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Guinea’s political crisis

16.10.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Supporters of the incumbent president of Guinea, Alfa Conde, are campaigning for a referendum on constitutional review, which will allow the 81-year-old president to be elected for a third term. The opposition, supported by various states (France and the USA above all), opposes amendments to the Constitution. It seems that the upcoming legislative and presidential elections (2019 and 2020) will be a serious test for the country's future, and the economic growth that Guinea has shown in recent years.

Guinea’s economic growth

The latest consolidated report of the African Development Bank for 2007-2018, devoted to Guinea, gives a positive sign, which is based on the preservation, since 2016, of average growth, double the growth of African countries, as well as noticeable progress recorded in the management index by Mo Ibrahim (the fifth-best indicator in ten years), as well as according to the Doing Business rating prepared by the World Bank (growth of 26 places between 2012 and 2018).

Even though the per capita GDP remains half of that of Côte d’Ivoire, even if corruption is still widespread and access to electricity is still too uncertain, Guinea seems to be showing real economic growth. For the first time since independence. This is especially noticeable against the backdrop of the disastrous years of the reign of President Conde when the annual income per person in Guinea was below $ 470 (against more than 800 today). Since then, GDP has tripled, and life expectancy has increased by ten years.

Amendments to the Constitution

The basis of the political dispute between the current government and the opposition can be considered as unpleasant. The fact is that in the current version, the constitution does not allow President Alpha Conde to seek a third term in 2020. In June of this year, after the Government’s report on the need for a “new Constitution”, it became obvious that there would be an attempt to amend the Constitution through a referendum.

In September, President Alfa Conde announced the “need for a referendum.” In September, a document containing the rationale for the adoption of a new Constitution, which was transmitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Guinean embassies, also appeared in public access. The document contains 12 pages, including an English translation, which caused a stir in the ranks of the opposition when it “leaked” to Guinean social networks.

Signed by the hand of Mamadi Touré (Guinea’s Foreign Minister), he was sent to 42 embassies and diplomatic and consular missions on June 19 and declares “the desirability and necessity of adopting a new Constitution.” It was the ambassadors and consuls who were supposed to make this document widely accessible to the authorities and the institutions in which they are accredited.

The document provides a series of arguments in favor of the new fundamental law, which quotes the preamble of extracts from the French Constitution of 1791 and the Universal Declaration of Human and Citizen 1789 to justify “from a moral or philosophical point of view” the “right of the people to change their constitution”. And the text cites the phrase from the Social Contract from the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “The people always dominate in changing their laws, even the best.”

 

Opposition reaction

The heads of state of the DRC, Burkina Faso and, more recently, Sudan, have led their countries to crises in their attempts to amend the Constitution with the sole purpose of remaining in power. These attempts, as a rule, are accompanied by maneuvers aimed at the destruction of any form of protest – financially, legally or physically.

The arguments of the opposition are as follows: The constitution does not need to be adapted to political events or changes in public order. In the interests of Guinea, Alpha Conde must leave power democratically and peacefully. At stake is the stability of a country and even a region that is already engulfed in violence and terrorism. “Constitutional coup” can trigger a serious socio-political crisis with many consequences.

The United States has already expressed its position, which was announced by the Under Secretary of State for African Affairs, saying that they are against constitutional changes. While supporters of the president regularly express their enthusiasm for constitutional changes, the opposition is under pressure. Last Saturday, several members of the National Constitution Defense Front (FNDC), set up in April to arrest Alfa Conde’s third term.

Intelligence agencies arrested several civil society activists participating in an opposition meeting. Half a dozen leaders of the National Constitution Defense Front (FNDC), trade unions, and civil society representatives were arrested without an announcement of reason for 48 hours. This was part of a plan to thwart opposition mobilization planned for the current week.

 

The onset of the political crisis

“The date we were able to approve at the CENI (Independent National Electoral Commission) plenary meeting is December 28, 2019, and that date is real,” said Salif Kébé, President of the Electoral Commission. The date of December 28 was immediately challenged by the CENI vice president and opposition representatives. “After several days of hard work, the CENI commissars were unable to agree on a realistic timetable for the upcoming parliamentary elections,” wrote opposition representatives, who believe that they cannot be legally and practically organized before March 2020.

Guinean opposition deputies announced last Friday their intention to suspend their participation in plenary meetings of the National Assembly, in parallel with calls for mass protests starting on October 14. They intend to protest against the organization of a constitutional referendum.

According to some reports, about a hundred oppositionists have been killed by law enforcement since Alfa Conde came to power in December 2010. Authorities, for their part, are talking about a dozen police and military men killed during demonstrations during the same period. Many observers warn of the possibility of new violence in the country. The political crisis in the country is growing. Whether Guinea will be able to overcome it on its own, without the intervention of other states and, observing the rights of citizens, will show in the near future.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

photo credit : google image/illustration

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