Judicial harassment of FNDC activists; 6 people killed in protest against COVID-19 police roadblocks
#Guinée Très critiquée par l’opposition, qui a multiplié les manifestations, la nouvelle Constitution a été adoptée par référendum en mars dernier. Mais le texte qui a été promulgué a été modifié. Le barreau des avocats guinéens exige son retrait. https://t.co/u3q0ZSxoDI— Tournons la Page (@TournonsLaPage) June 8, 2020
Controversial constitutional referendum and legislative elections
In early April 2020 the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) announced the results of the legislative elections held on 22nd March together with the controversial referendum. The ruling party of president Alpha Condé, Rassemblement du peuple de Guinée (RPG) won 79 out of 114 seats in the National Assembly, according to the official results. As reported previously on the Monitor, the opposition boycotted the legislative elections and the constitutional referendum, and have rejected these results. Several international actors, including the United States, the European Union and France have expressed doubts about the credibility of the electoral process, while the African Union, the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) withdrew their support and electoral observer missions before the elections due to concerns about the credibility and transparency of the vote, including irregularities in the electoral roll.
Previously on 27th March 2020, the CENI announced the provisional results of the referendum, with 91.59 percent of the votes in favour of a new Constitution, and an estimated participation rate of 61 percent. Further controversy arose when the new Constitution was promulgated in the Official Gazette on 14th April, and reportedly after a lawyer pointed out in an opinion piece that there were several discrepancies with the draft Constitution that was the subject of the referendum. According to news reports, some notable changes include the removal of the possibility for independent candidates to stand in elections and the strengthening of the regulatory powers of the president. Several civil society organisations denounced the changes in the text, while some called it an act of 'legal delinquency'.
Meanwhile, the date of 18th October 2020 was proposed by CENI for the holding of presidential elections. Although president Alpha Condé has not officially confirmed he would run for a third term, the new Constitution paved the way for him to do so.
Violence in the context of the controversial polls
As reported previously on the Monitor, the controversial referendum and legislative elections on 22nd March 2020, were marred by violence, clashes with security forces and interruptions in access to the internet and social media. According to Amnesty International, twelve people, including protesters and passers-by, were killed in Conakry and close to Mamou. Ten of those were killed by live ammunition fired by security forces. The human rights organisation, based on interviews with witnesses and an analysis of videos, said that 'security forces have been linked with youth groups in the violence that has resulted in at least 12 unlawful killings'. Security forces and associated groups injured at least four journalists on 22nd March in Conakry and Labé.
In N'Zérékoré, where violence broke out on 22nd March and continued in the days after the referendum, deadly clashes were reported between communities, as well as attacks on churches and mosques. On 26th May 2020, the General Prosecutor of Kankan said that 30 people died in N'Zérékoré, 67 people were injured, scores of houses and buildings burnt down and three churches destroyed, while blaming the Front national pour la défense de la Constitution (FNDC; National Front for the Defense of the Constitution), a platform of opposition parties, civil society organisations and trade unions formed in April 2019, for the violence and destruction. FNDC said that at least 66 people were killed in N'Zérékoré and 119 people throughout the country, laying the blame on the ruling party.
Arrestation d’opposants en #Guinée: des ONG de défense des droits humains interpellent le gouvernement https://t.co/EJiEgVHCS8— Philippe Morié (@MoriePhilippe) July 23, 2020
Arbitrary arrests, judicial harassment and intimidation of FNDC activists
On 17th July 2020 - three days before a planned FNDC protest (see under Peaceful Assembly) - armed and hooded police officers arrived at the residence of Ibrahima Diallo, coordinator of Tournons la Page Guinea and in charge of operations for FNDC. As Diallo was not at home, officers left a summons with his wife, calling for Diallo to present himself to the Central Direction of the Judicial Police for 'disturbance to the State'.
On 17th April 2020, police officers arrested Oumar Sylla, alias Foniké Mengué, Deputy National Coordinator of pro-democracy movement Tournons la Page Guinea and member of FNDC at his residence in a suburb of Conakry. The arrest followed an interview he gave on Radio Espace FM, during its programme 'Les grand gueules', in which he denounced the arbitrary arrests and harassment of FNDC members, the killings in N'Zérékoré in March 2020 and called on the population to mobilise against the new Constitution. On 24th April 2020, he appeared before the Court of First Instance of Dixinn, where he was charged with 'communication and dissemination of false news'. A few days later, on 28th April 2020, he was additionally charged with 'violence and death threats'. At least three requests for Sylla's provisional release have been denied by the Appeal Court of Conakry.
A few days prior to Sylla's arrest, on 14th April 2020, FNDC coordinator for Tougué in the region of Labé Thierno Sadou Diallo was arrested at his residence while he was ill, said Amnesty International. He was initially refused medical treatment. He was arrested in relation to the burning down of the building of the gendarmerie in Tougué during protests against a new Constitution on 28th February 2020. Sadou Diallo denies the accusations and claims that he had not been present at the scene.
A few weeks later, on 7th May 2020, activist Saïkou Yaya Diallo was detained by hooded plain clothes agents of the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance in the Conakry suburb of Ratoma without their having presented an arrest warrant. Yaya Diallo is the director of the Centre guinéen pour la promotion et la protection des droits humains (CPDH; Guinean Centre for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights) and in charge of judicial affairs for FNDC. During a hearing before the Court of First Instance of Dixinn on 12th May 2020, he was charged with 'violence', 'threats', 'assault' and 'public insults' under the Penal Code. According to Amnesty International, his arrest relates to a case of 'alleged forced imprisonment by FNDC members of a suspected government intelligence officer agent during a press conference on 25th March at the headquarters of the political party PADES'. Witnesses told the organisation that Yaya Diallo was not involved in any violence. On 21st May 2020, an Appeal Court ordered that Yaya Diallo be provisionally released and placed under judicial control, but this order has been appealed by the prosecutor. The activist is a diabetic, needs specific medical treatment and is especially vulnerable for COVID-19. Tens of cases of COVID-19 infections have reportedly been detected in Conakry prison.
