The Coup in the Land of Bauxite
Guinea, or Guinea-Conakry for easier distinguishment, is a country in Western Africa, inhabited by more than 12 million people of 24 ethnic groups. Having gained independence from France in 1958, this state is one of the biggest producers of bauxite in the world. After decades of autocratic rule, new hope arrived in 2010 when the first democratically elected president Alpha Condé promised many reforms and suggested a calmer, more prosperous, and liberal future for the country. Now, 11 years later, this promise seems to have come to its end.
Alpha Condé, a veteran opposition leader, has served two terms, during which the economic growth of the country increased by 5% per year. Unfortunately, this prosperity did not become reality for more than 70% of the population, living on approximately 3.20$ per day. It is claimed that corruption has increased as have the taxes and the president himself has been accused of human rights abuses. But what would eventually turn the land upside-down was a referendum in March 2020, leading to a change in the constitution, allowing Mr. Condé a third term. A term he eventually won, following the election in October. The rage this highly controversial and authoritarian step ignited, threw the country into chaos once again. As the situation became more and more complicated, the number of fatal encounters between the police and protesters kept growing. The turning point came in September 2021, in the form of a military coup.
Having ousted the president, an army´s special unit, led by Lieut-Colonel Col Doumbouya, declared itself willing to form ‘a government of national union’. Former ministers are not to be arrested but cannot leave the country and mining companies are to keep up their work, being exempt from the national curfew. The people of Guinea seem to be celebrating, almost with euphoria, and their chants of freedom can be heard in the streets. A feeling of relief is sweeping throughout the land and even the opposition alliance with Mr. Diallo as its leader (the main opponent of Mr. Condé during the 2020 elections) supports this putsch. However, it is not clear when it will be possible to expect the next elections and what the transition of power will look like. Despite the newly planned meetings between the putschists and political and religious leaders or mining companies´ envoys, uncertainty would be an understatement for the Western powers, all too familiar with the unpredictable consequences of coups in Myanmar, Mali, or Chad.
The situation has been condemned abroad and the Economic Community of West African Nations, according to its post-coup nations policy, has decided to close its doors in front of Guinea, in spite of its membership. Yet, it was the ECOWAS and the African Union that described the third-term election of Mr. Condé as free and fair, ignoring the national outrage, while the rest of the world preferred to concentrate on the continued access to Guinea’s bauxite reserves. China, for instance, imports half of its bauxite from the country. And that is the reason why possible sanctions against the new regime remain questionable. The outcome is, therefore, at least for now, an interrogation mark.
‘We prefer poverty in liberty, to riches in slavery’. This famous quote of Ahmed Sékou Touré, the head of Guinea since its independence until 1984, who ended his rule in a dictatorial manner, might be a noble thought, still, we hope that the future of Guinea will be the one of liberty and economic prosperity as its people deserve. Despite the 200 coups African record from the 1950s, there might still be a way to find stability.
Written by: Sofia Ontkovičová