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Protests in Guinea spark Pan-African solidarity against president's plan to run for third term

Two non-Guinean activists give their support to Guineans who oppose any extension to President Alpha Condé's term during a protest in Paris on 26 October 2019 in a KumpitalTV video

The Guinean government remains vague about the timetable for legislative elections and possible changes to the constitution that could extend Alpha Condé's presidency, but protesters continue to mobilize throughout the world against it. As various Pan-African comments online indicate, the political dialogue appears to be at a complete standstill.

For several months now, Guinea has been gearing up for two decisive dates: the legislative elections and the presidential elections in October 2020. In both cases, the government maintains a position of political ambiguity that is polarizing Guinean society: Although the legislative elections were first announced at the end of 2018, then planned for 28 December 2019, they have now been postponed without a real explanation and, above all, without an announcement of a new date.

Even more worrying is the government's actions toward a possible change to the constitution that would enable Condé to run for a third presidential term. According to the current constitution, Condé, aged 81, would have to end his term in October 2020 and would not be able to run again.

This is the latest concern of the last several weeks that has driven protesters who oppose Condé onto the streets across the country. As the Guineepolitique website points out, the protesters have had enough:

Après la semaine de manifestation meurtrière qu’a connue le pays, les Guinéens ne veulent rien lâcher. Mercredi [23 octobre], alors que les femmes ont défilé en blanc pour dire stop aux violences policières, le pays est entré dans une dangereuse effervescence.

Jeudi, les opposants ont pris le relais dans les rues de la capitale Conakry et d’autres villes du pays. Vêtus de rouge (la couleur du sang des victimes), ils étaient bien des centaines de milliers de personnes selon des journalistes locaux – un million selon les organisateurs, 30 000 selon le gouvernement – à marcher sur plusieurs kilomètres aux cris de « amoulanfe » (« ça ne passera pas » dans la langue locale) ou « à bas la dictature », sans heurts malgré une forte et discrète présence policière.

Following the week of deadly protests that the country experienced, Guineans don't want to give up on anything. On Wednesday [23 October], while the women marched in white to say stop to police violence, the country entered into a dangerous turmoil.

On Thursday, the critics took over in the streets of the capital city, Conakry, as well as other towns across the country. Dressed in red (the colour of the victims’ blood), there were hundreds of thousands of people according to the local journalists — a million according to the organizers and 30,000 according to the government — marching several kilometres with cries of ‘amoulanfe’ (‘this won't be accepted’ in the local language) or ‘à bas la dictature’ (‘down with the dictatorship’), without clashes, despite a strong and discreet police presence.

The opposition to any constitutional change also occurs online, as highlighted by Afriques Connectées, the African social media monitoring website based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire:

Since 14 October, there has been a powerful wave of mobilization of Guineans against President Alpha Condé's plan to change the constitution. More than 18,000 tweets used the #Amoulanfé hashtag (“This won't be accepted” in the Soussou language), which unites those who oppose a 3rd term #Kibaro pic.twitter.com/KKm3g88ODZ

— Afriques Connectées (@AfriquesConnecT) October 25, 2019

Facing this wave of protests, Condé appears to challenge any form of criticism by stating to the French newspaper Le Monde that:

“Dans les autres pays où il y a de nouvelles Constitutions, il y a eu beaucoup de manifestations, il y a eu des morts, mais ils l’ont fait [la réforme constitutionnelle]”.

“In other countries where there are new constitutions, there were many protests, there were deaths, but they did it [the constitutional reform]”.

This statement has galvanized the opposition who view it as a challenge and above all, a risk of increased violence in an increasingly divided country.

Malian journalist, Mamadou Dian Baldé, who lives in Guinea, scrutinized these words in an interview on the alternativeguinee.com website:

Pour ses détracteurs, ces propos d’Alpha Condé confirment encore si besoin en était, que chez l’homme, seul la fin justifie les moyens. En clair, le chef de l’État serait dans une logique de « ça passe ou ça casse ».

C’est le lieu de dire que le discours du chef de l’État polarise de plus en plus l’opinion et fait craindre le pire.

For his critics, these words of Alpha Condé further confirm, were it needed, that with the man, only the end justifies the means. In other words, the head of state would be in a “make or break” mindset.

This is the place to say that the discourse of the head of state is increasingly polarizing opinion and making you fear the worst.

