DAKAR, SENEGAL – A Guinean army unit seized control of the country Sunday and announced it had deposed President Alpha Conde. The soldiers expressed frustration over widespread poverty and corruption in Guinea.
After Conde’s first win in 2010, citizens hoped he would bring stability to Guinea, which had suffered decades of rampant corruption.
It was the country’s first democratic election since gaining independence from France in 1958.
But critics say Conde’s presidency has only increased poverty, despite the country’s immense supply of mineral riches.
Tensions peaked last year when the 83-year-old president changed the constitution to allow himself to seek a third term. After he won, violent demonstrations erupted across the country.
Key Dates in Guinea Since Independence
Key dates in the history of the troubled west African country, Guinea, since independence from France in 1958
David Zoumenou is a senior research consultant with the Institute of Security Studies in Dakar and Pretoria.
“That really created heavy tension. You have civil society organizations, you have other political forces, contesting his decision, contesting his elections,” Zoumenou said. “But the military was on his side, able to quell the demands of the people. So the ground was almost leveled for political instability to lead to what we are observing now in Guinea.”
On Sunday, the dissenters within Conde’s military criticized his actions and said they were taking matters into their own hands. They said a curfew would be imposed and the borders would be shut.
While many civilians were seen celebrating the coup, international actors, including the U.S., France and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the seizure of power.
Political analysts worry the events are representative of a larger trend. In recent years countries throughout West Africa have witnessed a surge in unconstitutional third-term bids as well as a rise in coups.
Mali, for example, has been rattled by two coups in the last year, Zoumenou notes.
“All that is due to the lack of commitment of leaders to democratic principles,” Zoumenou said. “So if the governance is not adequately rooted in the express will of the people, unfortunately we have to continue to deal with military intrusion.”
Zoumenou said such interventions are hardly conducive to a healthy democracy.
Gilles Yabi is a political analyst and the founder of West Africa Citizen Think Tank.
He says it gives the impression of a worrying political trajectory with the possibility of a return of military coups.
But, Yabi said it’s important to note that Mali and Guinea were already in crisis mode – other West African countries, particularly those who have stable democracies, won’t necessarily follow the same path.