In a speech on state television, President Alpha Conde said that in the interest of the country it was necessary to postpone the vote and parliamentary election scheduled for Sunday. However, ponement of the referendum is neither a capitulation nor a withdrawal. In the interest of national unity, however, he accepted a stay. According to media reports, the vote will now take place in two weeks.
Opposition groups and non-governmental organizations had previously called for a boycott of the referendum. The National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), a coalition of opposition parties, has been organizing protests against Conde’s plans since October. Security forces have partially used tear gas and firearms against demonstrators, Human Rights Watch said. The army had also been put on alert in the past few days.
The referendum is controversial because it would pave the way for Conde for a third term. The current constitution limits a president’s reign to two terms. Conde has governed since 2010 and could no longer run. However, the counting would start again with the new constitution.
Guinea is a former French colony with almost 13 million inhabitants. More than half of the population lives in poverty. Together with Liberia and Sierra Leone, Guinea was hit by a severe Ebola epidemic between 2014 and 2016, in which more than 11,000 people died.