Coup d’État in Guinea - What is Happening in this West African nation?
"Democracy, would, it seems, be a delightful form of government, anarchic and motley, assigning a kind of equality indiscriminately to equals and unequal alike."
Socrates defines democracy as a natural right, regardless of its propensity towards anarchy and disorder. Coups have also become a natural occurrence in Guinea when the inability to protect residents' fundamental rights has resulted in the overthrow of the government, causing disorder.
Let’s find out how...
What is the history of democracy in Guinea?
A country with abundant mineral resources ranks as one of the poorest countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. Guinea has a republican presidential framework, where the President is the head of both the state and the government.
After independence from the French protectorate, President Ahmed Sékou Touré was unable to consolidate economic stability and denied assistance from France, turning to contracted loans from the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union.
Despite the country's mineral wealth, the president's regression and obsession with opposition resulted in disorder, and the country failed to regain its economic footing. His relatives began to hold high-ranking positions in the administration, and the government grew increasingly corrupt.
After Touré’s death, Military Committee for National Recovery, under Colonel Lansana Conté, took control and was invested in envisioning a pluralist economy, where private ownership would be withheld. He denounced the previous regime’s regression and let out several political prisoners, but liberation was considerably slow.
With military dictatorship came corrupt multiparty elections where Conté was elected as the President for five years, which later extended to a solid 24 years.
Conte’s degrading health was well hidden from the media, and six hours after his death, a coup d'etat was initiated by the National Council for Democracy.
As can be seen, regime after regime, the continuous corrupt bureaucracy and ruling authority have been eating through the country’s resources. Fundamental rights are only restricted to those who possess power and wealth.
Why are the people of Guinea deprived of democracy?
The Constitution of Guinea came out on 2 October 1958. It is said to guarantee citizenship, education, jurisdiction, employment, and many other rights. But is it so, in reality?
On paper, the country may be called a democratic republic, but the authoritarian rule of military heads for many decades is uncanny.
Corruption and Duplicity
The most salient feature of the democratic structure is the people’s right to choose their representative, who would voice their concerns to the authorities. Voting is much like a massacre in Guinea, where either you are made to stand outside till someone forcibly votes on your behalf or you get killed in between the opposition violence.
The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) found out that there were 2.5 million ghost voters in the polls. The presiding authority was too lazy to address the issue and instead went with the flow.
New Constitution or Rulebook to Authoritarianism?
The new Guinean Constitutional referendum enacted by Alpha Condé is one of the most contentious documents that has ratified the authoritarian regime. It has provisions to increase the term of the president from five to six years, and it can reset the same for eternity.
The president was elected for the third term. He gained considerable control over the judiciary by increasing the number of judges appointed by the president.
Among all the duplicities in the referendum, the electoral register was a theme of the biggest suspicion by international powers, such as the European Union, where electoral observation missions were canceled by the African Union.
The When and How of 2021 Guinean Coup
There was hope for peace and the attainment of rights for Guineans when Alpha Condé was democratically elected President after many periods of corrupt authoritative control. But as he got re-elected in 2015, Condé set out to prolong his term from the two-term limit by resetting the whole of it.
On October 7, 2019, the opposition led by the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), which incorporated Guinean trade and civil society groups, called for protests against the new amendment.
The oppression by the authority took a severe turn, with more than 30 deaths. The resentment was directed towards unfair ballot stuffing by the President, and they broke out security barricades, burned tires, and threw stones.
Conakry, earlier bustling with activity, was now deserted like a ghost town as people avoided getting out with such violence raging outside.
We are no longer going to entrust politics to one man; we are going to entrust politics to the people.
Said Mamady Doumbouya on national television, who later instigated the coup.
Conde was known for delivering combative speeches, such as ,
This is not just an election. It’s as if we were at war."
The United Nations also had to raise its concerns about ethnic hatred in the President’s speeches.
The major international powers began to detach themselves from supporting the President, including France, Egypt, Russia, Turkey, and China. The government tried to maintain basic commodities when opposition prisoners died behind bars.
The coup began at 8:00 am GMT on September 5th, where soldiers had cut off the Kaloum neighborhood from the Presidential Palace, and civilians were told to stay indoors because of the impending violence.
The Ministry of Defence claimed of containing the situation and photos & videos of Condé in informal attire of disheveled shirt and jeans started getting viral on social media.
Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, who led the coup and is a Guinean military officer of special forces, declared on national television that the National Committee of Reconciliation and Development will withhold authority for the next 18 month transition period, and the Guinean air and land borders will be closed for a week.
Government workers are asked to resume their work at offices. The government prefectures and ministries will be replaced by military commissioners until the morning. There are strong condemnation statements by international powers such as China, United States, Burundi, and others.
The residents celebrated by coming out in the streets and rallying in the support of the overthrow, even though a national curfew had been announced. Mining enterprises are exempted from shutdown as aluminum prices rise to their highest level in a decade.
A delegation from West Africa visited the country to meet with the coup leaders and former head of state to discuss a transitional government beforehand on September 10th.
The African Union (AU) has backed the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in suspending Guinea from all decision-making bodies and AU activities.
ECOWAS has also demanded 83 days for the unconditional release of the President as it is being hugely condemned by the international powers, but no accurate sanctions have been deployed.
Concluding with three points to what is uncertain in this country:
The future government formation's prospects are bleak as the military takes control, potentially ushering in a new era of tyranny.
Although the people are ecstatic about the fallen president, their rights and future remain in the hands of military leaders, who are confused about how to proceed.
With this being the third coup in West and Central Africa since April, the continent's government functioning is in question.
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Mayuri Chaudhuri is an Indian-based History Honors Graduate and a Content Writer at the International Youths Organization for Peace and Sustainability, who is seeking cognizance to varied issues in the world through the power of a pen.
Inputs and Edits by Aswin Raghav R.