At least 28 killed in protests against constitution changes since October 2019

In Guinea, the protests against a new Constitution, which could allow president Condé to stand for a third term in office, continued. The majority of these protests, some of which turned violent, have been met with excessive use of force by security forces, arbitrary arrests of FNDC protesters and activists and impunity for the killing of protesters and bystanders.

Meanwhile, legislative elections, which were to take place at the end of 2018 but were postponed several times, were further postponed to 1st March 2020. In December 2019, the main opposition parties announced their boycott of the elections, saying that the conditions to guarantee free and fair elections have not been met. The announcement by president Condé to couple the referendum on a new Constitution with the legislative elections caused a further outcry.

Guinea was placed on the CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist in October 2019 for the immediate and urgent threats to civic space.

Peaceful Assembly

Several killed in protests against a new Constitution, which could allow President Alpha Condé to run for a third term 

Since the last Monitor update, several protests have taken place in Guinea against government plans to change the Constitution, perceived as an attempt by President Condé to run for a third term in office. The current Constitution limits presidents to two terms in office 'consecutive or not' while it also bars changing that particular provision by simply amending the Constitution.

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, have been organising protests against any changes to the Constitution and a possible third term for President Condé. The majority of these protests have been met with excessive use of force by security forces, arbitrary arrests of FNDC protesters and activists and impunity for the killing of protesters and bystanders. At least 28 people and a police officer have been killed since the protests of mid-October 2019, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Contrary to the past, authorities have authorised some protests to go ahead, although the dispersal and the arrest of protesters continued in most cases. On 24th October 2019, local authorities authorised a FNDC protest, according to Human Rights Watch, the first public protest to have been authorised since July 2018.

  • Clashes between mourners and security forces occurred during a funeral procession in Conakry to mourn the victims of the protests in October 2019, organised on 4th November 2019, killing at least two people, and injuring several others. According to news reports, security officers used tear gas and anti-riot projectiles, while witnesses heard gunshots. Protesters reportedly threw stones, erected barricades and burned tyres.
  • Protests also took place on 6th and 7th November 2019 in Conakry, Mamou and Boké, with no reported incidents.
  • At least one person was killed by live ammunition in the context of a protest on 14th November 2019 in Conakry. According to news reports, clashes broke out when security forces attempted to disperse the demonstrators who deviated from the itinerary set out by local authorities who authorised the protest, and which differed from the itinerary requested by FNDC. According to FNDC, local authorities had not informed them within the 48 hours required by law. Protests also reportedly took place in Dalaba, Boké, Fria, Mamou, Koundara, Lélouma, Gaoual, Sangarédi, Tougué and Kindia. In Kindia, several FNDC members, including the regional FNDC coordinator Alsény Farinta Camara, were arrested before the protest (see under Association). The mayor of Kindia previously banned the protest.
  • FNDC protests took place in Conakry, Télimélé and Labé on 26th November 2019, without any major incidents reported. Likewise, the protests on 10th December 2019 in Conakry, Mamou, Dalaba and Labé went ahead without major incidents. Another funeral march was organised on 6th December to the cemetery of Bambeto in Conakry, to commemorate and lay to rest the latest victims of the protests.
  • On 6th January 2020, thousands marched in fresh protests in several cities in the country, dubbed the 'ultimatum' march by the FNDC. Twelve people were reportedly injured in the city of Kankan. The offices of opposition party Union des forces démocratique de Guinée (UFDG) in Kankan were attacked that day.
  • FNDC further called for 'massive' and 'unlimited' protests starting on 13th January 2020, setting the stage for three days of protests. At least two people were killed by live ammunition - one in Conakry and one in the city of Labé - on 13th January 2020. At least one other person was killed by bullets and three persons were injured in Labé the following day, on 14th January, when protests continued. Violent clashes between security forces and protesters and destruction of property were reported. FNDC called for the suspension of the protests on 15th January 2020 to 'bury the victims peacefully' and to 'allow Guineans to restock'.
  • At least one person was killed by live ammunition in clashes between security forces and protesters in the suburb of Cosa in Conakry during protests on 28th January 2020. The following day, another young student, Mamadou Saidou Bah, was shot and killed in Conakry, where further clashes took place - according to AFP he was the 28th victim killed in the FNDC protests since mid-October 2019. A video, spread through social media, showing police officers using a woman as a human shield against stones thrown by protesters on 29th January 2020 in Wanindara, Conakry, caused public outrage.

According to FNDC, at least 15 people were injured and 15 arrested during protest action on 12th February 2020. FNDC had called for people in Conakry to protest by gathering in their own neighbourhoods.

Women demonstrate against protest killings

On 19th November 2019, FNDC women marched in Conakry to demand justice for the killing of 'their children' referring to protesters, often young men and students, who have been killed in the context of the protests. Previously, on 23rd October 2019, about 400 women protested in Conakry to condemn the killing of protesters from 14th to 16th October 2019. As reported previously on the Monitor, at least nine people were killed in those protests. 


Arbitrary arrests and prosecution of FNDC activists and protesters

On 14th November 2019, five FNDC members, who were on their way to protest, were arrested in the city of Kindia. The mayor of Kindia had previously banned the protest. Alsény Farinta Camara, regional FNDC coordinator and member of the Association des Blogueurs de Guinée (ABLOGUI, Association of Bloggers of Guinea) and Africtivistes, and four other members were charged with 'participation in an unauthorised public gathering', and appeared before Kindia's Court of First Instance on 10th December 2019, when the case was postponed. On 19th December 2019, the Court acquitted two activists - Thierno Seydi Ly and Thierno Oumar Barry. The other three FNDC activists - Alseny Farinta Camara, Moussa Sanoh and Boubacar Diallo - were sentenced to four months in prison, of which three months were suspended. As the activists had already spent 36 days in detention, they were released.

