The main opposition in the Republic of Guinea, Union des Forces Démocratures de Guinée (UFDG), resumed protests over the local election held in February 2018. The opposition party called for strikes aimed at crippling activity in the capital city of Conakry.
Local elections and the protests that followed
The local elections held on February 4th marked a major milestone for the Republic of Guinea: this was supposed to be the first local elections since initially promised in 2008. Few hours after President Lansana Conte’s death was announced in December 2008, who had come to power through a military coup in 1984, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara staged a bloody coup. In response, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) as well as the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions on the country, President Camara and 41 of his closest associates. An assassination attempt on the president in January 2010 led to the creation of a transitional civil government. Moreover, since taking office in 2010, Alpha Conde’s government has not held any local elections. Originally scheduled for 2013, they were called off due to logistical and financial issues, in addition to fighting the Ebola epidemic which killed 2,500 Guineans.
Soon after local elections, President Conde’s party claimed victory before the board announced the results. UFDG has since called for protests aimed at crippling activity in the capital city of Conakry. Protesters barricaded roads leading out of the mining towns of Boke and Kamsar, disrupting shipments of aluminium ore bauxite, which is one of Guinea’s the main export. According to residents of Boke, the police are using tear gas and clubs to disperse the protests. One of the largest demonstrations occurred on Women’s Day, on March 8th, where over 10 thousand people, mostly women, took to the streets to protests the death of innocent demonstrators who were shot by police officers. So far, 15 Guineans have lost their lives.
According to Alpha Mamadou Sane, “ministers and their deputies have opened their offices so that they can say the administration [is] functioning.” He continues to say that other public servants – secretaries, delivery boys, orderlies, and technicians – have stayed away from work. After two months of protests, UFDG called them off when the government showed their willingness to engage in dialogue. Yet after talks, opposition party leader, Cellou Dalein Daillo, stated that “there was a lack of will on the part of our adversaries to find consensus on the electoral differences.”
With a history of bloody military coups, Alpha Conde’s government was viewed by Guineans as a fresh start and the foundation for the creation of a strong and stable democratic government. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Since becoming president in 2010, his policies have encouraged frequent protests.
For the past eight years, President Conde has demonstrated that he is planning to stay in power by any means necessary. International organizations and the African Union have questioned the legitimacy of his latests electoral victory, claiming fraud and irregularities. Additionally, President Conde has persecuted journalists who report human rights abuses as well as corruption allegations linked to his government. Consequently, despite the huge deposits of natural resources, Guinea remains one of the poorest and underdeveloped countries in the world. The abundance of natural resources has enriched only he and his son, who has also been implicated in corruption scandals.
The current tension between the UFDG and President Conde foreshadows the potentially volatile situation which might arise during the 2020 presidential election. Although the constitution states that President Conde has reached his presidential two-term limit, it is unclear whether he will uphold the constitution. Additionally, it is unknown whether UFDG’s leader, Cellou Dalein Daillo, who has lost twice against President Conde, will accept the elections if he is not declared the winner. The trend throughout the past eight years has demonstrated that President Conde is willing to use violence through the use of his presidential force and the national police to silence opposition.
With UFDG and President Conde unable to see eye to eye and reach an agreement, protests are most likely to continue in the Republic of Guinea. With citizens unable to predict how this standoff will conclude, ECOWAS and AU should be watching closely and creating contingency plans in case mass violence erupts in the next 18 months leading to the presidential election.