President Alpha Condé became the first freely elected president of Guinea in December 2010, ending more than fifty years of one-man rule following Guinea’s independence from France in 1958. Born in Guinea, he spent much of his early life as a student and later as a law professor, in France. He returned to Guinea to campaign for democracy. He ran for the presidency in 1993 and 1998, elections that were marred by fraud and widely considered illegitimate. After the 1998 elections he was jailed and tortured. He was subsequently released on condition that he cease his political activities. After a brief exile back in France, he returned to Guinea in 2005 to resume his campaign for democracy.
In September 2009 the military opened fire and killed scores of antigovernment demonstrators. Following the massacre, the leader of the junta was injured in an assassination attempt, forcing him to leave the country for medical help. This created a political crisis that was eventually resolved by an agreement to hold elections in which the military would not contest for power. These elections were held last year.
Guinea’s population of ten million people is one of the poorest in Africa. But the country boasts a rich endowment of natural resources—with roughly one-third of the world’s bauxite reserves and some of the largest iron ore deposits in the world—and impressive agricultural potential. Although it is predominantly Islamic, the population comprises many ethnic groups.
President Condé’s challenges are to guide the country through its transition to democracy, oversee political and ethnic reconciliation, and establish a framework that will allow the country to benefit from its rich resource endowment.
Source: Office of the President, Republic of Guinea, September 2011