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Guinea’s President Alpha Condé tells supporters to be ready to fight

Although Guinea’s constitution allows only two consecutive terms in office, the country's current president, Alpha Condé, recently announced that he intended to seek a third term. To help achieve this, he has not hesitated to make calls to violence. In an analysis published on Horizon Guinée, Sonny Camara, a journalist based in Conakry (the country's capital), reported parts of a speech the president made on March 24, 2019:

«Je laisse mon manteau de président de côté. Je prends mon manteau de militant, car maintenant je suis prêt à la bataille contre ces gens», «… Soyez prêts à l’affrontement… », «… Personne en Guinée ne m’empêchera d’aller devant le peuple pour lui demander ce qu’il veut… » « … Si c’est pour vous marcher sur les pieds, soyez prêts à marcher sur leurs pieds pour qu’ils sachent que vous n’avez peur de rien …»

I will be taking off my president's hat. I am putting on my activist's hat, because now I am ready to fight against these people [in the opposition] […] Be ready for confrontation […] Nobody in Guinea will stop me from going before my people to ask them what they want [for the country] […] If [the opposition] wants to walk all over you, be ready to walk all over them so that they know that you are afraid of nothing.

Condé was elected as President of Guinea in 2010 as the first freely elected president in the country's history. However, the 2010 elections were not without controversies as observers, including the Carter center reported that nearly 1 million voters’ ballot were lost from the final count. Condé was reelected in 2015 with almost 58 percent of the vote. in 2016,  FRANCE 24 news channel reported that the mining company Rio Tinto paid Guinean government official $10.5 million for mining rights in the Simandou Region. 

A few months after his re-election in May 2015, Condé began to suggest his intention to seek a third term. Ibrahima Diallo, director of Liberté FM, a radio station in Conakry, highlighted this 2016 report on Nouvelles de Guinée:

Mais, à entendre Alpha Condé dire à l’opinion publique nationale et internationale que le «souverain peuple» de Guinée décidera ou non d’un troisième mandat pour lui sous – entend que celui qui voulait être la «synthèse» de feu Mandela et d’Obama pour son pays est «pire» que ses prédécesseurs qu’il a toujours combattus durant sa vie d’éternel opposant. Aujourd’hui, quand Koro dit «c’est le peuple qui décidera», il veut juste faire porter par le vaillant peuple de Guinée le mérite pour lui de briguer «un éventuel mandat» après les deux consécutifs.

But, to hear Alpha Condé say to national and international audiences that the ‘sovereign people’ of Guinea will decide whether or not he will have a third term implies that he who wanted to be the ‘synthesis’ of the late Mandela and Obama for his country is ‘worse’ than his predecessors, whom he has fought all his life as an eternal opponent. Today, when Koro (ed's note: nickname for Alpha Condé) says ‘it’s the people who will decide’, he just wants to make the valiant people of Guinea legitimize his seeking ‘a possible term’ after the two consecutive ones.

Condé stuck to his plan by taking measures to ensure he avoided any bad surprises, including dismissing the president of the constitutional court, Kéléfa Sall, a move which did not follow legal procedure. Amadou Tham Camara, a reporter with Guinée News, wrote:

Après le travail de sape qui avait été fait à la CENI, c’est ainsi la deuxième institution constitutionnelle en charge des élections nationales qui vient d’être irrémédiablement fragilisée. Dorénavant, pour le parti au pouvoir, il existe un boulevard pour avoir la majorité qualifiée des deux tiers des députés lors des élections législatives prévues au premier trimestre de 2019. Cette majorité étant la condition sine qua non pour entamer la révision de la constitution. C’est un pas de géant qui vient donc d’être franchi pour faire sauter le verrou constitutionnel qui bloque le nombre de mandat du président de la République à deux.

