Assessment for Susu in Guinea
The Susu are unlikely to engage in future rebellion or protest. Under the Conte regime, they were anadvantaged group: they faces no restrictions or repression, the government represented their interests, and it was in their best interests to maintain the status quo. Because Conte managed to change the constitution, the Susu have managed to retain their favored position in society. With Conte’s death and the Malinke-led coup, the future for the Susu is uncertain. Should Malinke or other groups attempt to marginalize the Susu, the risk of rebellion will increase.
Guinea as a whole and the Susu must also be concerned with the situation in Sierra Leone, and the effect that the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees will have on Guinean society. As Malinké and Susu kindred can be found in Sierra Leone, the risk of militant organizations left over from the civil war crossing the border remains a problem for Guinea and has led to tension between some of the ethnic groups in the Forest Region. At present, the Guinean opposition groups appear committed to democratic reform, which hopefully will prevent ethnic violence.
The Susu or Soussou are found in the coastal areas of Guinea and the majority have not ventured far (GROUPCON = 3) beyond their traditional homelands. Beyond a different language (LANG = 1), the Susu are very similar to the other large ethnic groups in Guinea – the Malinke and the Fulani (BELIEF , RACE = 0). Since the group has held an advantaged position in society due to the ethnicity of former president Conte, the Susu are organized around their ethnicity and are cohesive.
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. 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. France cut all aid to the country on its withdrawal, leading Touré to develop ties to the Soviet bloc until the early 1980s.
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 being faced with 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. The Susu have maintained this status to the present day with disproportionately high representation in the military and government.
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. On February 12, 2007, Conte declared a “state of siege” in which the military was given increased power and demonstrations were banned. A subsequent 20 hour per day curfew was also enforced.
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 Susu. It appears that the group does not face any demographic disadvantages, other than the fact that Susu lands are near the Sierra Leone border, which hundreds of thousands of refugees have crossed in order to escape the civil war in Sierra Leone. As the dominant group in Guinea, it is no surprise that the Susu are not confronted with political disadvantages (POLDIS06 = 0). In fact, the Susu predominantly compose the higher positions inside the Guinean government, civil service and military. The group also is free from economic or cultural restrictions or discrimination (ECDIS06, CULPO106 and CULPO206 = 0). Once again, almost 20 years of being the advantaged group has removed any historical discrimination. Not surprisingly, there have been no reports of government repression against the group, and there have not been any reports of communal conflict between the Susu and other ethnic groups (INTERCON06 = 0). Again, it is unknown if attacks have occurred and not been reported by the western media, or if the country has been truly free of ethnic conflict.
As noted earlier, the Unity and Progress Party managed to remain in power until Conte’s death, and the Susu retain their privileged position. Thus, the group has voiced very few demands of the government. A central Susu request is protection from the other Guinean ethnic groups. There is a lack of trust between the opposition parties and the government, and as a result, there are tensions between the Susu and other ethnic groups in Guinea who are less advantaged. Therefore, the potential for conflict is great, and the Susu want the government to protect them. There are also tensions within the Susu in power as suspicion is highly common between them (INTRACON03 = 1). However, in recent times, there have been no reports of intracommunal conflict (INTRACON06 = 0).
Before the coup which brought Conte to power, there were scant reports of Susu political protest (PROT75X = 1 being the exception), and this did not change during his time in office (PROT06 = 0). There also appears to have been no militant activity by the group (REB06 = 0).
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