Guinea-Russia: Moscow’s ties with Doumbouya

By Marième Soumaré
Posted on Tuesday, 22 February 2022 07:54

A poster depicting Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, in Conakry, 11 September 2021. © JOHN WESSELS / AFP

On 15 February, Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya discreetly received a delegation of Russian officials at the Mohammed V Palace in Conakry. This is a sign of good diplomatic relations between the two states.

The President of the transitional government and ambassador Vadim Razumovskiy had publicly met a month earlier to discuss the “progressive development of Russian-Guinean relations” and the “calendar of bilateral events”.

According to our information, President Doumbouya has met with Russian delegations several times, including the day after the 5 September 2021 coup. “This is not surprising,” said a minister in the transitional government. “Bilateral relations between our two countries have never ceased, and Moscow is an important strategic partner.”

‘Long-standing friends’

The day after the junta took power, Russia immediately condemned “any unconstitutional attempt to change power” and expressed its “concern”. Clearly, Doumbouya and his teams were able to reassure their partner. “The transitional government has slowed down our relations with Guinea in our various areas of cooperation,” said a source at the embassy, citing the highly strategic mining sector, military activities and public health. In March 2021, Russia distributed more than 10,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine to Guinea and then president Alpha Condé was one of the first to receive a dose.

Before being removed from office, Condé had excellent relations with his counterpart in the Kremlin. In 2017, he made an official visit to Russia and in 2019, Vladimir Putin welcomed the increased trade between their two countries. Condé had also worked to ensure the success of the first Russia-Africa summit in 2019, in Sochi, during which the Russian President had reiterated that the two states were “long-standing friends”.

The USSR was one of the first powers to recognise the independence of Guinea under Sekou Touré, just two days after independence was proclaimed. “I always say that it is thanks to the Soviet Union and Russia that Guinea did not fall when the French wanted to put an iron column around our necks,” said Condé. “Russia is always faithful to its friends, whatever the consequences.”

Moscow granted its first loan to Conakry in November 1958. At the time of independence, Russia financed major Guinean projects, particularly in the field of infrastructure: mining extraction systems, railways, roads, universities, etc. It awarded scholarships to many Guinean students, just like it did with all the African countries that were allies of the USSR. Prime minister Mohamed Béavogui graduated with a degree in engineering from a Soviet university.

Mining commitments

Today, Guinea is a key part of the Kremlin’s economic strategy on the continent. It has been competing with the West for access to the country’s bauxite reserves since the 1960s. Rusal, the world’s leading aluminium company, has been present in Guinea since the mid-2000s and employs nearly 4,000 people. The world’s second-largest producer of bauxite, Guinea is home to three of the Russian giant’s mines, including the Dian-Dian mining complex in Boké (north-west), the largest deposit in the world.

“We hope that our entrepreneurs’ commercial interests and companies will not be affected and will be guaranteed,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on 7 September. And Doumbouya quickly pledged not to touch exisiting mining conventions. “We respect the state’s commitments in this area,” one of his ministers says. “However, we are going to carry out classic accounting controls to ensure that these conventions are respected.”

These declarations reassured Moscow, which was supposed to welcome a delegation from Conakry on the eve of the coup d’état to finalise negotiations on Russian investments in Guinea. Even though Ibrahima Khalil Kaba, the former foreign affairs minister, cancelled, Côte d’Ivoire’s Ahoua Don Mello, the deposed president’s adviser, made the trip. He was then hired as a consultant to the Russian employers’ association on African issues.

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