As Guinea Conakry faces a future run by the military following a coup in that country, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) is concerned about how the army has undermined the democratic values in the West African country.
While the country's military has positioned itself as the guardian of the people and societal interests at large, unconstitutional change of power flies in the face of democratic principles as embodied in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. CSVR works with partners across the continent, including organisations in Guinea Conakry and the organisation is concerned about the impact that this coup will have on the people of Guinea.
The organisation wishes to express its solidarity with citizens and activists who have been gallant in speaking out against corruption, failing state institutions and other factors at the core of unceasing socio-economic issues of poverty and inequality in the country.
Since the military takeover on 5 September 2021, various stakeholders including mineral investors have raised concerns around the risks against trade and exports. While they have been assured of business continuity during this time, certain socio-economic issues appear to have been side-lined.
As the CSVR, we are concerned about the sanitisation of the wave of military coups on the continent. The Centre is particularly concerned about the Guinean military's call for a transitional government, following the ouster of President Conde. This call should not be taken to legitimise the coup or conjure hope for the coup to lead to a successful transition. Lessons from Zimbabwe should be a stark reminder that celebrating a coup by citizens may be premature as citizens continue to live under a repressive regime in an economically stagnant state.
CSVR applauds the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for taking decisive steps against the coup through suspending Guinea's membership to the regional bloc, demanding a return to the constitutional order and commissioning a high-level mission to Guinea. This move is critical and sends a strong message to coup plotters and leaders that unconstitutional change of power should not be tolerated.
Lessons from Mali, a country that has experienced three coups in less than 10 years with the most recent in May 2021, attests to the reality that once a coup that promises a transitional process is legitimised, this becomes a slippery slope where other actors can easily be emboldened to oust sitting leaders. In Mali, Assimi Goïta promised to hand over power when the country goes to the polls in 2022. However, to date, very little progress has been made towards preparing for the elections and ECOWAS is rightly "worried by the lack of concrete action" to prepare for the promised Mali elections.
When states fail at building capable institutions for citizens to air their grievances and when accountability measures are compromised, and where the army leads the military takeover of government, this opens a window for the militarisation of national politics and crafts a path for military rule. Militarisation often comes with the possibility of excessive use of force which can lead to anarchy and human rights violations.
CSVR calls for urgent action from continental and regional bodies in condemning the coup in Guinea Conakry, in a bid to salvage democracy and uphold the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. As the Centre, we recommend the following in managing the ongoing political instability in Guinea:
- Other regional economic communities and mechanisms as well as the organs of the African Union should also be unequivocal in condemning the coup and calling for a return to civilian rule in Guinea.
- African Heads of State and Government, in their individual capacities as leaders, should openly condemn the coup, distancing themselves from the unconstitutional change of power, as part of their commitment to good governance and democratic principles enshrined in ACDEG.
- The high-level mission to Guinea should carry out its mandate in a transparent and inclusive manner that engages a wide spectrum of stakeholders including citizens, civil society, religious leaders and traditional leaders.
- The African Union Transitional Justice Policy should be central in the imagination of, and finding solutions to resolve the current governance and democratic dilemma that Guinea finds itself in.
- Investigations should be urgently instituted to identify and address the root causes of the coup and a plan of action should be developed with national stakeholders to address structural issues, corruption and socio-economic challenges. When these issues are left unchecked, they easily trigger a descent into anarchy.
Acting Executive Director