Guinea strongman launches national talks despite boycotts

By on March 23, 2022

CONAKRY, (AFP) – Guinea’s strongman Colonel Mamady Doumbouya launched a six-week reconciliation conference on Tuesday, hailing an opportunity to heal historic wounds, despite prominent political groups boycotting the talks.

Ex-special forces commander Doumbouya seized power in the West African state in a military coup in September, deposing the elected government after months of brewing discontent.

The strongman — who has since been sworn in as interim president — has promised to restore civilian rule, but resisted international pressure to commit to a date.

On Tuesday, Doumbouya launched the national conference, which he described as a way to achieve reconciliation and forgiveness in the impoverished country with a history of autocratic rule.

“Every one of us here has suffered brutalities, the wounds are there” he told the conference in the Mohammed V palace in the capital Conakry.

“It’s time we cleaned them up, put bandages on them,” the strongman added, explaining that the conference offered a “historic opportunity for Guineans to look each other in the face”.

The conference is due to continue until April 29, in both Conakry and the interior, Doumbouya said.

However, several prominent political groups are boycotting the talks, including the National Alliance for Change and Democracy (ANAD), which comprises about 20 separate organisations.

Aliou Conde, a member of a leading political party that is part of ANAD, told AFP: “We don’t know what this is about, or what we’re supposed to discuss for more than a month”.

The influential FNDC coalition, which staged huge protests against ex-president Alpha Conde before the army overthrew him last year, has also said that it will skip the conference.

Conde, 84, had drawn fierce opposition after he pushed through a new constitution in 2020 that allowed him to run for a third presidential term.

Many Guineans initially welcomed the military coup, however, there is growing discontent against the ruling junta in the nation of 13 million people.

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