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Coup Leader Attended UK Military Leadership Course Weeks Before Forcefully Seizing Power

Murray Jones reveals how a Guinean colonel was lectured by British military and political personnel prior to launching a coup against the country’s democratically-elected leader

Mamady Doumbouya attends his swearing-in ceremony as transitional president in Conakry, Guinea, on 1 October 2021. Photo: Xinhua/Alamy

Coup Leader Attended UK Military Leadership Course Weeks Before Forcefully Seizing Power

A Guinean colonel was lectured by British military and political personnel prior to launching a coup against the country’s democratically-elected leader

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A Guinean colonel attended a British military leadership course just weeks before leading a coup to install himself as president last year.

Colonel Mamady Doumbouya has been condemned by the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the EU and the UK for ousting the country’s first democratically-elected President, Alpha Condé, in September. His military junta remains in power.

But just seven weeks prior, the commander of the west African nation’s special forces attended a ‘senior strategic leadership programme’ run by the UK’s Defence Academy, part of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

His attendance was revealed by a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the charity Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). A subsequent request for a full list of the 120 attendees from 40 countries has since been denied by the MoD on the grounds of personal data protection.

Speakers at the programme included Armed Forces Minister James Heappey, House of Commons Defence Select Committee chair Tobias Ellwood, and vice chair John Spellar.


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Senior military personnel also gave presentations, with Commander of Strategic Command General Sir Patrick Sanders, Assistant Chief of Defence Air Vice-Marshall Alastair Smith as well as major generals Andrew Roe and Darrell Amison all addressing the conference.

Topics ranged from ‘delivering the strategic intent’, delivered by Heappey, to ‘policy and democratic oversight’ by Ellwood, along with ‘strategy – the practitioner’s perspective’ from Sanders.

The two-day event (held on 13 and 14 July 2021) is normally run at Shrivenham for senior officers and officials from 30 countries. Last year, it was held virtually and ended with a Q&A with General David Petraeus, former commander of multi-national forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and ex-director of the CIA. In Afghanistan, Petraeus is known to have overseen an increase in deadly special forces night raids that resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths, according to the UN.

Colonel Doumbouya was appointed as the commander of Guinea’s newly-established ‘Special Forces Group’ by President Condé in 2018. He was one of 25 Guinean officials that the EU had threatened to sanction for alleged human rights abuses in the country.

Embarrassingly for the US, Doumbouya was in a military camp run by US special forces when he rounded up his allies and left in the middle of the night in 50 trucks to seize power in the capital of Conakry. On the morning of 5 September last year, his forces marched into the Presidential Palace, reportedly meeting little resistance.

Condé was detained and removed from the palace and his current whereabouts are unknown. Later that day, in a nationally-televised address, Doumbouya announced the dissolution of the constitution, government and parliament and the closure of national borders.

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He has since promised fresh national elections and to not run for office himself, but in March the six-month deadline demanded by ECOWAS for a return to civilian rule was missed. He is now Africa’s second-youngest leader, behind only Mali’s Assimi Goïta, 38, who also staged a military takeover and is a personal friend of Doumbouya.

Trained by the French Legionnaires, the 42-year-old served in Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Central African Republic and delivered close protection in Israel, Cyprus, and the UK.

His wife, Lauriane, is a serving member of the French National Gendarmerie, while also now holding the position of the first lady of Guinea.

President Doumbouya’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

A MoD spokesperson said: “Armed forces personnel from all over the globe attend our world renowned Defence Academy. Personnel from Guinea have attended leadership and other vocational courses for many years, focusing on topics such as good governance and international humanitarian law. Such courses are offered to a wide range of nations and serve an important diplomatic function.”

The MoD refused to comment on the vetting process for attendees of the course.

Iain Overton, executive director of AOAV, also leads the Byline Intelligence Team

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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