ECOWAS Suspend Guinea As People Celebrate After Military Coup
Guinea has been suspended from the West African main regional bloc ECOWAS after a military coup in the capital, Conakry, that arrested and removed President Alpha Condé on Sunday.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met with coup leaders on Friday and have suspended Guinea without further sanctions after initially urging the “immediate return to constitutional order” and “the immediate release of Condé” during a virtual summit held on Wednesday, Sept. 8. The ECOWAS, which consists of 15 members, has also reported that Condé is well and in good health after the military coup.
The coup follows a series of protests in the country against Condé’s controversial third term.
The Military Coup
Gunfire rang near the Presidential Palace in Conakry on Sept. 5. Soon after, President Alpha Condé was taken out of the building by military officers. A video surfaced online of Condé, shoeless and disheveled, sitting on a couch surrounded by armed military soldiers.
The uprising was led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, a 41-year-old who served the French Foreign Legion and was granted the Social Forces Group lead in 2018 by Condé. Hours later, Doumbouya, draped with the national flag and surrounded by six soldiers, seized national television station, Radio Télévision Guinéenne.
“The personalization of politics, of politic life, is over,” Doumbouya said. “We are no longer going to entrust politics to one man; we are going to entrust politics to the people. We come only for that.”
Hundreds of residents celebrated on the streets in some areas of the capital, cheering and jumping with joy while applauding soldiers driving by. At least 80 of around 400 political detainees who were arrested last year after protesting Condé’s plan to run a third term were released on Tuesday by the junta under the command of Doumbouya. BBC.com reported the gratitude of freedom felt with a statement from a former prisoner:
“I feel free, free, free, thank you to the people,” said Ismaël Condé, a member of the opposition UFDG party, and no relation to the former president … “It’s a feeling you can’t explain, to be deprived of your freedom for 12 months for such trivial things and to be released under these conditions, you can’t explain,” he said.”
Along with the approval, the coup was met with condemnation. After all, there was a possibility that Guinea’s major production of Bauxite, a main source of aluminum, would conjure more struggle. There has been substantial economic growth in Bauxite during Condé’s run in office, but “few of its citizens have seen the benefits.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonia Guterres reportedly said he strongly condemned “any takeover of the government by force.”
The United States has also condemned recent actions of the coup, stating, “These actions could limit the ability of the United States and Guinea’s other international partners to support the country as it navigates a path toward national unity and a brighter future for the Guinean people.” Although, on Friday, it was revealed that a team of U.S. forces was training alongside soldiers who were part of the coup. American military officials have denied involvement, saying they did not know about the planned coup.
Soon after, a nationwide curfew went into effect until further notice.
Doumbouya promised a restoration of democracy, declaring a “new era for governance and economic development.” He ordered government officials not to leave the country and to turn over their vehicles while promising that “there will be no witch-hunt.”
“It is the duty of a soldier to save the country,” he said during the broadcast.
“The only thing that motivates us is that. We are going to put in place a system that does not exist, and we must all build this system together.”
“The government to be installed will be that of national unity and will ensure this political transition,” Doumbouya tweeted on Tuesday, although he has yet to clarify what this new takeover entails.
“This transition will be placed under the sign of hope and of a new Guinea, reconciled with itself, with all its children,” he tweeted.
A Year of Deadly Protests
Condé, 83, was the first democratically elected leader and has been in office since 2010 with reelection in 2015. But after a decade-long run in office, the 2020 elections were met with harrowingly violent protests after Condé, refusing to submit his power, granted himself a third-term through a change in the constitutional referendum-an action that his opponents claim to be illegal. The country previously had a two-term presidential limit.
This controversial change sparked fear that Condé was becoming an authoritarian ruler. Increasing suspicion came after Condé’s opposition candidates “alleged irregularities in the official results that showed Condé won with 59.5 percent of the vote.” At the time, more than 40 deaths were reported from violent protests.
At his swearing-in ceremony, Condé stated, “I urge every one of you to forget the divisive past and turn towards a future of unity and hope … Everyone must uphold the law and ban violence from their words and acts so that our country remains a community of freedom and responsibility,”
However, the violence continued as his victory ignited gruesome Guinean protests. Finally, protestors recognized the abuse of power, accusing Condé of election fraud. Nevertheless, Condé once again used his power, releasing a harsh security forces crackdown that killed 23 protesters and journalists and imprisoned many. Reportedly more than 90 people were killed, and roughly 200 were injured.
Although officials of the ECOWAS refer to Condé as a “former” leader, Condé has yet to resign from his position.
While Doumbouya may have strong intent for the people, the next steps are still uncertain. He tweeted, “It is important for us soldiers to take our responsibilities face-to-face with the people of Guinea, who expect a lot from us.
“Everything we do will be in the best interests of the nation.”