Guinea’s new strongman: a seasoned ex-legionnaire


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Conakry (AFP)

Lieutenant-Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, the leader of Guinea’s latest coup, is a highly educated and combat-seasoned soldier who once served in the French Foreign Legion.

Doumbouya’s special forces seized on Sunday Alpha Condé, the 83-year-old president of the West African state, a former champion of democracy accused of having taken the path of authoritarianism.

Sporting a red beret and sunglasses, Doumbouya announced the dissolution of the constitution, whose changes had enabled Condé to secure a fiercely contested third term.

Later, draped in the national flag but without dark glasses, Doumbouya pledged to oversee an “inclusive and peaceful transition”.

“There have been a lot of deaths for nothing, a lot of injuries, a lot of tears,” he said, referring to Condé’s bloody crackdown on the protests.

In a glimpse of his thought, Doumbouya invoked the late leader of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings, who seized power in a coup in 1981 before overseeing a move to democracy.

“If the people are crushed by their elites, it is up to the army to give the people their freedom,” said Doumbouya, quoting Rawlings.

The man in the spotlight is a career officer in his forties, holder of a master’s degree in defense and industrial dynamics at the University of Panthéon-Assas in Paris.

He trained at the Military Academy of the French War School and was a member of the legendary Foreign Legion.

During his career, he participated in missions in Afghanistan and the deeply troubled Central African Republic.

His unit, the Special Forces Group, had barely been formed when in 2018, his hooded men marched in a president-overseen 60th anniversary parade that they would overthrow three years later.

Doumbouya is originally from Kankan in eastern Guinea, and like Condé is from the Malinké ethnic group, also called the Mandingo.

He is married to a French woman and has three children, according to Guinean media.

– ‘Learn from one’s mistakes’ –

“We are not here to have fun with power, we are not here to play, we are going to learn from all the mistakes that have been made,” he said on French television channel France 24, referring to the past blows that went away. deep scars on the nation.

Former 2008-09 military junta leader Captain Dadis Camara saw a fleeting turn in the spotlight marked by bizarre TV appearances that have come to be dubbed the “Dadis Show”.

In September 2009, troops massacred opposition supporters at a stadium in the capital Conakry. At least 157 were killed, while 109 women were raped.

On Sunday, Doumbouya said: “We are no longer going to entrust politics to one man, we are going to entrust politics to the people”.

Using a risky metaphor, he said: “Guinea is beautiful. We don’t need to rape Guinea anymore, we just need to make love to her.

Doumbouya denounced corruption and waste, and pledged to restore peace in a country ravaged by repression after repression.

But diplomats and local media have said an underlying trigger for the coup may have been a confrontation with the government over the Defense Ministry’s control over special forces.

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