'It's total anarchy': Guinean-Canadians protest possible third presidential term
Over 100 members of the Guinean-Canadian community came together to protest a bid by the West African country's leader to seek a third presidential term, in Montreal, Saturday, Oct. 25, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Reynolds
MONTREAL -- Alpha Diallo arrived in Canada from Guinea in 2009, a year before that country's president won his first election and raised hopes amid the nation's sole democratic transition of power since independence from France a half-century before.
A decade later, the 40-year-old financial adviser stands disillusioned, chanting with other demonstrators along downtown Montreal's main east--west artery.
"He wants to stay in power. He's already 81 years old, and he doesn't want to leave," Diallo says of Guinean President Alpha Conde. "He's killing people."
The turmoil cost Diallo's 14-year-old cousin his life earlier this month, he says.
"He got a bullet in the head...It's total anarchy in the country."
Diallo was among more than 100 demonstrators, many Guinean-Canadian, who took to the streets Saturday to protest the president's bid to seek another term in their home country.
The noonday demonstration followed a march by tens of thousands in the streets of Guinea's capital two days earlier and a protest in Ottawa last week.
Less than two weeks ago, protests in the West African country's capital of Conakry saw at least nine people killed and hospitals overwhelmed with scores of patients wounded by gunshots.
"Families were attacked. There was a campaign of intimidation, of incarceration for our leaders in Guinea," said Hamidou Bah, Canadian co-ordinator of the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (NFDC), the coalition of civil society and political groups that organized the marches.
The group is opposed to Conde's plans to revise the constitution to allow himself a third term in office. It has sent more than a dozen emails to Canadian lawmakers calling for action to prevent a "power grab" and more violence, Bah said.
Conde's mandate ends in December 2020 but he seeks a referendum that would open the door to five more years in office. His election in 2010 followed two years of military rule and nearly 25 years under authoritarian president Lansana Conte, who died in 2008.
Last week a court in Guinea's capital sentenced five opposition and civic leaders, including the leader of the NFDC, to jail terms for urging demonstrations to protest the president's bid to extend power.
"We're here to defend our constitution, because there's real injustice happening in our country," said Montreal demonstrator Hawa Diallo, 32.
"Here, we can march without fear of violence, we can march without fear of being killed," she said. "We're allowed to express ourselves, we can say what we think."
On a crisp Saturday afternoon, protesters marched along Montreal's Rene Levesque Boulevard and carried signs reading, "Halt the massacres" and "Our lives are worth more than your power-drunkenness." A bullhorn issued chants of, "Don't touch my constitution," while several placards showed grim photos of Guineans -- often children -- wounded or killed by gun violence.
Security forces in the country of 12 million have historically clamped down on demonstrations. While Conde's government has been more tolerant than past administrations, Human Rights Watch has said it has banned dozens of planned protests this year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2019.
With files from The Associated Press