Guinean junta leaders’ silence signals long wait for power transfer

Sunday March 20 2022
Guinea’s junta leader Mamady Doumbouya

Guinea junta leader Colonel Mamady Doumbouya raises his hand at his swearing in ceremony as president of country on October 1, 2021 in Conakry. . Col Doumbouya promised to conduct elections in a gradual process, starting with local level polls to presidential election, but didn’t give a clear timetable. PHOTO | AFP

By The East African

On a Thursday afternoon, traffic around the imposing King Mohamed V complex in Conakry, Guinea, is building up.

All vehicular movement has been stopped. Junta leader and transition President Mamady Doumbouya is about to leave the highly fortified facility that has served as his home and office in the past seven months. After a long wait, about a dozen vehicles, most of them sporting tinted windows, speed off.

Junta leader and transition President Mamady Doumbouya is about to leave the highly fortified facility that has served as his home and office in the past seven months.

Conde, who first came to power in 2010, caused a stir in 2019 when he changed the constitution to enable him to run for a third term.

Deadly protests rocked Conakry and other major cities countrywide, up to late 2020, when Conde was declared winner of the controversial election. He was in the tenth month into his first year of the third term when he was overthrown.

The massive celebrations that greeted the military are gradually fading off, amid growing frustration over the slow pace of the transition process.

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Despite repeated promises by the junta to transfer power, all Guineans have seen is an increasingly reclusive leader, says Abdoul Kader Makanera of the Union Des Forces Republicaines (UFR), one of the three largest political parties.

Makanera is the chief of staff of veteran opposition leader and UFR president, Sidya Toure.

According to a Transition Charter presented in October, Col Doumbouya promised to conduct elections in a gradual process, starting with local level polls to presidential election. But he didn’t give a clear timetable.

West African bloc Ecowas’ six-month deadline for elections has elapsed. Makanera says even for the most optimistic, six months wasn’t reasonable enough to conduct elections. Their concern is the absence of communication.

“The silence is worrying. They are not saying anything about when and how we will get out of here. That creates anxiety across the population,” he said.

In the Transition Charter, the junta would have to set up four bodies that make up the Transition Authority, which would collectively decide on milestones, including drafting a new constitution, leading to the polls. What was thought to be the last — the National Transition Council (NTC), which serves as the parliament — was inaugurated late last month.

Besides questions around representation in the NTC, political parties and pro-democracy campaigners say the whole process has been slow.

The CNRD Junta, which Col Doumboya heads as its president, has itself not been constituted, says Makanera, noting that Doumbouya only runs the show through decrees that are announced by officers with no official title in the junta.

Makanera adds that whenever they request for a meeting, they are received by these same officers.

Lack of dialogue

The UFR is a founding member of the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), a coalition of political parties and civil society, which coordinated the anti-third term protests.

Makanera says his party’s proposal for a 15-month transition plan to the junta have gone unacknowledged.

The UFR is also one of 58 political parties that signed a joint statement last week urging the junta to initiate dialogue. They also want the transition administration to prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations in 2009.

But another group of Guineans wants the trial for rights violations extended to the last 11 years of the Conde regime. Skeptics find this unlikely because it is hard to complete without naming some members of the current junta.

Amid the uncertainty occasioned by his silence Doumbouya’s focus on what activist Fatou Souare Hann, executive director of WAfrica, a non-government organisation dedicated to the promotion of women’s rights sees as distraction to the whole project of transitioning the country to normalcy, is fuelling a parallel debate.

One of the junta’s major projects is its clampdown on corrupt officials that has seen many former establishment politicians lose properties said to have been illegally acquired.

While that is hailed by many Guineans, there is suspicion in some quarters that it is politically motivated.

Scenes of protests by supporters of leading opposition politician Cellou Dallien Diallo last month, after armed men evicted him from his home, speak to this. The junta say the move is part of efforts to reclaim properties of the state illegally acquired by former officials.

UFR’s Toure also lost his house to the campaign.

Both opposition politicians once served as prime minister, during which they reportedly acquired the properties. But they claim that they got them through the right procedure.

Doumbouya has also taken actions that make him appear as consolidating his power, like trimming the army’s senior ranks and promoting fellow junior officers.

“It is a matter of concern that the transitional plans in those countries seem expansive and vague, making it difficult to identify priorities and assess progress,” he said.

Mrs Hann is executive director of WAfrica, a non-government organisation dedicated to the promotion of women’s rights. She says while justice for women who were violated in 2009 was close to their heart, the ultimate concern is a planned transition to democracy.