Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Experts’ opinion on the Political and social situation in Guinea

Article from AFRIC Editorial
Several countries on the African continent are about to experience a major turning point in their history, come 2020. In West Africa more than anywhere else, all signals are red. Whether in Côte d'Ivoire or Guinea, the two countries that will have presidential elections next year, only one question fuels discussion: how far are the outgoing presidents of these two countries willing to go to be able to stand for re-election? The answer to this question, at this stage in the evolution of the political life in these two countries may bring into disrepute the imprecision of certain provisions of African constitutions. The stakes are higher Guinea’s case since the incumbent president, despite the existing constitutional barriers that formally prohibit him from standing for re-election for a third term has decided to use all the stratagems attached to his position to stay in power.

In this particular case, President Alpha Condé, the former historic opposition icon of the country, “a great defender of democracy”, as he loved to be addressed when he was still on the side of the oppressed, has decided to use the same strategies as did his predecessors whom he used to fight against. From now on, “all means are good to remain in power”, even if it means rowing against the aspirations of the people, who seek true democracy characterized by an alternation of power and respect for the fundamental law of the country.

For Guinea, a major political crisis with unpredictable consequences is looming. If this crisis is yet to invade the entire country, it is because Guineans who have already begun to express their disapproval of President Condé’s tactics have understood the stakes of the struggle they are currently waging are high, and the preservation of a healthy country is paramount. In this light, they have decided to adopt peaceful and democratic measures concerning the political and social situation in the country in order to impose their will as a sovereign people on the system in place. On all these issues, which are fuelling panic in the country at present, several experts have given their opinions. They unanimous believe that the basic laws of a “democratic” country cannot be modified to serve the desires for power of a single man or his clan.

The Question of Adopting a New Constitution

The project of a new constitution that will surely pave the way for a new republic in Guinea is completely contrary to the general interest democracy and the people as a whole. For the entire Guinean political class, “an amendment or revision of the constitution remains possible if it is contained in the provisions of Article 152 of the said text, but not the adoption of a new constitution which is illegal for several reasons” says a relative of Cellou Dalein Diallo. But President Alpha Condé, now 81 years old, who has sworn to always respect the constitution, is changing his mind. However, the texts are clear on this matter. According to Article 27 of the constitution of 7 May 2010, ‘the presidential term of office is five years, renewable once. In no case may anyone serve more than two presidential terms, consecutive or not”. And, in this wake, Article 154 of the said constitution clearly states that it is impossible to amend Article 27 in the event of a constitutional revision because “the number and duration of the president’s terms of office cannot be subject to revision”.

Democratically elected as head of the country in 2010, then re-elected in 2015, President Alpha Condé, who will complete his second term in 2020, according to many experts, is taking up the activities that plunged the country into political instability in 2001. In that year, a referendum was held to allow then President Lansana Conté to remain in power after the end of his last term of office by abolishing the provision limiting presidential terms of office. For an executive of the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) this is a spectacular turnaround since the paradox today is that it is the current president, who a few years ago was fighting under the banner of the “Front Républicain pour l’Alternance Démocratique” (FRAD), for the same constitution not to be changed is now considering changing it.

According to another expert on African political issues, who is against this attempt by President Condé to run for a third term, the message is clear, as he says “Alpha Condé has exhausted his time in power, so he has to leave.”

The solutions to End the Crisis Proposed by the Opposition

The project of a new constitution initiated by President Alpha Condé, his party, the People’s Rally of Guinea (RPG), and his government, is still unclear to many Guineans. Many question the approach adopted by the president who waited until the end of his second and final term to begin the idea of a new constitution and not a simple revision. While the crisis has already bogged down and Guineans, mostly under the call of the opposition political parties and the FNDC have decided to take to the streets through popular demonstrations to veto this selfish project, people are already dead. All the demonstrations planned by the opposition had been announced under the banner of peaceful demonstrations.

Since opinions have changed following these regrettable acts of violence, which led to the deaths of several young people present at the demonstrations, the roadmap of the opposition has changed, and is no longer just interested in criticising the draft of a new constitution. All the opposition political parties, with a few exceptions, are now unanimous on three points For the former FNDC executive and a journalist of Guinea News, it is no longer just a question of demanding President Condé’s renunciation of a third term. In addition to this initial demand, the opposition is now demanding “the unconditional release of those arrested in connection with the protests against the new constitution and all political prisoners”, “the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry to shed light on the deaths recorded since October 14”, and finally “a solemn declaration of renunciation of the idea of a new constitution”.

