President Alpha Condé was arrested and overthrown on Sunday by a group of soldiers led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, head of the Special Forces of Guinea-Conakry.

The rebels declared the dissolution of the constitution and government of the nation, which gained independence from France in 1958. Condé had been in power since 2010. This small country of 10 million people, belonging to 24 ethnic groups, gained independence from France in 1958 and was hit hard by the 2014 Ebola epidemic.

Guinea-Conakry held a presidential election in October. President Alpha Condé ran for a third term, not allowed in principle by the constitution, after holding a referendum in March 2020 to change the Magna Carta, which passed with 91.5 per cent in favour. In protest at this move, opposition groups and civil society regrouped in the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC). The violence unleashed in the aftermath of the elections killed 30 people. According to the opposition, they were shot by the security forces.

Who is leading the rebel faction?

The special forces unit is led by former French legionnaire Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, who said on state television on Sunday that “poverty and endemic corruption” had led his forces to oust President Condé. Doumbouya has, according to some experts, fifteen years of military experience, gained on operational missions in Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Central African Republic. He has also been trained at the International Security Academy (in Israel), and at other schools in Senegal and France.

What do the coup plotters want?

The leader of the rebel faction, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, has announced that the “National Committee for Rallying and Development” seeks to “initiate a national consultation to open an inclusive and peaceful transition”. He justified the coup by “the lack of respect for democratic principles, the excessive politicisation of the public administration, financial mismanagement, endemic poverty and corruption” that, in his opinion, prevail in the country.

What is the position of the military leadership?

Uncertainty remains. While the elite unit that arrested President Conde has conveyed the message that the government has been deposed, other sectors of the military have yet to comment publicly on their position.

Have there been protests?

Some shops were closed for fear of incidents and after heavy gunfire throughout Sunday between special forces fighting soldiers loyal to President Condé. Despite an overnight curfew, the headquarters of Conde’s presidential guard was looted by people who took rice, cans of oil, air conditioners and mattresses, a Reuters correspondent said. The coup appears to have some popular support, as many citizens took to the streets of Conakri chanting “Long live the army! Long live the coup!”.

What does the international community say?

The UN denounced the coup and both the African Union and the West African regional bloc have threatened Guinea with sanctions if constitutional order is not restored. The US State Department said the violence and unconstitutional measures could erode Guinea’s prospects for stability and prosperity. Meanwhile, Russia has called for the immediate release of President Condé. “Moscow opposes any attempt at unconstitutional change of leadership,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. Spain has also rejected the coup and called for the restoration of constitutional order and the reinstatement of President Alpha Condé.

Is there a history of other coups?

Guinea-Conakry has had a long history of political instability. In 1984, Lansana Conte took control of the country after the death of the first post-independence leader. He remained in power for a quarter of a century until his death in 2008 and was accused of siphoning state coffers to enrich his family and friends. Then came a second coup that put army captain Moussa “Dadis” Camara in charge of the country. During his rule, security forces opened fire on demonstrators at a Conakry stadium protesting his plans to run for president. Camara later went into exile after surviving an assassination attempt, and a transitional government organised the historic 2010 elections won by Conde.

What natural resources does the country have?

Guinea Conakry’s economy depends on agriculture and mining. It is an underdeveloped country but has the largest bauxite reserves in the world. This mineral is used to produce aluminium. In fact, instability in the country these days has caused prices of the metal to soar to a 10-year high on fears of further supply disruption in the market. The country also has other natural resources such as gold. While mineral wealth has driven economic growth during Condé’s reign, few citizens have benefited significantly, contributing to pent-up frustration among millions of unemployed youth.

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