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SANTO DOMINGO COUNCIL - Working for a more secure and fairer world

26-27 November 2001


Original: French

The conditions on which the constitutional referendum on 11 November 2001 was organised by Lansana Conté are part of the political drift Guinea has known for more than ten years. In manipulating the Constitution for personal reasons, General Conté showed he did not attach much importance to the rules of the texts and the institutions of the Republic, in particular the National Assembly. At no moment did he conform to the revision programme for the Constitution as stipulated in article 91 of the 23 December 1990 Constitution.

But above all it is the content itself of the revision of the Constitution, submitted to referendum, that is a source of serious danger for the stability of the country. In removing every limitation clause concerning the number of terms of office (previously two for a five year period), in extending from five to seven years the length of the presidential term of office, and in removing all age limit (previously seventy years old), General Conté is simply implementing a mechanism to perpetuate his power. Failing to write it down formally in the Constitution, he assumes de facto the possibility of establishing a presidency for life.

The chain of irregularities that surrounded the preparation, the holding and the results of the referendum is a reminder of the electoral farce during the presidential and legislative elections in 1993. According to the opinion of all foreign observers, and more particularly in the diplomatic circles, electoral participation hardly exceeded 10 per cent (the united opposition called for a boycott of the ballot), the Interior Secretary did not hesitate in announcing the incredible figure of 87 per cent turn-out, worthy of the votes that used to be current in the former Soviet Union. It goes even further, in what we can call a masquerade, the ‘yes’ vote would have won, always according to the Guinean official personalities, scoring 98 per cent! Such a set up could make one smile if it did not bring about an ever more exacerbated political, economic and social polarisation in Guinea. If the international community is not careful and does not react quickly to this type of base act, it will expose the country to very serious events, which will create chaos in the whole region of Western Africa.

Obviously, Lansana Conté cares little about the most elementary rules of democracy. Electoral frauds have combined, since 1992, with a personalisation of power which forgets all principles of balance and separation of powers. The actual President of the National Assembly, although from Conté’s party, bore the brunt of a simple will of transparency in the parliamentary work. Through the malfunctioning of the State apparatus (illustrated, amongst other things, in the cumulative exercise of the Prime Minister and President of the Supreme Court posts, that is the highest authority of the judicial institution) the whole management of the country is now chaotic. The nepotism and vote-catching in the civil service compete with corruption, which is raging in all spheres of the economic and administrative life of the country. At the same time, misery is gaining ground and the outcasts resulting from the disorder could be tempted, one day or another, to rise up against the power.

Contrary to what some malcontents might think, Guinea is today in the situation in which Liberia and Sierra Leone were at the eve of the civil war. The accumulation of frustrations of the enormous majority of Guineans, their feeling of being excluded in their own country, the repression they are permanently subjected to (the respect of public liberties only comes under the register of the proclamation in the Constitution) are many elements of fear for the worst for the country.

For international opinion, and the African one in particular, Guinea makes one think of a separate country that only knows pluralism by name and whose citizens are subject to a Head of State who, under the appearance of good nature, erected repression as a system of government (as shows the arbitrary imprisonment of the leader of the opposition, Alpha Condé, for two and a half years) and governs without the least concern for external reactions.