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Guinea

The area occupied by Guinea today was included in several large West African political groupings, including the Ghana, Mali, and Songhai empires, at various times from the 10th to the 15th century, when the region came into contact with European commerce. Guinea's colonial period began with French military penetration into the area in the mid-19th century. French domination was assured by the defeat in 1898 of the armies of Almamy Samory Touré, warlord and leader of Malinke descent, which gave France control of what today is Guinea and adjacent areas.

France negotiated Guinea's present boundaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the British for Sierra Leone, the Portuguese for their Guinea colony (now Guinea-Bissau), and the Liberia. Under the French, the country formed the Territory of Guinea within French West Africa, administered by a governor general resident in Dakar. Lieutenant governors administered the individual colonies, including Guinea.

Led by Ahmed Sékou Touré, head of the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), which won 56 of 60 seats in 1957 territorial elections, the people of Guinea in a September 1958 plebiscite overwhelmingly rejected membership in the proposed French Community. The French withdrew quickly, and on October 2, 1958, Guinea proclaimed itself a sovereign and independent republic, with Sékou Touré as President.

Under Touré, Guinea became a one-party dictatorship, with a closed, socialized economy and no tolerance for human rights, free expression, or political opposition, which was ruthlessly suppressed. Originally credited for his advocacy of cross-ethnic nationalism, Touré gradually came to rely on his own Malinke ethnic group to fill positions in the party and government. Alleging plots and conspiracies against him at home and abroad, Touré's regime targeted real and imagined opponents, imprisoning many thousands in Soviet-style prison gulags, where hundreds perished. The regime's repression drove more than a million Guineans into exile, and Touré's paranoia ruined relations with foreign nations, including neighboring African states, increasing Guinea's isolation and further devastating its economy.

Sékou Touré and the PDG remained in power until his death on April 3, 1984.A military junta--the Military Committee of National Recovery (CMRN)--headed by then-Lt. Col. Lansana Conte, seized power just one week after the death of Sékou Touré. The CMRN immediately abolished the constitution, the sole political party (PDG) and its mass youth and women's organizations, and announced the establishment of the Second Republic. In lieu of a constitution, the government was initially based on ordinances, decrees, and decisions issued by the president and various ministers.

Political parties were proscribed. The new government also released all prisoners and declared the protection of human rights as one of its primary objectives. It reorganized the judicial system and decentralized the administration. The CMRN also announced its intention to liberalize the economy, promote private enterprise, and encourage foreign investment in order to develop the country's rich natural resources.

The CMRN formed a transitional parliament, the "Transitional Council for National Recovery" (CTRN), which created a new constitution (La Loi Fundamental) and Supreme Court in 1990. The country's first multi-party presidential election took place in 1993. These elections were marred by irregularities and lack of transparency on the part of the government. Legislative and municipal elections were held in 1995. Conte's ruling Party for Unity and Progress (PUP) won 76 of 114 seats in the National Assembly, amid opposition claims of irregularities and government tampering. The new National Assembly held its first session in October 1995.

Several thousand malcontent troops mutinied in Conakry in February 1996, destroying the presidential offices and killing several dozen civilians. Mid-level officers attempted, unsuccessfully, to turn the rebellion into a coup d'etat. The Government of Guinea made hundreds of arrests in connection to the mutiny, and put 98 soldiers and civilians on trial in 1998.

In mid-1996, in response to the coup attempt and a faltering economy, President Conté appointed a new government as part of a flurry of reform activity. He selected Sidya Touré, former chief of staff for the Prime Minster of the Cote d'Ivoire, as Prime Minister, and appointed other technically minded ministers. Touré was charged with coordinating all government action, taking charge of leadership and management, as well as economic planning and finance functions. In early 1997, Conté shifted many of the financial responsibilities to a newly named Minister of Budget and Finance.

In December 1998, Conté was re-elected to another 5-year term in a flawed election that was, nevertheless, an improvement over 1993. Following his reelection and the improvement of economic conditions through 1999, Conté reversed direction, making wholesale and regressive changes to his cabinet. He replaced many technocrats and members of the Guinean Diaspora that had previously held important positions with "homegrown" ministers, particularly from his own Soussou ethnic group. These changesled to increased cronyism, corruption, and a retrenchment on economic and political reforms.

