Guinea - Foreign Relations
Guinea has a land frontier of almost 2,050 miles that borders on six other countries. In addition Guinea has a coast, measured in a roughly straight line, of about 190 miles on the Atlantic Ocean. Three of the land borders, with Guinea-Bissau (240 miles), Liberia (350 miles), and Sierra Leone (405 miles), were determined by international agreements during the colonial period. The remaining three, Ivory Coast (312 miles), Mali (534 miles), and Senegal (205 miles), were established by administrative actions within former French West Africa. In all cases boundaries were drawn with few considerations for the distribution of the ethnic groups residing in the area through which the demarcation line passed.
A former labor leader and the mayor of the capital, Conakry, Sekou Touré became the president, and under his leadership, the nation voted overwhelmingly not to participate in Charles de Gaulle‘s Franco-African confederation. The price for this act of defiance was high as France retaliated by cutting off aid and support and recalling technical workers. Touré pursued a policy of “positive neutralism” during the Cold War, but with France leading the chorus of nations condemning Touré as a communist, most of his help came from the Eastern Bloc.
Although Guinea's air and port facilities for military use were still limited in the 1970s, the republic's geographic position on the shores of West Africa remained of strategic interest to the Soviet Union. Guinea’s geographic vantage point was readily discernible when viewed in terms of its proximity to countries of the Western Hemisphere across the Atlantic Ocean’s narrowest point. In the early 1960s Soviet technicians completed a major improvement of the Conakry-Gbessia airport, lengthening the runway to 10,000 feet in order to permit it to handle international flights of modern jet aircraft. In return for this and for Soviet military aid, the Guinean government permitted the Soviet air force to retain a portion of the airfield for its own use as a servicing point for reconnaissance aircraft on patrol over the southern and mid- Atlantic shipping lanes. Guinea, however, had refused to let the Soviets use the airfield in flights to Cuba during the missile crisis involving the United States and the Soviet Union in October 1962.
Since the 1970 invasion of Conakry’, Soviet ships have been on almost constant patrol off the Guinean coast. In return for this screen against a possible repeat of the seaborne invasion, Guinea has provided bunkering and other port privileges at Conakry for Soviet vessels. It has been reported that the Soviet Union has sought permission to establish a naval base in the vicinity of Conakry, but apparently Guinea has not granted the request.
Large numbers of Soviet and Cuban military assistance personnel in Guinea were reported by foreign observers. The Soviet technicians were associated particularly with the Guinean air force, and the Cubans were active among the militia and in civic action training programs. The PRC also maintained a military mission of significant size, although it was smaller than those of the Soviet Union and Cuba. The Chinese Communists were notably active in training Guinean navv personnel in the operation of the patrol boats donated by the PRC.
After the defeat of the November 1970 invasion force, a number of African countries — some not always among Guinea’s diplomatic supporters - reacted with military aid, such as the arms received from Egypt and Nigeria. Several others, including Sierra Leone and later Libya, signed mutual defense treaties with the Guinean government. The treaty with Sierra Leone was invoked by that country’s government in March 1971, and 200-300 Guinean army troops were sent to Freetown to serve as a guard force against the threat of a military coup d’etat. Guineau MiG's buzzed Freetown in a show of support: a Guinean Army contingent remained in Freetown as President Stevens personal bodyguard. The Guineans also provided a helicopter. This force was shortly reduced to 100 men and then to fifty; the last Guinean troops were withdrawn in 1974.
Since April 1984, Guinean diplomacy has set itself objectives to be achieved through a diplomatic offensive termed “Diplomacy for Development”. On the basis of a real policy of openness, Guinea is anxious to promote wide-ranging economic ties. Addressing sub-regional and regional integration imperatives within a context of democratic changes is a focus of its policy.
The idea of diplomacy for development, which stemmed from a workshop held in Conakry in 1991, admitted that development is not a static phenomenon but it rather requires an in-depth and permanent assessment of the situation. The diplomacy for development is grounded on a number of concepts : sovereignty, equality and solidarity.
From the viewpoint of diplomatic relations, the Republic of Guinea maintains relations with 174 countries. Overseas, 34 diplomatic missions cover these countries. The first annexed listing presents each foreign service (jurisdiction, residence and address).
Guinea is a member of the Mano River Union (MRU), formed in 1973 to establish a customs and economic union between the 3 member states – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Subsequently, members signed a mutual non-aggression pact and pledged to establish a permanent mechanism for conflict prevention.
The civil wars that engulfed Liberia and then Sierra Leone during the 1990s negatively affected relations between Guinea and these two fellow Mano River Union member countries. Relations with Liberia were particularly difficult in the period when Charles Taylor was President of Liberia (1997-2003). Guinea and Liberia accused each other of supporting opposition dissidents, and in late 2000 and early 2001, Guinean dissidents backed by the Liberian government and RUF rebels from Sierra Leone brutally attacked Guinea. These attacks caused over 1,000 Guinean deaths and displaced more than 100,000 Guineans. The attacks led to Guineas support for the LURD (Liberians United For Reconciliation and Democracy) rebels in their attacks against the Liberian government of Charles Taylor.
Taylor's departure for exile in August 2003 and the establishment of a new government in Liberia led to a much improved relationship between the two countries. Relations improved following the removal of Taylor in August 2003 and the widely hailed democratic election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in November 2005, which augured well for regional stability. The MRU was relaunched at a meeting in Conakry in May 2004. There were various international initiatives aimed at restoring peace to the Mano River Union, including the International Contact Group on Liberia, expanded to cover Guinea and renamed the International Contact Group on the Mano River Basin in June 2004.
Relations with Sierra Leone have long been good, even though there is an ongoing minor border dispute over the ownership of the village of Yenga, situated near the border between the 2 countries, and an associated dispute over the exact boundary, which lies on the course of the Makona river. The newly elected President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, visited Guinea in his first official foreign trip, to meet President Conte and Prime Minister Kouyate.
Guinea's relations with other countries, including neighboring countries, have improved steadily since 1985. However, Guinea’s image with the international community was tarnished by the December 23, 2008 coup d’état and the violence of September 28, 2009. The African Union (AU), along with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African regional group, both condemned the coup and suspended Guinea’s membership in their respective organizations. The coup has also been condemned by the Nigerian, South African, Japanese, Canadian, French, and U.S. Governments, among others. Many bilateral assistance programs were suspended, if not after the coup, then after September 28, 2009. However, most partners have been encouraged by the January 15 Ouagadougou Accords and the setting up of a transitional government in Guinea, and are considering moving toward normalizing relations.
Guinea reestablished relations with France and Germany in 1975, and with neighboring Côte dIvoire and Senegal in 1978. Guinea has been active in efforts toward regional integration and cooperation, especially regarding the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) and the Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS). Guinea takes its role in a variety of international organizations seriously and participates actively in their deliberations and decisions. Guinea has participated in both diplomatic and military efforts to resolve conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau, and contributed contingents of troops to peacekeeping operations in all three countries as part of ECOMOG, the Military Observer Group of ECOWAS. Guinea has offered asylum to more than 700,000 Liberian, Sierra Leonean, and Bissauan refugees since 1990, despite the economic and environmental costs involved. Perhaps 90% or more of these refugees have since returned to their home countries.
Guinea belongs to the UN and most of its specialized related agencies, the African Union, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), African Development Bank (AFDB), Niger River Basin (NRB), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Mano River Union (MRU), Gambia River Basin Organization (OMVG), and the Nonaligned Movement (NAM).
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