Some leaders of the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) were arrested and sentenced even before the planned protest on 14 October — and which took place as planned.

The Bloggers Association of Guinea published a news release regarding the arbitrary arrests:

Nous condamnons fermement les arrestations arbitraires et les scènes de violence qui ont fait une dizaine de morts et plusieurs blessés principalement à Conakry et à Mamou. Nous exigeons qu’une enquête soit diligentée afin de situer les responsabilités dans ces tueries. Nous dénonçons l’instrumentalisation, l’acharnement de la justice contre les défenseurs de l’alternance démocratique et son inaction contre les véritables criminels.

We strongly condemn the arbitrary arrests and scenes of violence that caused about ten deaths and several being injured mainly in Conakry and Mamou. We demand that an inquiry be launched in order to locate those responsible for these killings. We condemn the instrumentalization and armement of the law against the defenders of democratic alternance and its inaction against the real criminals.

This wave of indignation has reached beyond Guinea's borders as a form of Pan-African solidarity and global protest.

Malian maliweb.net reports that the international reggae star, Tiken Jah Fakoly, from the Côte d’Ivoire, has given his support to the Guinean opposition by discussing its dangerous precedent in the region:

Si Alpha Condé réussissait à briguer un troisième mandat, il fera des émules dans des pays comme la Côte d’Ivoire d’Alassane Ouattara, le Sénégal de Macky Sall et le Mali d’IBK. Qu’attendent les oppositions de ces pays cités pour soutenir celle de la Guinée afin que le vent de la contamination ne souffle en leur direction ? Pourquoi celui qui a chanté pour le prisonnier Condé devient subitement son opposant ?…

If Alpha Condé were to succeed in running for a third term, it will be emulated in countries, like Alassane Ouattara's Ivory Coast, Macky Sall's Senegal and IBK's Mali. What is the opposition from these listed countries waiting for in supporting that of Guinea to ensure that the wind of influence doesn't blow in their direction? Why is the one who sang in favor of prisoner Condé suddenly becoming his critic?…

His position brought about violent reactions to the extent that he had to refute the rumor of his death on YouTube and reiterate his support for the FNDC. He invited the young people who responded to his appeal to get more involved in politics. The artist also used Twitter to make his refutation:

In response to the rumor on social media concerning my death, I assure you that I'm OK and I'm on tour!
The fight continues!
The rest of the video is on my Facebook page #tikenjahfakoly #Africa #Guinee pic.twitter.com/ER2gpC2s2I

— Tiken Jah Fakoly (@TJFofficiel) October 26, 2019

Protests in support of the FNDC have also taken place in several countries including France, Switzerland, GermanyBelgium, Canada and Senegal.

While the rest of the events remain unpredictable, Dieretou, a Guinean blogger who lives in France sums up the state of mind of a significant number of his fellow citizens:

Les Guinéens ne veulent pas renverser Alpha Condé. En realité, ils sont épuisés des putschs et périodes troubles qui s’en suivent.
Ils veulent uniquement qu’il termine tranquillement son dernier mandat puis s’en aille. Et que le jeu démocratique suive son cours. https://t.co/5fB8PJPKyB

— Dieretou (@dieretou) October 24, 2019

Guineans don't want to overthrow Alpha Condé. In reality, they are tired of the coups and the ensuing turbid periods.
They simply want him to peacefully end his last term then go. And that the democratic process runs its course. https://t.co/5fB8PJPKyB

— Dieretou (@dieretou) October 24, 2019

This concern for maintaining a democratic transition unifies the majority of Guineans beyond its borders and transcends political or ethnic differences.

The signal had already been given in September 2019 during President Condé's involvement in the United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA: On this occasion, a protest brought Guineans together to protest against any constitutional change. One protester, Abdoulaye Soumah, stated:

“C’est la Guinée dans sa diversité qui se mobilise. Ici, vous retrouvez les compatriotes de tous les âges, sexes, de toutes professions et couches sociales. Nous sommes tous confondus, unis et déterminés à donner la chance à notre cher pays de choisir librement et démocratiquement un nouveau dirigeant. Et ce, dès 2020.”

This is Guinea mobilizing in all its diversity. Here you find fellow citizens of all ages, genders, professions and social classes. We are all together, united and determined to give our dear country the chance of freely and democratically choosing a new leader. As early as 2020.

 

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