After the undermining of the CENI [the national independent electoral commission], it is now the second constitutional institution in charge of national elections which has been irreparably weakened. From now on, for the party in power, there is an avenue to having the qualified majority of two thirds of deputies during the legislative elections scheduled for the first quarter of 2019. This majority being the necessary condition for initiating the revision of the constitution. It is thus a giant step which has been taken to break through the constitutional lock which limits the number of terms as President of the Republic at two.

It seems that Sall's mistake was to warn Condé — during his second term swearing-in ceremony, no less — against modifying the constitution. Sall said then:

La conduite de la nation doit nous réunir autour de l’essentiel. Ne nous entourons pas d’extrémistes qui sont nuisibles à l’unité nationale. Évitez toujours les dérapages vers les chemins interdits en démocratie et en bonne gouvernance. Gardez-vous de succomber à la mélodie des sirènes révisionnistes car, si le peuple de Guinée vous a donné et renouvelé sa confiance, il demeure cependant légitimement vigilant.

The management of the nation must gather us around what is essential. We do not surround ourselves with extremists who are harmful to national unity. Always avoid slips toward paths forbidden under democracy and good governance. Refrain from succumbing to the song of revisionist sirens because, although the people of Guinea gave you and renewed their confidence, they nevertheless remain legitimately vigilant.

The reaction of Guineans has been lively. At a press conference on March 29, organized by former members of the National Transition Council (a type of interim parliament) and hosted by the collective Ne Touche pas à ma Constitution (Don’t Touch My Constitution), Boubacar Siddighy Diallo, one of the speakers, recalled that Guinea’s constitution comprises two parts which form an indivisible whole. He made the point that together, these parts shield the constitution “from any possible tampering which could have consequences that compromise the peace and stability of our country.”

Opponents reacted strongly. At an opposition meeting, Cellou Dalein Diallo, president of the Union des Forces Démocratiques de Guinée (The Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea, a liberal political party), said:

L’opposition Républicaine a réaffirmé sa disponibilité à former une coalition avec toutes les forces vives de la nation, pour s’opposer au recul démocratique et à la présidence à vie qu’Alpha Condé veut s’octroyer …

The Republican opposition has reaffirmed its readiness to form a coalition with all the active movements of the nation, to oppose democratic retreat and the presidency for life that Alpha Condé wants to grant himself…

Sekou Koundouno, leader of the Forces Sociales de Guinée (FSG) the Social Forces of Guinea) announced on Facebook that his civil society group wrote to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court asking her to ‘keep a close eye on our country and take a public stand to avoid chaos in Guinea. Similarly, Guinean citizens reacted on Twitter:

The words of the president of the republic are extremely serious for peace and social calm in Guinea. Yet again, I strongly condemn this not very honourable habit of our country. We absolutely must call on the CEDEAO [the Economic Community of West African States], the African Union, the UN, etc.

Everywhere in Guinea, the people are speaking out against the third term. Such was the case in Coyah [a prefecture in Guinea's Kindia region] earlier. Four young people were reportedly arrested on the instructions of one of the promoters of the third term. No intimidation will stop Guineans in their quest for democracy.

Popular Facebook personality Alimou Sow chose irony as a way of commenting on the situation, alluding to the strong winds which hit Conakry on the night of April 2:

Il paraît que dans la mythologie grecque Eole était le dieu des vents (d'où l'adjectif éolien). Alors à Eole la Guinée cette nuit pour emporter, non pas seulement des affiches démagogiques mais également ceux qui les posent et promeuvent le 3ème #Nambara [Problèmes]. Autant en emporte le vent. Bon #ennui

It seems that in Greek mythology Aeolus was the god of the winds (whence the adjective Aeolian). So, to Guinea Aeolus went that night to blow away, not only the demagogic posters, but also those who put them up and promote the third [term] #Nambara [Problems]. Gone with the wind. Good night #ennui

The most significant reaction, however, came from the Guinean writer and economist, Ibrahima Sanoh. On January 2, he launched his movement, Patriotes pour l’Alternance et le Salut (Patriots for Alternation and Salvation), to oppose any attempt by Condé to seek a third term in 2020.

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