How the coup d’etat in New Guinea could inspire future power grabs

Updated onOct 13, 2021
3 minute read
Military parade in Kaloum, a day after the coup. (Wikipedia)

Military parade in Kaloum, a day after the coup. (Wikipedia)


It is not unusual to learn that indirect power grabs by a foreign military have led to the overthrowing of a government in Africa. The Guinean military led the coup…

It is not unusual to learn that indirect power grabs by a foreign military have led to the overthrowing of a government in Africa. The Guinean military led the coup d’état in Guinea to overthrow President Alpha Conde's government. This attempt was similar to previous situations in other African countries such as Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Mali. After the coup, the soldiers replaced all governors who served in Mr. Condé's government with military commanders and imposed a curfew. On top of that, they instructed the ministers and governors should hand over their official vehicles to the military. 

What led to the coup?

In a televised announcement, Col. Doumbouya, who heads the army's special forces unit, stated the coup d’état resulted from eroding democratic norms, economic mismanagement and an autocratic overreach.

He also added that a soldier's duty is to save the country. The coup was also influenced by president Alpha Conde's decision to amend the constitution that allowed him to run for a third time. This coup d’état was the third one since Guinea's attainment of independence. 

Alpha Condé in 2020. (Wikipedia)

Due to the coup, Doumboya declared all air and land borders were closed for a weekend and the constitution was proclaimed invalid. What is more, the price of aluminum has risen, and the availability of Bauxite decreased despite Guinea being a major producer of Bauxite.

Despite all the unrest, there were celebrations on the streets of Conakry where some Guineans congratulated the soldiers, as they shouted, “Doumbouya,” and “freedom” multiple times. However we've seen time and again revolutionaries hailed as heroes first and then become the corruption they tried to destroy. This may very likely end with tragic parallels to the past.

Condemnation of the coup

However, not every citizen was celebrating, as some were very disappointed by the army's actions. What is more, the coup has been internationally condemned by the United Nations, especially by Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez, who tweeted that he strongly condemns the takeover of the Guinean government by force of the gun. He also sought the immediate release of President Alpha Conde.

Likewise, the toppling of the Guinean government has received international condemnation from regional blocs such as the African Union, which suspended Guinea from all AU activities and decision-making bodies. A similar strategy was adopted by the Economic Community of West African States. ECOWAS has imposed sanctions, including freezing the financial assets and levying travel bans on Guinea's military leaders and their relatives.

At the emergency summit of the ECOWAS in Accra, the regional leaders insisted on the immediate release of President Alpha Conde. On top of that, they demanded that an election should be held within six months.

2019–2020 Guinean protests against the rule of Alpha Condé. (Wikipedia)

Do coups encourage bad leadership?

Coups and the threat of coups can be a significant weapon in fostering democracy. Successful coups or good coups against autocrats often result in significant political change, such as ousting an incumbent dictatorship followed by democratization.

Good coups have led to the institution of rule-of-law-based governance systems characterized by constitutionalism. Leaders tend to influence their regime and the regime transitions after their rule. If the leader exhibits strong, transformative leadership, their tenure will be characterized by increased, sustainable economic growth and development.

Nevertheless, some coups encourage bad leaders as they may result in the toppling of the dictatorship and the inception of a new one. The establishment of a new dictatorship potentially brings about the abuse of executive power and the violation of human rights.

After the coup d’état in Guinea, the military has vowed to establish a transitional government of national unity, end rampant corruption, human rights abuses and mismanagement. Notwithstanding talks between the military and public figures, business leaders, and groups to develop a framework for a smooth transition, all the promises are yet to be seen.