Police officers stand guard as people march during a protest in Conakry, Guinea, October 24 2019. Picture: REUTERS/SALIOU SAMB
Police officers stand guard as people march during a protest in Conakry, Guinea, October 24 2019. Picture: REUTERS/SALIOU SAMB

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

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 Condé seek a third term.

The 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 is host to international mining companies.

On Tuesday, 12 FNDC leaders were sentenced to up to a year in prison for organising previous rallies in which nine people were killed. Last week, police opened fire on protesters as they ransacked military posts and blocked roads.

“We want [Condé] to free the jailed leaders before any negotiation happens. 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.

Condé (81), whose second and final five-year term expires next year, has refused to rule out running again and, in September, asked his government to look into drafting a new constitution. His opponents fear that could be used as a re-set button on his presidency, allowing him to run again like other African leaders who have amended or changed constitutions in recent years to stay in power.

Condé’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 Conté, who died in 2008. But his critics accuse him of cracking down on dissent and violently repressing protests — charges he denies.

Reuters