Guinea: Opposition Demands a Return to Civilian Rule

Guinea's opposition has also called for a investigation into this week's killing of seven protesters and accused security forces of using excessive force. It wants the military junta to hand back power to civilians.

On Wednesday, police in riot gear cracked down on demonstrators who threw rocks and burnt tires in the capital Conakry and other towns.

It was the latest in a series of protests against the military government that seized power in 2021 and has been slow to hand power back to civilians.

In a joint statement, opposition groups confirmed that at least seven people had been shot dead, and 32 others had suffered gunshot wounds.

They added that 56 arrests had been reported. The demonstrations were called by the Living Forces of Guinea (FVG), an alliance of political parties, trade unions and civil society groups. They are demanding talks with the junta to fast track a return to civilian rule, lifting a ban on demonstrations imposed last year, and releasing jailed activists.

But it remains unlikely that the military junta will hand back power to civilians any time soon.

Bumpy road to civilian rule

Guinean Prime Minister Bernard Gomou has voiced readiness for talks with the opposition.

"The government is trying to respond to the demands of all political and social movements while respecting legal procedures," Gomou said. "But some refuse to join the framework of inclusive dialogue."

As a result, Guinea's roadmap to civilian rule remains bumpy, and the opposition groups have vowed to continue anti-junta protests.

Gomou denied claims that the authorities had blocked talks. "These calls to demonstrate are truly regrettable, and those behind them are solely responsible," he said.

Protests gain momentum

This month, protests have been planned in the capital, Conakry, with more civil society groups vowing to join.

The National Front for the Defense of the Constitution -- an influential political coalition which is known by its French acronym, FNDC -- said the junta led by Colonel Mamady Dombouya is not committed to handing power to elected civilians.

"We must now use every means possible to force him [Doumbouya] out of power. We've been engaged in two months of negotiation and have yet to make progress," FNDC spokesperson Sekou Koundouno told DW.

"The junta has shown the people of Guinea, the international community and religious leaders that they've no respect for them. They only believe in the use of force," Koundouno added.

Authorities in Guinea proposed a two-year transition to democracy last October, down from a three year timeline earlier rejected by the regional bloc ECOWAS.

Activists released from detention

On the same day the protesters were shot dead, the junta released three anti-junta FNDC party leaders who had been imprisoned for several months.

The release of Ibrahima Diallo, Mamadou Billo Bah and Oumar Sylla who is also known as Fonike Mangue, was among the key demands from protesters.

Mangue and Diallo had been detained since July 2022, while Bah had been held since January 2023.

The court's reasons for releasing them were not immediately known.

In a statement, one of the lawyers representing the trio, Salifou Beavogui, criticized authorities' handling of the case and the fact that "citizens were deprived of their liberty without trial" for several months.

Salimou Fofana, a cousin of Oumar Sylla, welcomed the release of Mengue, who had been imprisoned for defending democracy and good governance.

"We are delighted to have him back. Honestly, we missed him," Fofana told DW. "I was supposed to go to work today, but I stayed with my cousin. We will always support him because it comforts us. He is doing a job not for himself, not for his family, but for the whole Guinean nation."

There have been several protests in Guinea since the junta took power -- some of which have turned deadly following clashes with heavy-handed security forces.

The country's military government is one of several in West Africa that took power in a string of coups since 2020 and are now dragging their feet on election promises.

The junta has pledged to restore civilian rule after implementing government reforms.

The transition period was fixed at two years from January this year following pressure from the regional ECOWAS bloc, which has also had to deal with coups in Mali and Burkina Faso since 2020.

Abdoulaye Sadio Diallo in Conakry, Reuters and AFP contributed to this report

Edited by: Keith Walker

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