Beginning in September 2000, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel army, backed by Liberian President Charles Taylor, commenced large-scale attacks into Guinea from Sierra Leone and Liberia. The RUF, known for their brutal tactics in the near decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone, operated with financial and material support from the Liberian Government and its allies. These attacks destroyed the town of Gueckedou as well as a number of villages, causing large-scale damage and the displacement of tens of thousands of Guineans from their homes. The attacks also forced the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to relocate many of the 200,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees residing in Guinea. As a result of the attacks, legislative elections scheduled for 2000 were postponed.

After the initial attacks in September 2000, President Conté, in a radio address, accused Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees living in the country of fomenting war against the government. Soldiers, police, and civilian militia groups rounded up thousands of refugees, some of whom they beat and raped. Approximately, 3,000 refugees were detained, although most were released by year's end.

In November 2001, a nationwide referendum, which some observers believe was flawed, amended the constitution to permit the president to run for an unlimited number of terms, and to extend the presidential term from 5 to 7 years. The country's second legislative election, originally scheduled for 2000, was held in June 2002. President Conté's Party of Unity and Progress (PUP) and associated parties won 91 of the 114 seats. Most major opposition parties boycotted the legislative elections, objecting to inequities in the existing electoral system.

ECONOMY

Richly endowed with minerals, Guinea possesses over 25 billion metric tons (MT) of bauxite--an estimated one-third of the world's proven reserves of bauxite--more than 4 billion tons of high-grade iron ore, significant diamond and gold deposits, and undetermined quantities of uranium. Guinea has considerable potential for growth in the agricultural and fishing sectors. Soil, water, and climatic conditions provide opportunities for large-scale irrigated farming and agro industry. Possibilities for investment and commercial activities exist in all these areas, but Guinea's poorly developed infrastructure and rampant corruption continue to present obstacles to large-scale investment projects.

Joint venture bauxite mining and alumina operations in northwest Guinea provide about 80% of Guinea's foreign exchange. The Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinea (CBG), a joint venture in which 49% of the shares are owned by the Guinean Government and 51% by an international consortium (mostly U.S. and Canadian interests), exported about 14.5 million metric tons in 2003. The Compagnie des Bauxites de Kindia (CBK), a joint venture between the Government of Guinea and Russki Alumina, produces some 2.5 million MT, nearly all of which is exported to Russia and Eastern Europe. Dian Dian, a Guinean/Ukrainian joint bauxite venture, has a projected production rate of 1 million MT per year, but is not yet under production. The Alumina Compagnie de Guinée (ACG), which took over the former Friguia Consortium, produced about 2.4 million tons of bauxite in 2003.

Diamonds and gold also are also mined and exported on a large scale. AREDOR, a joint diamond-mining venture between the Guinean Government (50%) and an Australian, British, and Swiss consortium, began production in 1984 and mined diamonds that are 90% gem quality. Production stopped from 1993 until 1996, when First City Mining of Canada purchased the international portion of the consortium. The largest gold mining operation in Guinea is a joint venture between the government and Ashanti Gold Fields of Ghana. SMD also has a large gold mining facility in Lero near the Malian border. Other concession agreements have been signed for iron ore, but these projects are still awaiting preliminary exploration and financing results.

The Guinean Government adopted policies in the 1990s to return commercial activity to the private sector, promote investment, reduce the role of the state in the economy, and improve the administrative and judicial framework. Guinea has the potential to develop, if the government carries out its announced policy reforms, and if the private sector responds appropriately. So far, corruption and favoritism, lack of long-term political stability, and lack of a transparent budgeting process continue to dampen foreign investor interest in major projects in Guinea.

Reforms since 1985 include eliminating restrictions on agriculture and foreign trade, liquidation of some parastatals, the creation of a realistic exchange rate, increased spending on education, and cutting the government bureaucracy. In July 1996, President Lansana Conté appointed a new government, which promised major economic reforms, including financial and judicial reform, rationalization of public expenditures, and improved government revenue collection. Under 1996 and 1998 International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank agreements, Guinea continued fiscal reforms and privatizations, and shifted governmental expenditures and internal reforms to the education, health, infrastructure, banking, and justice sectors. Cabinet changes in 1999 as well increasing corruption, economic mismanagement, and excessive government spending since 2000 have slowed the momentum for economic reform. The informal sector continues to be a major contributor to the economy.

