Threats to Opposition’s Freedom as Guinea’s President Considers Controversial Third Term
The government of Guinea has effectively banned street protests for more than a year, citing threats to public security, Human Rights Watch said today. Local authorities have prohibited at least 20 political or other demonstrations. Security forces have tear gassed those who defy the ban, and arrested dozens of demonstrators.
Guinea is in political limbo as it awaits an announcement from President Alpha Condé about whether he will revise the constitution and run for a third term in 2020 presidential elections. A coalition of opposition parties and civil society organizations have said it will use “all legal means” to oppose any constitutional change.
West Africa Director of at Human Rights Watch Corinne Dufka stated that “with Guinea in the midst of a fierce political debate, it is more important than ever to protect the right to peacefully demonstrate, and banning protests denies political parties and other groups a legitimate way to express their opposition to, or support for, the government’s plans and policies.”
Guinea’s ruling party, the Rally of the Guinean People Party (Rassemblement du Peuple Guinéen, RPG), has publicly called for a new constitution that, Condé’s supporters say, would allow for a third presidential term. Condé has not said whether he intends to run again, but on September 4 instructed his ministers to undertake “consultations” on a new constitution. The opposition coalition has promised to take to the streets if Condé does push for a new text. “We’re in the calm before the storm,” one Conakry-based diplomat told Human Rights Watch.
Guinean law protects the right to protest but requires demonstrators to notify the local authorities ahead of a proposed march or public meeting. The local authorities can prohibit a planned protest only if there is “a real threat to public order.”
Members of the ruling party also cited examples of their own demonstrations that local authorities had prohibited, although FDNC leaders noted that government ministers and officials were able to organize events to promote a new constitution without interference.
Other government officials, however, said that a ban on protests is necessary to protect public safety. Many demonstrations in Guinea in the last few years have resulted in violence, with protesters throwing stones and other projectiles, and the security forces using teargas, water cannons, and, at times, firearms.
A blanket ban on protests is not, however, a proportionate response to the risk of violence during protests, Human Rights Watch said. And it is not likely to deter opposition demonstrators from taking to the streets if Condé does push for a third term.
Source: Human Rights Watch