Christians welcome coup in Guinea …… | News and reports

In 63 years of independence, Guinea has had three presidents. Last month, the West African nation suffered its third coup.

This time, says the local Christian minority, their French-speaking country might do it right.

“Alpha Condé cannot come back,” said Etienne Leno, pastor of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA). “We pray that the new military authorities – whom we find wise and intelligent – will be led by God. “

On September 5, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, head of Guinean special forces, overthrew the 83-year-old president. A former jailed opposition leader, Condé became the country’s first democratically elected head of state in 2010 and won a second term in 2015.

Leno initially found great hope in Condé’s tenure, which was inaugurated after the international community helped national forces eliminate the military junta that violently seized power in 2008. Condé improved business sectors, tourism and energy, restoring Guinea’s worldwide reputation.

Local infrastructure has been neglected, however, and the nation the size of Oregon has fallen behind in national development. A third of the economy was linked to the extraction of bauxite, the main resource for aluminum. Guinea has the largest reserves in the world, but foreign companies dominate extraction.

Despite an annual growth of 7 percent, nearly 50 percent of the 13 million people lived in poverty. And at the end of 2019, 36% of the country believed Guinea was going in the wrong direction.

And then Condé took power. He passed a referendum in March 2020 for constitutional changes to reset his term limits and in October was reelected again. Both votes were contested by fiercely suppressed protests.

Almost a year later, Doumbouya had had enough.

He did not promise any political witch hunts because he “made love to Guinea”, but it was nevertheless clear that the opposition would not be tolerated. As the colonel, who was sworn in on October 1 as Guinea’s interim president, held a national dialogue, demonstrations of support took to the streets and Christians noted the surprising calm.

Five days after the coup, the Association of Evangelical Churches and Missions of Guinea (AEMEG) – affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance – released a televised statement acknowledging the new authorities. Catholic and Muslim groups have made similar announcements.

“Relationships are generally good,” Leno told CT. “Our message is for peace and national unity.

One aspect of the takeover may have helped to assure this: Doumbouya shares the same Malinké ethnicity as Condé. Representing a third of Guineans, the Malinkés come in second after the Peuls (41%), better known in West Africa as the Peuls. Both groups are Muslim, as is the third ethnic group, the Soussu (12%).

The Ministry of Religious Affairs counts Christians for 8 percent of the population, the remaining 7 percent belonging to traditional religions. Christians are generally from the Kpelle and other smaller ethnic groups, although conversions have taken place among all tribes.

“We are grateful to God for our religious freedom at this time of crisis,” said Emmanuel Ouamouno, pastor of the Assemblies of God (AG) and head of the ministry of the evangelical radio IBRA. “We pray that our various religious leaders will serve together to advance the principles of the kingdom of God. “

It will be essential. While only 52% of Guineans trust the military, 79% trust their spirit guides.

Ouamouno remains neutral.

“If the army takes care of the needs of the population, it will be difficult to take power away from it,” he said.Evangelical focus. “Everything will depend on the behavior of the army.

Immediately after the coup, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions on the junta leaders. Already dealing with the supposed transitional military leadership in Mali and Chad, the regional body called for elections within six months.

The first signs can be encouraging.

Although no timetable was given, Doumbouya promised that neither he nor any transitional official would stand for election. An 81-person national council will be set up, made up of politicians, unions, businessmen, youth and security personnel, with 30 percent female representation. As a legislative body, they will draft a new constitution and prepare for local, regional and national elections.

And on October 7, Doumbouya kept his promise to appoint a civilian prime minister, choosing a respected diplomat and expert in economic development.

Although the coup appears to be popular, support for democracy is strong, favored by 77 percent of Guineans. The same percentage rejects the military regime. And 76% support term limits, the issue that has rocked Condé’s presidency.

“We must all participate in the restoration of democracy, in prayer and if necessary, in protests,” said Tamba Kondiano, an AG pastor. “We are not taking an official position, but we remain vigilant and are ready to support the new authorities. “

Guineans once greeted Conde as a “sign of relief,” he said, and urged caution. The former president still enjoys 90 percent support within his ethnic group, he said. Among Christians, however, it has fallen to a single digit.

