Analysts say plans by Guinea’s transitional military government to prosecute former President Alpha Conde and 26 of his top officials will likely be marred by doubts over the fairness of their trials.
A 2019 Afrobarometer survey revealed that over 90% of Guineans consider the judiciary to be corrupt.
Jesper Bjarnesen, a senior researcher at Denmark-based Nordic Africa Institute, told Muhabarishaji the trial is arguably a diversion.
”There are legitimate charges against the former president … [but] I think that a transitional government has the primary task to work towards free and fair elections,” he said.
As for judicial credibility, Bjarnesen said, “I am not sure that a temporary transitional government is the best facilitator of a legal process against the former president” and his former officials.
”There might be room for reconstitution of the judiciary with the military takeover, but that’s still a very slim hope in a system where there’s systematic abuse of power,” Bjarnesen said. “What’s more likely is that you’ll have new people in power making use of a dysfunctional system.”
Although Conde’s junta-enforced house arrest ended on April 22, he has not departed the West African nation in light of the recent charges.
Documents filed last week by Guinean Attorney General Charles Alphonse Wright accuse the ex-president and his supporters of complicity in murder, abductions, disappearances, torture, and illegal detentions while in office. Other charges include assault, destruction of property, rape, sexual abuse, and looting.
Guinea’s electoral violence in 2020 killed at least 12 people in the capital and 50 people in other parts of the country, according to the documents.
Conde’s bid to extend his rule to a third term, after backing a constitutional referendum that altered the term limits, sparked violent demonstrations. He ultimately won another five-year term in October 2020 only to be ousted in September of last year.
Alix Boucher, at the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies, told Muhabarishaji she doubts the interest of the military junta in ”upholding justice,” noting that the junta’s suspension of the constitution since the September 2021 coup would make such trials “highly ironic.”
Guineans are “still waiting for those responsible for the massacre and mass rapes committed by the previous junta at the stadium in Conakry in September 2009 to be prosecuted,” she said. “The lack of confidence that such trials would be free and fair reflects Guinea’s weak legacy of independent oversight institutions, even under Conde.”
In September 2009, troops under then junta chief Moussa Dadis Camara opened fire on opposition supporters rallying in a stadium in the country’s capital, Conakry, killing at least 157. More than 100 women were raped by junta soldiers. Conde’s administration — which came to office in 2010 — had long pledged to try the perpetrators but never followed through.
Boucher said that the current junta’s timeline for prosecuting Condé and the 26 others suggests it is set on hanging onto power. The military recently said it needed 39 months to transition back to civilian rule, rejecting demands by the Economic Community of West African States to do it much sooner.
“Such pronouncements [by the military regime] lack credibility and obscure the essential takeaway that the junta has no plans to relinquish power on its own,” Boucher said.
Neither spokespeople for the junta nor officials at Guinea’s embassy in Washington immediately responded to Muhabarishaji’s request for comments.
Guinea has a long legacy of military and authoritarian governments. But 77% of Guineans prefer democracy to any other regime and want two-term limits for the presidency, according to an Afrobarometer survey published in September.
”Therefore, the junta’s aim to hold power is a direct effort to undermine Guinean’s deeply held aspirations for a democratic government,” Boucher said.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.