Deposed Guinea president Alpha Conde is well, say ECOWAS envoys

Guinea’s President Alpha Conde won the Oct. 18 election with 59.5% of the vote. /Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Deposed Guinean president Alpha Conde is in good health, envoys from West Africa bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS) said Friday during a mission to the country organized after last week’s coup.

Guinea’s President Alpha Conde won the Oct. 18 election with 59.5% of the vote. /Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Guinea’s ruling military has been coming under growing diplomatic pressure after special forces led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya seized power on Sunday and arrested Conde.

ECOWAS suspended Guinea this week. On Friday, the African Union (AU) followed suit.

The pan-African body tweeted that it had decided “to suspend the Republic of Guinea from all AU activities and decision-making bodies.”

Mediators from ECOWAS landed in the Guinean capital Conakry on Friday.

They met coup leader Doumbouya, who arrived at the hotel where the envoys were staying flanked by special forces commandos.

ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, who was part of the delegation, said that mediators had seen Conde in the city’s junta headquarters.

“President Alpha Conde is well,” he told reporters.

Burkinabe Foreign Minister Alpha Barry, another delegation member, confirmed that the 83-year-old former leader was in good health.

Increasing pressure on Guinea comes amid rising fears of democratic backsliding across West Africa, where strongmen are an increasingly familiar sight.

Guinea’s putsch has drawn parallels with its neighbour Mali, which has suffered two coups since August last year led by Colonel Assimi Goita, who was also a special forces commander.

On Wednesday, ECOWAS called for Conde’s “immediate and unconditional release.”

It also urged “the immediate return to constitutional order” and demanded that the security forces “maintain a constitutional posture.”

The US embassy in Conakry on Friday stated that Guinea should “immediately restore democracy.”

After the coup, the junta freed about 80 political activists detained under Conde and banned ex-ministers from leaving the country.

On Thursday, it also said it had temporarily frozen ex-ministers’ bank accounts.

Coup leader Doumbouya has nonetheless promised there will be no “witch hunt” against members of the former regime.

The military has also guaranteed the safety of Conde.

The coup was greeted with jubilation in some parts of Conakry, where residents in some districts flooded the streets to applaud the soldiers.

But Conde supporters are bitter. Victor Leno, a schoolteacher and a member of Conde’s RPG party, said that “in one day, the military really came and buried this beautiful democracy”.

An RPG spokesman Mahmoudou Traore warned against trusting the military’s promises of a transition.

“They will stay in power for five, six (or) seven years,” he predicted.

Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world, despite its abundant reserves of minerals including iron ore, gold and diamonds.

The former French colony also has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, the primary source of aluminium. Mining is the driver of the economy.

News of the coup sent the price of aluminium soaring to its highest level in 13 years this week, and triggered concern about the commodity supply chain among businesses.

Doumbouya has pledged continuity in the mining sector and said this week that Guinea will “uphold all its undertakings (and) mining agreements”.