How Alpha Condé overthrew Alpha Condé

Early on September 5, residents of Kaloum, in downtown Conakry, were roused from their sleep by the sound of heavy gunfire near Sékoutouréyah palace.

No one knew what was going on until noon, when Lt. Col. Mamady Doumbouya, head of the army’s special forces group, appeared in a video alongside two soldiers. From an office, his eyes obscured by dark sunglasses, Doumbouya announced that a “national committee of rallying and development” had detained President Alpha Condé, dissolved the government and rejected the constitution. All land and air borders would be immediately closed, he said.

Another video has emerged, possibly serving as a coup de grace: The 83-year-old head of state is seen lying on a sofa, seemingly casually, with his shirt open. But he is visibly tense. Silent, he looks away angrily when one of the putschists asks him if he has been mistreated. Other images flood the social networks of the president in a vehicle, surrounded by soldiers, bound for an unknown destination.

There is no doubt: the first democratically elected president in the history of Guinea had just been overthrown by a military coup.

Usually suspicious of the army, the people of Conakry partied. They took to the streets with cries of “Freedom! Freedom! Doumbouya! Doumbouya!

Many converged on camps and military bases to show their appreciation.

In the Bambéto neighborhood, the epicenter of long-standing protests against Conde, men in uniform were suddenly treated as heroes – much to their surprise. The crossroads of the same name, the starting point for multiple opposition demonstrations, was occupied throughout the day by euphoric crowds of thousands of people.

Condé made a name for himself as a courageous and outspoken opponent of the various military regimes and dictatorships that preceded him.

When he was elected in 2010, he promised that things would be different. But the man known as “The Professor” failed to meet the aspirations of his people, despite favorable economic conditions for much of his tenure.

A screenshot taken from images sent to AFP by a military source on September 5 shows that he was captured by army coup plotters during a coup in Conakry. (Photo by AFP / Military source)

Despite some minor improvements, basic services such as electricity and running water remain a luxury in Guinea. The country’s roads are in poor condition, perhaps the worst in West Africa. And despite being the world’s second-largest producer of bauxite, this vast mineral wealth seemed to benefit only a handful of people in Condé’s orbit.

But it was in seeking to change the constitution, to afford a third term, that the president’s despotic nature became impossible to ignore.

Condé managed to make that change, then won a contested election last October, but his extended stay in the presidential palace came at a heavy cost. Dozens of protesters have been killed by his security forces and many more injured, hundreds of political opponents, journalists and activists have been jailed, and isolation has grown from regional and international communities.

His frequent insults against his own people – “Guineans are afraid, they are like a turtle, they have to be set on fire in their butt,” he told a conference in February – made it even more so. less popular.

“The Guinean political system lives by recycling its authoritarian spirit,” said Amadou Sadjo Barry, professor of philosophy. “Alpha Condé has contributed to renewing the logic of arbitrariness and establishing military legitimacy.

Ironically, it was the special forces group created in 2018 by the president that brought him down. At the head of this battalion of 500 men is Doumbouya, 37, recognized as much for his physique as for his military career.

Speaking after the coup, he said he was ridding Guinea of ​​corrupt elites and pledged to install a government of national unity for a transitional period before democracy and the rule of law collapsed. be restored.

Guinea has heard all of this before. The country is now in its third military coup. But it seems to have the support of most citizens.

“However, we must remain wary,” said political scientist Kabinet Fofana. He also warned that further instability could stem from Doumbouya’s disagreements with Defense Minister Mohamed Diané, who is seen as a threat.

For the moment, the reaction of the international community has remained silent, the Economic Community of West African States limiting itself to suspending the country and demanding the release of Condé.

Even amid fears and uncertainty over Guinea’s immediate future, no one seems particularly sorry to see Condé go.

This story was first published by The Continent, the Pan-African weekly designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Click here to subscribe.

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