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Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports  - 2008
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
May 23, 2008

Part 1

Guinea is a constitutional republic in which effective power is concentrated in a strong presidency. President Lansana Conte won reelection in 2003 in an election boycotted by the opposition and criticized by international observers as neither free nor fair. Following a national labor strike in January and February 2007, President Conte ceded to popular demands and agreed to a consensus government, appointing Lansana Kouyate as prime minister. It is estimated that security forces killed 137 to 186 civilians and injured approximately 1,700 during the strike. Ongoing human rights issues include torture and abuse of detainees, inhumane prison conditions, arbitrary arrests, prolonged pretrial detention, endemic corruption in the judicial system, and restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and movement. Violence and societal discrimination against women, prostitution of young girls, female genital mutilation (FGM), trafficking in persons, ethnic discrimination, government targeting of labor leaders, forced labor, including by children, and child labor are also problems.

Part 2

The U.S. government's primary strategic objective in the country is to promote a strong representative democracy that is led by a vibrant, informed civil society capable of peacefully advocating for necessary political and economic reforms. The U.S. government also is firmly committed to improving respect for human rights in the country, the lack of which continues to undermine democratic progress, and to strengthening a free press. Through diplomatic engagement, public outreach, targeted foreign assistance programs, and civil military activities, the U.S. government aims to foster a greater capacity for good governance, institutional support for democracy, and, accountability on the part of all political actors.

Part 3

U.S. programs sought to increase awareness of civic responsibilities, encourage citizen participation in local governance, support improved political processes, and encourage NGOs to provide civic education and advocacy for citizen interests. More than 200,000 citizens participated in U.S. civic education programs while another 195,000 participated in training on electoral processes. In cooperation with the Ministry of Education, the U.S. government supported a national, week-long civic education campaign focusing on good governance and anti-corruption. Another U.S. program brought together more than 50 civil society organizations, along with private sector representatives, to participate in a series of five roundtable discussions, which resulted in a specific advocacy action plan to advance democratic change. U.S. government support of civilian-military relations, a major component of U.S.-Guinean security cooperation, promoted dialogue and accountability as well as protection of human rights. In addition, ongoing U.S. military-to-military programs emphasized appreciation for rule of law and human rights.

Promotion of democracy, human rights, and citizen responsibility were the cornerstones of U.S. policy during the year. U.S. officials highlighted these priorities in speeches as well as in meetings with contacts throughout all levels of government and civil society. While frequently engaging with government officials, political parties, trade unions, businesspeople and other wide ranging actors, U.S. officials advocated for stronger democratic institutions, reduced corruption, and improved electoral processes. During the civil unrest in early 2007, the U.S. government supported democracy by facilitating political dialogue and encouraging active and diverse political participation. Through outreach to youth, women, and other politically marginalized sectors, the U.S. government encouraged peaceful civic participation. For example, in March, the U.S. government organized a three-day seminar for 150 community leaders focusing on a wide range of women's issues, including enhanced participation in a democracy.

U.S. public diplomacy programs also focus on strengthening a free press, especially private radio, which has been operating since 2005. In the wake of political violence in early 2007, the U.S. government supported training for 30 journalists on how to cover military and security issues as well as the importance of using reliable and diverse sources of information. Another U.S. program organized a press briefing for private and public media agencies on poor governance, corruption, and the duty of the media to provide accurate information so that citizens can make informed choices. In addition a U.S.-funded NGO project seeks to provide media campaigns and increased civic awareness through community radio. Another U.S.-funded project offers citizen journalism training to journalists in preparation for upcoming elections.

Part 4

The country's weak human rights record has been further tarnished by the 2007 strike-related violence. U.S. officials pressed the government at the highest levels to establish a Human Rights Commission to investigate alleged abuses by security forces, and continue to press the government to provide adequate resources and political support since the commission was established in September. To combat the problem of prolonged pretrial detention, the U.S. government financed an NGO training seminar in July for law enforcement and prison officials at the maximum security prison in Kindia. A few weeks after the seminar, dozens of victims of prolonged detention were released, some having been detained for more than 10 years.

Through outreach to youth, women, and other politically marginalized groups, the U.S. government encouraged peaceful civic participation. For example, in March, the U.S. government organized a three-day seminar for 150 community leaders focusing on a wide range of women's issues, including enhanced participation in a democracy. The U.S. government also funded projects promoting the rights of women, students, teachers, and victims of HIV/AIDS; combating FGM; and providing training in conflict resolution and responsible media. To promote the rights of women and minorities, the United States supports programs to reduce FGM, which currently affects approximately 95 percent of the female population. U.S. support has resulted in 150 communities and thousands of families declaring an end to the practice and an end to early and forced marriages. In September U.S. officials hosted interdenominational Iftaars to promote religious tolerance and understanding.

The U.S. government supports antitrafficking in persons efforts through a variety of programs. More than 400 civil society participants have benefited from training and capacity building programs that provide education on trafficking and encouraged community-based prevention measures. U.S. officials continue to work with a wide range of government representatives, encouraging support for antitrafficking initiatives and highlighting concerns.

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