Protests against military administration paralyse Guinea capital

Opposition groups say at least one person was killed and several injured in clashes with police after plan for peaceful rally was blocked.

A protester on a street in Conakry throws a rock towards a police officer.
Military-led authorities ordered immediate legal action against the organisers of Thursday's rally in Conakry, Guinea [Cellou Binani/AFP]

Protests against Guinea’s military government and its handling of plans to return to democracy have brought the capital to a standstill, with organisers saying one person was killed.

The National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) said one person died after being hit by a bullet in the Conakry suburb of Hamdallaye, and that several others had been injured during the protests on Thursday.

The FNDC is an influential political coalition that called for the demonstrations last week to condemn the military’s “unilateral management” of a return to civilian rule after it seized power in 2021. The former ruling Rally for the Guinean People and the National Alliance for Change and Democracy, another coalition of parties and associations, also called on their supporters to join the demonstrations.

Authorities had previously banned the rally, and have not confirmed the death.

The public prosecutor on Thursday ordered immediate legal action against the organisers.

The FNDC has accused the military leaders of “systematically refusing” to establish a “credible dialogue” to define the terms of the transition.

Colonel Mamady Doumbouya was sworn in as interim president last October after leading the coup against President Alpha Conde, whose attempt to extend his hold on power for a third term sparked widespread anger. Doumbouya said his administration’s mission was to “refound the state” by drafting a new constitution, fighting corruption, reforming the electoral system and then organising “free, credible and transparent” elections.

On Thursday, ECOWAS regional bloc chair Umaro Sissoco Embalo said he had recently convinced the military to hasten the return to democracy.

“I was in Conakry with the president of the commission [of ECOWAS] to make the military junta understand the decision of the summit of heads of state that the transition cannot exceed 24 months”, Embalo said, speaking alongside French President Emmanuel Macron at a briefing in Bissau.

“They had proposed 36 months, but we succeeded in convincing them,” he added.

But Ousmane Gaoual Diallo, a Guinean minister and spokesperson for the transitional administration, told the AFP news agency that “neither the government nor the presidency confirm this information about the duration of the transition in Guinea”.

Clashes broke out on Thursday morning between young demonstrators and the police in several areas seen as opposition strongholds in the capital, an AFP reporter said.

Protesters erected barricades and burned tyres while police fired tear gas to disperse small groups throwing stones.

Most parts of the city centre remained calm, but activity nonetheless ground to a halt.

Black smoke billows into the air from a fire set during protests on the streets of Conakry, Guinea.
Protesters blocked roads in the Guinean capital on Thursday after authorities prevented supporters of the opposition parties from gathering for a peaceful march [Cellou Binani/AFP]

The Boulevard du Commerce, a major road that is usually full of people, was almost deserted by midday.

“We are delighted with the success of our call to demonstrate — it was perfect,” Ibrahima Diallo, the FNDC’s head of operations, told AFP.

“The city has been quiet everywhere, the administration is paralysed – it’s been a great success for us.”

‘Authoritarian conduct’

The military authorities in May banned any public demonstrations that could be construed as threatening public order.

The FNDC had announced protests for June 23 but later called them off, indicating they were prepared to give the transitional administration a “chance” and start dialogue.

But their patience snapped after a meeting with the authorities that the FNDC slammed as a “parody”.

The group condemned the “solitary and authoritarian conduct of the transition” and its “serious attacks on fundamental rights and freedoms”.

Three FNDC leaders were arrested on July 5, provoking violent demonstrations that were some of the first since the coup.

All three were released after being found not guilty of contempt of court over comments they had posted on social media criticising the prosecutor’s office and the military-appointed parliament.

Source: AFP, Al Jazeera