Detained by Police? Know your Rights.
You are walking down an unfamiliar street of Conakry, having gotten
lost on your way to meet a friend. A police officer in blue uniform
brusquely stops you and asks to see your identification. He says that
the area is off-limits and that you have broken the law by entering
the area, and says you must pay an infraction. You reply that you
had gotten lost, you saw no sign or barricades marking off the area,
and that you would like to be cited the article of the law stating
the supposed infraction and its procedure. He threatens to charge
you with defying an officer, thus raising the fee he is demanding
from 50,000 Fg to 100,000 Fg. You ask to see his identification, suspicious
of him. He refuses, and threatens to throw you in jail for insubordinance.
You do not want to be any late, so you agree to pay him and continue
walking, shaken up by the incident but relieved that the incident
did not escalate further.
This is not an unusual experience among both foreigners and locals
in Guinea, especially in nations capital. Such incidents regularly
empty the pockets of already financially strained citizens, often
innocent of the charges presented. As foreigners are often the targets
of such tactics, they also threaten the development of tourism in
Guinea. Yet ironically, a thriving tourist industry could reap far
more financial benefits than the small amounts pocketed daily by certain
civil servants who have strayed from their original purpose of protecting
and serving the public.
While such officers often use fear as well as fatigue
techniques (detaining you for so long that you eventually give in
and pay the sum demanded), yielding to such demands only encourages
this behavior and legitimizes the practice.
Citizens should know that they have the right to ask for an officers
identification, and that a plain-clothed officer is required to show
identification. A major infraction must be tried through the courts
and not settled unofficially on the streets; in the case of a simple
infraction such as a traffic violation, officers should provide a
receipt for any fee paid.
If you feel that you have been unjustly detained or mistreated, you
should go immediately to the nearest Commandant de Police or Escadron
de Gendermarie. If there are witnesses to the incident, ask them to
accompany you to fill out a supporting statement. If you still feel
that justice has been miscarried, you can go to the lEtat Major
de la Gendarmerie in the Kaloum Commune.
As citizens, we have the right to proper treatment under the law,
but we also have the responsibility to know and exercise our rights.
Moreover, police officers also need to be properly trained in conflict
management techniques and well informed of citizens rights and
the laws they are charged with upholding. Policemen and women also
need to be sufficiently paid (some earn as little as 30,000 Fg, or
$23 USD, per month) so that they are not obliged or tempted to engage
in such illicit behavior to feed their families.
In the Faranah prefecture, the traditional techniques of conflict
resolution are the same among the three major ethnic groups found
in the prefecture, namely the Sankaran, Dialonké and Kouranké.
Each of these groups practice the system of the "talking tree,"
where all the processes of negotiation, sensitization and mediation
traditionally occur. This has proved to be an effective strategy for
managing all types of conflicts.
This process involves resource persons at all levels, including the
families in conflict, village and religious chiefs, and traditional
communicators, who sometimes intervene by singing songs meant to calm
the anger of the two parties.
In Faranah, as in many prefectures, the primary sources of conflicts
include divorce, crime, abise of power, adultery and religious, economic,
social and land conflicts. From May to July 2004 alone, the MARWOPNET
office at Faranah helped resolve more than 30 conflicts both in the
urban commune as well as in rural areas.
-- MARWOPNET office in Faranah
In Macenta, one traditional method of solving a conflict between two
women is to take their skirts away until they can work out their differences!
-- MARWOPNET office in Macenta