Guinea's President Alpha Condé. (Picture: Reuters)
Guinea's President Alpha Condé. (Picture: Reuters)

Guinea coup – things fall apart

By Chad Williams Time of article published Sep 12, 2021

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ONE could say that the events that transpired in the West African country of Guinea on September 5, involving the detainment of the head of state, President Alpha Condé (83), the closure of borders and subsequent take over of the state by military forces was inevitable, given the years of instability in the West Africa region.

Surely, it was a matter of time before the winds of change would gust over the natural resource-rich nation of Guinea?

African governments including Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana have condemned the forced military take over in Guinea, and have called for the immediate, unharmed release of the president. South Africa’s international relations department has encouraged all political actors and civil society to engage in peace talks.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres shared his own rebuke on Twitter, posting: “I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of the gun and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Condé.”

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) demanded the immediate release of Condé and those arrested with him.

“Ecowas reaffirms its disapproval of any unconstitutional political change … and expresses its solidarity with the Guinean people and government,” the regional grouping said.

But does the West Africa bloc really know what the people of Guinea want?

Political and civil upheaval in the West Africa region has been compacted by years of political corruption, conflict, growing insecurity and power hungry leaders.

The general faith in governments has started waning, with civil society desperate for a change to improve their livelihoods, even if it came at a cost.

As the pages of history shows, African leaders don’t give up power easily, with many remaining in office for decades, often clinging onto power until they are either ousted or die.

These leaders often set up special military forces to protect them and the state from the enemy, however, the irony in this is, that in most cases, it is the hired help who ousts his master.

In this case in Guinea, the president had only been in power for 11 years, fairly little compared to the likes of Chad’s president who was in power for three decades before he died in April.

Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema is Africa's longest-serving leader, still in power after 41 years. He deposed his uncle in a 1979 coup.

Cameroonian President Paul Biya has been in office for more than 38 years.

Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso has held power for a total of 36 years and was re-elected for a fourth term after elections on March 21.

Power grabs in West and Central Africa over the last few years including the military takeover in Chad, Mali and most recently, Guinea, begs the question, are military takeovers the new way of rooting out Africa’s ageing leaders and their governments, or is the continent capable of peaceful transitions of power without the use of violence or intimidation as seen in the region in recent years?

For example, in May this year, Mali experienced its second military coup in nine months. The latest was preceded by months of militarisation of the government by the army officers who led the takeover in August last year.

In Chad, the Transitional Military Council violated the country’s constitution by appointing Lieutenant-General Mahamat Idriss Déby as president following his father Idriss Déby’s death on April 20, according to the Institute for Security Studies.

Despite this, the Guinean economy has been resilient in the face of the global pandemic and brewing conflict in the West and certain regions.

The African Development Bank reported that real GDP grew 5.2%, only slightly less than 5.6% in 2019 and far more than the 1.4% forecast at the start of the pandemic.

So what were some of the main events that led to this radical takeover by the armed forces in Guinea to topple president Condé?

Like most African leaders, Condé was no stranger to scandal after it emerged in the early years in his presidency that he and his son were implicated in several corruption scandals, mostly related to the mining industry.

Recently, Condé pushed through constitutional changes in March last year, allowing him to run despite a two-term limit.

Condé had seen his popularity plummet since he sought a third term last year, with the president saying that term limits did not apply to him.

President Condé was sworn in for a third term in December 2021 following violent elections whose result the opposition rejected.

In Sunday’s coup d'etat, the world saw the emergence of a charismatic soldier who believes that he and the special forces unit speak on behalf of the people of Guinea.

The man who has been front and centre in the sudden overthrow of Condé’s government, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, is the commander of the country’s Special Forces Unit, an elite unit set up by Condé himself.

Doumbouya, who is the head of the Special Forces Group (GPS), justified the political turnaround by “the dysfunction of republican institutions”, “the instrumentalisation of justice and ”the trampling of citizens’ rights“.

“The personalisation of political life is over. We will no longer entrust politics to one man, we will entrust it to the people,” Doumbouya was quoted as saying.

Social media reports showed throngs of people, mostly young people, lining the streets of the country after the military claimed to have captured President Condé and taken over the state, albeit illegally.

Guinea, with its population of about 12.7 million people, with a large portion of that population being youth, boasts one of the youngest populations in the world.

A charismatic, handsome soldier who speaks the rhetoric of change and calls for an overhaul in the way the country is managed, speaks to a generation of young people who want to be seen and heard and are prepared by any means possible to see that realised.

African News Agency (ANA)

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