling into the same tragedy as Sierra Leone.


Women in Guinea are objects to polygynous marriages. Divorce laws favour men. Legal evidence given by women carries less weight than that given by men. Every woman in Guinea averagely gives birth to 5,46 children. Up to 90% of Guinean women undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Social data
Life expectancy:
Total population: 45.56 years; male: 43.16 years; female: 48.02 years (2000 est.)
Infant mortality: 130.98 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)
Alphabetization rate: Total population: 35.9%; male: 49.9%; female: 21.9% (1995 est.)
Medical services: 45% of the people have access to medical services. (6.666 persons per doctor).
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.7 male(s)/female; total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Religious data:
Muslim 85%, traditional African religions 7%, Christian 8%


Family and tradition
The Constitution provides for equal treatment of men and women, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Women's Promotion works to advance such equality. However, women face discrimination, particularly in rural areas where opportunities are limited by custom, and the demands of child-rearing and subsistence farming. Women are not denied access to land, credit, or businesses, but inheritance laws also favor male heirs over females. Government officials acknowledge that polygyny is practiced commonly, although it is prohibited by law. Divorce laws generally tend to favor men in awarding custody and dividing communal assets. Legal evidence given by women carries less weight than that given by men.

The CPTAFE, in conjunction with the Government, local journalists, and international NGO's, also is promoting an education campaign to discourage underage marriage. Although such marriages are prohibited by law, parents contract marriages for girls as young as 11 years of age in the forest region.

Gender sensitivity in society
The Government has affirmed the principle of equal pay for equal work, but in practice women receive less pay than men in most equally demanding jobs.

The Government provides free, compulsory primary school education for 8 years. Approximately 50 percent of all eligible students are enrolled in primary school, including 66 percent of eligible boys but only 35 percent of eligible girls.


The Constitution states that all persons are equal before the law regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, language, beliefs, political opinions, philosophy, or creed; however, the Government does not enforce these provisions uniformly.


Health data
Access to potable water:
Medical services: 45% of the people have access to medical services. ( 6.666 persons per doctor).
Maternal mortality rate: 1.600/100.000
Infant mortality: 130,98 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): Between 65 and 90% of women undergo the practice of FGM. It is performed on girls and women between the ages of 4 and 70. Infibulation, the most dangerous form of FGM, is performed in the forest region.


Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health, is very widespread. It is widely practiced in all regions and among all religious and ethnic groups. FGM is illegal under the Penal Code, and senior officials and both the official and private press have spoken against the practice; however, there have been no prosecutions for violations of the Code. FGM is performed on girls and women between the ages of 4 and 70, but exact figures on this procedure are difficult to establish due to its private nature. The Coordinating Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting Women's and Children's Health (CPTAFE), a local NGO dedicated to eradicating FGM and ritual scarring, cited a recent decline in the percentage of females subjected to FGM, estimating the figure to be between 65 and 75 percent. Expert estimates vary between 65 and 90 percent. The lower figure, if accurate, would represent a decline over recent years due to education of the population by women's rights groups about the health risks involved with the practice. However, infibulation, the most dangerous form of FGM, still is performed in the forest region. Despite diseases resulting from crude and unsanitary surgical instruments and deaths resulting from the practice, the tradition continues, seriously affecting many women's lives. FGM also increases the risk of HIV infection since unsterilized instruments are shared among participants.

The Government has made efforts to educate health workers on the dangers of this procedure and supports the CPTAFE's efforts. The CPTAFE reports high rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality due to FGM. In March 1997, working in collaboration with the World Health Organization, the Government initiated a 20-year strategy to eradicate FGM.

A growing number of men and women oppose FGM. Urban, educated families are opting increasingly to perform only a slight symbolic incision on a girl's genitals rather than the complete procedure. In November the CPTAFE held a large public ceremony celebrating the "laying down of the excision knife" in which some traditional practitioners of FGM pledged to discontinue the practice. However, most of those who perform FGM oppose its eradication since it is quite lucrative for them.


Violence against women
Violence against women is common, although estimates differ as to the extent of the problem. Wife beating is a criminal offense and constitutes grounds for divorce under civil law. However, police rarely intervene in domestic disputes.

Although the Government has made regular statements in the media against sexual harassment, women working in the formal sector in urban areas complain of frequent sexual harassment. The social stigma attached to rape prevents most victims from reporting it. The Government has not pursued vigorously criminal investigations of alleged sexual crimes.


Prostitution exists in the informal economic sector and employs girls as young as 14 years of age. The Government does not take action even if prostitution of minors is brought to its attention and does not monitor actively child or adult prostitution.


Main sources: U.S. Department of State, CIA, UN, HRW, Mundo negro


Prayers Help Missionaries Through Violence

19 March, 2007

Mission Network News


Guinea(MNN) -- Southern Baptist missionaries with the International Mission Board in Guinea are offering thanks to all those who prayed with them in February.

After businesses throughout the country closed due to violent protests and 100 people died, the missionaries called Christians to pray for 20 days for Guinea.

"There are many praying for Guinea, literally around the world and around the clock and God is answering your prayers.  We have felt God's presence giving us peace and protection, not just for us but also for local believers," said one missionary in a prayer letter. 

During the unrest protests against the president's leadership caused him to declare martial law.  Two missionary families had to be evacuated while some were trapped in their homes.

Now, businesses and schools are open again.  Missionaries will soon be reentering the country to begin their work.

They have reported that church attendance is growing even thought statistics say 85 percent of Guinea's 9.6 million people are Muslim.  They are "flocking to churches in the forest region and Conakry by the droves.  Apparently, they are searching for a closer relationship with God," a missionary reported.

"Thank you so much for praying with us...We continue to be amazed with the response for our call of ‘20 days of prayer for Guinea,'" said one missionary. 

You can continue to pray for their efforts in Guinea.  The missionaries ask you to ;quot;Pray that hearts will be touched with the Gospel at these churches and [the Gospel] will spread to all peoples in Guinea.  Pray for the church leaders and lay people to have the Lord's wisdom in how to reach out to their Muslim neighbors."