West Africa woke up to a nightmare on Sunday morning. There was gunfire in the Kaloum peninsula area of the capital, which is home not only to the presidential palace, but other government institutions and ministries. The military sealed off parts of the capital Conakry in response to the gunfire. Later in the morning reports emerged that Alpha Condé, president of Guinea since 2010, has been detained by special forces in a coup attempt.
At the beginning the government denied the reports. Guinea’s defense ministry in a statement said that the presidential guard and security forces “had contained the threat and repelled the group of assailants.”
“Security and sweeping operations are continuing to restore order and peace,” the statement said. On the other hand, videos circulating on social media appear to show the president having been detained by the army in an apparent coup attempt.
In confirmation of that, a group of soldiers led by a Colonel Mamadi Doumboya, draped in a national flag said in a broadcast on state television the president has been arrested and the Guinean government has been dissolved and that the country’s borders have been closed and that a transitional government will soon be formed. “The personalisation of political life is over. We will no longer entrust politics to one man. We will entrust it to the people,” he rapped.
Condé assumed office in 2010 after the country’s first-ever democratic elections. The 83-year-old won a third term last year in the 2020 presidential election. His win came after he rammed through constitutional changes allowing him to sidestep the country’s limit of two presidential terms. The opposition claimed last year’s election was fraudulent, with dozens of people subsequently killed in anti-government protests.
The Guinean president has pledged to stamp out the country’s rampant corruption, but critics say he has failed to improve life for the average citizen.
Although Guinea is rich in natural resources, including diamonds and gold, much of the country’s population lives in poverty.
Guinean democracy has its problems but that doesn’t warrant the crass overthrow of the constitutional order. Democracy is nurtured through slow painful evolution. Its mistakes should be corrected through democratic fixes and not through the barrels of guns. In Africa, we have seen times without a number that military rulers become the very epitome of the evils they condemn and which they use as reason for staging coup d’etats.
The Lomé Declaration of 2000 and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance of 2007 which have been ratified by almost all the countries in the sub-region state that unconstitutional change of government includes: a military coup against a democratically elected government; mercenary intervention to replace a democratically elected government; replacing a democratically elected government by dissident armed groups and rebel movements; or refusal of an outgoing government to relinquish power following defeat in free, fair and regular elections.
The systematic mention of ‘democratically elected government’ illustrates both the context and spirit behind the Lomé Declaration. Ecowas, AU, the UN and all multilateral institutions engaged in the business of good governance should roundly condemn this coup and demand the immediate reinstatement of President Condé. If the junta refuses to see reason and go back to the barracks, it should be made a pariah and subjected to regional and international sanctions.