Guinea’s ruling junta on Saturday ruled out the exile of the detained former president Alpha Conde and said the transition to civilian rule would be made in accordance with “the will of the people.”
The ruling council’s statement was a challenge to international pressure for Conde’s release and a six-month schedule for elections after a coup on September 5 drew worldwide condemnation.
It also followed a visit on Friday by an ECOWAS mission led by two heads of state from the 15-member West African bloc.
Mamady Doumbouya, the colonel who led the coup, told the visiting delegation that “it was important for ECOWAS to listen to the legitimate aspirations of the people of Guinea,” a spokesman for the junta, Colonel Amara Camara, said at the first press conference. of the governing council. within six months.
Doumbouya stressed the need not to repeat the “mistakes of the past”, recalling that national consultations to delineate the transition began on Tuesday and that “only the sovereign people of Guinea will decide their fate,” Camara said.
“It is also clear to all parties that the former president will remain in Guinea,” he added.
‘Frank and brotherly talks’
During their visit, the head of state of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, whose country holds the rotating presidency of ECOWAS, and his counterpart from Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, presented to the board the organization’s demands for the elections in within six months.
They also insisted on Conde’s release.
“We had very frank and fraternal conversations with Colonel Doumbouya and his associates and collaborators and I believe that ECOWAS and Guinea will find a way to walk together,” Akufo-Addo said at the end of the visit.
The ruling council, which now appoints Doumbouya as “president of the republic and head of state,” said consultation sessions scheduled for Friday with banks, insurance companies and unions would take place on Saturday.
Consultations will continue next week, he said, including Monday’s meetings with cultural actors, press associations and those within the informal sector.
The army has already held talks with political parties, religious leaders and heads of mining companies, key players in this poor but resource-rich country, and other figures.
Local rights groups, including the Guinean Organization for the Defense of Human Rights (OGDH), issued a statement expressing concern about “respect for democratic principles and the rule of law” and called on the junta ruling that “a roadmap for the transition will be communicated as soon as possible that takes into account all the proposals derived from the consultations.”
Activists return from exile
Public discontent in Guinea had been brewing for months before the coup on Conde’s leadership, 83.
A former opposition figure, Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and was re-elected in 2015.
But last year, he pushed for a controversial new constitution that allowed him to run for a third term in October 2020.
The move sparked mass demonstrations in which dozens of protesters were killed. Conde won the elections, but the political opposition argued that the poll was a sham.
On Saturday, four anti-Conde activists serving a third term returned to the country from exile and were greeted by cheering crowds at Conakry airport.
“Honor the Patriots” read a banner on display among the hundreds who waited hours for the exiles to return.
Some in the crowd wore the red T-shirts of the opposition coalition FNDC, which led the protest against Conde’s third term. Others sported the red, yellow and green of the Guinea flag.
“We never doubted for a moment that we would win this fight,” said Ibrahima Diallo, one of those who returned.
“We want to accompany the democratic transition process that will lead to credible and transparent elections so that Guinea can move towards development,” he added.
His partner, activist Sekou Koundouno, expressed his relief that the people of Guinea “have got rid of the despot Alpha Conde who had taken the institutions and the army hostage.”