A group of military personnel led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, head of Guinea’s Special Forces, staged a coup d’état in the African country on Sunday and claims to have detained the country’s president, Alpha Condé. In a video message addressed to the nation through social media, Doumbouya himself announced the suspension of the Constitution, the dissolution of institutions and the Government, and the closing of land and air borders. However, sources in the Guinean Ministry of Defense assured the France Presse that the attempted military coup was unsuccessful. Throughout the morning, Conakry, the capital, was the scene of an exchange of fire amidst a large presence of soldiers in the streets, according to residents.
“Guineans, dear compatriots. The country’s socio-political and economic situation, the dysfunction of republican institutions, the instrumentalization of justice, (…) disrespect for democratic principles, the politicization of public administration (…), endemic poverty and corruption led to the Guinean Republican Army (…) to assume its responsibility to the sovereign people of Guinea as a whole. After detaining the president, who is now with us, we decided to dissolve the current Constitution, dissolve the institutions and the Government and close the land and air borders,” said Lt. Col. Doumbouya in a video recorded in an unknown and distributed location. to the media this Sunday morning.
“We call our brothers-in-arms to unity to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Guinean people, we invite them to stay in their barracks and continue their activities, we are not going to make the mistakes of the past”, added the coup-monger.
Lt. Col. Mamady Doumbouya, who is emerging as Guinea’s new strongman should the coup triumph, is an experienced military man who has received training in Israel, Senegal, Liberia and France. Former member of the French Legion, he participated in several missions in Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti and the Central African Republic, among other countries. In 2018, he was commissioned by the Ministry of Defense to create a group of Special Forces within the Guinean Army, which he has led since then. However, his attempt to function autonomously and without accountability to the administration has distanced him from the government, according to unnamed military sources.
Alpha Condé has been president of Guinea since 2010 and was elected for a third term in October 2020, after a controversial election in which there were dozens of deaths in clashes between citizens and law enforcement. The Guinean Magna Carta establishes the limit of two terms, but the constitutional reform promoted by Condé himself allowed him to run for reelection, a common subterfuge for many regional leaders to perpetuate in power. The main opposition leader, Cellou Dallein Diallo, rejected his candidacy and the results, leading to citizen protests and dozens of deaths.
With about 13 million inhabitants and despite its many mineral and natural resources, Guinea remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Since its independence from France in 1958, it has known a succession of dictatorships and coups d’état that seemed to have come to an end with the coming to power of the historic and veteran opposition leader Alpha Condé in his first free elections, held in 2010.
Optimism about the arrival of democracy in Guinea has translated into years of sustained economic growth, with rates of up to 7% a year, thanks to a better business climate and diversification of foreign investment. However, these numbers have not translated into improvements in the quality of life of most of the population: the rate of people below the poverty line continues to hover around 50%. The economic crisis stemming from the 2014-2016 Ebola Pandemic was a severe blow, to which we must now add the impact of the covid-19 pandemic.
But it is the political situation that concentrates much of the attention in Guinea. Condé’s attempts to stay in power at all costs and the establishment of a regime that harasses opponents and critical voices, according to human rights NGOs, have contributed to plunging the country back into instability. The mixture of economic situation and political turmoil explains why Guinea tops the lists of countries of origin of irregular emigration to Europe, as happened in 2018.
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