INT’L DIALOGUE: ECOWAS vs. Doumbouya. A case of ‘witches’ exorcising witchcraft?

Chair of Ecowas' Authority of Heads of State & Gov't Akufo-Addo in Guinea with coup leader

While Ghana’s first President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah waited anxiously in Beijing, China, to make it home to Accra after the February 24, 1966 coup, he received many messages of political solidarity from heads of state across the globe.

African leaders were not left out of this well-wishing gesture. From Mali, President Modibo Keita sent in a note to Nkrumah. Albert Margai, then Prime Minister of Sierra Leone, also had his message received by Kwame Nkrumah.

“Please accept, my dear Brother, the assurance of my highest consideration, esteem and prayers for your personal well-being and safety,” parts of Margai’s message read. Nkrumah quotes this in his 1968 book, Dark Days In Ghana.

Political solidarity in such situations in international politics is a normal phenomenon. It, therefore, came as no surprise the apparent acrobatics of love and compassion the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) showed their colleague — deposed President Alpha Conde.

On Sunday, September 5, 2021, Col. Mamady Doumbouya and his men toppled Mr. Conde who had been in power in Guinea since 2010. Mr. Doumbouya, a former French legionnaire was until his dramatic coup Alpha Conde’s darling-boy. As a matter of fact, as it is typical of most African heads of state, the deposed Guinean president ensured he had a tight grip on security around him so to help him cling on to power the way bees glue themselves to nectars.

Mr. Conde hatched a plan. He would fall on Mamady Doumbouya who had been trained in France and also said to have had several trainings in a couple of countries including being taught as an “operational protection specialist” at Israel’s International Security Academy. Aside Doumbouya’s enviable military credentials, his physique which makes him stand tall and robust like the baobab tree certainly might have been a contributory factor Mr. Conde considered him the best man to ward off “enemies” of the state.

This, in 2018, Mamady’s one-time boss — Alpha Conde — called him from France to Guinea to lead and man affairs of the then newly formed Special Forces Group (GFS). The former French legionnaire obliged, came down and headed the GFS. He did his master’s bidding and is said to have committed human right abuses in Guinea which made the European Union threaten sanctioning him together with some other 24 persons of the West African state.

In all this, the people of Guinea grew weary of Alpha Conde and what broke the camel’s back was when the now deposed president changed the country’s constitution last year. The change in constitution allowed Conde to stand for a third term in office which he won the elections amidst controversies. 

“When a handshake goes beyond the elbow,” our elders say, “it ceases to be a friendly gesture.” Doumbouya grew weary of Conde’s cling to power and would topple him on that Sunday. He had had enough of Alpha Conde’s ‘handshake’ that went beyond the elbows of Guineans.

The boy who arguably has been a faraway student of Ghana’s late President Jerry John Rawlings in his speech, after the coup, said: “If the people are crushed by their own elites, it is up to the army to give the people their freedom.” A quote he attributes to his mentor Rawlings.

It must be made clear that we condemn coup d’états with all the seriousness it deserves. That is one of the backward games drawing Africa’s progress behind. For this, we unreservedly condemn Mamady Doumbouya’s coup.

Nonetheless, one finds it difficult sympathizing with Alpha Conde considering the fact that he knowingly committed the first coup in his country. A democratic coup d’état for that matter. On October 14, 2019, Aljazeera reported in a news article — dubbed “Several killed in Guinea protests against constitution change” — the atrocities Conde’s stay in power was causing.

If we are to apportion blames then we cannot turn a blind eye on Conde’s first coup — the constitutional change. Among the frivolous reasons that supporters of Alpha Conde gave for the change in the country’s constitution was that the president needed more time to finish his projects. One wonder’s the sort of progressive and productive projects (most) African leaders implement let alone to warrant them stay in office after their mandated terms have elapsed.

In Ivory Coast, President Alassane Ouattara also changed his country’s constitution to enable him stand for a third term in office. In March 2020, in the capital Yamassoukro, Mr. Ouattara tricked the world declaring he was poised not to go for a third term. 

Amidst cheers and applause, Alassane Ouattara said: “I have decided not to be candidate in the Oct. 31 presidential election and to transfer power to a new generation.” The Reuters reported. But that promise was short lived. When Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly — who was the candidate for Ouattarra’s Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace — died in July 2020, Mr. Ouattara went back to swallow his own ‘vomit’.

