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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Explained: Why has Guinea President Alpha Conde been ousted by his military head?

Guinea coup: Special forces have ousted President Alpha Condé and taken over the country in a coup. What is happening, and who is Mamady Doumbouya, the country's military head? How has the world responded?

Written by Sanskriti Falor , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 8, 2021 11:21:45 am
Soldiers patrol in a vehicle near the office of the president in the capital Conakry, Guinea Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021. (AP Photo)

Guinea Special Forces Sunday ousted President Alpha Condé, taking over the country in a coup. Soon after, Lieutenant-Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, who heads the special forces, appeared in a press conference with the West African country’s flag on his shoulders and announced the dissolution of the government and other institutions and called for rewriting the constitution, Reuters reported.

What is happening in Guinea?

According to news reports, a few hours before the military takeover on Sunday, heavy gunfire and explosions were heard near the presidential palace in the country’s capital, Conakry. President Condé, who has been in power for just over a decade, has now been incarcerated by the military. In a video that went viral on social media, Conde was seen wearing jeans and a dishevelled shirt.

Guinean President Alpha Conde sits on a sofa in an unknown location. (UGC via AP)

Military head Doumbouya, The New York Times reported, told the press conference: “We are no longer going to entrust politics to one man, we are going to entrust it to the people. We come only for that.” He added that it was a soldier’s duty to save a country.

Doumbouya, promising the formation of a new government, assured that there would be no “witch hunt” of the former government officials. Asking the former ministers and president security personnel to cooperate with the military, it was announced that any failure would be considered a rebellion.

Citing reasons for the coup, Doumbouya said mismanagement, corruption and bad governance had been persisting in Conde’s government and this coup had been done for the people. Speaking to France 24, on Monday, Doumbouya said, “We are here to allow Guineans to live together and for all of us to enjoy the benefits of this country. That is our objective. We are not here to play games. We are here to learn from mistakes.” He said the army was there to “help build the country” and “end the misery of Guinean people”.

Doumbouya said Conde was in a safe place and had seen a doctor.

Who is Mamady Doumbouya?

Mamady Doumbouya is a 41-year-old former French legionary who graduated from the École de Guerre war college in Paris. Doumbouya hails from Guinea’s Kankan region and is from the Malinke community, according to BBC.

According to rfi.fr, a French news network, Doumbouya has had a 15-year-long military career with the Foreign Legion and has served in Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Israel, Senegal, Gabon and Guinea. Doumbouya was recruited by Conde to return to Guinea in 2018 and head the then newly-created Special Forces Group (SFG), whose aim was to fight terrorism and piracy.

Soldiers patrol near the office of the president in the capital Conakry, Guinea Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021. (AP Photo)

How long has President Alpha Conde been governing?

Alpha Conde was Guinea’s first democratically elected president. He was elected in 2010, when democratic elections took place in the country for the first time after Guinea gained independence from France in 1958. The country until Conde’s multi-party democracy’s win was ruled by authoritarian presidents. Hence, Conde’s win was seen as a saviour for Guineans from rampant poverty.

Conde had barely escaped an assassination attack in 2011, when gunmen opened fire on his house.

In 2015, Conde was re-elected with 58 per cent out of 4 million votes. But opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo had refused to recognise the result and had claimed that the election result was rigged.

In March 2020, Conde decided to defy the constitution and amend the constitutional two-time limit of a president being allowed to stand for an election and announced that he would stand for an election for the third time. This move was criticised by many citizens and the opposition too. Conde’s third term led to a series of widespread protests in the country. Amnesty International had said at least 50 people had died and 200 had been severely injured in the clashes between protestors and the people.

Col. Mamady Doumbouya, center, commander of the army’s special forces unit, surrounded by others and draped in a Guinean flag, makes an address to the nation from state television headquarters in the capital Conakry, Guinea Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021. (Radio Television Guineenne via AP)

How has the world responded to the coup?

While, many people in Guinea took to the streets to express their joy over the detention of the president, many also feared a repetition of the history of authoritarian rule.

The African Union condemned the detention of President Conde and said in a statement, “The current President of the African Union HE Félix Tshisekedi and the Chairman of the African Union Commission HE Moussa Faki Mahamat condemn any seizure of power by force and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Conde. They invite the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to meet urgently to examine the new situation in Guinea and to take the appropriate measures in the circumstances.”

The West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS, condemning the act, has also requested the immediate release of the President and threatened to impose sanctions.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, tweeted on Sunday, “I am personally following the situation in Guinea very closely. I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of the gun and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Conde.”

The US Department of State released a statement, “Violence and any extra-constitutional measures will only erode Guinea’s prospects for peace, stability, and prosperity. These actions could limit the ability of the United States and Guinea’s other international partners to support the country as it navigates a path toward national unity and a brighter future for the Guinean people.

Urging to stop the violence and support the constitution by standing by the law, the statement added, “We reiterate our encouragement of a process of national dialogue to address concerns sustainably and transparently to enable a peaceful and democratic way forward for Guinea to realise its full potential.”

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