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Deadly police raids in Guinea as President Alpha Condé clings to power

Screenshot from a France 24 news flash about the situation in Guinea.

Police violence erupted in Guinea on October 14, resulting in the death of several people and massive arrests, following demonstrations protesting against current president Alpha Condé's plans to modify the constitution to run for a third term.

The streets of the capital, Conakry, and other cities have turned into battlefields between law enforcement forces and demonstrators.

Police forces have the advantage of new legal privileges that allow them to use deadly force if they deem it necessary for security reasons. The demonstrations have already killed six people, including one police officer, and wounded many.

Demonstrators oppose any change to the constitution seen as an attempt by the president to run legally for a third mandate. Indeed, the constitution limits the total number of presidential mandates to two in a row. Condé, now 81, should end his mandate in October 2020.

Demonstrators are particularly vulnerable as they operate in violation of the law, as Human Rights Watch reminds:

Depuis plus d’un an, le gouvernement de la Guinée interdit de fait les manifestations de rue en invoquant les risques pour la sûreté publique. Les autorités locales ont interdit au moins 20 manifestations. Les forces de sécurité ont utilisé des gaz lacrymogènes contre les personnes qui défiaient l’interdiction, et ont arrêté des dizaines de manifestants.

The government of Guinea has effectively banned street protests for more than a year, citing threats to public security, Human Rights Watch said today. Local authorities have prohibited at least 20 political or other demonstrations. Security forces have tear gassed those who defy the ban, and arrested dozens of demonstrators.

Regarding the political situation, the government is delivering conflicting messages: On October 13, President Condé welcomed a dialogue:

Alpha Condé a réitéré son appel au dialogue responsable et à la concertation permanente pour aplanir toutes les divergences et relever tous les défis qui se posent au pays.

Alpha Condé has reiterated his call for a responsible dialogue and for a permanent process of discussions in order to iron out differences and answer all the challenges the country is facing.

Yet, Ahmed Tidiane Traoré, a presidential counselor, stated the following day on October 12, —two days before the demonstrations started, — to a crowd of RPG youth [ruling Reunion of the People of Guinea party]:

Nous invitons la jeunesse du parti à la vigilance dans les quartiers. Ils [les militants de l'opposition] ont stocké des pneus usés dans les trous, nous invitons la jeunesse du parti à faire sortir ces pneus. Empêchez-les. Sortez ces pneus cachés, n’attaquent personne, ne détruisez rien, défendez-vous seulement. Tous les malfaiteurs seront dénichés et ils seront montrés au peuple

We invite the party's youth to remain vigilant in the districts. They [the opposition activists] have stocked use tires in wholes, we invite young people from the party to get those tires out. Prevent them from acting, get those hidden tires, do not attack anyone, do not destroy anything, just defend yourselves. All evil-doers will be found and shown to the people.

This double talk amongst those in power has further angered the opposition and civil society, according to the site globalguinee.info:

Ce 14 octobre 2019, sans doute un lundi sombre pour ne pas dire noir, à l’appel du FNDC, les Guinéens sont massivement sortis dans les rues pour s’opposer au projet de changement constitutionnel.

Des affrontement ont été signalés dans plusieurs quartiers de la Capitale guinéenne. Les activités au centre administratif de Kaloum ont été quasiment paralysées. Plusieurs Points d’appui (PA) des unités d’intervention de la police ont été aussi saccagés. A l’intérieur du pays, l’appel a été aussi observé dans les régions De Moyenne Guinée, Basse Guinée. En forêt et en Haute Guinée, l’appel n’a pas tellement prospéré. Mais tout de même, les villes sont restées paralysées.

October 14, 2019, is a dark Monday, if not black, responding to the call made by the FNDC [National Front for the Defense of the Constitution], Guineans took massively to the streets to oppose the project of constitutional changes.

Clashes were reported in different districts of the Guinean capital. Business in the administrative center of Kalou was almost entirely stopped. Inside the country, people also responded to the call in Middle and Lower Guinea. In the forest and in Higher Guinea, not so much. Yet, cities have been paralyzed.

Expressing himself on benbere.org, a Malian platform for youth, Malian blogger Adam Thiam writes:

Les choses sérieuses commencent en Guinée, avec ses surenchères incendiaires, ses morts presque banales de manifestants criblés de balles, les traînées de sang sur les pavés barricadés et carrefours fumant sous les pneus enflammés et les gaz lacrymogènes.

Serious things are now happening in Guinea, with incendiary escalation, almost random dead demonstrators riddles with bullets, blood trails on pavements with barricades and crossroads smoking with tires in flames and tear gas.

Netizens have denounced the violence on social media:

Twitter user Concerned Citizen®🇸🇳 (@raia_husika) warns the Guinean president:

Just like Blaise Compaoré [Burkinabé politician] Alpha Condé is going straight to the abyss, WIll he be able to hear the angry shouting of his compatriots? The very near future will tell us. Meanwhile, the boat is sinking.

On October 15, Guinean journalist Bhiye Bary wrote:

Hamdallaye pharmacy (#Conakry): certain citizens woken up by the police forces early this morning. According to a local citizen, the police forces are breaking down doors and looting houses. (Image archive)#Amoulanfe #Kibaro #Guinee pic.twitter.com/xk6xax8DT0

S. Nkola Matamba, a writer and human rights activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, shared his bitterness:

A former member of the opposition, and now devoured by the desire to change the law to allow a third mandate, maybe to remain on the throne till the end, Alpha Condé embodies of of the dark sides of the kind of Africa that keeps taking us down! People of Guinea, have courage!

https://t.co/K3DAaqaIYI

— S. Nkola Matamba🇨🇩🛠 (@Simeon_5) October 12, 2019

As for Cheikh Fall, from Senegal, the problem is the refusal to leave power:

#GUINÉE – It's simply appalling. First day of demonstration against a third mandate for Condé and here we are with an outcome of victims and dead people. This craziness of politicians who want to remain head of state for life  Amoulanfe— Cheikh Fall™ (@cypher007) October 14, 2019

Guinean activist Macky Darsalam noted attempts made to manipulate public opinion:

#Guinée
The @GouvGN [Guinean government] in order to weaken the large demonstrations of their citizens against the constitutional shaddy games have this  #Lundi14 [Monday 14th] proceeded with a distribution of rice sacks in the capital @Amoulanfe2020 @AlphaCondePRG@Cellou_UFDG@diallousmane@RFI@afpfr pic.twitter.com/T7qY6JOlzB

— Macky Darsalam (@DarsalamMacky) October 12, 2019

The Guinean opposition seems defenseless in the face of such attacks: the deputies of all opposition parties have stopped participating in parliamentary debates since October 11, 2019. Violence against these parties has taken on radical forms, as the site mediaguinee.org notes:

…au siège de l’Union des forces républicaines (UFR) de Sidya Touré, des échauffourées ont éclaté entre certains éléments de l’opposition et des militants de la mouvance qui avaient pris des dispositions la veille pour boucler toute manifestation non autorisée dans le fief traditionnel du parti au pouvoir. Des affrontements qui se sont soldés par le saccage du siège de l’UFR et l’arrestation de 6 personnes dont les identités et leurs partis d’origine restent encore méconnus du grand public.

…at the headquarter of the Union of Republican Forces (URF) of Sidya Touré district, clashes took place between certain members of the opposition and pro-government militants who had taken measures the day before to prevent any unauthorized demonstration in the stronghold of the ruling party. The clashes ended with a ransacked office of the URF and the arrest of six people whose identity and party affiliation remain yet unknown to the public.

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