Guinea’s Coup Attempt: A Curfew Imposed While The Army Claims Power

The military has ousted Guinea’s President, Alpha Conde, dissolved the government and constitution, and closed its land and airs borders. On September 5, the elite army unit’s head, Mamady Doumbouya announced that Special forces soldiers had removed President Conde from office because of “poverty and endemic corruption”.

We have dissolved government and institutions,” Doumbouya, a former French foreign legionnaire, said on state television, draped in Guinea’s national flag and surrounded by eight other armed soldiers. “We are going to rewrite a constitution together”, he concluded.

Gunfire erupted near the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, on Sunday morning. After that, videos on social media showed Conde in a room surrounded by army special forces. Military sources mentioned that the president was taken to an undisclosed location and that he was safe.

The junta that has seized power has right now announced a nationwide curfew “until further notice” and the replacement of regional governors by the military.

The coup leader Doumbouya has also just met with ministers from Conde’s government and announced that a government of national unity will be formed in a few weeks. In addition, he has voiced that no minister from Conde’s government should leave the country and they must hand over their passports, that the curfew is lifted in mining work areas and that there will be no witch-hunt of former ministers, but justice will take its course, as BBC correspondent Alhassan Sillah explains.

Guinea’s situation was tricky before this coup with rampant corruption, mismanagement, and poverty. Conde won a third term in October after changing the constitution in March 2020 to allow him to stand again. He argued that he needed more time to realize his vision of a modern Guinea and that other African leaders had altered constitutions to hang onto power.

As expected, his move triggered violence and mass protests, and 12 people were killed during demonstrations in clashes with security forces. 83 years old Conde was then proclaimed president on November 7, despite complaints of electoral fraud from his main challenger Cellou Dalein Diallo and other opposition figures, according Al Jazeera.

Growing frustration amongst citizens has spiked in recent weeks since the government has sharply increased taxes to replenish state coffers and raised the price of fuel by 20%. While Guinea has seen sustained economic growth during Conde’s decade in power thanks to its bauxite, iron ore, gold, and diamond wealth, few of its citizens have seen the benefits, as Reuters adds.

Additionally, a week ago the national parliament voted for an increase in budget for the presidency and parliamentarians, but a substantial decrease for those working in the security services like the police and the military.

In the middle of this situation, the military seems to have had it quite easy to remove Conde. Yesterday, when the shooting stopped, residents were out in the streets of the capital to celebrate the uprising’s apparent success. A Reuters witness saw pick-up trucks and military vehicles accompanied by motorcyclists honking their horns and cheering onlookers. “Guinea is free! Bravo”, a woman shouted from her balcony.

People celebrate on the streets with members of Guinea’s armed forces after the arrest of President Alpha Conde. [Cellou Binani/AFP]

Guinean journalist Youssouf Bah told Al Jazeera that the situation is fluid with feelings of happiness and fear. Bah described that the city is divided with “One part supporting the coup plotters, and the other part clashes between different groups. So, it’s very difficult to understand exactly what is happening.”

Should we expect the military to stay true to their vow to restore democracy? Coup leader Doumbouya advocated that he has acted in the best interests of the nation because not enough economic progress had been made since independence from France in 1958. Those who are against Conde’s constitutional change in 2020 and are worried about the current situation of the country are hopeful about this coup.

Others like BBC West Africa correspondent Mayeni Jones seem more sceptic. He analyzes that “military juntas are notoriously fickle, with no-one to hold them to account, there’s no guarantee they’ll deliver on their promises.”

We must also keep in mind that this latest coup represents the gradual degradation of democratic values in the region. It’s the fourth coup in West Africa in just over a year with two military takeovers in Mali and a failed attempt in Niger. The territory has also seen how Conde and Ivory Coast’s leader Alassane Ouattara have legislatively extended their presidencies.

Once a region that was celebrated for several peaceful from the 90s till now, appears to be regressing to some sort of authoritarian wave. Ordinary West Africans will continue to be those most affected by the lack of functioning institutions and restrictions to their rights.

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