Coup in Guinea: A demonstration of French weakness?

Coup in Guinea: A demonstration of French weakness?

On September 5, a military coup took place in Guinea, a small African state in the west of the continent. A group of soldiers led by army Col. Mamadi Doumbouya arrested the president of Alpha Conde. The military junta, which took over the power, closed the country’s borders and abrogated the constitution. The world community condemned the coup. The Turkish Foreign Ministry was among the first to react.  “We condemn the coup attempt in Guinea and the detention of President Alpha Conde, and we are deeply concerned,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement released Sunday.

Guinea in global geopolitics

Guinea is a former French colony and was one of the first to achieve independence in 1958. During the Cold War, Guinea was in the orbit of influence of the USSR. However, in 1984, a group of military led by Colonel Lansana Conté seized power. He reoriented Guinea towards an alliance with France and the United States and governed until 2008. During President Conté’s rule, Guinea became one of the world leaders in terms of corruption. After his death in 2008, the military regime of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara ruled the country for a year.

In 2010, Alfa Condé, a Guinean immigrant who had lived most of his life in France, won the country’s first-ever competitive presidential election. Initially, he maintained a pro-Western orientation and even made the notorious capitalist George Soros his informal adviser. Since the second half of the 2010s, however, Conte has been working closely with China, Turkey and Russia. Russia’s Rusal mines bauxite in Guinea (Kindia Bauxite Company (CBK), Dian-Dian Bauxite Company and the Friguia complex). Another company, Nordgold, is engaged in gold mining. In 2017, China and Guinea signed an agreement worth 20 billion dollars – China received the aluminum ore – bauxite in exchange for developing infrastructure projects such as the port of Conakry, the construction of roads and the university.

Guinea is the largest exporter of bauxite in Africa. The country also owns a large iron deposit, the Simandou iron ore deposit, which the Israeli company BSG Resources previously tried to seize. But after long litigation and a corruption scandal, the company withdrew its claim on the mines in 2019.

Turkish interests in Guinea

Turkey is the last country the deposed president of Guinea, Alpha Condé, visited before the coup. The Turkish concern Albayrak was recently awarded contracts for the reconstruction of the seaport and airport in Conakry, road construction, garbage collection and recycling, and transport services in the capital. In Guinea, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) is working actively.

Turkey, Russia and China welcomed the attempt of President Alpha Condé to be re-elected for a third term, while France and the U.S. strongly opposed. The 83-year-old Alpha Condé was re-elected for a third term in October 2020, following a successful constitutional referendum that had allowed his candidacy for a third term. Overall, Guinea reflected the situation throughout Africa: France, the former colonial hegemon, was rapidly losing influence. Its place was taken by other centers of power: above all, Turkey, Russia and China.

In response, the Western media began a campaign to defame President Alpha Condé and his attempts to reorient Guinea towards new centers of power. The Stanford University, known for its ties to the CIA, even accused Turkey of helping Condé get reelected to a third term.

An important message from the U.S. came after the coup. While the U.S. State Department formally opposed the coup in Guinea, former U.S. Special Envoy to the Sahel and Great Lakes region Peter Pham said that “Col. Mamady Doumbaya, a veteran of Legion Etrangere is making the right noises about uniting the country’s regions in an inclusive dialogue, including the diaspora, about its future.”

Junta leader

Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbaya, a former member of the French Foreign Legion, is the leader of the new coup. He led the elite Special Forces Group (GPS) unit. Since May, there have been rumors of his possible arrest.

African social media published a photo of Dumbuy with the U.S. military.

“Amazing to see photo of @USAfricaCommand soldiers with coup leader in Guinea (Conakry) Col. Mamadi Dumbuya. The coup command received intensive training from the French and Americans through #AFRICOM, mostly in Burkina Faso.”

L’Observateur Paalga, a daily newspaper in Burkina Faso, presents “the man who seems to be the new strongman of Guinea” as a former French legionnaire, “a fighter who (would) have passed through several elite training courses, notably the war school and (would) have participated in several military operations around the world, notably in Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.

“His 15-year military career has seen him serve in missions in Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Central African Republic and close protection in Israel, Cyprus, the UK and Guinea,”

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September 2021