Guineans protest third presidential term


Thousands took to the streets of Guinea on Thursday in the largest of a series of protests over a suspected effort by President Alpha Conde to seek a third term that led to the jailing of a dozen opposition campaigners and politicians.

Protesters chanted “Amoulanfe” – “It will not happen” in the local Susu language – and “Free the prisoners” on their way to Conakry’s largest stadium.

The march was organised by the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), a coalition of politicians and activists opposed to a constitutional change that could let Conde seek a third term.

Peaceful, albeit heavily policed, protests were held in number of cities across the West African country.

Guinea, with a population of nearly 13 million, is Africa’s biggest bauxite producer and host to international mining companies.

On Tuesday, twelve FNDC leaders were sentenced to up to a year in prison for organising rallies in which nine people were killed. Last week, police opened fire on protesters as they ransacked military posts and blocked roads.

“We want Conde to free the jailed leaders before any negotiation. Then Alpha needs to say he will not be a candidate,” Algassimou Diallo, who marched in Conakry wearing the rally’s official red colour, told Reuters.

Eighty-one-year-old Conde, whose second and final five-year term expires next year, refuses to rule out running again and asked government to investigate drafting a new constitution.

Opponents fear that could be a reset button on his presidency, allowing him to run again like other African leaders who amended or changed constitutions in recent years to remain in power.

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

Critics accuse him of cracking down on dissent and violently repressing protests – charges he denies.