Guinea: Speech on behalf of HR/VP Borrell at the European Parliament
Delivered by Commissioner Helena Dalli on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Borrell
The European Union is a long-standing partner of Guinea, a country that has made major progress since the first democratic elections in 2010 that brought to power current President Alpha Condé. The country’s stability and prosperity is important for the region as it is for the European Union.
Since the February 2018 local elections, the socio-political situation has become increasingly tense. The prospect of a new Constitution, raising the possibility for President Condé to remain in power beyond the end of his second and last mandate, united opposition forces in the ‘National Front for the Defence of the Constitution’ and led to frequent demonstrations against a ‘third mandate’.
These demonstrations have often been severely dispersed by security forces. Opponents have been detained. Fundamental freedoms, in particular freedom of expression were not respected. Since mid-October 2019, around 30 demonstrators lost their lives, allegedly killed by firearms by the security forces. The EU has repeatedly called for appropriate investigations to clarify the circumstances of these incidents and to hold accountable those responsible.
In such a context, preparations for legislative elections, due on the 1st of March, only increased the tension. Referring to strong doubts about the credibility of the voters’ list, two main opposition parties declared boycott to the scrutiny. Although EU electoral missions in 2015 and 2018 recommended a thorough review of the electoral rolls, which did not accurately reflect the electorate, such a review was only very partially conducted.
The recent announcement that legislative elections will be coupled to a referendum on a new draft Constitution presented in December, giving ground to President Condé’s intentions, has further divided the country. There is now a clear risk of widespread instability and polarisation, including dangerously along ethnic lines.
The EU has consistently, together with local partners – the UN, African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United States and France – called for calm and has facilitated dialogue among the parties. Confidence by all in a credible and transparent electoral process is the best way to achieve participation and acceptance of the result.
While every country has the right to amend or modernise its Constitution, changing the fundamental law should build on an inclusive consultation leading to a large consensus, which is absent to date. Holding a referendum months before presidential elections is not in line with good practices recommended by the African Union and ECOWAS. In particular the West African region has gained its democratic credentials upon these principles.
It is in this context that the spokesperson of High Representative/[Vice-President Josep] Borrell called last Friday for an inclusive dialogue to avoid further escalation of violence, and to ensure conditions for transparent elections in which all parties can participate. Only a climate where political and civic space is respected and human rights violations come to end, can create conditions conducive for such a dialogue. In order to reach this, all actors should put the unity and the peace of Guinea first.
We remain ready to contribute to such a process, working with our partners – the UN, the African Union and ECOWAS. The European Union remains strongly engaged in Guinea, also working with civil society and human rights defenders and with support to the resilience of the population.
The Guinea crisis should remain high on our agenda.