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Heavy fire from automatic weapons resounded this Sunday morning in the center of Conakry, capital of Guinea, and many soldiers were visible in the streets, several witnesses told AFP. No explanation was initially available on the reasons for this outburst of tension on the Kaloum peninsula, central Conakry, where the presidency, institutions and business offices sit. The authorities have so far remained silent on a very confused situation.
Residents contacted by phone in Kaloum reported sustained shooting. Speaking on condition of anonymity for their safety, they said they saw many soldiers ordering residents to return to their homes and not to leave. Access to the Kaloum peninsula is restricted due to its geography. The security forces can easily block it.
For months, this West African country among the poorest in the world despite considerable mineral and hydrological resources has been in the grip of deep political and economic crises, made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic. President Alpha Condé’s candidacy for a third term on October 18, 2020 sparked months of tension before and after the election that resulted in dozens of deaths in a customary country bloody political confrontations. The election was preceded and followed by the arrest of dozens of opponents.
Alpha Condé, 83 years old today, was definitively proclaimed president for a third term on November 7, despite the appeals of his main challenger, Cellou Dalein Diallo, and three other candidates who denounced “ballot stuffing” and irregularities of all kinds. Human rights defenders criticize an authoritarian drift observed during the last years of the Condé presidency and questioning the achievements of the beginning.
Alpha Condé, a former historic opponent, imprisoned and even sentenced to death, in 2010 became the first democratically elected president after decades of authoritarian regimes. The military seized power by force in 2008 after the death of President Lansana Conté. In the eyes of his opponents and many defenders of democracy, Alpha Condé has joined the ranks of African leaders who remain in power beyond the expected term, more and more often by using legal arguments. He had adopted in March 2020, despite an already strong dispute, a new Constitution to, he said, “modernize (the) institutions” and, for example, give more space to women and young people.
The opposition denounced a constitutional “coup”. The protest has been severely repressed on several occasions. Alpha Condé prides himself on having advanced human rights and having rehabilitated a country he says he has found in ruins. He defended in October 2020 on Radio France Internationale and France 24 to want to establish a “presidency for life”. The new Constitution theoretically allows him to stand again in six years, an eventuality on which he was careful not to comment.