Travel in Guinea - A guide to staying out of trouble

A reputable December 2009 Australian publication includes the following observation on the situation in Guinea

"The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but judicial officials often deferred to executive authorities. The judicial system was endemically corrupt, and magistrates were civil servants with no assurance of tenure. Authorities routinely accepted bribes in exchange for specific outcomes. Budget shortfalls, a shortage of qualified lawyers and magistrates, and an outdated and restrictive penal code continued to limit the judiciary's effectiveness."

On 16 November 2010, nine days after completion of the second round of presidential elections - the first free and fair elections in Guinea since independence from France in 1958 - Alpha Condé was declared the victor. Condé, formerly political science professor at the University of Paris spent many years in opposition to a succession of corrupt regimes in Guinea.

A June 2011 AFP article states Condé's critics accuse him of failing to live up to his pre-election promises to uproot corruption, in part because: ".....he has kept officials of the former regime close to him."

Pursuing this line of criticism, opposition spokesman Mamadou Taran Diallo said: "Never having run (a country), he had lots of room. He could have had a heavy hand to fight against corruption and govern in transparency."

Guinea's new president, Alpha Condé, inherited a country with profound human rights and governance problems including a culture of impunity, weak rule of law, endemic corruption, and crushing poverty. It is unreasonable to expect that in just 6 months of rule, Condé might remedy 52 years of abuse.

What this means for the tourist is that Guinea remains unsafe. Corruption is rife and crime flourishes. Although the Law protects the rights of citizens, its administration is still in the hands of a weak judiciary and corrupt security forces whether police or military personnel.

Many of the people robbing travelers of valuables or cash, or both may be wearing police or military uniforms - both imitation and genuine. Corruption is rife throughout Guinea and few tourists escape demands for a fine or bribe. There is little chance of redress through the courts that are usually subordinate to the military.

After the brutal civil wars in Sierrra Leone and Liberia in the 1990s, the capital, Conakry, witnessed a huge influx of refugees. Added to existing population pressures, this influx has resulted in unemployment and poverty. It is not surprising that assaults, muggings, armed robbery and break-ins, as well as minor theft, are prevalent.

Petty criminals are particularly active in the Madina, Niger and Taouyah markets. Often, children are used by criminals to conduct these crimes.

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 and hotels. Such offers often mask an intention to steal luggage, purses, or wallets. Travellers should arrange for hotel personnel, family members, or business contacts to meet them at the airport to reduce vulnerability to these crimes of opportunity.

Power failures are frequent throughout the country. They affect water supply and transportation as well as the power supply. In large urban centres, power failures may affect security conditions.

Because corruption is widespread, commercial scams and disputes with local business partners can create legal difficulties for foreign nationals in Guinea. Business routinely turns on bribes rather than the law, and enforcement of the law is irregular and inefficient. Foreign Embassies have extremely limited recourse in assisting their nationals if they become unwitting victims of illegal business deals.

In 2010, trading scams involving diamonds, gold export and gold certification were reported to the U.K Embassy many times. Those accused of criminal offences, including gem smuggling, are subject to local law. Heavy penalties apply for those convicted. Local prison conditions are harsh with food and water are not supplied on a regular basis. Conakry Central Prison, built in 1958 to receive a maximum 400 today houses more than 1200 prisoners.

Extensive pre-trial detention can last for many months.

Although numerous travel briefs caution intending travellers of the danger of internet dating fraud, the only documented case occurred in 2010. A 44 year old Nigerian national, Maxwell Gbogboade, living in Maryland, USA, was charged in connection with an alleged Internet dating scheme during which he attempted to defraud a 64 year old Hatfield Township man out of more than $46,000.10

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