Guinea’s New Strongman I Combat-Hardened Ex-Legionnaire

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The coup Leader

Junta Consolidates Takeover By Naming Military Governors

Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, the leader of the latest coup in Guinea, is a highly educated, combat-hardened soldier who once served in France’s Foreign Legion.

Doumbouya’s special forces on Sunday seized Alpha Conde, the West African state’s 83-year-old president — a former champion of democracy accused of taking the path of authoritarianism.

Sporting a red beret and sunglasses, Doumbouya announced the dissolution of the constitution, whose changes had enabled Conde to secure a bitterly contested third term in office.

Later, draped in the national flag but minus the dark glasses, Doumbouya pledged to oversee an “inclusive, peaceful transition”.

“There have been many deaths for nothing, many wounded, many tears,” he said, referring to Conde’s bloody crackdown on protests.

In an insight into his thinking, Doumbouya invoked Ghana’s late firebrand leader, Jerry Rawlings, who took power through a coup in 1981 before overseeing a shift to democracy.

“If the people are crushed by their elites, it is up to the army to give the people their freedom,” said Doumbouya, quoting Rawlings.

The man who has stepped into the spotlight is a career officer in his early forties who earned a master’s degree in defence and industrial dynamics at Paris’s Pantheon-Assas University.

He trained at France’s Ecole de Guerre military academy and was a member of the fabled Foreign Legion.

In his career, he has taken part in missions to Afghanistan and the deeply troubled Central African Republic.

His unit, the Special Forces Group, had only just been created when in 2018 its balaclava-clad men marched at a 60th-anniversary parade overseen by the president whom they would topple three years later.

Doumbouya is from Kankan in eastern Guinea, and like Conde is from the Malinke ethnic group, also called the Mandinka.

He is married to a Frenchwoman and has three children, according to Guinean media.

“We are not here to have fun with power, we are not here to play, we are going to learn from all the mistakes which have been made,” he said on the French TV channel France 24, referring to past coups that have left deep scars on the nation.

The former head of the 2008-09 military junta, Captain Dadis Camara, had a fleeting turn in the limelight marked by bizarre TV appearances that became nicknamed the “Dadis Show”.

In September 2009, troops massacred opposition supporters at a stadium in the capital Conakry. At least 157 were killed, while 109 women were raped.

On Sunday, Doumbouya declared: “We are no longer going to entrust politics to one man, we are going to entrust politics to the people.”

Using a risky metaphor, he said: “Guinea is beautiful. We don’t need to rape Guinea anymore, we just need to make love to her.”

Doumbouya hit out at corruption and waste and vowed to restore peace in a country battered by crackdown after crackdown.

But diplomats and local media said an underlying trigger for the coup may have been a showdown with the government over the defence ministry’s control over the Special Forces.

Meanwhile, the soldiers who seized power in Guinea over the weekend have consolidated their takeover with the installation of army officers at the top of Guinea’s eight regions and various administrative districts.

West African countries have threatened sanctions following the overthrow of President Alpha Conde, who was serving a third term after altering the constitution to permit it, which his opponents said was illegal. Regional leaders will meet to discuss the situation on Wednesday – not Thursday, as suggested in a previous staff memo.

Coup leader Mamady Doumbouya, a former officer in the French Foreign Legion, has promised a transitional government of national unity and a “new era for governance and economic development”. But he has not yet explained exactly what this will entail, or given a timeframe.

Sunday’s uprising, in which Conde and other top politicians were detained or barred from travelling, is the third since April in West and Central Africa, raising concerns about a slide back to military rule in a region that had made strides towards multi-party democracy since the 1990s.

Conakry saw the second day of calm after the putsch, with some military checkpoints removed. Traffic was normal on Tuesday in the capital’s administrative centre, the Kaloum peninsula. Traffic jams were beginning to form.

State RTG television broadcast images of junta-appointed General Aboubacar Diakite taking over from civilian governor Sadou Keita in Kankan, the region that has been Conde’s electoral stronghold.

Keita called his replacement by a general a moment of “joy and remorse”, Guinean news website Inquisiteur.net reported.

In Labe region in the north, soldiers took down a photograph of Conde from the walls of Governor Elhadj Madifing Diane’s office as he handed it over to a lieutenant colonel, Media Guinea reported.

The coup has triggered concerns about supplies of bauxite, the main aluminum ore, from Guinea, the world’s second-largest producer.

The benchmark aluminum contract on the London Metal Exchange remained near a 10-year high hit on Monday.

However, mines have not reported any disruption. State-run Chinese aluminum producer, Chalco’s bauxite project in Guinea said it was operating normally.

The Australian-listed bauxite and gold exploration firms Lindian Resources and Polymetals Resources also said on Tuesday that their activities were unaffected.

The Kremlin said it was closely following the political situation and that it hoped Russian business interests, which include three major bauxite mines and one alumina refinery, would not suffer.

During his decade in power, Conde steered Guinea through economic growth, but unemployment remained high.

Surveys by Afrobarometer suggest the majority of Guineans think the level of corruption has increased in recent years, while dissatisfaction with the economy and personal living conditions has also risen.

Frustration boiled over into deadly protests last year, when Conde chose to seek a third term.

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