Ibrahima Diallo of Tournons la page Guinea said in a joint statement with Amnesty International:
"The authorities are targeting pro-democracy activists by fabricating charges and increasing the legal process in order to extend their time in detention. These activists shouldn't have spent a single day in prison." (translated from French).
FNDC protests banned
On 2nd July 2020, local authorities in Matoto, Matam and Kaloum in Conakry banned a planned protest by FNDC on 8th July 2020 to demand the release of FNDC members and to protest against a possible third term for president Alpha Condé. Authorities invoked the health emergency in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The protest was postponed to 20th July 2020 by FNDC leaders, which was likewise banned. On that day, people gathered in some suburbs in Conakry and erected barricades before being dispersed by security forces, who were deployed from early in the morning to prevent protesters from gathering. According to FNDC, 20 people were injured, five of whom by bullets, which was disputed by authorities who said that six people were arrested for 'disturbance of public order'.
At least six persons killed in protests against COVID-19 police check-points and roadblocks
On 12th May 2020, protests against police check-points and roadblocks, aimed at curbing the movement of people in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic to the country's capital Conakry, broke out in Friguiadi, Manéah, Coyah and Dubréka. According to news reports, protesters threw stones and police posts were vandalised. According to Amnesty International, these protests were violently repressed, showing 'once again the systematic use of excessive force'. At least six people were killed, including a pregnant woman. A member of civil society told Radio France Internationale (RFI) about the reasons behind the protests:
"Since the start of the isolation, reports of racketeering and ill-treatment by law enforcement agencies have multiplied." (translated from French)
Protests against power outages
Several protests against power outages took place in Kankan, in the Haute Guinée region, in the space of a month. The protests were organised by the citizen movement mouvement des citoyens pour l’électrification de Kankan, which has been advocating for a sustainable solution for the power shortages. In the last protest, on 21st July 2020, security forces reportedly used tear gas to disperse the protesters, while protesters threw projectiles at police officers. The 'Red Berets', a military unit, were deployed during the protest, considered illegal by human rights organisation Organisation guinéenne des droits de l’homme (OGDH). According to news reports, 22 protesters were arrested and charged with 'disturbance of public order, destruction of public and private goods and civil disobedience'. On 30th June 2020, at least 40 people were arrested and several people were injured in protests against power outages, which culminated in clashes and violence. Security forces reportedly dispersed the protesters who were heading to the offices of the electricity company, who then turned to the offices of the ruling party, RPG, which were allegedly vandalised. Other protests, for the same reasons, took place on 7th July 2020 and 22nd June 2020, according to news reports.
Protesters also took to the streets to protest power cuts in Kamsar from 10th May 2020. On 12th May 2020, clashes between protesters and security officers occurred, and material damage to private and public buildings was reported. One person was killed by live ammunition and several people were injured.
A protest reportedly broke out in the district of Kangoléah, in the Dubréka prefecture, on 16th June 2020 against the nomination of the president of the district. According to online news outlet Guineematin.com, clashes between protesters and security forces led to several people being injured and damage to property.
Urgent : le journaliste Mamadou Samba Sow interpellé par la gendarmerie de Kaporo-Rails https://t.co/DZpwA3c7JN— Mosaiqueguinee.com (@mosaiqueguinee) April 26, 2020
Journalist detained for filming, taking pictures
According to local news reports, gendarmes detained journalist and spokesperson of Collectif des victimes du déguerpissement de Kaporo-Rails, Kipé 2 et Dimesse, Mamadou Samba Sow, and two other members of the collective on 26th April 2020 in Kaporo-Rails, while he was filming and taking pictures of an old mosque. The police accused him of not having obtained the prior authorisation. He was released later that day.
Between February and March 2019, over 19,000 people were forcibly evicted in the Conakry neighbourhoods of Kaporo-Rails, Kipe 2 and Dimesse, when bulldozers demolished over 2,500 buildings to make way for new business offices and embassies, said Human Rights Watch. Victims brought the case of their forced evictions to the regional bloc's ECOWAS Court of Justice.
Journalist summoned by police after complaint of the prefect of Boké
Journalist for Radio Espace Kakandé Sékou Diallo was summoned, on 25th April 2020, to appear before the Regional Directorate of the Police in Boké, following a defamation complaint by the prefect of Boké, Alhassane Sanoussy Camara. The complaint reportedly relates to comments made by the journalist on the radio station about declarations made by the prefect during a public event, in the presence of the Minister of Communication, on the distribution of health kits. Regional director of the radio station, Bassékou Hamirou Dramé, commented to media outlet Mosaiqueguinee.com:
"The latest is that he [the prefect] said that he does not need to speak to Espace's microphone, and that he is going to go and burn down the radio. His essential mission is to silence us. But, it is because his failures in administration are denounced on the radio that we are an obstacle for him." (translated from French)
The prefect eventually withdrew his complaint.
Press organisations denounce the new law on the national media regulator
In June 2020, several press organisations criticised a draft law on the Composition, Organisation and Functioning of the Haute Autorité de la Communication (HAC; High Authority of Communication), the national media regulator. The draft law, examined, revised and approved by the National Assembly on 3rd July 2020, contains several differences with the previous law. A new controversial provision allows the President of the Republic to appoint, by decree, the president of the national media regulator, instead of through elections.
Civic Space Developments