The area occupied by Guinea today was included in several large West African political groupings, including the Ghana, Mali, and Songhai empires, at various times from the 10th to the 15th century, when the region came into contact with European commerce. Guinea's colonial period began with French military penetration into the area in the mid-19th century. French domination was assured by the defeat in 1898 of the armies of Almamy Samory Toure, warlord and leader of Malinke descent, which gave France control of what today is Guinea and adjacent areas.
France negotiated Guinea's present boundaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the British for Sierra Leone, the Portuguese for their Guinea colony (now Guinea-Bissau), and Liberia. Under the French, the country formed the Territory of Guinea within French West Africa, administered by a governor general resident in Dakar. Lieutenant governors administered the individual colonies, including Guinea.
Led by Ahmed Sekou Toure, head of the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), which won 56 of 60 seats in 1957 territorial elections, the people of Guinea in a September 1958 plebiscite overwhelmingly rejected membership in the proposed French Community. The French withdrew quickly, and on October 2, 1958, Guinea proclaimed itself a sovereign and independent republic, with Sekou Toure as President.
Under Toure, Guinea became a one-party dictatorship, with a closed, socialized economy and no tolerance for human rights, free expression, or political opposition, which was ruthlessly suppressed. Originally credited for his advocacy of cross-ethnic nationalism, Toure gradually came to rely on his own Malinke ethnic group to fill positions in the party and government. Alleging plots and conspiracies against him at home and abroad, Toure's regime targeted real and imagined opponents, imprisoning many thousands in Soviet-style prison gulags, where many perished. The regime's repression drove more than a million Guineans into exile, and Toure's paranoia ruined relations with foreign nations, including neighboring African states, increasing Guinea's isolation and further devastating its economy.
Sekou Toure and the PDG remained in power until his death on April 3, 1984. A military junta--the Military Committee of National Recovery (CMRN)--headed by then-Lt. Col. Lansana Conte, seized power just 1 week after the death of Sekou Toure. The CMRN immediately abolished the constitution, the sole political party (PDG) and its mass youth and women's organizations, and announced the establishment of the Second Republic. In lieu of a constitution, the government was initially based on ordinances, decrees, and decisions issued by the president and various ministers.
Political parties were proscribed. The new government also released all prisoners and declared the protection of human rights as one of its primary objectives. It reorganized the judicial system and decentralized the administration. The CMRN also announced its intention to liberalize the economy, promote private enterprise, and encourage foreign investment in order to develop the country's rich natural resources.
The CMRN formed a transitional parliament, the "Transitional Council for National Recovery" (CTRN), which created a new constitution (La Loi Fundamental) and Supreme Court in 1990. The country's first multi-party presidential election took place in 1993. These elections were marred by irregularities and lack of transparency on the part of the government. Legislative and municipal elections were held in 1995. Conte's ruling Party for Unity and Progress (PUP) won 76 of 114 seats in the National Assembly, amid opposition claims of irregularities and government tampering. The new National Assembly held its first session in October 1995.
Several thousand malcontent troops mutinied in Conakry in February 1996, destroying the presidential offices and killing several dozen civilians. Mid-level officers attempted, unsuccessfully, to turn the rebellion into a coup d'etat. The Government of Guinea made hundreds of arrests in connection to the mutiny, and put 98 soldiers and civilians on trial in 1998. A number of them were executed.
In December 1998, Conte was reelected to another 5-year term in a flawed election that was, nevertheless, an improvement over 1993. Following his reelection and the improvement of economic conditions through 1999, Conte reversed direction, making wholesale and regressive changes to his cabinet. He replaced many technocrats and members of the Guinean diaspora that had previously held important positions with "homegrown" ministers, particularly from his own Soussou ethnic group. These changes led to increased cronyism, corruption, and a retrenchment on economic and political reforms.
Despite his failing health, in December 2003, President Conte easily won a third presidential term against a single, relatively unknown candidate after the opposition parties boycotted the elections. Conte insisted in a late 2006 interview that regardless of his health he would remain in office until his term ended in 2010.
In 2006 and 2007, Guinea's labor union alliance launched a series of historic, increasingly violent labor strikes. Whereas the unions' demands during the March and June 2006 strikes were primarily economic, the January 2007 strike was more political. Security forces were responsible for the deaths of several protesters in June 2006. The 2007 strike also turned violent after President Conte ignored the unions’ demand that he resign from office. Nationwide, protesters began barricading roads, throwing rocks, burning tires, and skirmishing with police. Violence peaked on January 22 when several thousand ordinary Guineans poured into the streets, primarily in the capital, calling for change. Guinean security forces and the military's "red beret" presidential guard reacted by opening fire on the peaceful crowds.
