CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Guinea’s longtime opposition leaders voiced support Tuesday for the country’s new military rulers as a four-day summit got under way that is aimed at charting the West African nation’s future following the coup just over a week ago.
Pressure, though, is expected to mount this week for Col. Mamady Doumbouya to set a timeframe for holding new elections. Regional mediators and the international community are calling for the junta to hand over power to a civilian-led transitional government.
Opposition party leaders who came to the heavily guarded People’s Palace for the Tuesday, however, publicly backed the coup and laid more criticism on ousted President Alpha Conde. He was detained by the junta during the Sept. 5 coup and whose exact whereabouts have not been disclosed.
The ex-president sparked violent street protests last year after he pushed forth a constitutional referendum he said then allowed him to extend his rule to a third term.
Ousmane Kaba, leader of the opposition Party of Democrats for Hope, called that bid by Conde to stay in power beyond his mandate a coup as well.
“That was not legal, you know, so that’s why we had a military coup to stop the institutional, constitutional coup,” he told reporters Tuesday. “And I think the international community should help us, should help Guinea to have a good transition.”
Guinea’s most prominent opposition figure, Cellou Dalein Diallo, already has spoken out against Conde as well, calling him a dictator earlier this week who had brought on his own demise. Diallo, who had lost to the ousted leader in the last three presidential elections, has signaled he intends to run whenever a vote is next held.
But the political opposition’s request for support and not punishment may not sway the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS. It already has threatened Guinea with economic sanctions unless the junta releases the deposed president immediately.
The bloc took a similar move in August 2020 when it imposed sanctions on neighboring Mali after mutinous soldiers there too overthrew a longtime president who had become increasingly unpopular. Regional mediators called for a one-year deadline for new elections in Mali but later acquiesced to the junta leaders and accepted an 18-month timeframe instead.
Even that now appears in doubt as February 2022 approaches since Col. Assimi Goita effectively staged a second coup nine months after the first by firing the civilian president and prime minister and later declaring himself president of the transition.
Some fear that if left unchecked, the recent coups in West Africa could embolden militaries elsewhere to stage takeovers of their own.
On Tuesday, though, opposition figures in Guinea said they were optimistic about what the coming days would bring. Junta leaders are expected to host mining industry officials later in the week as part of an effort to reassure foreign companies and maintain the economy’s most vital sector.
Sidya Toure, leader of the Union of Republican Forces party, said conditions already appear to have improved in the capital. He recalled how security forces had “tried to kidnap me in my home” during the Conde regime.
“We can see it all around the town in Conakry, absolutely the change amongst the military and policemen and so so so I think we are going in the right way for the moment.”
Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal.