Guinean President Alpha Conde enacts new constitution

Voters last month overwhelmingly backed a new constitution, in a referendum that was opposed by the opposition.

Guinean President Alpha Conde has enacted a new constitution following a referendum last month on changes that opponents fear are aimed at extending his time in office.

Changing the constitution was hugely controversial, spurring mass demonstrations against the proposed amendments that left dozens of people dead and 

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After months of tensions, Conde enacted the new charter by decree on Monday, the same day he approved a 292 million euro ($315m) “economic response plan” to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Guinea has 128 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Controversial referendum

A former opposition figure jailed under previous hardline administrations, Conde made history in 2010 as Guinea’s first democratically elected president.

Voters returned him to office in 2015 for his second and final five-year term under the current constitution, but critics say he has become increasingly authoritarian.

Conde argued that the constitution needed to be updated to usher in badly needed social changes, especially for women, with reforms including a ban on female genital mutilation and underage marriage.

His proposal was put to a referendum on March 22, with voters overwhelmingly backing a new constitution, according to the country’s electoral body.

The opposition boycotted the referendum, as well as the legislative vote organised simultaneously. 

The new constitution still limits the president to two terms, but the opposition accused Conde of wanting to use the pretext of the new document to reset the counter to zero and seek another term in elections at the end of 2020.

The United States, European Union and France questioned the credibility of the vote. 

A poor country, despite its natural resources, Guinea has been severely tested in the past by the Ebola virus.

Conde said on social networks that he had approved a plan to minimise the effects of the pandemic on the national economy and the most disadvantaged households. 

Among the measures announced to tackle the coronavirus, the state will pay the electricity bills of the poorest for three months, freeze the price of medicines and basic necessities during the pandemic and introduce free public transport for three months.

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