Doumbouya coup anniversary: where is Guinea heading?

APA-Conakry (Guinea)

One year after the overthrow of Alpha Condé by Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya, the pace of the political transition in Guinea has raised questions about where the West African country of 14 million people is headed.

On September 5, 2021, a few hours were enough for Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya and his heavily armed men from the Special Forces Group to arrive at the Sékhoutouréya palace, in Kaloum, the business district of the capital of Guinea. 

The few Alpha Condé loyalists who tried to resist were quickly neutralized by the most equipped elite unit of the Guinean army. 

Soon afterwards a video quickly went viral globally, showing Alpha Condé in an unbuttoned shirt, immobilized on a sofa and surrounded by members of the Special Force brandishing guns. 

Slumped in an armchair, the former head of state appears dejected despite the semblance of deference that his captors showed him.

Condé was led through the streets of Conakry to jeers from the crowds. 

The third putsch in the political history of post-independence Guinea was almost predictable because it was perpetrated after Condé's controversial third term. 

The main architect of the coup, Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya then addressed his compatriots and the rest of the world. 

Surrounded by some of his men, the former French legionnaire justified his action: "The socio-political and economic situation of the country, the dysfunction of republican institutions, the instrumentalization of justice, the trampling of citizens' rights, the disrespect for democratic principles, excessive politicization of public administration, financial mismanagement, poverty and endemic corruption have led the Republican army of Guinea, through the National Assembly and Development Committee (CNRD) to take its responsibilities vis-à-vis the sovereign people of Guinea and as a whole".

As the new strongman in Conakry, Doumbouya announced a series of strong measures. 

All institutions were dissolved. On September 26, the transitional charter was adopted. The CNRD, led by Colonel Doumbouya himself spearheaded the management of the country. 

On October 1, the former head of the Special Forces was sworn in and reiterated his commitment to a Guinea free of the ills that were plaguing its socio-economic development and democratic credentials. 

One year on, where is Guinea heading?

Operation Clean Hands

Dr. Aliou Barry, the Coordinator of the Citizens’ Alliance for the Transition, speaks in favor of “the separation of the public morality component, the fight against corruption, the rebuilding of the state and the improvement of Justice with the political side. 

“On the socio-economic level, there has been significant progress since the advent of the CNRD,” says Dr. Barry, also giving the junta a positive review in its fight against corruption. 

“In Guinea, we have always talked about the fight against corruption. As an expert, in 2003 I conducted the first national survey on corruption and governance in Guinea. But it is only now that there are concrete actions in the fight against corruption and the moralization of public life,” he says.  

In December 2021, the Court of Repression of Economic and Financial Offenses (CRIEF) was created to track down financial offenders of the Conde regime. 

In its sights were several grandees of the former regime. The first arrests were made in April 2022. Alpha Conde's last Prime Minister, Ibrahima Kassory Fofana, and Defense Minister Mohamed Diané, whose services tried to nip the September 5 coup in the bud “with the media,” were jailed for allegedly embezzling several billion Guinean francs.

Despite some criticism of the methods of this special court, its results are visible, according to Dr. Aliou Barry. 

“The CNRD is able to recover the money embezzled; and it is fresh money,” he adds. 

In an interview with national television, the Minister of Justice, Charles Wright, said that 35 billion Guinean francs (US$4 million) had been recovered from the central bank. 

This desire to clean up public life is clear but the ACT coordinator wonders about the sustainability of the actions taken in this area by the military. 

They seem determined to "renegotiate" contracts with some mining companies.

The Guinean mining sector is based on a concentration of mineral resources, recognized as one of the most important in the world, and is essentially made up of bauxite, whose reserves are estimated at more than 40 billion tons, iron ore (more than 20 billion tons), gold and diamonds, according to a report on the site visited by APA. 

The same source attributes to mining a 12 to 15 percent share of Guinea’s gross domestic product estimated at $15.68 billion in 2020.

In their desire to put the state back at the heart of the exploitation of these natural resources, the new authorities are not hesitating to pound their fists on the table. 

The Minister of Mines recently ordered a halt to activities at the Simandou Project after noting that Winning Consortium Simandou (WCS) and Riop Tinto, the state’s two partners in this mega $15 billion mining project, were reluctant to comply with the terms of the contract signed in March between the three parties and allocating a 15 percent stake to the state.

Human rights violations

However, Doumbouya, who advocated a Guinea for all, quickly showed his limitations on the issue of human rights. 

“The human rights situation in the last years of the Alpha Conde regime was deplorable. It is just as bad today,” claims Fabien Offner, a researcher at Amnesty International and an expert on Guinea. 

“Why? Because the same abuses and human rights violations are taking place, particularly the violation of the right to peaceful assembly, since it should be remembered that the current government has banned demonstrations throughout the transition period,” Offner says. 

However, when he came to power, Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya released political detainees, including members of the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC) who opposed Alpha Conde’s third term bid.

Faced with growing street protests, the strongman in Conakry is becoming less and less tolerant of criticism. 

He sent these same FNDC leaders, including the coordinator Omar Sylla, known as Foniké Minguè, to prison. 

Colonel Doumbouya did not stop there.

By a government order, he dissolved the FNDC, which the military regime described as an "insurrectionary movement''. 

These accusations were rejected by a group of civil society organizations and political parties that urged the junta to define the contours of a rapid return to constitutional order; 

The subject that angers?

Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya promised not to stay in power forever, but he no longer seems in a hurry to organize elections. 

After his installation, Conde's liquidator set the duration of the transition at 39 months. 

The National Transitional Council (CNT) eventually reduced it to 36 months but the absence of a clear agenda on the part of the military for a rapid return to constitutionality is creating unease between the junta and other actors at the other end of the political spectrum.

Dialogue has broken down with the most represented political parties. 

The founder of the Think Tank “Wathi” sees a “risk of the confiscation of power by the military for a long time.” 

To avoid such a situation, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is bringing pressure to bear on Doumbouya.

Is ECOWAS a toothless bulldog?

At its ordinary session on July 3, the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the sub-regional grouping deemed the 36 months announced by the transitional authorities unacceptable. 

At the same time, former Beninese president Thomas Boni Yayi was appointed ECOWAS mediator in Guinea. 

His mission is to “work with the Guinean authorities to achieve a transition timetable acceptable to ECOWAS by August 1, 2022.” 

“After that date, economic and financial sanctions as well as targeted sanctions against individuals or groups will immediately come into effect,” West African leaders warned. 

More than a month later, ECOWAS is still stalling. 

The regional organization seems to favor mediation and has sent Boni Yayi to the coalface. 

"Guinea is a country that is a little bit different within ECOWAS and especially among francophone countries. Guinea has its own currency. It is not a member of the franc zone of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU)," explains Gilles Yabi. 

“In a way, it is more complicated to sanction Guinea and come out with a very strong impact on its economy and on the resources of the state as it can still draw resources directly from the mining sector,” he adds. 

Its access to the Atlantic Ocean is also a strong ace in its hands, he adds.

While pointing to the ''Ecowas sin'' of allowing Alpha Conde to run for a third term, Dr. Aliou Barry is less optimistic about the consequences of economic sanctions against Guinea. 

He remains convinced that they would be unbearable for the population.

“External funding is an important part of Guinea’s budget. And everyone knows that coups systematically close this tap. If on top of that, we have to add a low mobilization of domestic revenues and ECOWAS sanctions, it would be detrimental to the population,” Dr. Barry warns, adding that civil society actors are working hard to avoid such a future for their country.


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