Why Emmanuel Macron has to tell Alpha Condé to stop
Last month, France’s president invited his Guinean counterpart, Alpha Condé to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Provence landings in Saint-Raphaël in the south of France. Hopefully he asked him to leave power gracefully.
Condé’s two five-year terms in power expires in 2020. But, at 81, he wants to change the Constitution to allow him to run for a third term during the next presidential election.
He’ll undoubtedly need Macron’s support to change the constitution. But, in the interests of Guinea and France, and for the stability of the West African region, Macron must oppose it.
A coup d’etat by any other name
The leaders of the DRC, Burkina Faso and, recently, Sudan have led their countries into crises by attempting to change their Constitutions for the sole purpose of staying in power. These attempts are accompanied by manoeuvres to destroy any democratic debate, and to financially, legally, or physically eliminate any form of protest. Mo Ibrahim, the philanthropic billionaire who opposes dictatorships through his foundation, called these manoeuvres “constitutional coups d’état”.
Condé also seems intent on relying on a new Constitution, that’s been prepared and announced on many occasions, to keep him in power.
It is with this in mind that the Guinean Minister of Foreign Affairs sent a letter to all diplomatic representatives on June 19 . He presented the ambassadors with the “language elements” to defend this project. It’s a diplomatic action that poorly conceals Condé’s contradictions. In recent years, he has criticized Western governments, particularly France’s interference in his country’s politics.
The interest of Guinea, and France
Legally, there exists no justification for the constitutional amendments. The clause limiting the number of terms in office is ‘locked’, and therefore cannot be changed. But, the government says the people have the right to change their Constitution. It is an inalienable right, yes. But, any changes must not allow a president to stay in power for life.
There is currently no need to adapt the Constitution to political developments, or changes in the social order. That’s why demonstrations against constitutional changes have been on the rise in recent months in Conakry, and throughout the country.
In Guinea’s interest, Condé must leave power democratically, and peacefully. The stability of the country, and the region which is already suffering from violence and terrorism, are at stake. Beyond our interests, it is in the interests of Europe and France that Guinea experiences a peaceful and democratic transition.
It is in France’s interest to preserve Guinea’s peace and stability. A “constitutional coup d’état” would trigger a major socio-political crisis with multiple repercussions. It would push more and more young Guineans towards Europe; it would worsen our economic situation; it would even risk plunging our country into violence, and would become a new fertile ground for the terrorism that is rampant in the sub-region. Emmanuel Macron does not need this. He is already managing a war in Mali that is getting bogged down.
Earlier, the United States made its position known through its Under-Secretary of State for African Affairs, saying it rejects constitutional changes aimed at allowing new mandates.
It is France’s turn to uphold its democratic values, and defend the interests of the Guinean people. Macron must not be deceived: it is not interference in internal affairs to oppose this project. He must defend the values to which Guineans are committed, and reject any political policy that is more concerned with narrow interests, rather than those of the country.