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Popular Militia (Milice populaire)

The militia was an organization born of the need to strengthen the country’s defense establishment while at the same time providing employment in activities that will assist national development. Since its inception the organization was completely subservient to the doctrine and aims of the Party Democratic Republic of Guinea (PDG).

Guinea’s initial efforts to form a militia system in early 1961 grew out of a PDG decision to form “committees for the defense of the revolution” on a workplace basis. Party leaders continually urged the people to be constantly alert and ready to “protect the achievements of the revolution.” The rank and file were exhorted to report or oppose any dishonest practices, such as theft of property, embezzlement of funds, or any other willful act harmful to the national economy. Members of the party’s youth movement, the Youth of the African Democratic Revolution 'Jeunesse de la Revolution Democratique Africaine — JRDA), were especially encouraged to report derelictions of duty and infractions of the laws to party authorities or to the police.

Some organizations formed units of volunteers who assumed limited police functions, such as detecting violations and tracking down suspects. According to government announcements, these efforts proved effective and drew high praise from party officials. As the PDG increased its demands for vigilance against such economic crimes as black-marketing and smuggling, and as it began to label all of its opponents traitors, the militia’s role expanded.

Although composed of unpaid volunteers, members of the Popular Militia (Milice populaire) were given distinctive uniforms and assigned definite tasks during the early and middle 1960s. The zeal with which the militia performed its mission, however, soon led to obvious excesses, and in 1966 a growing public demand for its dissolution began. Instead, at a session of the National Council of the Revolution held in Labe, President Toure reemphasized the militia’s role and outlined improvements in its organization and personnel structure. New emphasis was placed on linking the militia’s methods of recruitment and training with those of an organized civic service composed of young men and women between the ages of seventeen and thirty under the leadership and guidance of Guinean army personnel and Cuban advisers.

With a claimed membership of 15,000, the civic service could be found at work on development programs throughout the country, serving as the core of the government’s effort to resuscitate its earlier human investment program. Soon thereafter these civic service groups began to be referred to as part of the militia.

By 1969 the government announced that the militia was being given a role equivalent to the army, an implicit attempt to lessen the possibility of a military coup d’etat. The element of the militia assigned to the Conakry area was given small arms and military training.

In 1974 the political leaders of Guinea spent much effort defining the role of what had become known as the National and Popular Militia, a dual name that reflected a new attempt at reorganization. The president announced that the country' could not afford the large standing force needed to deter what he regarded as a constant threat of invasion. The militia, therefore, was to be organized as a reserve force at several levels throughout the country to assure national defense.

At the national level in Conakry, the militia was to become a regular full-time force. Although a part of the national element was to be organized into combat units, its major role appeared to be defined as that of a staff and cadre for the reserve militia units at the village, industrial, and school levels. The national element was to have status equal to that of the military and police forces.

At the level of the administrative regions, the permanent militia cadre circulated among the villages, spending three months in each one in a training program for local militia members. The goal of this effort, as enunciated by President Toure, would be to provide an ultimate paramilitary strength of 100 men in each of the country’s 4,000 villages. Similarly, units of militia reserves would be created in factories and schools. As arms became available, they would be distributed to village depots, from which they would be issued as needs arose.

The extent to which this planned reorganization and expansion of the militia had been effected was unclear, but the program described by President Toure was to be phased in as part of the Five Year Development Plan (1973-78). Militia training, particularly the use of small arms provided by the Chinese Communists, was being given to university students in Conakry as well as to those in all secondary schools.

Militia members, readily distinguishable by the red, yellow, and green belts worn with their khaki uniforms, guarded the country’s frontiers and such installations as industrial projects, harbors, airfields, banks, radiobroadcasting stations, and gasoline dumps. Several outside observers have described them as a second police force, fighting against prostitution, black-market operations, and other economic crimes and even directing vehicular traffic. There is no reported evidence that the regular police have acted in any way to restrict militia performance. In the eyes of the party faithful, the militia had become a reliable and exemplary model of militant response to PDG goals. In 1974 the government announced that henceforth anyone wishing to enter the armed forces, the police services, or the civil service must have performed satisfactory duty with the militia.

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Page last modified: 03-05-2017 19:10:53 ZULU