For the third time since independence, a military coup has upstaged Guinean politics. Beginning on Sunday the 5th, reports of gunfire erupting around the presidential palace arose, followed by a national television broadcast announcing the dissolution of the constitution and the establishment of a transitional government. Videos of President Alpha Condé detained, yet unharmed, by special forces have circulated on social media. His location remains unknown to the public. Reports state that former French legionnaire and commander of the army’s Special Forces Group, Col Mamady Doumbouya, led the military takeover.
Draped in a Guinean flag and a sporting red beret, Doumbouya addressed the nation, denouncing the flaws of personalist regimes, financial mismanagement, poverty, and endemic corruption. He stated with clarity on national television that “the personalisation of political life is over. We will put in place a transparent and inclusive transition.”
Members of the international community, including former colonial powers France and the United States, have condemned the coup. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned their actions, tweeting, “I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of the gun and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Condé.”
Meanwhile, Conakry has witnessed scenes of celebrations as Guineans took to the streets to praise the soldiers. “We are here to show our joy because we suffered a lot over time…we have been very patient,” Abdoulaye Oumou Sow told BBC News. It is yet unclear how Guinea’s political elite will react.
After elections in 2010, citizens believed that Alpha Condé would bring much-needed stability to Guinea after years of autocratic rule. However, following an amendment to the constitution that removed the two-term limit, Condé was controversially re-elected. Condé’s ten-year reign has been marred by allegations of human rights abuses, election violence, ethnic division, and corruption. For the masses, the costs of living were high despite low standards of living and high taxes. Finally, as the last nail on the coffin, lawmakers passed a bill a week before the coup that increased the presidential budget and decreased the wages of the security sector.
Guinea is rich in iron ore, nickel, gold, and diamonds. It is also the second-largest exporter of bauxite – a crucial material in aluminum production. The coup has impacted the global economy, and aluminum prices have rocketed to their highest in a decade. As a mineral-rich country, Guinea’s mining sector boomed under Condé, yet the trickle-down effect did not occur as expected. Despite its natural resource wealth, Guinea remains poor and underdeveloped; its citizens will bear the economic brunt of this coup. With a curfew in place and a military presence in the streets, citizens are afraid to resume trading, and the impoverished will remain further marginalized. The new military leaders have gone to great lengths to assure international markets that existing agreements would be honoured and that mining revenues would continue to flow. Yet, Doumbouya’s long-term economic strategies remain uncertain.
Despite his ousting of the increasingly autocratic Condé, Doumbouya has dealt a severe blow to Guinea’s democracy. While talk of a transitional government is in place, details are yet to be confirmed. History has repeatedly demonstrated the ease with which notoriously fickle military coups enable dictatorial rule. The incoming transitional government will be ill-equipped to respond to civil grievances and lacks sufficient accountability measures to ensure good governance. Ultimately, it is the Guinean people who will pay the price of this democratic setback.
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