Getting acquainted with Guinea putsch leader

A former French legionnaire, the leader of the putsch that ousted Guinean President Alpha Conde on Sunday was a key…

A former French legionnaire, the leader of the putsch that ousted Guinean President Alpha Conde on Sunday was a key man in the security apparatus that was supposed to protect his power.In the aftermath of his overthrow in August 2005 by a junta composed essentially of his closest military collaborators, the former Mauritanian president Maaouiya Ould Taya had not found a better reaction than these few words, which would have been pronounced more than 2.200 years ago by a king of Macedonia, Antigone II: “My God, keep me from my friends! As for my enemies, I will take care of them.”

Sixteen years after the former Mauritanian leader, with whom he had an old personal relationship, 83-year-old Alpha Conde, who was overthrown on Sunday, September 5, by part of his army, no doubt remembered the ancient saying, which has become a cult.

Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, the leader of the coup plotters who deposed him, is none other than one of the main military leaders to whom he had entrusted the security of his regime.

In a country where political life and the life of public institutions are largely conflated with ethnic reality, the two men were, above all, linked by their common membership in the same Malinke community.

A former master corporal in the French army’s Foreign Legion, the coup officer had joined the Guinean army in the wake of the now deposed president’s initial election to the presidency in 2010.

Appointed lieutenant after a brief stint in a military school in the city of Thies, Senegal, the former French soldier was granted several internships abroad, including Israel and France, paving the way for a rapid rise to the rank of lieutenant colonel and commander of the Special Forces Group (GFS).

It is thanks to this elite unit, by far the best equipped and trained in the Guinean army and that he himself set up at the personal request of Alpha Conde, according to the words of a former adviser to the deposed president and familiar with the putschist officer, that the former French soldier took power on Sunday in his home country. 

The men of Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya quickly neutralized the presidential guard, whose elements had at one point tried to oppose the coup plotters, and did not seem to have much difficulty in arresting the head of state. In a video they posted on social networks, the head of state, wearing blue jeans and an unbuttoned shirt, is seen surrounded by armed men asking him if he is being treated well, but he does not respond. According to generally credible sources contacted by Apa News, President Conde was taken to Camp Makombo where he is now being held.

 A rumor, the reliability of which was difficult to verify until late Sunday evening, claimed that his Minister of Defense, Mohamed Diane, had died after being hit in the skull by a bullet.

According to a source familiar with the people in power in Conakry, the minister’s hostility to the GFS leader’s desire to make his unit autonomous from his department was the reason for the former French legionnaire’s coup.

In a statement read on national television at midday, wearing a red beret on his head and black glasses on his eyes, the man who is already wearing the costume of Guinea’s new strongman announced the dissolution of the Constitution and institutions, such as the government, the establishment of a “National Committee for Rally and Development”” (CRND) and justified his coup by the “socio-political and economic situation of the country, the dysfunction of republican institutions, the instrumentalization of justice, the trampling of citizens’ rights. Arguments that recall exactly a large part of the grievances that the opposition has been voicing to the toppled head of state.

In the first hours following the announcement of the coup by the head of the special forces, supporters of the main opposition figure, Cellou Dalein Diallo, a perennial unhappy rival of Alpha Conde at the ballot box since his first election as head of the country in 2010, rushed to celebrate the overthrow of the old president.

In several districts of Conakry, the capital and its suburbs, such as Bambeto inhabited mainly by the Fulani community from which Dalein Diallo comes, demonstrations of joy and support for the putsch were staged spontaneously.

The officer, whose coup was, according to diplomatic practice, unanimously condemned by the country’s main partners, including the African Union, the United Nations and France, has so far given no indication of what he intends to do to return Guinea to its broken constitutional order.

Will the former legionnaire, a father of three and whose wife, a French gendarme, still in active service, be tempted in his turn, like many of his putschist brothers-in-arms in Africa, to keep power? Or will this Franco-Guinean military man, who in his first public appearance quoted the late Captain Jerry Rawlings, father of Ghana’s exemplary democracy, rush to organize a transition and bring a new civilian to power? That is the question.

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