Again, one of the frivolous reasons given as in the case of Conde’s was that the supporters of the Rally of the Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace need Alassane Ouattara to stay and go for a third term. Well, that was not supposed to be surprising anyway. The Ivorian President himself had earlier said that if his opponents including former President Henri Konan Bedie stood for the elections then he will equally contest again.

Ouattara’s March 2020 announcement and his subsequent moonwalk moves tell how cunning the African politician could be. Today, this is a man ECOWAS deemed fit to accompany its Chair, Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to Guinea to pressure Mamady Doumbouya to step down and return the country to a civilian rule! Ouattara? The man who equally staged a coup by illegally changing his country’s constitution? It is nauseating when the pot gathers courage to tell the kettle it is black.

On July 24, 1993, when the heads of state and government of ECOWAS met in Cotonou in Benin to revise its treaty that aimed at seeing among other things the realization of good governance and promotion of democracy in the sub-region, Alassane Ouattara was present. Yes! He was by then Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister under President Félix Houphouët-Boigny’s regime. Mr. Ouattara appended his signature to the ECOWAS treaty and today he has flatly flouted what he stood for.

Still questioning ECOWAS’ moral right to advice Mr. Doumbouya, why was Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe present at both the first hastily conducted emergency virtual summit and that of the September 15, 2021 held in Accra-Ghana? The crimes Alpha Conde committed that saw him toppled have been committed too in Togo and ECOWAS is silent on it.

Was it not Faure Gnassingbe who equally changed his country’s constitution in 2019?  “The amendment means that Faure Gnassingbe is very much eligible to stand for reelection in the country’s polls slated for February 22, 2020. But, wait! That’s not all. Faure Gnassingbe could as well stand for the 2025 elections and rule till 2030 when he wins the people’s mandate,” we wrote in a February 12, 2020 article titled Faure Gnassingbe, a president for life?

If we are to mention names of ECOWAS’ heads of state and government one after the other — or even that of Africa at large, the probability of each one of them being guilty as the Pharisees in John 8:7 will be high. “When they kept on questioning him [Jesus], he straightened up and said to them [Pharisees], ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’”

When Jesus said this to the Pharisees, they shamefully left one after the other. But Africans leaders, most of them if not all, are without shame. So, ECOWAS leaders are still busily pressuring Doumbouya over his coup. Can we ask the ECOWAS Chair why he attended Alpha Conde’s inaugural ceremony when he knew that the man had illegally changed his country’s constitution?

“On Tuesday, 15th December 2020, I was in Conakry, capital of the Republic of Guinea, to attend the swearing-in ceremony of His Excellency Alpha Condé,” wrote H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on his Facebook wall. It must be stated that the ECOWAS Chair also attended Alassane Ouattara’s inauguration in same month even before he left for Guinea.  

Is it not the case that attending such third term inaugural ceremonies one directly or indirectly approves the illegality these power-drunk presidents commit?

Taking a cursory look at ECOWAS’ coercive diplomacy employed against Doumbouya, one is tempted to ask if it is not the case of ‘witches’ busily praying to exorcise witchcraft?

What we must take into account is that whereas then Guinea’s President Sékou Touré wholeheartedly welcomed Kwame Nkrumah, made him a co-president of the French speaking country as Guineans cheered him (Nkrumah) up in Conakry, in the same city in 2021, Guineans hooted at their own deposed President Alpha Conde. Two deposed presidents, two different narratives.

The UN, African Union and regional body Ecowas condemned the coup

The people cheered on Mamady Doumbouya and his men for what appeared to them — the masses — a messianic saving mission from Conde’s brutal play with power.

In his book A Promised Land, Barack Obama in 2002 in responding to the then impending U.S. invasion of Iraq said at a rally that: “I don’t oppose all wars. What I oppose to is a dumb war.” Indeed, wars like coup d’états are atrociously bad but there comes a time when one finds sense in these and, going forward, ECOWAS leaders and heads of state in Africa at large must advise themselves accordingly. They must desist from thinking they owe the country which they govern and respect their citizens.

Failure to comply with this humble advice, their citizens will one day jubilate as Guineans are today and they will boldly proclaim and cheer on their respective soldiers in telling the world that they do not oppose all coups. That, what they oppose to is a dumb coup.

By Solomon Annan & Solomon Mensah

The writers are Ghanaian journalists who have interest in the world’s politics with an unflinching eye mainly on what pertains in Africa. Views expressed here are solely theirs and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of this media organisation.

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Twitter: @abisolo7 & @aniwaba