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Guinea: Will Alpha Condé Resets the Counter?

Until independence in 1958 the country was known as French Guinea, a French colony and part of French West Africa. The country scarred by decades of autocratic rule. After surviving colonialism and dictatorship, many Guineans are fearful of President Alpha Condé’s third term bid.

Sekou Toure’s ruled Guinea as president from independence to his death in 1984. After Toure’s death, Lansana Conte came to power in 1984 when the military seized the government. Gen. Conte organized and won presidential elections in 1993, 1998, and 2003, though results were questionable due to a lack in transparency and neutrality in the electoral process.

Captain Moussa Dadis Camara led a military coup, seizing power and suspending the constitution upon Conte’s death in December 2008. His unwillingness to yield to domestic and international pressure to step down led to heightened political tensions that peaked in September 2009 when presidential guards opened fire on an opposition rally killing more than 150 people.

In early December 2009, Camara was wounded in an assassination attempt and exiled to Burkina Faso. A transitional government led by Gen. Sekouba Konate paved the way for Guinea’s transition to a fledgling democracy.

Since 2010 it is a presidential representative democratic republic with the problem of ethnic tensions.

President Condé was originally elected in 2010, becoming the country’s first democratically elected president after decades of authoritarian regimes. He was re-elected in 2015 and his opponents accuse him of a slide into authoritarianism.

Condé’s party, the Rally of the Guinean People (RPG), said on August 31, 2020 that the Guinean leader had accepted the party’s nomination for the October elections.

The country’s main opposition party announced on September 6, 2020 that it will take part in next month’s presidential election, despite its concerns that President Alpha Conde’s bid for a third term is undemocratic.

The development sets the stage for the third face-off between the incumbent president and opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, 69, served as prime minister under President Lansana Conte from 2004 to 2006. Conde was a leading opposition figure during Conte’s 24-year rule. Diallo first ran against Conde in Guinea’s historic 2010 election that came after more than a half-century of dictatorship.

The opposition had threatened to boycott the Oct. 18 vote, citing conditions that unfairly favored the ruling party.

President Alpha Condé previously defeated Diallo in both the 2010 and 2015 elections, but many in Guinea say that Conde’s popularity has sharply fallen as a result of his decision to seek a third term.

The country has a two-term limit for presidents, but Conde now maintains that does not apply to him because of a constitutional referendum approved earlier this year.

Opposition figures were at the forefront of the protest movement against the constitutional referendum in March and tried to organise a boycott.

The poll went ahead despite protests, and the constitution was approved by more than 90 percent of those voting, with a turnout of 61 percent, according to the official results.

Opponents of the 82 years old Conde, now fear that , he will use the new constitution to restart the clock on his term limits, potentially giving him another decade in power.

Meanwhile, Conde insists the changes were democratically approved by voters, which pushed through a constitution amendment in a referendum in March that lifted a term-limit, allowing him to run again. His supporters say he needs more time in office to pursue his agenda of modernising the country.

In contrast, Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara will, stand for a third term in October, relying on a recent change to that country’s constitution.

Guinea has a murky history of protests, but it seems that it is obvious that the nations have failed to learn from their past.

Political protests in Guinea are often violent. Scores of demonstrators, as well as several members of the security forces, have been killed in the past decade, and Human Rights Watch has documented dozens of alleged fatal shootings by the police and gendarmerie.

In 2009, over 50,000 Guineans gathered to protest against the junta government that came to power after the country’s coup d’état of December 2008. The protest was fueled by the indication of junta leader, Cpt. Moussa Dadis Camara, wanted to run in the nation’s January 2010 election.

The Guinean government, however, had earlier banned any form of protests until a later date, conversely when the demonstrators gathered at a stadium in the capital, security forces opened fire, killing at least 157 demonstrators and injuring 1,253 more.

The National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), has already staged several mass demonstrations against President Conde’s bid for a third term, including the constitutional reform which enabled him to stand. Protests previously faced a crackdown by Guinean security forces with dozens of people killed.

Conde is a former opposition figure himself who was jailed under Guinea’s previous regimes.

Now, though, with presidential elections set to take place in late 2020, a rights crisis may return. The government has, since July 2018, banned virtually all demonstrations, but Condé’s government has done too little to deter state-sponsored violence by investigating and prosecuting alleged unlawful killings.

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