The government revised the private investment code in 1998 to stimulate economic activity in the spirit offree enterprise. The code does not discriminate between foreigners and nationals and provides for repatriation of profits. While the code restricts development of Guinea's hydraulic resources to projects in which Guineans have majority shareholdings and management control, it does contain a clause permitting negotiations of more favorable conditions for investors in specific agreements. Foreign investments outside Conakry are entitled to more favorable benefits. A national investment commission has been formed to review all investment proposals. The United States and Guinea have signed an investment guarantee agreement that offers political risk insurance to American investors through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). In addition, Guinea has inaugurated an arbitration court system, which allows for the quick resolution of commercial disputes.

Until June 2001, private operators managed the production, distribution, and fee-collection operations of water and electricity under performance-based contracts with the Government of Guinea. However, both have continued to battle inefficiency, corruption, and nepotism over the past year, and foreign private investors in these operations have departed the country in frustration.

In 2002, the IMF suspended Guinea's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF)because the government failed to meet key performance criteria. In reviews of the PRGF, the World Bank noted that Guinea met 100% of its goals on spending in targeted social priority sectors. However, this spending--and spending in other areas such as defense--contributed to a significant fiscal deficit. The loss of IMF funds and the pursuit of unsound macroeconomic policies have placed the nation's poor at greater risk.

The government spent more than 50% of its budget on military expenditures in 2003, while neglecting the country's infrastructure. Major roadways connecting the country's trade centers are in poor repair or non-existent, slowing the delivery of goods to local markets. Electricity and water shortages are frequent and sustained, and many businesses are forced to use expensive power generators and fuel. Since revenues (primarily from the mining sector) are low, the Government of Guinea finances its deficit through Central Bank advances. As a result, inflation (official rate) rose from 8.9% in 2002 to over 15.4% in 2003. Climbing inflation combined with the government's enforcement of price controls for certain commodities have served to dampen interest in the private sector; even stalwart foreign investors in the mining sector are hesitant about future investment.

BELIEFS

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and permits religious communities to govern themselves without state interference, and the Government generally respected these rights in practice.

The government-sponsored National Islamic League (NIL) represented the country's Sunni Muslim majority, which comprised 85 percent of the population. The Government requires that all recognized Christian churches join the Association of Churches and Missions in order to benefit from certain government privileges, such as tax exemptions and energy subsidies. Missionary groups were required to make a declaration of their aims and activities to the Ministry of Interior or to the NIL.

Government support of the powerful, semi-official NIL led some non-Muslims to complain that the Government used its influence to favor Muslims over non-Muslims, although non-Muslims were represented in the Cabinet, administrative bureaucracy, and the armed forces. The Government refrained from appointing non-Muslims to important administrative positions in certain parts of the country, in deference to the particularly strong social dominance of Islam in these regions.

Relations among the various religions generally were amicable; however, in some parts of the country, Islam's dominance was such that there was strong social pressure that discouraged non-Muslims from practicing their religion openly.

INCIDENCE OF CRIME

In Conakry, as in most large cities, crime is a facet of daily life. Residential and street crime is very common. Sentiments toward American citizens in Guinea are generally positive. However, criminals regularly target U.S. and other foreign citizens. Criminals, thieves, prostitutes, beggars, and some corrupt military and police officials perceive U.S. and foreign visitors as lucrative targets. The incidents of property crimes, crimes against persons, and automobile accidents traditionally increase during the months of November through January in Conakry.

Violent as well as nonviolent criminal activity has occurred. The majority of nonviolent crime involves acts of pick-pocketing and purse-snatching. On the other extreme, armed robbery/muggings and assaults are the most common violent crime. Home invasion robberies are not uncommon. Expatriates have sometimes been targets in these instances, and criminals have not hesitated to hurt victims who have resisted. Banditry near the Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia borders has also been reported. Despite the best of intentions, the police have been unable to prevent the rapid escalation of crime. There have also been incidents of direct and indirect requests for bribes from the police and military officials. Gunfire exchange between armed criminals and the police are on the rise, as is gang-related activity in general.

Criminals particularly target visitors at the airport, in the traditional markets, and near hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners. Visitors should avoid unsolicited offers of assistance at the airport or hotels, as persons making such offers may be seeking opportunities to steal luggage, purses, or wallets. Travelers should arrange to be met at the airport by hotel personnel, family members, or business contacts to reduce their vulnerability to these crimes of opportunity.

Commercial scams and disputes with local business partners have created legal difficulties for some U.S. citizens. Corruption is widespread in Guinea. Business is routinely conducted through the payment of bribes rather than by the rule of law, and enforcement of the law is irregular and inefficient. The ability of the U.S. Embassy to extricate U.S. citizens from illegal business deals is extremely limited.

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Guinea. The scams pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams.

Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction: for example, fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. One common variation of this scheme involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of various western African conflicts (notably Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote D’Ivoire ) who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money out of Guinea. Another typical ploy has persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash. Other variations include what appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts.

LEGAL SYSTEM

Guinea’s legal system is based on French civil law system, customary law, and decree. The legal codes currently being revised, and Guinea has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

POLICE

The Gendarmerie and the national police share responsibility for internal security and sometimes played an oppressive role in the daily lives of citizens. Members of the Presidential Guard are accountable to virtually no one except the President. There was no effective civilian control of the security forces, whose members committed serious human rights abuses; however, there were fewer reported abuses than in previous years.

There were no political killings; however, security forces killed several persons during the year, and there were reports of deaths in custody due to torture and abuse. There were three confirmed reports that security forces killed persons during the year. Police killed two men during a demonstration during the year.

In April, police killed a man in Yimbaya. There were no reports of any arrests.

In May, seven gendarmes arrested and beat a man in Donka; he died 2 days after hospitalization. A gendarme was arrested after protests from the victim's family but there was no information on his trial. Gendarme officials also paid compensation to the family.

There were no developments in the 2002 killing of a man by a military patrol or the 2002 killing of a man in Kouroussa by army troops.

No action was taken against prison officials who mistreated refugees in 2001.

Government authorities continued to block efforts by human rights groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to investigate political killings that took place in the 1970s under then-President Sekou Toure. Following visits during 2001 to Camp Boiro, where political prisoners were held during the Sekou Toure regime, human rights groups and NGOs suggested that an intentional lack of maintenance and upkeep was destroying evidence of the camp's former use.

Many victims of crime feared that they might never receive justice because of judicial corruption and at times resorted to exacting their own form of retribution through vigilante violence. Some suspected criminals, notably thieves and rapists, were beaten to death or burned by their victims or others after being soaked with a flammable liquid.

DETENTION

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, security forces regularly used arbitrary arrest and detention. The Code of Penal Procedure permits only the Gendarmerie to make arrests, but the army, the Presidential Guard (Red Berets), and the state police often detained persons as well. In practice, administrative controls over the police were ineffective, and security forces rarely followed the Penal Code. There were no reported judicial proceedings against officers suspected of committing abuses. Many citizens viewed the security forces as corrupt, ineffective, and even dangerous. Police ignored legal procedures and extorted money from citizens at roadblocks.


The Penal Code requires that the Government issue a warrant before an arrest can be made and that detainees be charged before a magistrate within 72 hours; however, many detainees were incarcerated for longer periods before being charged. After being charged, the accused may be held until the conclusion of the case, including a period of appeal. The Constitution proscribes incommunicado detention; however, at times it occurred in practice. The law provides for access by attorneys to their clients, but authorities frequently did not respect this provision. Release on bail was at the discretion of the magistrate who had jurisdiction.

The Penal Code strictly forbids the detention of civilians at military camps; however, this provision largely was ignored.

In February, military personnel arrested and detained 30 students at the University of Kankan at a military base for 1 day.

In March, the military detained two persons in Conakry and accused them of being in a forbidden area. They were released the following day from the Gendarmerie after payment of a bribe.

In November, gendarmes detained an unknown number of active and ex-military personnel for unspecified reasons. Several, including the son of the former head of the National Assembly, were released in December, although others continue to be detained.

There were no reports that authorities arrested journalists during the year.

The army and the Gendarmerie continued to detain refugees during the year.

Bar Association attorneys, the independent press, and government sources described in past years a parallel and covert system of justice run by unidentified uniformed personnel who conducted midnight arrests, detained suspects, and used torture in secret prisons to obtain confessions before transferring detainees to prosecutors. The detentions of an unknown number of active and former military in late November have highlighted the possible use of this covert system. No official charges or reasons for the detentions have been provided and the detainees have been prevented from meeting with family members. The detainees have been held at a variety of locations in Conakry and a few were released in December.

The Constitution does not prohibit forced exile; however, the Government did not practice forced exile. Several soldiers who fled the country in 1996 after a mutiny attempt remained in self-imposed exile, according to their families.

COURTS

The Constitution provides for the judiciary's independence; however, judicial authorities routinely deferred to executive authorities in politically sensitive cases. Magistrates were civil servants with no assurance of tenure. Because of corruption and nepotism in the judiciary, relatives of influential members of the Government often were, in effect, above the law. Judges often did not act independently, and their verdicts were subject to outside interference. Influential persons often intervened on behalf of their relatives to affect the disposition of a case.

