Guinea must put justice at the heart of its transition

  • Miriam Frost, Louis Metcalfe

“In the closing days of 2021, Guinea’s military junta published a transition roadmap for a return to constitutional rule. It outlined five governmental priorities and looked ahead to future elections but, crucially, lacked any clear timetable. This vague plan suggests that the junta, which took power in September, may be preparing to maximise its time in power.

“Since taking power, the junta has talked of the need to ‘consolidate democratic achievements’. However, its commitment to the rule of law has been questioned given they upended the country’s – admittedly shaky – constitutional foundations.

“At the same time, Guinea’s junta has a real opportunity to provide due process. In fact, the transitional president, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, has already demonstrated that he is amenable to progress in some areas. He has taken steps to release political prisoners, ensure 30% female representation on the National Transitional Council, and create a court for economic and financial crimes.

“If the current leadership abandons its responsibility to uphold people’s rights, there could be grave implications for Guinea’s stability. Citizens who lack confidence in their country’s security and justice institutions are more likely to take these matters into their own hands. This can involve forming ethnic militias, as happened in Nzérékore during the during the March 2020 constitutional referendum. State human rights violations can drive local support for these armed groups, or even violent extremist groups, as Guinea’s neighbours in the Sahel have found.

“The regional bloc could include concrete benchmarks for justice and accountability into conditions for the lifting sanctions and exert pressure for progress on the stadium massacre trial. Such a move would demonstrate that the dignity of Guinean citizens is paramount to the transition…

“Despite disrupting Guinea’s democratisation, the military junta now has the opportunity to integrate the protection of human rights and the fight against impunity into Guinea’s transition. The international community and regional partners, including ECOWAS, must accompany those leading the transition and ensure that justice for all Guineans remains the impetus for real, lasting change.”

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