Africa, Elections, Sanctions, Top Stories

Losing candidate lobbies for sanctions against Guinea’s President Conde

The losing candidate in last fall’s presidential elections in the West African nation of Guinea has hired a retired US colonel to lobby for US sanctions against President Alpha Conde for allegedly rigging the vote.

Ambessa Solutions of Virginia has been hired by the “Guinea Diaspora Community” in the United States on behalf of Cellou Dalein Diallo, a former prime minister and leader of the main opposition Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG). The contract is for $15,000 per month for 12 months, for a total of $180,000, and is to be invoiced to the diaspora.

The contract came about following a Jan. 25 meeting between Ambessa managing director Richard Orth and Diallo, according to the firm’s lobbying registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The contract is with Cellou Dalein Diallo and Ahmadou Diallo (no relation), identified as a leader of the Guinean diaspora in the United States.

Diallo and Conde are old rivals, with the technocratic former prime minister facing off three times without success against Conde. The 82-year-old has ruled the bauxite-rich country since December 2010 and pushed through a controversial constitutional referendum in March 2020 that allowed him to run for a third term.

“President Alpha Conde used coercion, intimidation, and other corrupt activities to change the election results and have the Electoral Commission declare him the winner,” Ambessa’s consulting contract asserts. The purpose of the lobbying is to “hold President Alpha Conde accountable.”

Orth, a retired US Army colonel specialized in sub-Saharan Africa with past postings at US embassies and State Department headquarters, declined to comment without first getting his client’s consent. But his lobbying registration spells out in detail the engagement’s objectives, namely:

  • Advocating for sanctions against “President Conde and his associates who are complicit in human rights abuses [and] stifling freedom of expression against the Guinea opposition”;
  • Communicating with key offices in the Joe Biden White House, the State Department and Congress to raise awareness about the election’s alleged irregularities;
  • Assisting in determining “key foreign governments for immediate engagement”; and
  • Coordinating meetings with other organizations based on “mutually agreed strategies.”

This is the first foreign lobbying registration for Ambessa, which was incorporated in South Carolina in October 2019. Orth describes the firm as a “consulting company focusing on developing and winning business in Africa and providing Africa subject matter expertise.” Joining Orth on the account is Spencer Chiimbwe, a Zambian expert in conflict resolution living in New York state.

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The government of Guinea has its own lobbying team in Washington, with Scribe Strategies & Advisors registered to represent the Guinean Embassy in Washington since July 2019. The firm disclosed $120,000 in payments from the embassy around the time of the engagement.

Registered to lobby on the account are firm founder Joseph Szlavik, a White House aide under President George H.W. Bush; Alexander Beckles, a legislative director to former Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.); and Richard Sincere, former director of international economic affairs at the International Freedom Foundation in Washington. Scribe also lobbies for the government of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo state mining company Gecamines.