Guinean leader Alpha Condé used to tell journalists that he was the only one who could run the country. He would also say that the military would not overthrow him.
Sunday, he was wrong.
An elite special forces unit stormed the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, detaining the 83-year-old president. A few hours later, the coup leader, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, appeared on state television station Radio Télévision Guinéenne, draped in the Guinean flag, presenting himself to the surprised Guineans as the country’s new leader.
The coup in Guinea left the country in limbo, prompted the threat of sanctions from the West African economic bloc and saw the price of aluminum reach its highest level in more than a decade. Guinea is the world’s largest producer of bauxite, a mineral used to make aluminum.
Regional leaders immediately condemned the seizure of power, urging the coup plotters to restore constitutional order and release Condé.
In Conakry, the new military leaders were quick to try to reassure the political and economic players of their good intentions.
A government of national unity would be put in place to lead the transition to civilian rule, Doumbouya told members of the overthrown government on Monday.
The new management would honor mining contracts, urging companies to continue operating, he said. The land and sea borders that were closed at the time of the takeover reopened in less than 24 hours.
However, this did not convince the regional bloc of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which suspended Guinea from all its decision-making bodies. Two days later, the African Union followed suit.
Condé became Guinea’s first democratically elected leader in 2010, his victory seen as ending decades of authoritarian rule by the country’s two first presidents, Sékou Touré and Lansana Conté, who served for 26 and 24 respectively. years.
Condé was re-elected for a second term in 2015. But he became increasingly hated when he passed a constitutional referendum, backed by Russia, which, according to Condé, saw him run for a controversial third term in of the October 2020 elections, which he won.
Sidy Yansane, journalist and analyst in Conakry, said Condé caused the fall himself.
“Condé was very unpopular, although people still voted for him. With the third term, Condé has gone too far, ”he said by telephone.
Questions are looming
In his address to the nation on Sunday, Doumbouya said Condé’s impeachment was necessary and went on to blame his leaders for Guinea’s poverty, corruption, bad government and lack of development. Doumbouya said reform of the country’s system of government and institutions was desperately needed.
“If you see the state of our roads, of our hospitals, you realize that it is time for us to wake up,” said Doumbouya. What he did not say is when a transitional government could be put in place.
“Right now people are just happy to see Condé gone,” Yansane said. “But very soon they will need to see actions from the junta; signs that things are about to change, including a timeline for a transition.
So far, Sunday’s coup has met with minimal resistance. Jubilant crowds greeted the coup plotters as they passed through Conakry earlier this week.
Sally Bilaly Sow, blogger and activist, 29, said the coup could be an opportunity to reform and restructure state institutions.
“The important thing now is not to rush. To give an interim leadership enough time for reforms and to prepare for new elections, ”Sow said by phone from Conakry.
Cellou Dalein Diallo, Condé’s lone challenger in the opposition boycotted 2020 polls, said he was open to participating but would not set an end date for a transition and return to civilian rule.
The coup in Guinea is the fourth military takeover in West Africa this year after two coups d’état in neighboring Mali – the second in May – and a questionable succession in Chad raising fears of a democratic retreat in the country. the region.
In Mali, the army-led interim government is behind an 18-month schedule for general elections that are expected to return the country to civilian rule.
In Chad, President Mahamat Deby, who succeeded his father Idriss Deby in April, does not seem in a rush to hand power over to a civilian government.
An ECOWAS delegation that visited Conakry on Friday said its first encounters with the coup plotters had been “positive”.
The delegation also met Conde, said ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, calling the ousted leader a “former president” indicating that the regional bloc would not call for his reinstatement.