CONAKRY: Even as African regional leaders press Guinea’s new military government to restore civilian rule as soon as possible, people fed up of decades under Alpha Conde are inclined to support the junta – for now.
A poster around 20 metres wide appeared outside the luxury hotel in the capital Conakry where junta boss Lieutenant-Colonel Mamady Doumbouya met with regional leaders on Friday.
Mamadou Douma Diallo, a 35-year-old driver, said he was surprised and overjoyed to see the “old” Conde, 83, overthrown, expressing hopes for better days ahead and pleading for support for the military, at least for now.
“We want Doumbouya to turn Guinea around,” Diallo said, asserting that suffering had been widespread under Conde.
A guard at the hotel, Amadou Diallo, agreed, citing tough living conditions and rising prices for rice, oil and fuel.
“There’s everything in Guinea, and the people have nothing,” said Diallo, 40.
The West African country has immense mineral and water resources, but more than 43 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank.
The putsch surprised most Guineans even though it was preceded by months of tensions sparked by Conde’s controversial decision to seek a third term in October 2020.
A crackdown on protests left dozens of civilians dead.
Dozens of opposition activists were arrested before and after the vote, officially won by Conde despite doubts over the credibility of the result.
The lightning coup on Sep 5 left between 10 and 20 dead, mainly among Conde loyalists, according to media reports.
No details have emerged of when or where the dead were buried.
The junta, hunkered down in a grey-walled compound near the parliament building, communicates only through statements read over state television.
The coup – the third of its kind since Guinea won independence from France in 1958 – unleashed scenes of joy in some quarters.
But two opposition leaders, Cellou Dalein Diallo and Sidya Toure – who returned Friday from 10 months in exile – said military intervention was the last possible recourse.
Neither insisted on a timeline for elections, with Diallo saying they should be held in a timely manner.
Late Saturday the junta announced that consultations would begin on Tuesday for the “inclusive and peaceful transition” it has promised.
For their part, West African neighours have called for an immediate restoration of constitutional order.
Regional bloc ECOWAS suspended Guinea from its membership pending further measures that could arise from its meeting Friday with the junta.
ECOWAS claims to work to prevent a rash of violent power grabs and to prevent instability.
But their room for manoeuvre is hampered by a variety of factors including Doumbouya’s popularity, Guinea’s harsh living conditions and the fact that neighbouring Mali has seen two coups in the past year.
The International Crisis Group (ICG), in a recent report, called the resurgence of military takeovers in the region a “very worrying phenomenon”, saying ECOWAS and the international community “have hardly any other choice but to exercise strong pressure for a rapid return to elected civilian rule”.
Both Diallo and Toure are against economic sanctions and warn against the release of Conde, demanded by ECOWAS. The ICG experts said it was “completely conceivable” that a counter-coup could take place.