Constitution change protests in Guinea


At least one policeman and a protester were killed during demonstrations in Guinea against a possible change to the constitution that could allow President Alpha Conde seek a third term, officials and residents said.

Police opened fire on demonstrators ransacking military posts and blocking roads with burning tyres in Conakry. Protests in the northern opposition stronghold Mamou were also violent, witnesses said.

Conde’s second and final five-year term expires in 2020 but the 81-year-old leader refused to rule out running again. He asked government last month to look into drafting a new constitution, sparking calls from opposition leaders for demonstrations this week.

A doctor at a Conakry hospital said a protester was shot dead in the capital. Residents in Mamou said a paramilitary policeman was beaten to death by protesters.

Government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said a protester in Conakry and a gendarme in Mamou were shot dead.

“The goal of the demonstration, which was meant to be insurrectional, was to provoke violent response from the military to cause deaths to inflame the situation,” he said.

Opposition leader Cellou Diallo, second to Conde in 2010 and 2015 presidential elections, told reporters four protesters were shot dead in Conakry. He said at least 38 people were wounded in Conakry and Mamou.

“We encourage citizens to continue to demonstrate – today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow – until our legitimate demands are satisfied,” he said. “We need a clear, firm and irrevocable declaration from Alpha Conde renouncing a third term.”

On Monday, security forces blocked opposition leaders who called for the demonstrations from leaving their homes. Civil society leaders were detained over the weekend.

Several African leaders have tried to circumvent constitutional term limits in recent years, with mixed success.

In 2014, Burkina Faso’s Blaise Campaore was chased from office by a popular uprising after he proposed changing term limits. The following year, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Congo Republic’s Denis Sassou Nguesso pushed through new constitutions allowing them to stay in power.

In Guinea, political protests, labour strikes and demonstrations against companies mining the country’s vast bauxite reserves often turn violent.

There were also peaceful protests in Boke, the bauxite mining hub, and the northern towns Labe, Telimele and Koundara, residents said. Guinea has the world’s biggest reserves of bauxite, the ore used to make aluminium.

Some employees of Guinea Bauxite Company (CBG) mine in Boke were unable to reach work because of street barricades, slowing operations at the mine, a CBG official told Reuters.

Conde’s first election win in 2010 raised hopes for democratic progress in Guinea after two years of military rule and nearly a quarter a century under authoritarian President Lansana Conte, who died in 2008.

Conde opponents say he cracked down on dissent since coming to power after years as an opposition figurehead campaigning to defeat Conte.