Violence was severe in Nzerekore, a predominantly Christian town in the southeastern forest region, where Condé’s Muslim supporters clashed with Christians and animists over the referendum. Mosques and churches were damaged in the melee, which left 30 dead and 70 injured.

In 2013, a similar conflict in the city, Guinea’s second largest, left 54 ​​people dead.

Ethnic politics characterize the nation, several Guinean sources told CT, and elections normally consist of two rounds.

In the first round, candidate Fulbe wins the majority but does not reach the 51% necessary for victory. In the trickle down, the Malinké and the Soussu, whose ethnic groups share more similarities, team up to defeat the “foreigners” whose eighteenth-century jihad conquered the region. Christians, concentrated in cities, the south coast and wooded areas, tend to join other minorities.

Before Condé, the second president was Soussu. The first president was Malinke. Many Fulbe think it’s their tribe’s turn now. Their main politician, Cellou Diallo, was among the first to endorse the coup.

Doumbouya did not appeal to ethnic interests, instead viewing the overthrow as the will of the people. Leno and Kondiano both called on ECOWAS to support Guinea in the military return to democratic legitimacy.

But for much of Guinea’s history, Christians have been left on the sidelines. The first president, Sékou Touré, expelled foreign missionaries in 1967, preventing the church from developing mature theological reflection.

“These realities eventually convinced us that a good Christian couldn’t be in politics,” Leno said. “But today there is a new generation of young evangelicals.”

These believers tend to be less ethnically attached and are strongly pro-democracy. The National Front for the Defense of the Constitution, formed in response to the Condé referendum, is led by a Fulbe and assisted by an influential Baptist.

The former head of parliament was a Christian, although few reached the level of ministers, governors and prefects. AEMEG, however, serves as an effective liaison between state and church, Kondiano said.

In addition to organizing an annual “March for Jesus”, the Evangelical Association organizes an annual prayer meeting at the Legislative Assembly, to which it invites prominent politicians. More recently, Diallo was present.

Some Christians think this change is a mistake.

“Young people should be very careful with politics,” Ouamouno said. “Once our brothers befriended politicians, we lose them.”

Rather than serving the church through their positions of influence, he said, they become corrupt spokespersons for their party. It can polarize a congregation, he said, which should instead be united around Jesus.

Although opinions are divided on politics, Guinean sources agree: the sectarian divide must be overcome. Kondiano sought to complement AEMEG’s work by co-founding the “Christians of Guinea” Facebook page. He is currently seeking to expand cooperation with Catholic churches in the country.

The Holy Spirit Fathers first evangelized the area in 1877, and the CMA began working in 1919. Today, the evangelical denomination has 437 churches and 154 other unofficial communities. Christians have an influence beyond their share of the population through a network of schools and hospitals.

Although the days of Touré’s persecution are long gone, Guinean Christians still view their religious freedom as incomplete. Sources told CT they want government funding for theological education, as is the case for Muslim imams. There should be more Christians in the administration, especially the post of deputy in the Ministry of Religious Affairs. And they said there is discrimination against Christians in housing, which makes it difficult to rent in big cities.

Some Muslims who have converted to Christianity fear family reactions but are not harassed by the state. Regarding both government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion, the Pew Research Center ranks Guinea moderately low, with a score between 2 and 3 on a 10-point scale.

Churches have been planted in all parts of Guinea, although most of the participants are Christians from the forest region. But the IBRA radio station operates freely in a Muslim region, and the constitution guarantees the right of individuals to choose and profess their religion.

“The evangelical church is like a wounded panther, which regains its strength,” said Ouamouno. “Our main challenge is to return to the unity of the body of Christ.

And although Pastor AG is wary of politics, he longs for national leaders like David, Ezra and Daniel. Until Christians can play this role – and some are already trying – these hopes must be directed to the junta.

“Pray for the new authorities of our transition,” said Ouamouno, “may the Lord illuminate their path, towards peace in Guinea”.

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