Guinea: Heightened political tensions between opposition, Conde government expected to persist; potential for renewal of protests

Tensions between Guinean opposition parties and the Conde government have been increasing in the last few days, with the leader of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), Ousmane Diallo, threatening to resume large scale protests and calling for the suspension of the National Assembly, which has been unable to adopt a single law since reconvening.
  • A letter sent by opposition leaders to Prime Minister Mohamed Said Fofana, requesting dialogue sessions about respecting an agreement signed on July 3, 2013, which led to the September legislative elections and outlined the rules that would dictate the behavior of both sides, was dismissed on May 2, seventeen days after having been sent. The opposition added that the dialogue would address several issues that have led to a virtual halting of activity at the National Assembly. Fofana stated that the opposition should ensure its goals are met through the National Assembly, thus rejecting the request for dialogue.

    Guinea protest
    Guinea protest
  • Opposition leaders are slated to hold a meeting in the coming days in an effort to determine what options they have left to ensure that these issues be addressed, stating that a resumption of protests is being considered. That said, the leaders added that this option would be the last resort, as it carries the risk of violence. 
  • Aboubacar Sylla, spokesperson of the opposition, announced that political attempts would first be made in an effort to ensure that the government follows through on the July 2013 agreement. This includes proposing the adoption of a law at the National Assembly deeming all parties responsible to fulfill previous legal agreement. Sylla added that the main issues discussed in the letter are the overdue local elections that were originally slated to be held in the first few months of 2014. The ruling government has refuted this demand, saying that the holding of local elections is not part of the July 2013 agreement.
  • Additionally, the opposition criticized the lack of progress in the forming of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), with operators not having received the material needed to begin creating the voters’ lists. An additional issue broached by the opposition includes the alleged lack of legal action against perpetrators of violence targeting opposition supporters and officials.
  • Diallo further accused the leader of the presidential majority, Amadou Damaro Camara, of making decisions in lieu of ministers and the president of the National Assembly. According to the opposition, this puts the National Assembly’s neutrality in question, which counters part of the July 2013 agreement that called for all government bodies to remain neutral and be equally accessible to all parties.
  • Moreover, opposition spokesperson Sylla announced that the international community would be asked to intervene and send mediators, while other government institutions would be used to increase pressure on the ruling party.

Assessments: As tensions continue to increase, opposition may be prompted to renew protests should political venues prove unsuccessful
  1. Tensions between the opposition and the government in Guinea often fluctuate, with the opposition stating that its demands are being disregarded by the ruling coalition. While these recent developments have yet to result in protests or politically motivated attacks, tensions of this nature have led to widespread unrest in the past, which most notably resulted in the deaths of 57 individuals and over 1,000 people injured in 2012-2013. That said, while significant differences of opinion have remained evident between the opposition and the ruling coalition since the holding of the September 2013 legislative elections, including clashes in the wake of the polls, the opposition’s acceptance of the results and its participation in the government served to decrease tensions. 
  2. The fact that a law has yet to be adopted in the National Assembly, despite it having been in session for over fifty days, highlights that the political deadlock has continued in spite of the opposition’s agreed participation in the government. Moreover, the opposition’s continued allegations of being disregarded, calls for the suspension of the National Assembly, as well as the disrespect of the July 2013 agreement indicate that tensions are increasing.
  3. That said, Sylla’s statement that all political options, including the call for international mediators, would be utilized ahead of calling for protests indicates that the opposition understands the political and security risks associated with protests. Moreover, this underscores the fact that the opposition is willing to find a negotiated solution to the persistent issues through the use of Guinean political bodies and the international community. Furthermore, opposition leaders have used the tactic of issuing threats to take to the street several times in the past as a way to pressure the government, while not following through on them.  
  4. Yet, we assess that the opposition leaders’ threat of launching protests is credible, as made evident by their ability to successfully mobilize their supporters on short notice in the past. The fact that the opposition presented a joint front in their recent threats and demands, although some internal divisions were made evident in the past, renders the threat further credible. Moreover, we assess that the P.M.’s response, deeming that the opposition should make use of the National Assembly to bring about its goals, indicates that their demands are unlikely to be met at this time, increasing the potential for opposition protests in the coming weeks. The Conde government is additionally enjoying a bout of international support at this time, particularly due to the ongoing Ebola outbreak as well as the country’s increasing financial and social stability, which is likely to serve to reduce pressure on officials to begin a dialogue with the opposition.
  5. Altogether, we assess that given that the Conde government is unlikely to grant the opposition their demands, political tensions are likely to increase, with opposition leaders likely to attempt to increase pressure on the president and P.M. to address their demands through the use of national governmental bodies. Additionally, we assess that the opposition is likely to begin mobilizing supporters outside of Guinea, turning to the international community in order to further increase pressure on the government, as they have done in the past.
  6. That said, while the opposition is likely to exert all of these political options in the coming days and weeks, we assess that the longer the Conde government ignores the opposition’s efforts to launch a political dialogue, the more the likelihood for widespread protests will increase. Finally, while the threat of protests is credible, we assess that it remains less likely to occur ahead of political efforts. Should those fail, the opposition is likely to deem large demonstrations to be their only option, despite the fact that this is likely to be coupled with a heightened likelihood for violence.