On 5 September, a group of soldiers led by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya kidnapped Alpha Condé and took him to an undisclosed location. They had deposed him, they said, and dissolved the government. Later they released a video of Condé, slouched on a sofa, looking irritable. Soldiers in full uniform try to get him to say on camera that all is well. The ex-president looks at the camera. Is it the old oppositional spirit that flickers on his face, or just the arrogance of power? It is hard to tell. Condé stays silent, his feet up, shirt untucked, lips pursed.
The electoral commission in Conakry announced on 25 October that the incumbent, Alpha Condé, had won a third term as president of Guinea. Earlier this year, he held a referendum on a change to the country’s constitution that would allow him to disregard a previous two-term limit. His critics have seen this as a constitutional coup d’état and at least fifty people have been killed by state security forces in the attendant protests. The internet and international calls were cut off without warning on the Friday and Saturday before the results were announced. Asked on French television last month if he was turning into the type of autocrat he had opposed as a younger man, Condé said no. It was ‘extraordinary’, he said, that he, of all people, who had fought for 45 years against repressive regimes, should be seen as an ‘anti-democratic dictator’. He avoided the question of whether this term would be his last.
The consensus among the European tourists interviewed by the international press at Banjul airport last week was that their evacuation from Gambia was an overreaction. ‘We just think it’s overkill,’ a man in holiday clothes said confidently. ‘Nothing will actually happen, Mr Jammeh will go, he’s using it as a bargaining tool, and it will be done peacefully.’ He shrugged. A woman with sunburnt skin widened her eyes. ‘In the hotel, everything was OK,’ she said. It was only on the transfer to the airport that they had seen people were leaving. During the first weeks of January, as the outgoing president, Yahya Jammeh, refused to relinquish office, tens of thousands of Gambians left the country, bracing themselves for conflict. Regional troops gathered at the border.
On Friday, Bamako flashed into the European media’s consciousness. In the early morning, men with automatic weapons had arrived at the Malian capital’s Radisson Blu hotel. Shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’, they killed two security guards and took 170 staff and guests hostage. It was the third attack of its kind this year. The first was at La Terrasse restaurant in Bamako on 7 March, where five people died; the second, on 7 August, was at the Hotel Byblos in central Mali. Thirteen people died.
Six days after the vote in Guinea’s second democratic election, the Electoral Commission in Conakry announced that Alpha Condé, the incumbent president, had won decisively, with 58 per cent. The runner-up, Cellou Dalein Diallo, trailed with 31 per cent. In 2010, when Condé first came to office, he lost to Diallo in the first round, and only pinched it in the run-off. Diallo, the leader of the opposition UFDG, said the vote was rigged. He has repeated the allegations this time, pulling out of the race the day after ballots were cast and saying he does not recognise the results.
At around 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday 16 September, Michel Kafando, the president of Burkina Faso, was taken hostage during a cabinet meeting. Members of the Régiment de Sécurité Présidentielle (RSP) burst through the doors of the meeting room in the Koysam Presidential Palace and detained Kafando and his prime minister, Isaac Zida. The next day, the RSP announced that the borders were closed and that General Gilbert Diendéré would assume the presidency until ‘inclusive and peaceful’ elections could be arranged.