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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Malinke in Guinea

View Group Chronology

Guinea Facts
Area:    245,860 sq. km.
Capital:    Conakry
Total Population:    7,477,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

It is difficult to determine how likely the Malinke are to engage in protest activity although in 2005 they staged a small protest. Without a clear understanding of the political climate in Guinea, assessment is difficult, if not impossible. Additionally obscuring the political context was the recent military coup that followed on the heels of Lansana Conté’s death on December 21, 2008. The Malinke appear to be the primary actors in the military coup and have promised future elections, but little information is forthcoming. Future risk of rebellion and protest by the Malinke is hard to gauge as they transition into power. Their ability to maintain power and to provide elections as promised will impact their likelihood of future militant activity toward the incoming government. Although the Malinke are part of the military junta, it should be noted that they display some characteristics placing them at risk for militant activity such as territorial concentration and currently, regime instability.


Analytic Summary

The Malinke have long been in the region that now comprises Guinea. While they are mainly in Upper Guinea, they have begun to migrate southward into the Forest Region of Guinea in search of better economic opportunities (GROUPCON = 3). Malinke is a separate language (LANG = 2) not spoken by other ethnic groups in the country and their customs differ from the semi-nomadic Fulani (CUSTOM = 1); otherwise, these and other ethnic groups are very similar (RACE = 0 and BELIEF = 0). Prior to colonization, the Malinke of Upper Guinea had a kingdom headed by Samory Touré. Touré’s kingdom was short-lived having begun in the late 1800s and ending in 1898 with the defeat of Touré by French colonizers.

Guinea gained independence from France on 2 October 1958 after rejecting the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, which would have resulted in the colony becoming a self-governing entity within the French Community. Following the rejection of the new constitution, France cut all aid to the country on its withdrawal, leaving Touré to develop ties to the Soviet bloc until the early 1980s. At independence, labor leader and Malinke, Ahmed Sekou Touré, head of the Guinean Democratic Party-African Democratic Assembly (PDG-RDA), became president. During almost 30 years in power, Touré pursued a socialist agenda that resulted in harsh repression of all opposition to his rule. Nearly two million Guineans were thought to have left the country by 1983 to escape the government’s repressive activities.

After decolonization, the Malinke occupied a position of special status in Guinea due to the common ethnicity of Sekou Touré. Resentment between the Malinke and other ethnic groups grew, but Touré, despite several coup attempts, managed to keep ethnic violence in check during his tenure as president. Touré died in 1984. Before a permanent successor could be chosen by the ruling party, the armed forces seized power in a bloodless coup, and Col. Lasana Conte, a Susu, was appointed head of the government by the Military Committee of National Reformation. The PDG-RDA and the legislature were dissolved, and the Constitution suspended. With the rise of Conte, the special status held by the Malinke was transferred to the Susu. Currently, the Malinke are quite fractionalized and lack the cohesiveness necessary to challenge the Susu administration effectively for power.

In October 1985, Conte, like many African heads of state, began restructuring the economy in line with World Bank and IMF prescriptions. Towards the late 1980s, internal and external pressure on the government led to political reforms. In late 1988, Conte proposed the creation of a new Constitution, and a year later he proposed a transitional government. In November 1990, Conte appealed to exiled Guinean political leaders to return to the country. Many returned, including Alpha Conde, a Malinke and head of the Rally for the Guinean People. The transition to multiparty rule was marred by violence in Guinea. For example, as many as 60 of Conde’s supporters were arrested after they protested his summons to a police station in Conakry for possessing "subversive materials." In another incident in 1993, anti-government protesters were fired upon, resulting in as many as 18 deaths. Presidential elections were finally held in December 1993. The main contenders included President Conte, Alpha Conde (RPG), Mamadou Boye Ba, a Fulani and head of the Union for a New Republic (UNR) and Siradiou Diallo, also a Fulani and head of the Party for Renewal and Progress (PRP). The polls resulted in the election of Conte with 52% of the vote. However, the opposition claimed the elections were unfair, and relations between the government and opposition parties were strained. Legislative elections took place in June 1995, and the opposition again complained of harassment and irregularities. The opposition then joined forces in the Coordination of the Democratic Opposition. Incidents over the next few years substantiated the opposition’s allegations that the government harassed its members. For example, the RPG’s headquarters in Conakry were ransacked and damaged by fire in November 1996, and opposition leaders were periodically arrested.

Conte’s Unity and Progress Party (PUP) is seen as dominated by Susu while the RPG is seen as a Malinke party. The PRP and UNR, Fulani parties, merged to form the Union for Progress and Renewal in 2000. Elections in December 1998 were marred by violence and opposition allegations that they were unfair. The opposition claimed the government used troops to break up their party rallies, and foreign election monitors were refused permission to oversee the election process. Official results indicated that President Conte (PUP) had won with 56% of the vote, while Ba (UNR) came in second with 25%, and Conde (RPG) came in third with 17%. Aside from the political transition process, Guinea is also challenged by its role as host to 700,000 (as of 1998) of the region’s war refugees.

