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09/06/2021

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,” reports the BBC. The British media also claimed that Mamady Doumbaya had taken combat training courses in Israel.

Importantly, Doumbaya did not serve in the armed forces of Guinea at all until 2018, having previously worked for France. Thus, so far, the French trail in the coup in Guinea is obvious.

The French empire is crumbling

The military coup in Guinea is not the first in a part of Africa that was once under French influence. In August 2020, the military in Mali overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta amid protracted protests in the country. A contingent of French troops is deployed in Mali, supposedly fighting terrorists, but neither French troops nor President Keïta, who enjoyed French patronage, were able to eliminate the terrorist threat. The standard of living of ordinary people, on the other hand, was deteriorating.

In mid-July, law enforcement authorities in Madagascar foiled an assassination attempt on President Andry Rajoelina and detained the perpetrators, who suddenly included two French citizens. 

The French citizen Juan Remy Quignolot was detained in the CAR. The secret agent is accused of involvement in an attempted coup d’état to restore Paris’ influence on the continent. The French leader François Bozizé had previously supported an attempt by militants in the CAR to storm the capital Bamako and disrupt the presidential elections.

France acts as a force for chaos and destabilization almost everywhere in its former sphere of influence. It has lost control of the area, and its attempts to regain lead only to blood, crime and lawlessness.

The reason is that France has no tools left to keep the former colonies in its orbit of influence. The situation of Alpha Condé, a liberal who, however, realized that friendship with France and the West in general was unprofitable, is exemplary. He preferred other centers of power to France, centers that began to rebuild the country after decades of ruin caused by the domination of a corrupt pro-French junta. And that was France’s first defeat. The second was the re-election of Alfa Condé for a third term this year – which irritated Paris. The third defeat – a coup – is not a sign of strength, but of weakness. It means that Paris has no other tools to hold on to influence besides of direct violence and interference.

Other former Francafrique members, such as Senegal or Mauritania, chose to cooperate with Turkey, the CAR with Russia and Turkey too, as well as with the regional hegemon, Rwanda. Almost all African countries are involved in one way or another in China’s projects. Under these conditions, attempts by forces oriented toward France to reverse the course of history by instigating coups are doomed to fail. The coup in the Central African Republic and the attempt by pro-French ex-President François Bozizé to come to power in CAR have failed. In Madagascar, the pro-French conspiracy was exposed. In Mali, the military came to power, and although they had a history of cooperation with France and the United States, they are now interested in cooperation with Turkey and Russia.

It is possible that the Guinean military will follow the same path. Paris is too weak and unable to ensure either security or economic development. Therefore, if there are patriots of their country among them, they have no other way but to agree with Turkey, China and Russia and “forget” about all obligations to France and the USA. The internal problems of the country, the division of power among the elites and economic difficulties of recent months also facilitated the coup in Guinea. It is far from certain that, having retained power, the coup plotters will not forget about Paris. That will be the fourth French defeat in Guinea.

Emmanuel Macron is unable to protect France’s interests in Africa, as Paris understood them before. The French empire in Africa is crumbling. No coup d’état will be able to turn back history. The world will be multipolar, which means there will be new horizons for African countries to cooperate with other centers of power and under different rules than those set by colonialists.

United World International

Independent analytical center where political scientists and experts in international relations from various countries exchange their opinions and views.

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