While the African continent just celebrated the Day of Borders, Guinea is keeping two of its borders closed in what appears to be heightened political isolationism; exacerbating its economic crisis in the process.
June 7 is African Day of Borders (Border Day), following a decision adopted by the African Union (AU) in 2010. Each various activities and events are held across the continent all relating to a specific theme. The theme the AU has chosen for 2021 is, “art, culture, and heritage: tools for building the Africa we want.”
Guinea shares land borders with six countries: the Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. With its closure, it limited its participation in this international day to Mali alone.
Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, General Bouréma Condé, described the activities organized for the country on this day:
The 11th celebration of the African Day of Borders is recognized this year in Guinea through artistic, socio-cultural, and sports activities between Guineans and Malians in the sub prefecture of Doko, prefecture of Seguiri, in strict compliance with public health and security guidelines. These activities mark both the willingness of the Guinean and Malian governments to work together to strengthen African Unity by promoting local cooperation through cross-border collaboration and to create a space without the distinction of sex, religion, race, or ethnicity.
An isolationist policy excluding certain bordering countries.
On September 27, 2020, before the presidential election (Oct. 18th), chief of state Alpha Condé ordered the closure of borders with three of its six neighbors: Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, and Senegal — where the largest Guinean diaspora resides. On reasons for this decision, he put forth issues of security.
The border with Sierra Leone was in fact reopened on February 18, 2021, following an official visit from Sierra Leonian president Julius Maada Bio. However, the real question is: what motivates this isolationist policy? The answer most likely lies with Alpha Condé, President of the Republic of Guinea, who has been in power since 2010 when he altered the constitution to secure a third term in office.
Guinea and Mali both contain large populations of ethnic Mandinka, who make up the electoral stronghold of Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinée (RPG) — the ruling party. This could explain why Mali is the only country involved with Guinea's celebrations.
On the other hand, the border region between Guinea and Senegal, Fouta Djallon, is inhabited mostly by the ethnic Fulani who are found in two other countries, indigenously or via immigration.
In fact, Cellou Dalhein Diallo, leader of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), the primary Guinean opposition party, has support from the upper-level government of several neighboring countries. The presidents of Senegal, Macky Sall and Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, as well as the vice-president of Sierra-Leone, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, are all Fulani.
Certain observers argue the decision to close the three borders was explained by Alpha Condé's desire to prevent Guineans living in Senegal and Guinea-Bissau from returning to the country in order to vote in presidential elections.
There is another explanation offered which concerns Senegal. According to Senegalese journalist Sadih Top of seneweb.com :
This is due to political conflict. Cellou Dalhein Diallo produced four hundred thousand t-shirts in Senegal. These shirts were distributed in 5 trucks. So, to prevent his opponent from obtaining these shirts, Alpha closed the overland border.
Disastrous consequences for the Guinean economy.
This prolonged border closure comes at a high economic cost. An agricultural rehabilitation project in Fouta Djallon was able to develop several agricultural sectors; the raising of livestock and distribution of improved fruiting plants. These products are typically sold in Senegal and Guinea Bissau because the road leading from Fouta Djallon to Guinea's capital Conakry —where there is the greatest concentration of consumers — is in poor condition.
On January 8, 2021, Chérif Mohamed Abdallah Haïdara, president of the Guinean section of Organized Pan African Businessmen, published a report which noted that:
All along these borders, hundreds of trucks are parked here and there without knowing when their ordeal will end. With this prolonged border closure, Alpha Conde and his government are endangering traders and transporters and compromising the already precarious situation due to the political climate.
Ange Gabriel Haba, executive secretary of the National Council of Guinean Civil Society Organizations published a petition on June 3, 2021, which declared:
Since September 27 2021 Guinean authorities have closed borders with three neighboring countries including Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Guinea Bissau. Eight months later, the prolonged closures have rendered enormous consequences on the lives of these people. These consequences are all the more serious given that they came in a time where citizens were already more affected by the devastating effects of Covid-19.
Alaidhy Sow, a Guineenews correspondent based in the regional capital, Labé, and the regional director of the radio station Espace Foutah, is the spokesperson for farmers in Mali Yembering, an area located next to the border with Senegal.
Prolonged land border closures in Guinea: Cabbage producers in Mali Yembering (Labè) lose 4 675 600 000 gnf [sic]. They are helplessly watching their produce rot. No answer from the state. #kibaro @LamineGUIRASSY #Guinee #guineevote2020 pic.twitter.com/p0VnrGqiZn
— Alaidhy Sow (@Alaidhyso) November 17, 2020
Merchants and transporters are not the only ones suffering from these closures, the Guinean state is paying for the closure as well. Fodé Baldé, manager of the digital communication unit of the opposition party, the Republican Union Forces (UFR), and member of the communication coordination of the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), discussed the nation's treasury bills — some with interest rates as high as 13 percent:
#Guinée : It is established that the @GouvGN has issued treasury bonds with an unimaginable interest rate which could surpass 13% and this, to balance the budget deficit born of the poor economic and financial policies of this administration. With the border closures also !#Kibaro
— Fodé BALDE (@FodBALDE2) March 14, 2021
By comparison, the maximum interest rate for treasury bonds issue by Senegal is 3.43 percent.
This prolonged border closure violates a number of international provisions, including the May 29, 1979 Protocol from the Economic Community of West African States, which guarantees the free movement of people and a right to residence and establishment, of which Guinea is a signatory. In fact, this judiciary tool grants all citizens of these 15 states the right to entry and establishment.