Very little information from Guinea reaches the western media, and therefore not much information is available on the current status of the Malinke. There is no evidence that they face any demographic disadvantages beyond the large amount of refugees which have flooded into Guinea from war-ravaged Sierra Leone. It is known that a ban on political organizations exists – all political meetings must be approved in advance by the government, thus restricting all opposition meetings. Public policies toward the group are inadequate to counterbalance social discrimination (POLDIS06 = 3). However, the Malinke face no apparent economic discrimination (ECDIS06 = 0). Recently, the Malinke have been involved in interethnic fighting particularly in the Forest Region (INTERCON04-05 = 1). While Guinea is thought to generally be effective in controlling interethnic tension, Malinke and Guerze fought in 2004 and 2005 in the Forest Region. In 2004, Mandingo militants crossed the border to join the Malinke in fighting the Guerze. In 2005, Malinke also clashed with Fulani, pillaging their stores after a Malinke youth was shot when he was mistaken by a Fulani member to be a thief. Furthermore, ethnic tension and violence in Liberia places the Malinké in the Forest Region of Guinea at risk for ethnic conflict after, in 2004, Mandingo militants of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) entered Guinea, leading to clashes between LURD, Guinean Malinké and Guerze.

The Conte government has a history of arresting Malinke political leaders such as Alpha Conde, usually releasing them after several months in detention. Amnesty International reported incidents of government repression in both 1999 and 2000, but never identified the ethnic group affected by these repressive acts. It must be assumed that some of this repression is aimed at the Malinke, due to the fact that they comprise a large percentage of the population and that they are a contender to the Susu. This repression has included both arrests and some cases of torture being inflicted on those who are in custody. In 2005, police shot at Malinke protestors and in 2004 and 2005 following ethnic tensions, police arrested hundreds, including many Malinke thought to be responsible for fighting (REPNVIOL05 = 4, REPVIOL04-05 = 3)

Due to the ban on political organizing, it is also very difficult to determine what the Malinke want from the government. Despite the ban, the Guinean People’s Rally – a party which represents mainly the Malinke – exists, thus indicating that the Malinke want more influence over Guinean affairs. Due to the repression reported by Amnesty International, it can also be logically assumed that the group would like these practices to come to an end.

Before decolonization, the Malinke had a history of opposing the colonial authorities (PROT45X = 2). After 1955, those protests ended. There are also few reports of protest activity by the Malinke since they lost their favored status in 1984 with the most recent protest occurring in 2005 in the lead up to elections (PROT05 = 3). Either this is an accurate account, or the government has prevented word of these protests from reaching the Western media. The only known instance of insurgent activity by the Malinke was in conjunction with the Fulani in 1996, when dissident soldiers killed senior officers loyal to Conte (REB96 = 3). Since that point, no other rebellious activity has been reported, which again may be a function of media reporting restrictions (REB06 = 0).

In 2008, Lansana Conté died after suffering years of declining health. Leaving no successor in his wake, the President of the National Assembly announced that he would hold power until elections could be held, as was stipulated by the constitution. Only hours later, a military group, announced that they had seized power denouncing the former Conté administration as corrupt and incapable of providing services to the people. They dissolved the government and the constitution and announced that elections would be held in 2010. Many of the military officers in the coup group belonged to the Malinke ethnic group. International confusion ensued as to whom was in control of Guinea, but several days after the coup, they announced a 32-member council to replace the now dissolved government.



Degenhardt, Henry W. ed. 1987. Revolutionary and Dissident Movements: An International Guide, A Keesing’s Reference Publication. London: Longman.

Horowitz, Donald L. 1985. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

International Crisis Group. “Conflict history: Guinea.” [accessed 02/19/08]

Lexis/Nexis Research Software (French/English): various news wires including BBC, Deutsche Presse Agentur, Agence France Presse, and the International Herald Tribune. 1990-2008

Keesing’s Contemporary Archive, Keesing’s Record of World Events. Annual. London: Longman Group Ltd.

Minorities Rights Group. 1989. World Directory of Minorities, St. James International Reference. Chicago and London: St. James Press.

Morrison, Donald George, Robert Cameron Mitchell, and John Naber Paden. 1989. Black Africa: A Comparative Handbook. 2nd ed. New York: A Washington Institute Book.

Murray, Jocelyn. 1990. Africa. Cultural Atlas for Young People. New York and Oxford: Facts on File.

Nelson, Harold D. et al. Area Handbook for Guinea. Library of Congress, 1975.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID). November 1998. "Guinea: Potential Sources of Conflict and Instability."

United States Department of State. “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Guinea.” 2004-2006.


© 2004 - 2022 • Minorities At Risk Project

Information current as of December 31, 2006