Guinea coup: Who is the leader, and what is next

On Sunday, September 5th 2021, heavy gunfire was reported at the government quarter in Guinea’s capital of Conakry. This was followed by the spread of videos on social media indicating the stunned state of the embattled President Conte surrounded by masked and armed soldiers.

Despite statements from the country’s ministry of defence, claiming to have intervened in the threat and restoring normalcy, the special forces later draped in national TV with Guinean flags, confirming the dissolvement of the government.

Promising to initiate a new political landscape in the country, the forces have instructed a nationwide curfew which will last till “further notice”. The country’s constitution has also been dissolved, according to reports.

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According to reports, the head of Guinea’s special forces and apparent coup-leader, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, have also declared the constitution of the country dissolved.

According to Colonel Doumbouya “The personalisation of political life is over. We will no longer entrust politics to one man, we will entrust it to the people. If you see the state of our roads, of our hospitals, it’s time for us to wake up”.

Mismanagement or settling personal scores?

Despite the presence and richness in vital mineral resources, Guinea is still enlisted as one of the poorest countries in the world, and it has long been touched by political chaos and threats.

Reports indicate that threat and chaos started after the sack of a high ranking commander in the special forces by the government. This infuriated many of its senior members and prompt them to take up action. But when the head of Guinea’s military special forces showed on the country’s national television station on Sunday night, he cited “mismanagement” as the major move behind the coup.

He said “Guinea is beautiful. We don’t need to rape Guinea anymore; we just need to make love to her.”

Conde’s administration was also accused of drifting into a totalitarian system of government, dysfunction, and trampling on human rights.

Moreover, there has been a long period of political upheaval in Guinea, firstly prompted by Conde’s high thirst for a third presidential bid in 2020, which he won only after securing amendments in the country’s constitution in March 2020.

This prompted so many agitations from the country people, including the military too, to the extent that the military forces blocked access to Kaloum following an alleged military rebellion in the eastern region of the capital a day before the presidential elections. Several civilians too were killed during demonstrations against Conde’s third bid, and hundreds more were arrested and jailed.

Reports of electoral irregularities trailed Conde’s proclamation as the winner of the elections in 2020, and since then, there has been governmental cracked down, and arrests of several notable oppositions who were accused of playing a major role in aiding the pre-election violence in the country.

Who is Mamady Doumbouya?

Colonel Mamady Doumbouya was the chief perpetrator of the coup. He is a former French legionnaire and member of the Special Forces Group. Mamady Doumbouya grew up in Guinea’s Kankan Region, and like President Condé, is from the Malinké community and is from Guinea’s eastern Kankan province. Before returning to Guinea to lead the Special Forces Group, an elite military outfit founded by Alpha Condé, he served as a French legionnaire.

Before taking his first office a few years ago, he was reported to have boasted about his foreign expertise, which included training in a variety of nations. There are speculations that the 41-year-old former French legionary is seeking promotion, but he claimed that the army had no choice due to President Alpha Condé’s pervasive corruption, contempt for human rights, and economic incompetence when announcing the military takeover.

Though Col. Doumbouya is one of 25 Guinean officials targeted by the EU for suspected human rights violations committed under President Condé in recent years, his training has prepared him to recognize and defuse potentially dangerous situations while keeping calm in the face of a hostile atmosphere and high pressure. He has been described as a brilliant commander by some, while others alleged his credentials to be handicapped.

However, in 2018, while serving in the French foreign legion, President Condé personally asked Col Doumbouya to return to Guinea to oversee the newly formed Special Forces Group (GFS).

During his 15-year military career, he has served in missions in Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Central African Republic, Israel, Cyprus, the United Kingdom, and in his home country, Guinea. He was reported to have successfully completed operational protection specialist training at the International Security Academy in Israel, as well as elite military training in Senegal, Gabon, and France.

He also finished the Infantry Application School (EAI – Senegal) unit commanders’ course, the training of staff officers (EEML – Libreville), and the Paris War School.

Commander Doumbouya graduated from the University panthéon Assas Paris II with a Master 2 (bac + 5) in the military and industrial dynamics. Defense management, command, and strategy expert. He was also a Commando instructor on risk assessment and rapid decision making at the foreign legion in France.

He is married to a European woman and has three children with her. He served in a United Nations military mission in Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, and the Central African Republic. Doumbouya has also been to Israel, Cyprus, and the United Kingdom for military training.

While President Condé remains detained, the United Nations, African Union, and regional group Ecowas all have denounced the “purported” military coup and called to return to democracy.

What is next for Guinea?

The coup leaders promised on Monday to set up a transitional government of national unity despite the concerns that West Africa is gradually sliding back to military rule. The condemnations mean that the new military leaders have to put forward a plan beyond the toppling of the old order, so as to reassure investors that Guinea’s significant ore exports would not be cut.

Mamady Doumbouya has also reassured Conde’s ministers and senior government officials in a meeting that “A consultation will be carried out to define the major framework of the transition, then a government of national unity will be put in place to lead the transition.”

Although Doumbouya did not say what the transition would entail or give a date for a return to democratic elections, he reiterated that “At the end of this transitional phase, we’ll set the tone for a new era for governance and economic development”.

 

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