Alpha Conde Not Worthy of His “Democratic” Crown: In Guinea, Free Speech and Assembly Not Allowed for Opposition
If you steal an election, as Alpha Conde did in 2010, and the international community repeatedly proclaims you as “democratically-elected,” it would be politic to occasionally do things which appear to be democratic. Conde, not one to learn new lessons, treats members of the opposition as if they were criminals instead of, well, opponents. This past Saturday, Conde prevented opposition supporters from gathering for a mass meeting and when they protested by shouting anti-Conde slogans, his state security forces used truncheons and tear gas on the crowd and arrested dozens. When you steal an election, you arrive in office without a mandate to govern which means you must rely on the muscle of security forces to help you keep your job. More on this later.
First, let’s dispense with the administrative stuff associated with the opposition’s attempt to use Bonfi stadium for a mass meeting for Saturday, March 17 and the Conde administration’s determination to prevent it. Week before last, the opposition stated its intention to hold a mass meeting at Bonfi regarding the lack of transparency in the upcoming legislative elections as well as Conde’s staggering propensity for impunity. As required, the opposition informed the Mayor of Matam (where Bonfi stadium is located) via a letter, hand-carried to her office (see below) stating intent to hold a gathering at the stadium on March 17. The letter was submitted Monday, March 12, well before the 72 hours advance notice required.
Copy of letter from opposition to Mayor of Matam giving notification of intent to use Bonfi Stadium for mass meeting (photo from leguepard.net)
On Friday evening, March 16, Matam’s Mayor, Hadja Nènè Coyah Toure and the commander of the gendarmerie, General Ibrahima Balde, appeared on Guinean state TV. The mayor said that she never received the notification from the opposition to use Bonfi for its mass meeting and that another event was scheduled for Saturday. The general said that the opposition had circulated weapons among its supporters. In the short span of this government broadcast, the opposition’s mass meeting became “illegal” and the attendees became “criminals.”
Conde’s “finest” trucked in to beat, tear gas and arrest members of Guinea’s political opposition (photos UFDG.org)
Saturday, March 17, 2012
On the morning of Saturday, March 17, around 7:30 am, opposition supporters began to gather for the mass meeting at Bonfi stadium, but were met by state security forces — gendarmes and police — who had arrived hours earlier and locked all entrances to the stadium. Security forces told the gathering crowd that there would be no meeting at Bonfi and that they should leave the area. Upon hearing this news, the opposition supporters began to chant anti-Conde slogans and the security services moved in with truncheons swinging and proceeded to make several arrests.
Later, opposition party leaders began to arrive and could be seen waving as they stood through the sun roof of their vehicles. Opposition supporters, after a dangerous and disappointing morning with security forces, were relieved to see something good happen and ran towards their leaders. This is when security started lobbing gas canisters into the crowd and more arrests were made, including four bodyguards of former prime minister and presidential candidate, Lansana Kouyate.
With the tear gas raining down on the crowd, a decision was made to turn the opposition caravan around, away from the stadium, and supporters followed. The caravan grew into a long procession of cars and people moving along the roadway.
Unfortunately, Conde’s government had one more trick up its sleeve before everyone could call it a day. According to opposition supporters, members of Alpha Conde’s political party, RPG, began throwing stones at the procession. In response, opposition supporters threw stones at RPG members. RPG claims 15 of their people were injured and several cars were damaged.
Zalikatou Traore Diallo, secretary general of the Party of Hope for National Development (SARP) stated that party leader, Lansana Kouyate, was riding in the car in a seat closest to the RPG headquarters and that it was clear that RPG members attacked the procession with stones.
Information also came in from Kouroussa (500 km east of Conakry) that the RPG attacked the headquarters of the party of opposition leader and former prime minister, Lansana Kouyate. Mr. Kouyate’s hometown is Kouroussa.
The opposition leaders and supporters did find a place to gather as they made the best of a bad situation.
The international community often speaks of “democracy” as a critical element for countries to progress and for people to advance. The international community crowned Alpha Conde as Guinea’s first “democratically-elected” president while knowing all the while that he had become head of state through election fraud committed by his operative, Louceny Camara. Camara, convicted and sentenced for this fraud, remains at the helm of the country’s electoral council and the opposition is certain he will commit fraud in the upcoming legislative elections.
How can the opposition be so sure of this? When you steal an election, you arrive in office without a mandate to govern. Without a mandate, you must rely on the muscle of security forces and undemocratic administration of a country to stay in office. As kings do, Conde rules by decree, a method perfect for a leader who lacks a mandate. Now, Conde is under the gun to respond to the international community’s dogged pursuit of “the final stage of Guinea’s transition,” which means holding legislative elections. Again, because of lack of a mandate, Conde cannot win a majority in the National Assembly. . The only way that Conde can get a legislative majority is through the operative who stole the 2010 presidential election for him, Louceny Camara. And, this is why the opposition will not go to legislative elections with Camara running Guinea’s electoral council.
Conde wanted to prevent the opposition rally on Saturday for a variety of reasons, but none more important than preventing the international press from getting a glimpse of a huge sea of Guineans, speaking in once voice, condemning him and his entire administration.
As of this posting, the opposition has announced that it will schedule another rally at Banfi stadium for this coming Saturday. To make sure that the mayor’s office acknowledges receipt of its notification letter, a bailiff will deliver it and both Guinean and international press will be there to cover it all. Stay tuned.
Leaders of Guinea’s opposition parties (L-R): Mouctar Diallo, Aboubacar Sylla, Sidya Toure and Lansana Kouyate (w/microphone)