On 28th November 2019, the Appeal Court of Conakry ordered the provisional release of FNDC members and civil society activists Abdourahamane Sanoh, Ibrahima Diallo, Sékou Koundouno, Mamadou Baïlo Barry and Alpha Soumah. As reported previously on the Monitor, on 22nd October 2019, the Court of Dixinn sentenced Abdourahamane Sanoh to a prison sentence of one year, and the four others to prison sentences of six months for 'acts likely to compromise public security and cause public disorder'. They were arrested on 12th October 2019 in the run-up to the planned FNDC protests of 14th October 2019, for mobilising people to protest. On 5th December 2019, the president of the Appeal Court decided to request the Constitutional Court to deliberate on the constitutionality of the prosecution of the five activists.

According to news reports, the Court of First Instance of Mafanco, in Conakry, acquitted 26 FNDC members on 3rd October 2019. The FNDC members, arrested during the FNDC protests on 14th November 2019, faced charges of 'criminal participation in a gathering and destruction of public property’, among others.

More than 82 people have been arrested on charges of ‘disturbance to public order’, ‘incitement to violence’ or ‘unauthorised gathering’, according to the lawyers of FNDC. Human rights organisation Organisation guinéenne des droits de l'homme (OGDH) denounced the act of preventive arrests, before protests take place, often by men ‘wearing balaclava’s’.

Salifou Beavogui, lawyer for FNDC said to RFI:

“These are arrests that have no legal basis. There have been several arrests of innocent people. Some are even arrested at their homes, some on the street, like all passers-by, by the way. Some even by their indications. These are people who are indexed beforehand and against whom the assaults are organised, and automatically, they are arrested and taken to the security services. ” (translated from French)


Physical assault of journalists

Journalists Alhassane Fofana and Mamadou Djiwo Bahwere were reportedly injured while covering FNDC protests on 14th November 2019 (see under Peaceful Assembly). According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Fofana, a journalist for the online news outlet, was physically assaulted by a gendarme while he was trying to escape tear gas thrown by security officers. He was slapped and stabbed in his thigh, while his phone was confiscated. Bahwere, of the online news outlet fell unconscious as a result of the tear gas fumes and was subsequently trampled by protesters who tried to escape the tear gas.

According to local news reports, members of the ruling political coalition, Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinée (RPG) Arc-en-Ciel manhandled journalist for the online media outlet Guiné Ibrahima Sory Diallo during an ordinary General Assembly at the party's headquarters in Conakry on 2nd November 2019, before security agents dragged him out. The members accused the journalist of having reported unfavourably and unfoundedly a few days earlier on President Condé. According to a statement by the online press association Association Guinéenne de la Presse en Ligne (Aguipel), two other journalists of Espace FM were also assaulted, and the organisation called upon all its members to boycott the weekly General Assembly of RPG Arc-en-Ciel until further notice.

Supreme Court orders reopening of radio station after withdrawal of its broadcasting license

On 28th November 2019, the Supreme Court in Conakry ordered the reopening of radio station Continental FM. The national media regulator Haute autorité de la communication (HAC) previously withdrew, on 29th October 2019, the licences of Continental FM and another Conakry-based radio station, Ado FM, following an investigation into a complaint by the Ministry of Information and Communication who accused both radio stations of having illegally installed their transmitters on the facilities of Radio Télévision Guinéenne, the national state broadcaster. The HAC said that the radio stations had 'violated the spirit and content of the specifications relating to the establishment and operation of private radio and television stations'.

Two Al Jazeera journalists briefly detained, accreditation withdrawn

According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), two journalists of Al Jazeera, Nicolas Haque and cameraman Hugo Bogaeert were briefly detained in Conakry on 17th October 2019, both accused of spying and endangering state security, charges that were eventually dropped after intervention by several officials. The two journalists and their Guinean fixer, were reportedly arrested while they were filming in the stadium Stade du 28 Septembre, where security forces open fired and killed more than 150 people and raped more than 100 women during a demonstration against the candidacy for presidential elections of military junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara of Conseil national pour la démocratie et le développement (CNDD) more than a decade ago, on 28th September 2009. Guinea's national media regulator HAC then withdrew the accreditation of Haque and Bogaeert, stating that the journalists' accreditation was granted for 'the coverage of mining areas, not reporting of an ethnocentric nature', according to information received by RSF. The withdrawal of the accreditation reportedly occurred after Al Jazeera aired a report on the current ethnic tension in Guinea.

Journalist arrested, placed under judicial control

On 8th January 2020, police officers from the criminal investigation department arrested journalist Alpha Oumar Diallo of the online media outlet Verite224 over an article on an alleged sex tape involving the secretary general of the youth wing of the ruling coalition, RPG Arc-en-Ciel, according to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). He was subsequently interrogated about his sources and placed under judicial control after being arraigned before an investigating magistrate on a charge of defamation. MFWA commented:

"It is unacceptable to subject a journalist to the indignity of arrest and detention when the police could have formally summoned him, especially in a country that has decriminalised libel and defamation."