On January 27, 2007, unions, employers associations, and the government entered a tripartite agreement to suspend the strike. President Conte agreed to name a new "consensus" prime minister, with delegated executive powers. For the first time, the new prime minister of Guinea would carry the title of "head of government" and exercise certain powers previously held by the president of the republic. However, President Conte's February 9 appointment of a longtime associate, Eugene Camara, as Guinea's new prime minister sparked another wave of violence and protests. In an attempt to quell the violence, on February 12 President Conte declared a "state of siege," which conferred broad powers on the military, and implemented a strict curfew. According to media reports, the following days saw military and police forces scour Conakry and towns in the hinterlands where they committed serious human rights abuses.
When Guinea's National Assembly rejected Conte's effort to extend the "state of siege," it became clear that the popular protests had widespread support, even among leaders of Conte's own ruling party. Soon after, an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation led by former Nigerian President Babangida announced that President Conte had agreed to name a new "consensus" prime minister in consultations with the unions and civil society. Lansana Kouyate arrived in Conakry on February 27, 2007, just hours after being announced as the new Prime Minister and head of the government. Security forces are believed responsible for having killed at least 137 people and injuring more than 1,700 others during the strike-related violence in January and February 2007.
During his premiership, Kouyate faced constant speculation that the president and his associates opposed his reform efforts. His failure to alleviate social and economic conditions contributed to the steady decline of his popularity. In May 2008, President Conte replaced Kouyate with Ahmed Tidiane Souare, a former minister of mines from a previous cabinet. The Souare administration quickly began to reinstate presidential loyalists. President Conte's death on December 22, 2008 sparked an immediate coup d’etat by elements of the military.
Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power on December 23, 2008, declaring himself President of the Republic and suspending the constitution, but promising elections and an eventual restoration of civilian authority. By August 2009, it was increasingly clear that Camara intended to run for president. In response, Guinea’s opposition coalition, Les Forces Vives, organized a protest on September 28, 2009, which attracted tens of thousands of protesters to the national stadium in Conakry. The Guinean military responded by opening fire on the crowd, killing at least 157 protesters, wounding more than a 1,000 others, and sexually assaulting more than 100 women, triggering widespread condemnation from the international community and increasing isolation for the junta. On December 3, 2009, Camara was wounded by his aide-de-camp in a failed assassination attempt and evacuated to Morocco for medical treatment. National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) Minister of Defense Brigadier General Sekouba Konate stepped in as interim President of the Republic. Camara’s wounds were not fatal, but necessitated a prolonged period of rehabilitation.
Camara was flown to Ouagadougou in January 2010, at the invitation of Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, the ECOWAS-appointed mediator to the Guinean political crisis. Compaore helped broker a deal between Camara and Konate, known as the January 15 Ouagadougou Accords, in which Camara agreed to remain outside of Guinea for an extended recuperation and to officially appoint General Konate as the interim President of the Republic. Konate appointed former speaker for Les Forces Vives, Jean Marie Dore, as Prime Minister. In February, Dore formed a government that included 11 ministers from political parties, 11 from civil society, and 11 from the junta government. In addition, a National Transition Council (CNT) consisting of 150 members from civil society, labor unions, political parties, the private sector, security forces, and other important organizations, was formed to act as the legislative body until legislative elections could be held. The CNT rewrote and enacted the constitution in March. It also enacted new electoral and media codes.
On June 27, Guinea had its first round of presidential elections, with 24 candidates running for the office of President. As per the Ouagadougou Accords, no member of the military or the transition government ran in the elections. International and national observer groups declared the elections credible and fair, though they cited major technical problems that needed to be addressed before the second round could credibly take place. Cellou Dalein Diallo of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) party received 43% of the vote; Alpha Conde of the Rally for the Guinean People (RPG) party received 18%; and Sidya Toure of the Union of Republican Forces (UFR) party received 13%. Diallo and Conde went on to compete in the second round of elections that, after several delays, took place on November 7. In the weeks leading up to and immediately after the elections, ethnic violence broke out between the Peuhl and Malinke support bases of the two candidates, resulting in several hundred internally displaced people and at least a dozen deaths. The transition government imposed a state of emergency and imposed a curfew, which successfully stopped the violence.
On December 2, the Guinean Supreme Court determined Alpha Conde the winner of the elections with 53% of the vote, which was declared free and credible by international observer missions. On December 3, Cellou Diallo publicly accepted the results of the election and called for his supporters to support the newly elected president. President Conde was peacefully inaugurated on December 21, 2010. On December 24, Mohamed Said Fofana, an economist, was appointed as Guinea’s Prime Minister.
After inauguration, the government lifted security checkpoints throughout the country. Following a July 19, 2011 attack on the president’s personal residence, the government temporarily reinstated the checkpoints, citing security concerns. By the end of July the checkpoints were reduced to operating during the hours of 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
Although legislative elections were mandated to take place 6 months after the completion of presidential elections, as of November 2011 legislative elections had not yet been held. The Independent National Commission for Elections announced that elections would take place on December 29, 2011, but election experts and outside observers stated that the commission’s timeline was unrealistic and elections would not take place in 2011.