Guinea takeover highlights how US military training programs are still breeding violent coups

Mamady Doumbouya’s seizure of power in Guinea should be no surprise, as recent history shows there have been a number of coups in Africa by soldiers who have previously received military training from America.

On September 5, a group of elite soldiers seized power in Guinea, imprisoning President Alpha Condé, suspending the constitution, declaring an indefinite curfew, closing the country’s borders, and freeing dozens of political prisoners.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, the country’s new leader, has pledged to lead a national unity government, assuring foreign investors that their interests in the country won’t be adversely affected by the change, although bauxite prices have already been sent spiralling.

The coup prompted a highly unusual response from China, which, in apparent contravention of its longstanding policy of non-interference in foreign affairs, condemned the action and called for Condé’s release. This unprecedented intervention may be explained by Guinea being one of several African countries in which Beijing has expanded its mining operations in recent months. US officials have also expressed disapproval, with the State Department hinting that punitive sanctions could be imposed.

Conakry’s new president is a rather intriguing character. The media biographies that have been published to date begin with his return from the French Foreign Legion to join the Special Forces Group, an elite military unit created by Condé. However, a particularly striking aspect of his career is yet to be acknowledged by a single mainstream outlet: Doumbouya and the unit he leads have received extensive special-operations training from the US military overseas.

Flintlock was launched in 2005 to provide counter-terror support to West African nations. Ironically, given recent developments in Guinea, the training is intended to complement the  conducted by bogus humanitarian agency USAID promoting “good governance” and “security” in the region. Two years later, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) was inaugurated, which effectively embedded Washington in the armed forces of 53 countries across the continent.An October 2018 Facebook post by the US Embassy in Guinea pictures Doumbouya in front of the diplomatic mission’s offices, alongside US military personnel, and notes that he was preparing to participate in exercises abroad under the auspices of Exercise Flintlock. A video dated February 2019 features the lieutenant-colonel discussing the program.

Ever since, Flintlock-trained soldiers have been at the forefront of the majority of coups in West Africa. In August 2020, Colonel Assimi Goita, who’d participated in a US-led training exercise the previous year and graduated from a separate US training course in 2016, seized power in Mali. Photos of Goita receiving a certificate from his trainers at a US-German security centre were abruptly purged from the web.

Only eight years prior, Captain Amadou Sanogo, who’d been trained by the US on six separate occasions, led a coup of his own in Mali, which, in turn, emboldened the country’s Islamist insurgency, leading to French military intervention in 2013. AFRICOM officials referred to Sanogo’s actions as “very worrisome for us”, and US General Carter Ham, who had led the operation at the time, admitted there had been significant failings.

“We were focusing our training almost exclusively on tactical or technical matters. We didn’t spend probably the requisite time focusing on values, ethics and a military ethos,” he lamented. “When you put on the uniform of your nation, you accept the responsibility to defend and protect that nation, to abide by the legitimate civilian authority that has been established, to conduct yourselves according to the rule of law. We didn’t do that to the degree that we needed to.”…

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