Guinea’s military rule began a four-day series of talks on Tuesday, paving the way for a return to civilian rule following a coup in the West African state earlier this month.
The junta, which has been under intense diplomatic pressure since President Alpha Conde took power on September 5, began talks with politicians and religious leaders on Tuesday.
It will then meet with civil society figures, diplomats, trade unions and mining managers until Friday.
Shortly after seizing power, the coup leader accused Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya Conde of “trampling on citizens’ rights” and promised to form a government of “national unity” that would guarantee a transition.
But what he is really thinking about is still unclear – and there are questions about how long the military intends to hold on to power.
Doumbouya was expected to make a statement at the start of talks on Tuesday, which were held behind closed doors.
Only one person per political party was invited, but politicians appeared in large numbers in the palace-filled parliament building in the capital, Conakry.
“We need to stabilize the political environment and restore confidence among Guineans,” said Camara Lamine Singuila, a spokeswoman for a small party.
Albert Keita, leader of a party that opposed Conde, said: “We do not know what will happen inside. There is no roadmap.”
Land borders reopen
The military takeover came amid growing criticism in Guinea of Conde, 83, for his perceived authoritarianism, but still aroused widespread international condemnation.
It raised concerns about a democratic setback in the region, following a similar coup in Mali last year.
West African blocs ECOWAS and the African Union shut down Guinea after a coup. The UN, the European Union and the United States also condemned it.
Guinea’s neighbors and trading partners, who are worried about instability in the mineral – rich country, will follow this week’s consultation closely.
All of the country’s top political parties – including the Condes RPG party – have said they will participate.
In a television statement on Monday night, the junta announced that they would open all the country’s borders from Wednesday. Some had been closed after the coup, others before the election last year, officially for security reasons, a move that caused diplomatic tensions with neighboring countries.
The junta also said that a “draft charter” on the transition will be prepared at the end of this week’s consultation. Details, however, remain scarce. It is not clear what form the transitional government will take, nor how long it will last, or what role the military can play.
Similar neighbor coup
Guinea’s putschists quickly dissolved the government and constitution after the coup. That constitution had been at the center of political tensions under Conde.
Last year, Conde pushed through a new version that allowed him to run for a third presidential term in October 2020. The move triggered mass demonstrations in which dozens of protesters were killed. Conde won the election but the political opposition claimed the vote was a hoax.
Parts of Conakry erupted in joy over the news of the coup, with residents flooding the streets to applaud the army.
The junta then released crowds of political opponents detained under Conde and, in a sign of obvious goodwill, dismantled barricades over the capital.
But Guinea’s current predicament has drawn parallels with neighbor Mali, which has been hit by two coups since August last year, led by Colonel Assimi Goita.
International condemnation was swift and ECOWAS imposed short-term sanctions.
Mali’s military pledged to restore civilian rule, under diplomatic pressure. But over a year, the army is still stuck in power in the neighboring country and there are growing doubts about its promise to hold elections in February.