Democracy is slowly being reestablished after the civil war from 1991 to 2002 that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (about a third of the population). The military, which took over full responsibility for security following the departure of UN peacekeepers at the end of 2005, is increasingly developing as a guarantor of the country’s stability. The armed forces remained on the sideline during the 2007 presidential election but still look to the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) – a civilian UN mission – to support efforts to consolidate peace. The new government’s priorities include furthering development, creating jobs, and stamping out endemic corruption.
The fate of the economy depends upon the maintenance of domestic peace and the continued receipt of substantial aid from abroad, which is essential to offset the severe trade imbalance and supplement government revenues.
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Guinea has had a history of authoritarian rule since gaining its independence from France in 1958. Lansana CONTE came to power in 1984 when the military seized the government after the death of the first president, Sekou TOURE. Guinea did not hold democratic elections until 1993 when Gen. CONTE (head of the military government) was elected president of the civilian government. He was reelected in 1998 and again in 2003, though all the polls were marred by irregularities. History repeated itself in December 2008 when following President CONTE’s death, Capt. Moussa Dadis CAMARA led a military coup, seizing power and suspending the constitution. His unwillingness to yield to domestic and international pressure to step down led to heightened political tensions that culminated in September 2009 when presidential guards opened fire on an opposition rally killing more than 150 people, and in early December 2009 when CAMARA was wounded in an assassination attempt and evacuated to Morocco and subsequently to Burkina Faso. A transitional government led by General Sekouba KONATE held democratic elections in 2010 and Alpha CONDE was elected president in the country’s first free and fair elections since independence. CONDE in July 2011 survived an attack on his residence allegedly perpetrated by the military. In October 2012, he announced a cabinet reshuffle that removed three members of the military from their positions, making the current administration Guinea’s first all-civilian government.
Guinea is a poor country that possesses major mineral, hydropower, and agricultural resources. The country has almost half of the world’s bauxite reserves and significant iron ore, gold, and diamond reserves. However, Guinea has been unable to profit from this potential, as rampant corruption, dilapidated infrastructure, and political uncertainty have drained investor confidence. In the time since a 2008 coup following the death of long-term President Lansana CONTE, international donors, including the G-8, the IMF, and the World Bank, have significantly curtailed their development programs. Throughout 2009, policies of the ruling military junta severely weakened the economy. The junta leaders spent and printed money at an accelerating rate, driving inflation and debt to perilously high levels. In early 2010, the junta collapsed and was replaced by a Transition Government, which ceded power in December 2010 to the country’s first-ever democratically elected president, Alpha CONDE. International assistance and investment are expected to return to Guinea, but the levels will depend upon the ability of the new government to combat corruption, reform its banking system, improve its business environment, and build infrastructure. IMF and World Bank programs will be especially critical as Guinea attempts to gain debt relief. International investors have expressed keen interest in Guinea’s vast iron ore reserves, which could further propel the country’s growth. The government put forward a new mining code in September 2011 that includes provisions to combat corruption, protect the environment, and review all existing mining contracts.
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