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Last Updated on January 16, 2020

Protests in Guinea – All you need to know

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Earlier in the week, Guinea’s government said it would respond strongly to violence at any protest or opposition rally. Since mid-October, the West African country has been hit by continuous anti-government demonstrations over constitutional reforms. There are also fears that President Alpha Conde will seek to extend his constitutional mandate.

The statement issued by the government on Sunday reads: ‘State powers will be exercised in all their rigour against those who seek to upset public order and to deny other Guineans the free exercise of their fundamental rights ’.

In response to the statement, opposition groups have vowed to keep marching promising to hold huge protests heightening the fears of a fresh round of violence. 

Reasons for the protests in Guinea

President Conde of Guinea
President Alpha Conde has not confirmed or denied rumours of him seeking a third term in office

President Conde’s second and final five-year term in office is coming to an end this year. Opposition and civil rights groups are concerned the 81-year-old will stay in office and seek a third term.

Just last month, President Conde published a draft constitution, arguing that the country’s colonial-era laws need to be changed. Critics are however convinced he plans to use the reform to stay in office beyond the two presidential terms currently stipulated in the constitution.

President Conde, a former opposition leader and the country’s first democratically elected president, has neither confirmed nor denied that claim.

Legislative elections are due in February and a presidential election is scheduled sometime this year, as well as a possible referendum on the constitution.

Have the Protests in Guinea been violent?

Since the mass protest began in October 2019, at least 20 people and one gendarme have been killed. Just a few days ago, during a demonstration in the capital, Conakry, not less than 12 people were wounded. Hundreds have also been jailed.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), six civil society leaders are among those detained. Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at HRW said Guinea’s government should not be denying people their right to express opposition to a new constitution.

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Furthermore, she said: “A blanket protest ban, the arbitrary arrest of civil society leaders, and the violent dispersal of demonstrators shows that the government is prepared to trample on human rights to suppress dissent”.

Meanwhile, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional body, has called on all parties to show restraint and hold a constructive dialogue to resolve their differences.

Will the opposition take part in the poll?

Guinea is scheduled to hold a parliamentary election on February 16. The polls were first scheduled to be held in late 2018 but the electoral commission delayed the vote for “technical” reasons.

To further complicate the situation, opposition parties have said they will not be taking part in the vote, with some threatening to stop the poll from taking place.

“It’s not just a question of boycotting the elections and standing idly by. We will prevent these elections from taking place,” Cellou Dalein Diallo, opposition leader, said last month.

Why are the polls so important?

Under Guinea’s current constitution, for a leader to amend the constitution to allow him or her to seek a third term in office, they require a two-thirds majority in parliament to pass the amendment. Currently, President Conde’s ruling Rassemblement du peuple de Guinee (The Rally for the Guinean People) only holds a slim majority.

President Conde needs a bigger mandate in parliament if he is to seek a third term through parliament.

Critics have said President Conde wants to push through the constitutional amendments through a referendum, bypassing the parliament.

Alpha Conde’s election victory in 2010 raised hopes for democratic progress in Guinea after decades of authoritarian rule. But his critics accuse him of cracking down on dissent and violently repressing protests. All these charges he denies.

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