Guinea’s new military leaders want to tighten their grip on power. On Sunday, the group overthrew President Alpha Conde. The rebel group ordered soldiers from Conde’s guard to join the rebel military and barred government officials from leaving the country.
On Sunday, the junta (military takeover rebels) dissolved the National Assembly and the country’s constitution. The rebels also put the West African nation back under military rule for the first time in over a decade. This week, regional military commanders replaced Guinea’s governors as the junta established further control.
Junta President Colonel Mamady Doumbouya says the new military regime will not pursue revenge against political enemies. But he also instructed officials from Conde’s ousted government to turn over their passports.
“For former members of the government, travel outside our borders will not be allowed during the transition,” says Doumbouya, who led the Guinean army’s special forces unit before seizing power Sunday. “All your travel documents and vehicles must be handed over to the general secretaries of your former departments.”
Conde’s 2010 election victory—the country’s first democratic vote ever—was supposed to be a fresh start after decades of corrupt rule and political turmoil. But opponents say Conde failed to improve the lives of Guineans. Most of them still live in poverty despite the country’s vast mineral riches of bauxite (used in aluminum) and gold.
Conde’s removal by force came after the president sought and won a controversial third term in office last year. Conde insisted term limits did not apply to him.
Neighboring Senegal has a large Guinean emigrant population. Many opposed Conde during last year’s election. News of his political demise brought relief.
“President Alpha Conde deserves to be deposed. He stubbornly tried to run for a third term when he had no right to do so,” says Malick Diallo, a young Guinean shopkeeper in Dakar, Senegal’s capital.
Observers say the tensions between Guinea’s president and the army colonel stem from a recent proposal to cut some military salaries.
State television showed the conquering junta being greeted by jubilant Guineans. Some chanted “Freedom!” at the passing military convoy in the streets.
While the political opposition and the junta both sought Conde’s ouster, it remained unclear how united the two would be going forward.
Opposition leaders say Sunday’s government overthrow “carries the hope of a new beginning for our nation.” But the party also encouraged the military rulers to rapidly establish the rule of law.
It is unknown just how much support the junta leader had within the larger military. As the commander of the army’s special forces unit, he directed elite soldiers. But it is possible that others who remain loyal to the ousted president could mount a counter-takeover soon.
Doumbouya announced his group’s coup d’état on state television. He likely hoped to show himself as Guinean patriot. He took care to point out the country’s poverty despite decades of independence from its former colonizer, France.
The junta has refused to issue a timeline for releasing former president Conde. They say the 83-year-old deposed leader still has access to medical care and his doctors.
Meanwhile, the Economic Community of West African States has called for Conde’s immediate release. It threatens to impose sanctions if the demand is not met.
“We know that a coup d’état is not good,” says Mamadou Saliou Diallo, another Guinean living in Senegal. “A president must be elected by democratic vote. But we have no choice. We have a president who is too old, who no longer makes Guineans dream, and who does not want to leave power.”
When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. — Proverbs 29:2
(In this image from video, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, center, draped in a Guinean flag, addresses the nation from state television headquarters in the capital of Conakry, Guinea, on Sunday, September 5, 2021. Radio Television Guineenne via AP)