Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, commander of the Guinean Special Forces was a former French legionary returned to Guinea barely three years ago and managed to gain the confidence of President Alpha Condé, whom he has since turned against and managed to seize power on 5 September.

Doumbouya was born in the Kankan Region of Guinea. He is of Mandinka  origins.

Doumbouya is married to a French woman, who is an active duty member of the French National Gendarmerie.The couple have three children.

Doumbouya was a French legionnaire  holding the rank of Corporal before he returned to Guinea to lead the Special Forces Group, an elite military unit created by President Alpha Condé. When he took office, receiving promotion to the rank of battalion commander, his international experience was cited, including training he had completed in a number of different countries. He worked in this role for the country’s intelligence services, based in Forécariah.He was further promoted to lieutenant colonel in 2019 and to colonel in 2020.In 2021, he was said to have been seeking more authority for the Special Forces Group.

He was one of 25 officials from Guinea that the European Union threatened to sanction over allegations of human rights abuses.

A Malinke from the Kankan border region near Côte d’Ivoire and Mali, Doumbouya first became known to Guineans in 2018 when he appeared at a military parade in Conakry to celebrate the country’s 60th independence anniversary.

He was put in charge of the newly formed SFG elite team – whose remit was to fight terrorism and maritime piracy. Wearing red berets, sunglasses and striking uniforms, they made a strong public impression.

The Lieutenant Colonel’s problems with Conakry’s leadership reportedly began when he was prevented from giving the SFG autonomy from the Ministry of Defence.

Doumbouya, 41, was in the French Foreign Legion, where he rose to the rank of master corporal before being called to command the SFG.

A graduate from the École de Guerre war college in Paris, he has more than 15 years of military experience that include missions to Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Doumbouya is an expert in defence management, command and strategy – having also undergone specialist training in Israel, Senegal and Gabon.

A spokesperson from Guinea’s Ministry of Defence described him as a “colossus with an impressive physique”.

In May 2021, there were rumors stemming from the government of a possible arrest of Doumbouya while he was in Conakry on unknown accusations or charges.

Doumbouya was the instigator of the 5 September 2021 Guinean coup d’état, in which the president of Guinea, Alpha Condé, was detained. Doumbouya issued a broadcast on state television declaring that his faction had dissolved the government and constitution. He also said that the “National Committee of Reconciliation and Development (CNRD), [was forced] to take its responsibility” after “the dire political-situation of our country, the instrumentalization of the judiciary, the non-respect of democratic principles, the extreme politicization of public administration, as well as poverty and corruption.” In justifying the military’s actions, Doumbouya quoted the former Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings, who said that “if the people are crushed by their elites, it is up to the army to give the people their freedom.”

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