Since 1983, Guinea has been in the midst of a dictatorial regime led by Lansana Conté. In the last four years the level of social conflict and violence has heightened significantly, culminating in a two-month strike, the mobilisation of large sections of the population by the trade union centres and ferocious repression by the Government. The Federation of Professional Teachers’ Unions (FSPE) and the Free Union of Teachers and Researchers of Guinea (SLECG), both affiliates of EI, were at the forefront of the conflict and retaliation by the state saw their the offices ransacked and their leaders imprisoned.
Against a backdrop of mounting pressure from regional and international organisations and the withdrawal of funding from the National Assembly, the president was finally impelled to satisfy one of the main demands of the movement, namely, the nomination of an independent Prime Minister, who would form a government composed of new candidates representing civil society. The teachers’ unions, together with EI, particularly welcomed the nomination of Ousmane Souare, unionist and member of the steering committee of the EFAIDS Programme, to the post of Minister of Education and Scientific Research.
The crisis highlighted the structural problems – both political and economic – which have recently overshadowed Guinea, in spite of its abundant natural and human resources. A long period of reconstruction stretches out into the horizon. The state, employers and civil society, in particular trade unions, now need to work together to reform the institutions, improve governance and jump start the economy.
With this in mind, the trade union centres in Guinea (CNTG, USTG, ONSLG and UDTG), Pan-African organisations (ORAf and ODSTA) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) organised an international trade union solidarity conference last month to promote sustainable development in Guinea. EI also took part in the event, which welcomed over 180 participants over two days from 23-24 May.
Three main areas of concern were tackled at the conference workshops: democracy and human and trade union rights; economic and social development; and governance and institutional reform. It was also the scene of much discussion on the future ways in which the trade union movement can demonstrate its solidarity and cooperate with Guinea.
As a result of the solidarity conference, a series of proposals have been set down in a road map and sent to the Prime Minister (available in French at http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/FINAL-Feuille_de_route_pour_la_Guinee.pdf ). The road map launches an appeal to the Guinean authorities, to the various groups within society and to the international community to work together towards a peaceful transition and real democratic change in Guinea. For more information, please see the ITUC article ‘Guinea Roadmap for Sustainable Development Adopted’: http://www.ituc-csi.org/spip.php?article1190&var_recherche=guinea.