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Guinea’s foreign policy at a glance in last 62 years

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Bissau-Guinean president, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, holds a joint press conference with his Portuguese counterpart at the Belem Palace in Lisbon during his official visit to Portugal on October 8, 2020. (Photo by CARLOS COSTA / AFP)

Sir: Since its independence was proclaimed on October 2nd 1958 after the historical “NO” to French-African Community proposal, the first independent former French colony in SSA, the Republic of Guinea adopted, under the leadership of its first President Sekou Touré, a hard-line foreign policy centred on Africa and the third world, anchored on African independence and unity, non-alignment movement, non-interference in internal affairs, regional integration and respect of sovereignty.

Indeed, Guinea was admitted into the United Nations (UN) as its 82 Member State on December 12, 1958. Furthermore, it joined and played an active role in several regional and intergovernmental bodies such as OIC, La Francophone, OMVS, CENSAD and MRU to mention just a few. However, Guinea was a founding member of the Organisation of the African Unity (OAU, now AU) in 1963 and gave its first Executive Secretary, Boubacar Teli Diallo who led the organisation in its struggle for total independence of the continent. Likewise, it took the lead in establishing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 1975.

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Under General Lansana Conte as the second president (1984-2008), Guinea shifted its foreign policy to development diplomacy centred on inward policy, whereas some institutional reforms were carried out mainly the Structural Adjustment Programme. However, the country contributed with troops to several UN and other peacekeeping operations, notably in ECOMOG in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Côte d’Ivoire. Hence, Guinea hosted thousands of refugees that fled those neighbouring war-torn countries, becoming in the 90s the second-largest refugees hosting country in Africa behind Tanzania. 

During the transitional period following the CNDD-led military coup d’état upon the demise of Gl. Conte (2008-2009), the country experienced isolation and increasing domestic and external pressure for rapid restoration of democracy and constitutional order. As a result, Guinea had its first democratic election that led to the election of the long-time opposition leader, Professor Alpha Condé in 2010. This civilian ruler engaged an offensive foreign policy focused on economic development and comeback of Guinea on both African and global scene. This engagement permitted Guinea to take the mantle of the AU evolving chairmanship in 2017, steering tremendous institutional reforms within the organisation (financial autonomy, African champions on specific topical issues of continent-wide concern, return of Morocco to the organisation etc). Moreover, President Conde asserted high profile diplomacy at the bilateral and multilateral level to have Guinea’s and African voices heard in international forums. He remarkably participated and supported mediation and negotiations processes on the continent and beyond (Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Togo, Mali etc). To date, the country is basically up to date with its statutory contributions to international organisations and has a diplomatic and consular network spanning over 40 jurisdictions in the world. Africa tends to speak with one voice over substantive matters of concern and stands ready to provide African solutions to African problems. 

Nevertheless, Guinea’s FP is at the cross-road of forging its path towards genuine win-win cooperation and proactive negotiating approach. As such, a result-orientated plan and robust career diplomacy should be the guiding principles in the assignment and implementation of policy objectives and recommendations arising from the 2019 Diplomatic Retreat. Similarly, efforts at rejuvenating and professionalising the Foreign Service Corps must keep the momentum in line with the presidential priorities.

Sekou Camara, FSO, Counsellor.

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