The judiciary includes courts of first instance, the two Courts of Appeal, and the Supreme Court, which is the court of final appeal. A military tribunal prepares and adjudicates charges against accused military personnel, to whom the Penal Code does not apply. Civilians were not subject to military tribunals.

The State Security Court is comprised of magistrates directly appointed by the President, and the verdict is open to an appeal only on a point of law, not for the re-examination of evidence.

The judicial system was plagued by numerous problems, including a shortage of qualified lawyers and magistrates and an outdated and restrictive penal code. The Penal Code provides for the presumption of innocence of accused persons, the independence of judges, the equality of citizens before the law, the right of the accused to counsel, and the right to appeal a judicial decision. Although in principle the Government is responsible for funding legal defense costs in serious criminal cases, in practice it rarely disbursed funds for this purpose. The attorney for the defense frequently received no payment.
President Conte named Mamadou Sylla the new Minister of Justice in April after the previous Minister attempted to dissolve the Bar Association in 2002.

Many citizens wary of judicial corruption preferred to rely on traditional systems of justice at the village or urban neighborhood level. Litigants presented their civil cases before a village chief, a neighborhood leader, or a council of "wise men." The dividing line between the formal and informal justice systems was vague, and authorities may refer a case from the formal to the traditional system to ensure compliance by all parties. Similarly, if a case cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties in the traditional system, it may be referred to the formal system for adjudication. The traditional system discriminated against women in that evidence given by women carries less weight.

Opposition leader Alpha Conde's right to vote and run for political office was restored in a general amnesty granted by the National Assembly in November. The amnesty reportedly restores similar political rights to other former political prisoners.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

CORRECTIONS

Prison conditions were inhumane and life threatening. Neglect, mismanagement, and lack of resources were determined by one NGO to be main reasons for the problems. While officials provided a basic diet for prisoners, most inmates relied on supplemental assistance from families or friends to maintain their health. Guards often demanded bribes in exchange for allowing delivery of food to those incarcerated. Standards of sanitation remained poor, which resulted in several dozen deaths due to malnutrition and disease in previous years; there were no confirmed reports of deaths during the year. Some prisoners have reported sleeping on their knees because their cells were so small. Prisoners reported threats, beatings, and harassment by guards, and some reported being denied food and a place to lie down.

Conditions in the Nzerekore prison improved during the year. The prison was built in 1932 to house 70 prisoners and housed 155 prisoners during the year. Installation of indoor plumbing and better ventilation improved overall conditions for prisoners. In addition, catering services for the prisons in Kindia and Kankan were changed after the Ministry of Justice received complaints about inadequate diets for prisoners at both locations.

Men and women were housed separately, but juveniles generally were housed with adults. There were credible reports from prisoners that female inmates were subjected to harassment and sexual assault by guards. Pretrial detainees were not separated from convicted prisoners, and the prison system often was unable to track pretrial detainees after arrest. At times, detainees remained in prison for up to 2 years without trial. Prisoners of political importance usually were held in the main prison in Conakry with the general prison population; however, they were housed in separate cells.

The Government permitted prison visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other local humanitarian and religious organizations, which offered medical care and food for those in severe need. A former prisoner reported that without this assistance, those who did not have families or friends would have starved to death.

The ICRC reported that it was allowed regular access to all 33 official detention facilities and 2,500 prisoners during the year. The ICRC was encouraged by the response of the prison and security authorities to ICRC initiatives in improving prison facilities in Conakry, N'zerekore, and Kankan.

WOMEN

Domestic violence against women was common, although estimates differed as to the extent of the problem. Wife beating is a criminal offense and constitutes grounds for divorce under civil law; however, police rarely intervened in domestic disputes. Social beliefs prevented most rape victims from reporting incidents of rape. Several local NGOs were working to increase public awareness of the nature of these crimes and to promote increased reporting. The Government did not pursue vigorously criminal investigations of alleged sexual crimes.

FGM was practiced widely in all regions and among all religious and ethnic groups. FGM is illegal and senior officials and both the official and private press spoke against the practice; however, there were no prosecutions. FGM was performed on girls and women between the ages of 4 and 70, but exact figures on this procedure were difficult to establish. The Coordinating Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting Women's and Children's Health (CPTAFE), a local NGO dedicated to eradicating FGM and ritual scarring, cited a recent decline in the percentage of women and girls subjected to FGM. The CPTAFE estimated the figure to be between 65 and 75 percent; however, expert estimates varied between 65 and 90 percent. Infibulation, the most dangerous form of FGM, still was performed in the forest region, but less frequently than in previous years. Despite diseases resulting from crude and unsanitary surgical instruments and deaths resulting from the practice, the tradition continued, seriously affecting many women's lives. FGM also increased the risk of HIV infection since unsterilized instruments were shared among participants.

