Junta banks on new PM to steer Guinea back to civilian rule

Sunday October 10 2021
Guinea junta leader Colonel Mamady Doumbouya

Guinea junta leader Colonel Mamady Doumbouya greets members of the judiciary on October 1, 2021 in Conakry. PHOTO | AFP


Guinea’s new Prime Minister Mohamed Béavogui may be a political novice, but the country’s military junta banks on him to steer the country to a civilian rule.Mr Beavogui’s political inexperience may actually be a blessing in disguise. And he sure has the support of all the players, as has been demonstrated by the outpouring of endorsements across the political and civil society spectrum.But amid the flurry of endorsements are reminders of the daunting task ahead of him — meeting the expectations of a people who feel that they have been liberated from decades of tyranny.“We hope and are confident that this new beginning will alleviate the suffering of Guineans," opposition leader Thierno Yaya Diallo, one of the many political leaders who have spoken about the development, said in a statement.“The most important thing is to make the wealth of Guinea benefits all Guineans without bias, without political or ethnic coloration, in order to shorten the suffering of the people," Diallo added.Mr Beavogui is expected to set up his government soon. And how he does that and the kind of people he selects into it will go a long way in determining his chance of success. The 68-year-old prime minister designate, a development and agricultural finance expert, is in no illusion about the task at hand, describing his appointment as “a great responsibility.”But, he noted, “it is also a historic moment for the country. Our history is marked by many difficulties. We have not yet been able to build the Guinea we want." Mr Beavogui does not identify with any of the political parties, which makes him a perfect pick for junta leader and transition president Col Mamady Doumbouya’s mission of returning the country to democratic rule.This neutral outlook of the new PM may also be a big seller for the junta, in its efforts to have sanctions imposed on it by regional leaders relaxed or lifted. ECOWAS leaders, during their extraordinary summit in September decided to impose targeted sanctions on members of the junta and their close relatives. Doumbouya and his team have been defiant, at least in the open. A major bone of contention is the continued detention of the deposed former President Alpha Conde.The junta leader was quoted at one point telling off a delegation of ECOWAS leaders over their persistent request for Mr Conde's release.Mr Conde who remains held in an undisclosed location, is reported to have refused the junta's request to sign his resignation letter. Apparently he believes he has a chance of returning to power.But behind the scenes, the military has also been engaging in frantic lobbying, with the goal of convincing the sub regional bloc that it should lift the sanctions. And the continued detention of Mr Conde is a perfect strategy at their disposal — as he is a bagaining chip.For some Guineans, letting Mr Conde go could be enemical to the peace of the country. These critics, including civil society and political opponents of the former president, say he still wield such huge influence that he could exploit at the risk if destabilising the country.For a few others, Mr Conde should face justice for his human rights abuses, particularly in the past two years since he floated his controversial third term agenda.But none of this will play well for the junta's desire to befriend regional leaders who appear determined to set one of their own free and in dignity. Any agreement with ECOWAS, for instance, could have this issue at the top of its priorities in the negotiations. Another bone of contention between the junta and ECOWAS is the short timeline given to the latter to conduct elections and return the country to civilian rule.