Africa Insiders: Guinea protests against president’s third-term plan
The essentials: Nine protesters were confirmed dead after demonstrations on Monday. Government security forces opened fire on crowds protesting against President Alpha Condé’s attempt to alter the constitution and run for a third term.
The context: Protesters descended on police checkpoints and burnt tyres in the streets, chanting “It will not pass”. This was a response to the 81-year old president’s plans to stand in upcoming presidential elections. Condé gave an order for his government to draft a new constitution this month, aggravating opposition groups and civil society. His plan has been openly back by Alexander Bregadze, the former Russian ambassador to Guinea.
The protests went on for three days, amid violent police crackdown in Conakry and Mamou, an opposition stronghold. The government claims the demonstrations were not authorised. Several opposition leaders, including Abdourahmane Sanoh, coordinator of opposition coalition group National Front for the Defence of the Constitution, were arrested ahead of the protests on Monday and now face trial. On Tuesday, twelve protest organisers were charged and sentenced to jail for varying lengths of time.
The good: The people standing up to autocratic actions. What must be particularly disappointing for Guineans is the hope that followed Condé’s election, a hope for freedom from the dictator Lansana Conte, who held onto power till death.
The bad: The situation in Guinea is alarming but not surprising. Condé joins the list of African leaders who are following the same dictator style guide on their way to autocratic rule. President Gnassingbe of Togo, Museveni of Uganda, Assoumani of the Comoros. The list goes on. An interesting twist in Guinea is the involvement of Russia, which has economic interests in the country and is fairly openly backing the constitutional revision.
The future: Guineans gave President Condé a taste of what’s coming if he continues to pursue his agenda. While that should be enough to deter him, African leaders have been known to unleash the full force of security apparatuses at their disposal and to manipulate the judiciary. Despite bans, expect more protests and sadly, more crackdowns, ahead of presidential polls next year.
- Guinea Arrests Activists Opposing Third Term for Conde (Bloomberg)
- Guinea government confirms nine people killed in political protests this week (Reuters)
- Guinea: End Crackdown on Opponents to New Constitution (Human Rights Watch)
- Russia is encouraging Guinea’s president to ditch the constitution (The Economist)
- Several killed in Guinea protests against constitution change (Al Jazeera)
- Deadly protests in Guinea as Russia calls for change of rules to keep despot in power (The Telegraph)
- What limits? How African leaders cling to power for decades (Reuters)
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