The democratic world may already have lost count of military takeovers in the West African nation of Guinea since independence in 1958. On Sunday, soldiers detained President Alpha Conde. Col. Mamady Doumbouya, head of Special Forces, said the President was in custody following hours of gunfire in Conakry, the capital, and gave warnings for people to go home.
“If you see the state of our roads, of our hospitals – it’s time for us to wake up,” Doumbouya said on state television. With Guinea’s red, yellow and green flag draped on his shoulders, he pledged to forge a transition government that would not harm the nation but “make love” to it. Soldiers flooded the streets of Conakry, blocking key roads. Confusion abounded before Doumbouya released a video on social media, citing “the trampling of the rights of citizens” and “the disrespect of democratic principles” as motivations for the overthrow.
Condé, 83, came into office 11 years ago in the country’s first democratic election. He vowed to rid the nation of 13 million of corruption that had shaped decades of authoritarian rule while blunting development. But he sparked deadly riots in 2020 after he sought a third term in what critics blasted as defiance of Guinea’s constitution. Conde argued that changes in the law under his tenure, engineered by his government, had reset the clock on his allowed number of terms. The president’s detention roused speculation that the army was angry after parliament moved to fatten the salaries of politicians last week while slashing the budget for security forces.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General António Guterres has condemned “any takeover of the government by force of the gun.” In a tweet, Guterres called for Condé’s “immediate release.” The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Nigerian government also have strongly condemned the coup d’état.
President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana and Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, condemned the action in separate statements. They described the action as a clear violation of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, demanding for immediate return to constitutional order.
Akufo-Addo, who is also the Chair of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, said ECOWAS “demands the immediate and unconditional release” of President Condé as well as others arrested. “ECOWAS reaffirms its disapproval of any unconstitutional political change. She asks the defense and security forces to remain in a posture Republican and expresses its solidarity with the Guinean people and Government,” Akufo-Addo stated.
We welcome the prompt condemnations coming from the UN, Nigeria and Ghana – the two economic powerhouses in the subregion. Guineans may be angry because they are not enjoying their share of their nation’s huge mineral wealth. The country boasts of the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, the main source of aluminum for cars and beer cans and foil wrap. Yet nearly half the population of 18 million lives in abject poverty. Yet this can’t and shouldn’t be a reason for removing the government through a coup d’etat. Not at all. It should be condemned.