An expert on African issues, who wished to remain anonymous, but who claims not to be from the Guinean opposition, summed it up in one point:  “I am not a member of the Guinean opposition, so I cannot talk about the roadmap she proposes. But if I were in its place, it is not only the modification of the constitution that I would oppose; I would fight to ensure that the conditions for a free and transparent election are met. That is the only condition for a peaceful election”.

The Ethnic Factor and the Influence of International Powers in Guinea’s Internal Politics

In an atmosphere where the people as a whole are jointly demanding the departure of President Alpha Condé, a public opinion leader believes that “any partner outside Guinea should lean on the side of the Guinean people who are making a legitimate demand”. Subsequently, she adds that there is another life after power. She then advised the president to leave as a dignified man rather than leave behind the image of a despot who will end up in the dustbin of history. Other experts put forward the sovereignty and independence of the Guinean people, who do not expect the international community to replace them in their struggle for a democratic handover. They nevertheless welcome the initiative of the United States, which through its Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Tibor Nagy, and its Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, have spoken out in favour of respect for the constitutional order.

Opinions on the ethnic factor are divided between several camps. For one of the leaders of the Guinean Private Sector Consultation Platform, there are people in Guinea who create conflicts and those who use ethnic groups for political purposes. Yet in the charter for the creation of a political party in Guinea, it is mandatory to have a leadership in which there are people from the four main ethnic groups of the country, namely the Fulani, the Soussou, the Malinke and the Foresters. A member of Ceillou Dalein Diallo’s cabinet goes even further, citing as an example, an officially declared 2010 RPG electoral strategy based on ethnic division. This strategy was embodied in the so-called “Mandé Dialo”.

Assessment of President Condé’s Record

President Condé’s record after two terms at the head of the country is rather fair even though he has undertaken some major construction. More than half of his campaign promises have not been kept, according the people who expected a lot from him. While he has enabled the country to host several major projects such as the construction of hydroelectric dams, the establishment of a programme with the IMF and the World Bank, the introduction of reforms concerning the police and security forces, and the revision of the procedure for managing the state budget through the institution of the one-stop shop to facilitate the creation of businesses and reduce corruption, he has, on the other hand, failed to define and implement public policies that have an immediate positive impact on the living conditions of Guineans.

In terms of figures, the platform counts 295 presidential promises that have been made, 30 government promises and 62 domestic promises. And, with less than a year to go before the end of his second term, several of these projects are either being evaluated (the adoption of a decentralized charter), or imprecise (professionalizing diplomatic personnel) and even others that have been forgotten (the creation of a citizens’ radio station, the adoption of a law on the apology of mass crimes and incitement to ethnic and regionalist hatred).

The controversial issue of President Condé’s Future Main Challengers

As for President Condé’s main challengers for the next elections, opinions are divergent, since many believe that there is no longer a question of discussing a challenge with the outgoing president since the latter will not be a legitimate candidate in the next election. For most of Guinean public opinion and political expets the observation is clear, “if Mr. Alpha Condé wants to run in 2020, he is guaranteed to retain power in one way or another (…)”. Other experts on the other hand, who envisage the possibility the forceful signing of the new constitution, cite among the main challengers Cellou Dalein Diallo who had won 44% of the votes cast in the first round in 2010 before losing the elections in the second round, Sidya Touré and Lansana Kouyaté. It should be recalled that all three are former prime ministers of Guinea.

In a country where the electoral roll has remained highly contested and where the politicization of public life is delaying development and blocking the economy, negotiations through ECOWAS or the AU should be resorted to in order to avoid the emergence of a new source of instability in West Africa and the risk of it spreading to neighbouring countries, particularly in Côte d’Ivoire. Guinea’s partners must therefore come out of their silence and advise President Alpha Condé not to remain in power through the new constitution, which violates the AU African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ratified in 2011 by Guinea), and the ECOWAS Fundamental Principles.

In a country where several experts are challenging the electoral register and where the politicization of public life is delaying development and hindering economic growth, perhaps it would be better to resort to negotiations through African organizations that are well equipped for such situations. Under these conditions, according to several academics and journalists, ECOWAS or the AU could perhaps, if the conditions permit, serve as a bridge to avoid the emergence of a new source of instability in West Africa and the risk of it spreading to neighbouring countries, particularly Côte d’Ivoire. For public opinion, which aspires most rapidly to find a solution to this escalating crisis, Guinea’s partners must speak up and advise President Alpha Condé not to remain in power through the new constitution, which violates the AU African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ratified in 2011 by Guinea), and the Fundamental Principles of ECOWAS. However, this position is not shared by a good part of the local media, which believe that it should be left to President Condé to follow his logic to the end for a better construction of the constitution.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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