Marianna Belenkaya & Alexey Tselunov
The military coup in Guinea, which imprisoned President Alpha Conde, drew unanimous condemnation from the international community. Countries that have economic interests in Guinea were especially loudly outraged: they fear the revision of existing contracts. Russia, among others, demanded the release of Mr. Condé, one of its close foreign partners. The coup took place on the eve of the planned – but canceled at the last moment – visit to the Russian Federation of the head of the Foreign Ministry of Guinea.
Guinea will honor all its mining obligations, Lt. Col. Mamadi Dumbuya, under whose command the Special Forces Group of the Guinean armed forces stormed the presidential palace and arrested 83-year-old head of state Alpha Conde, promised on Monday. The rebel leader stressed “his commitment to ensuring a favorable treatment for foreign investment in the country.”
As proof that the new masters of the country will not interfere with the work of foreign companies, it was decided to cancel the curfew in those parts of the country where mining is taking place. Mamadi Dumbuya also assured that he would not organize a “witch hunt” against members of the government, and spoke about plans to start consultations that “will determine the general parameters” of the transition period. At the same time, the fate of the ousted president on Monday evening remained unknown. The day before, it was claimed that he was being held in a “safe place” under the control of the military.
On Sunday, the Guinean junta, adopting the resounding title of the National Committee for Cohesion and Development in West African tradition, suspended the constitution, dissolved the government, announced the replacement of governors and prefects with new military administrators, and summoned former members of the government to a meeting. In his first video address to the nation, Lt. Col. Dumbuya named several of the country’s population-sensitive internal problems, which he justifies the coup. This is a difficult socio-political and economic situation, dysfunctional republican institutions, instrumentalization of justice.
Nowadays, bauxite from Guinea, one of the poorest countries, is used in the production of 20% of the world’s aluminum. The Aluminum Association has already expressed concern about this situation. The words of Mamadi Dumbuy about the “favorable regime” were supposed to calm the international community, which unanimously condemned the military coup. “Violence and any unconstitutional measures will only undermine Guinea’s prospects for peace, stability and prosperity,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price.
A similar position was taken by the UN, EU and African Union. The loudest criticism of the coup came from Russia and China, which had the closest partnership with Alpha Conde. “Moscow is opposed to any attempts at an unconstitutional change of government. We demand the release of Alpha Conde and his immunity. We consider it necessary to return the situation in Guinea to a constitutional course as soon as possible, ”the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed. It is noteworthy that it was this week that Guinean Foreign Minister Ibraim Khalil Kaba was to pay a working visit to Moscow. Due to the development of the situation, the negotiations were canceled.
On the territory of Guinea there are now 315 Russian citizens, mainly employees of Rospotrebnadzor, as well as the companies Rusal and Nordgold, the press attaché of the Russian embassy Rodion Sadykov told RIA Novosti . According to the embassy, ??none of them were injured. There are many foreign companies operating in Guinea, but in general the country was in the sphere of influence of Chinese and Russian business. Rusal (Fria Plant and Kindia Bauxite Company) and Nordgold are among the largest employers in the country, investing heavily in medical and educational infrastructure. Apart from them, there are other Russian companies in Guinea. All of them, like other foreigners investing in the republic, have something to worry about.
In 2009, Alfa Conde’s predecessor, Dadis Camara, threatened to revise licensing agreements with foreign companies and even nationalize some of them, including Rusal. A lawsuit was filed against the company demanding the annulment of the privatization of the Fria bauxite-alumina refinery and the payment of $ 1 billion in compensation. Many saw this as populist measures to attract popular sympathy. Despite large investments in educational, medical and social infrastructure, foreign companies in Guinea face regular criticism of the opposition, trade unions and civil society organizations for neglecting sanitary and environmental standards, corruption episodes in obtaining licenses and weak tax discipline.
Alfa Conde himself played on this in his 2010 election campaign. He pledged to nationalize Fria and questioned the legality of Russian concessions at the world’s largest Dian-Dian bauxite field. The company was included in a list of 41 businesses that were alleged to have underpaid taxes. Trade unions also fought against Rusal in parallel (for higher wages and better working conditions). The strike led to a plant shutdown in 2012. It was possible to resume work only after six years. However, the problems did not end there either. In particular, the burning in October 2019 of a wagon of bauxite belonging to Rusal and the Emirati GAC received a resonance.
This was done by protesters local residents who sought to improve access to electricity and water supply. However, a number of experts saw in the incident a manifestation of competition from Chinese investors interested in Rusal’s assets. Nevertheless, despite all the problems, Moscow has been quite close to President Condé in recent years. Moreover, this proximity provoked the discontent of the Guinean opposition. In January 2019, the then Russian ambassador to Guinea, Alexander Bregadze, during a diplomatic ceremony broadcast on national television, said: “It is constitutions that adapt to reality, not reality to the constitution.” And he also recalled the Russian proverb that “horses do not change on the ferry.” All this was taken as a proposal to Alfa Conde to change the constitution and run for a new term. The opposition immediately caught Moscow in an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of the country, a series of rallies took place outside the embassy. Two months later, a new Russian ambassador was appointed to Guinea.
Now, contrary to the criticism of the international community, part of the population (especially residents of the oppositional quarters of the capital and some other cities of the country) applauded the seizure of power by the military, who, among other things, promised to adopt a new constitution.
During 2019-2020, civic activists, as well as opposition and trade union structures rallied to form the United Front for the Defense of the Constitution, protested against the adoption of the country’s draft new basic law, which opened the way for President Condé to a third and fourth term. However, the opposition failed to convince citizens to boycott the March 2020 referendum and disrupt the presidential election seven months later. Alpha Conde received 59.5% of the vote, and 91.5% of 58.2% of voters voted for the amendments to the constitution.
Repressive activist and political émigré, Sorbonne professor, socialist and pan-Africanist Alfa Condé came to power in 2010 amid disintegration of state bodies, high inflation and interethnic polarization caused by a series of military coups. As he himself said, he literally accepted “a country without a state.” President Condé was able to achieve the establishment of a certain institutional order and fairly high indicators of macroeconomic and social stability. The average GDP growth rate under Mr. Conde was 6%, and inflation in the first years fell by about half – to 8.5%, but then exceeded 10%.
However, the abuse of the ideology of stability ultimately led to the growth of authoritarian and even repressive tendencies in public administration and stagnant tendencies in the economy. The International Monetary Fund in 2019 described the situation in Guinea as “growth without development.” It is about the success of the extractive sector to the detriment of other sectors and without obvious changes in income and quality of life of the population. Guinea lags far behind its neighbors in many social, health and educational indicators.