Alpha Conde, from hero to zero

Before his accession to power in 2010, President Alpha Conde was often called “the Nelson Mandela of West Africa.”In the…

Before his accession to power in 2010, President Alpha Conde was often called “the Nelson Mandela of West Africa.”In the space of a few minutes, yesterday morning on the outskirts of Sekhoutoureya, the Guinean presidential palace, the octogenarian head of state fell from his pedestal. Surrounded on a sofa by armed soldiers celebrating their coup, he closed himself off in silence and surprisingly witnessed his probable end of reign.


Re-elected last October for a third term in office in a bloodbath, Alpha Conde has disappointed many observers who saw him as a human rights defender and a leftist activist.


Born in Boke, Lower Guinea, on March 4, 1938, the leader of the Guinean People’s Rally (RPG) has marked the political life of his country for half a century. His career has been full of twists and turns, during which he has been exiled, imprisoned and held in supreme power.


The teacher by training developed a taste for politics during his student years in France in the 1960s, within the Federation of Black African Students (FEANF), where he met future leaders of other African countries.


His involvement was mainly due to the fact that his country was living under the authoritarian regime of Sekou Toure, the father of Guinean independence. From Paris, Conde set up an opposition movement which led to his being sentenced to death in absentia.


But it was after the death of Sekou Toure in 1984 that he decided to return to Guinea. With other comrades, he founded the RPG, which was legalised in 1992 before becoming the RPG-Arc-en-ciel ten years later after merging with 44 other parties.


A troubled political life


Before his accession to power, he was successively defeated in the 1993 and 1998 presidential elections by General Lansana Conte before being arrested. Sentenced to five years in prison, he was released after twenty months under international pressure. He received a large support movement under the name of “Comité de liberation” of Alpha Condé. Ivorian singer Tiken Jah Fakoly also composed the song “Libérez Alpha Conde,” which the youth turned into an anthem for African martyrs and political prisoners.


Conde then waited for the death of Lassana in December 2008 and the collapse of the coup regime of Moussa Dadis Camara before finally coming to power in 2010, thanks to a disputed presidential election.


In this election, he succeeded in defeating his historical opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo who had obtained 43.6 percent of the votes in the first round. He was declared the winner of the election in runoff by the Electoral Commission with a score of 52.52 percent.


Since then, Alpha Conde has reigned supreme in political life and managed to retain his power, despite challenges from the street and the opposition, which accused him of manipulating the ballot box and the Constitution.


In the run-up to the October 18, 2020 presidential election, human rights organisations expressed concern about the level of violence used by the security forces during the repression of demonstrations that paved the way for President Alpha Conde to run for a third term.


An Amnesty International report estimated that “at least 50 people” had been killed between October 2019, when the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) began its mobilisation, and July 2020. It also reported that 200 people had been injured, and that at least 70 people had been arrested and detained arbitrarily and incommunicado during the same period.


Conde carried away by his “force”


Some pointed to the role of the Special Forces Group (GFS) in these pre-election abuses. Placed under the authority of the Chief of Staff of the Army, this elite corps was created by Conde and entrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, a former legionnaire of the French army with an imposing physique.

It is this latter who delivered the fatal blow to Alpha Conde and his regime on the morning of Sunday September 5, 2021. “Conde ousted by his special forces,” headlines the Senegalese daily L’AS, which states that the new strongman of Conakry is “a legionnaire trained in Thies,” a city located 70 km from Dakar.


“This special force created by Alpha Conde has turned against him,” said Mamadou Aliou Barry, head of the Centre for Analysis and Strategic Studies of Guinea, on RFI.


Currently detained “in a safe place,” according to the putschists, Conde was photographed aboard a vehicle and taken to an unknown location, shortly after leaving Sekhoutoureya. In the wake of his arrest, he refused to answer a masked soldier who asked him to confirm that he had not been brutalised or tortured.


But Mamady Doumbouya, now head of the National Committee for Rally and Development (CNRD), said the deposed president had “seen a doctor.” He did so shortly after ECOWAS demanded in a communique “respect for (his) physical integrity” and a return to “constitutional order or face sanctions.”


On the other hand, the threats of the international community seem for the moment without consequence since the leaders of the coup have announced the dissolution of the Constitution and the rewriting of a “Constitution together, this time, (for) all of Guinea.”


In any case, some observers continue to consider this a political regression for Guinea and for Alpha Conde, given all the battles he had to wage before coming to power.


This is the case of the Senegalese geological engineer, Fary Ndao. He said on Twitter that “Alpha Condé was the idol of my father’s generation, who was committed to the left in the 1970s. Today, in 2021, Conde is being restrained and photographed by soldiers who are about the same age as me. All this because he felt that 10 years in power was not enough.”


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