Guinea’s Constitutional Referendum Vote Met With Protests


Maria Kuiper

Guinea’s constitutional referendum vote was met with violence and opposition on Sunday, 22 March. Sunday’s protest resulted in at least two killed, one kidnapped, and polling materials burned, according to Al Jazeera. 

Guinean President Alpha Condé proposed to change the constitution by organizing gender equality policy, social reforms, and term limits. The opposition of this change is held by the coalition National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), who called for a boycott and protests against the vote. The FNDC fears that this proposition is Condé’s way of maintaining indefinite power.

“At first, I knew him [Condé] as the historical opponent who at the time was fighting, for democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights,” former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo said. “But since he started exercising power, I have noted that it was exclusively to take control of the country, enrich his own and really exercise absolute power.”

Despite the 32 killed from many demonstrations, Guinea voted to support the new constitution. Turnout was 61 percent, and 91.59 percent were in favour of the new constitution, according to Yahoo News.

France, the U.S. and the United Nations have all voiced their concerns over the validity and fairness of the vote.

Many African governments have staged constitutional coups. These so-called coups are legal ways of changing the constitution to keep the incumbent in power. Since 2015, 10 African countries have amended their constitutions in favour of the incumbent in power, according to ISS Africa. Guinea is following the course of its fellow African states.

Condé is Guinea’s first democratically elected president. He began as a leader of an opposition party against former President Lansana Conté, fighting against corruption in the government. Is the thought of losing power driving Condé to be what he used to hate? 

In a narrow 2010 election between Condé and Diallo, Condé won. Diallo and six other opposition candidates suspected Condé of rigging the election.

A similar case of a former opponent turned authoritarian, is Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. When he was first elected in 1986, Museveni scorned politicians who would not let go of power. Now, he is in the same spot as his former opponents and has removed term limits and age limits for presidents.

Perhaps Condé is using this constitutional change as he said he intends to: to enforce gender equality and social reforms. But with the current trend African leaders are setting, it seems that Condé and Guinea will be added to the list of states that have amended their constitutions to protect their incumbents. 

The passing of the constitutional referendum vote, could be the catalyst for further political unrest in Guinea.