Guinea coup: Who is Col Mamady Doumbouya?

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An undated handout photo made available by Guinea military shows Guinean Colonel Mamady Doumbouya in Guinea (issued 05 September 2021).Image source, EPA
Image caption,
President Condé asked Col Mamady Doumbouya (above) to return to Guinea in 2018

A young charismatic soldier, Col Mamady Doumbouya has become Guinea's interim president just under a month after leading a coup against President Alpha Condé.

The deposed leader once put his faith in Col Doumbouya to help him keep his grip on power in the turbulent West African state.

Announcing the coup on 5 September, the 41-year-old former French legionnaire said the army had little choice but to seize power because of the rampant corruption, disregard for human rights and economic mismanagement under the 83-year-old President Condé.

Col Doumbouya's takeover means that he is currently the second-youngest leader of an African state. Only Mali's Col Assimi Goïta, who has been in power since staging a coup in May, is younger, having been born in 1983.

"The president is with us, he's in a safe place," Col Doumbouya told French media after staging the dramatic coup, as a video of Mr Condé - barefooted, with shirt buttons open, vest showing and slouched on a sofa - circulated on social media.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
President Alpha Condé 11-year rule came to an end abrupt end

In contrast, Col Doumbouya - dressed in a red beret, sunglasses and army fatigues - appeared on state TV to announce that "the Guinean personalisation of political life is over. We will no longer entrust politics to one man, we will entrust it to the people".

President Condé remains in detention while the UN, African Union and regional body Ecowas all condemned the military junta that replaced him.

Ecowas and the AU have both suspended Guinea's membership.

The junta has announced plans to move the country towards civilian rule but did not specify how long the transition would be.

Anyone taking part in the interim government, including Col Doumbouya, will be barred from standing in the following elections .

Low profile to president

Married to a French national, Col Doumbouya is from the Malinké community, like the deposed president, and hails from Guinea's eastern Kankan region.

Until the coup, he kept a low public profile, with the BBC's Guinea reporter, Alhassan Sillah, saying he saw him at an event only once - three years ago, when the former French colony celebrated 60 years of independence.

"He was the stand-out man because of his physique, height, and dark shades. He led the parade, saluting heads of state and the crowd. Everyone was taking photographs of him, and cheering him - just as they have been cheering him now," our reporter says, referring to the fact that the coup has been widely welcomed in Guinea.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
People took to the streets of the capital, Conakry, to celebrate the overthrow of President Condé

By some accounts Col Doumbouya is a brilliant commander, while others say his credentials are dubious.

Notably, Col Doumbouya is among 25 Guinean officials the EU has been threatening to sanction for alleged human rights abuses committed in recent years under President Condé.

Yet after the takeover, he told the nation "we will learn from all the mistakes we have committed and all Guineans".

Col Doumbouya also quoted the late Jerry Rawlings - another charismatic soldier who seized power in a coup in Ghana in 1979 - saying: "If the people are crushed by their elites, it is up to the army to give the people their freedom."

Served in Afghanistan

West Africa political analyst Paul Melly says that Col Doumbouya is just the latest of many middle-ranking officers to lead a putsch in the region, with a promise to bring about political reforms.

"But what differentiates him from many predecessors is his international experience, having not only trained in France but actually served in the French military and also in peacekeeping missions or international interventions in a range of crisis-afflicted countries," he adds.

During his 15-year military career, Col Doumbouya served in missions in Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Central African Republic and close protection in Israel, Cyprus, the UK and Guinea.

He is said to have "brilliantly completed" the operational protection specialist training at the International Security Academy in Israel, as well as elite military training in Senegal, Gabon, and France.

After serving in the French foreign legion for several years, Col Doumbouya was asked by Mr Condé to return to Guinea to lead the newly established elite Special Forces Group (GFS) in 2018.

He was then based in Forecariah, western Guinea, where he served under the bureau of territorial surveillance (DST) and the general intelligence services.

In recalling Col Doumbouya to set up the GFS, Mr Condé will have had no idea that he was hastening his own political demise.

"I think he [Condé] wanted a security instrument at his disposal for specific repressive missions," Guinean political analyst Mamadou Aliou Barry told Radio France International.

"Unfortunately for him, when he wanted to get his hands on it, the command of the special forces turned against him."

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