The Government made efforts to educate health workers on the dangers of this procedure, and it supported the CPTAFE's efforts. The CPTAFE reported high rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality due to FGM. In 1997, the Government, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, initiated a 20-year program to eradicate FGM. As a result, government ministers, health officials, and the media have discussed FGM more frequently; however, there were no statistics evaluating the success of the program.

A growing number of men and women opposed FGM. Urban, educated families were opting increasingly to perform only a slight symbolic incision on a girl's genitals rather than the complete procedure. During the year, the CPTAFE held large public ceremonies celebrating the "laying down of the excision knife" in which some traditional practitioners of FGM pledged to discontinue the practice; however, most of those who performed FGM opposed its eradication since the practice was lucrative.

There were reports that women were trafficked for the sex trade and illegal labor.

Although the Government made regular statements in the media against sexual harassment, women working in the formal sector in urban areas complained of frequent sexual harassment.

The Constitution provides for equal treatment of men and women, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Women's Promotion worked to advance such equality; however, women faced discrimination throughout society. Women faced discrimination particularly in rural areas where opportunities were limited by custom and the demands of childrearing and subsistence farming. Women were not denied access to land, credit, or businesses, but inheritance laws favor male heirs over females. Government officials acknowledged that polygyny was a common practice. Divorce laws generally tended to favor men in awarding custody and dividing communal assets. Legal evidence given by women carries less weight than testimony by men, in accordance with Islamic precepts and customary law. The Government affirmed the principle of equal pay for equal work; however, in practice, women received lower pay than men.

CHILDREN

The Constitution provides that the Government should support children's rights and welfare, and the Government allocated a significant percentage of the budget to primary education; however, the Government did not spend the allocated funds. A Minister of Youth was charged by the President with defending women's and children's rights, and a permanent committee dedicated to defending the rights of the child, with members chosen from different ministries, NGOs, and other sectors, continued to work.

The Government provided tuition free, compulsory primary school education for 6 years; however, enrollment rates were low due to school fees and lax enforcement of laws mandating school attendance. Approximately 51 percent of all eligible students were enrolled in primary school, including 66 percent of eligible boys compared with 37 percent of eligible girls. Girls often were taken out of school and sent to work to help pay for their brothers' education.

FGM was performed commonly on girls.

The legal age for marriage is 21 years for men and 17 years for women; however, underage marriage was a problem. Parents contract marriages for girls as young as 11 years of age in the forest region. The CPTAFE, in conjunction with the Government, local journalists, and international NGOs, promoted an education campaign to discourage underage marriage

There were reports that girls were trafficked for prostitution and other labor

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS

The law prohibits trafficking in persons; however, there were some reports of trafficking. The law carries a penalty of 5 to 10 years imprisonment and confiscation of any money or property received as a result of trafficking activities; however, some NGOs in the past reported that women and children were trafficked within the country, as well as internationally, for the sex trade and illegal labor. Trafficking in persons from rural areas to urban centers increasingly was recognized as a problem. Accurate statistics were difficult to obtain, because victims did not report the crime in fear for their personal safety.

A UNICEF official reported that trafficking in children was common in the country. In November, police detained five minors after learning they were being trafficked from Mali with the promise of jobs in Conakry as housemaids. The young girls were repatriated back to Mali.

Several government agencies, particularly the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Promotion of Women and Children, were involved in anti-trafficking efforts.

In 2001, the Children's Protection Division and UNICEF reported that trafficking of children was a problem among the Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugee populations in the prefectures of Guekedou, Macenta, N'Zerekore, and Forecariah; girls were exploited for domestic labor, and boys were exploited as street sellers and agricultural workers. The International Rescue Committee and UNICEF reported that children living in foster families often did not receive adequate food, shelter and clothing, and were compelled to work in the streets, sometimes as prostitutes, for their subsistence.

Girls under the age of 14 were involved in prostitution. The Government did not take action when prostitution of minors was brought to its attention, and it did not monitor actively child or adult prostitution.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Internet research assisted by Meigan Fukushima and Michael S. Martin

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