The elite Special Forces Group, established in 2018, overthrew the government of Guinean president Alpha Condé on Sunday, adding another apparent coup d’etat to the West African nation’s lengthy history of military takeovers. On Sunday 9/5/21, soldiers swarmed the country's capital Conakry, and engaged in hours of shootouts.
Alpha Condé, 83, took power 11 years ago in Guinea’s first democratic election since independence from France in 1958. Condé made constitutional changes during his tenure, which reset the clock on his legal number of terms. Refusing to step aside, he said he needed more time to materialize his vision for Guinea.
Mathias Hounkpe, head of the political governance program at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa said, "Our leaders are frustrating everyone with this. And that’s why people see a military intervention as part of the solution. That’s why people are dancing in the streets in Guinea."
Mamadou Saliou Diallo, a Guinean living in Senegal said, "We know that a coup d’etat is not good. 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."
The coup was led by former French legionary Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, head of Guinea's Special Forces. Doumbouya and Condé both descend from the Mandinka/Malinke people, a West African ethnic group, and come from Guinea's eastern Kankan region. Over his 15-year military career, he served in missions in Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Central African Republic and close protection in Israel, Cyprus, the UK, and Guinea.
He appeared on state media flanked by soldiers in uniform, with a Guinean flag on his shoulders, telling the nation that Conde's government is dissolved, the constitution is invalid, and the nation's borders were closed until further notice. The UN, African Union, and Ecowas all condemn the military junta that claims to have replaced him.
Doumbouya said, "Our action is not a coup d’etat. It only reflects the legitimate aspiration of people to want to live in an environment where basic human needs can be met." He listed grievances against the government, including “the trampling of citizens’ rights, the disrespect for democratic principles, the outrageous politicization of public administration, financial mismanagement, poverty and endemic corruption.”
He went on to say, "The Guinean personalisation of political life is over. We will no longer entrust politics to one man, we will entrust it to the people. The president is with us, he's in a safe place. There will be no spirit of hatred or revenge. There will be no witch hunt."
The military junta has refused to issue a timeline for releasing Conde, saying the 83-year-old deposed leader still had access to medical care and his doctors.
On Monday, the junta ordered local officials to attend a meeting in Conakry or face consequences. A spokesman said on state television, “Any absence will be considered as a rebellion.” Guinea's new government said they will replace governors with regional commanders if needed.
The French Foreign Ministry called for “a return to constitutional order” and Condé’s “immediate and unconditional release.” While the European Union’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell condemned the attempted coup, called for Condé’s release, and asked that the junta act with “respect for the rule of law, interest in peace and the well-being of the Guinean population.”
The EU has been threatening to sanction Colonel Doumbouya for alleged human rights abuses committed in recent years under President Condé.