During the recent inauguration of new Guinea president Mamadi Doumbouya, the presence of a female French police officer alongside the coup leader grabbed the public's attention. But little is still known about the new first lady.
The phone rings over and over without response. There is no one to answer the line registered to Mamadi Doumbouya. The contact refers to an address in Chabeuil, more precisely to a staff house in the gendarmerie , the French military police corps, of this small town in southeastern France. It was there that Lauriane Doumbouya, née Darboux, used to serve in the French police force.
No one answers because the French officer now lives several thousand miles away, where during the Oct. 1 inauguration ceremony of Mamadi Doumbouya as the new president of Guinea, the presence of this white woman did not go unnoticed.
Dressed in a traditional boubou robe and bazin headscarf, Lauriane Doumbouya, still unknown to the general public, was propelled to the rank of first lady of this West African nation of 13 million.
It's a transition that's all the more unexpected because it was by violent force that her husband came to power. On Sept. 5, heavy gunfire erupted near the presidential palace; hours later, Lieutenant Colonel Doumbouya took control of state television and declared that President Alpha Conde's government had been dissolved.
Of the past life of Mamadi Doumbouya, little information is available. So when it comes to his wife, finding out about her background is even more complicated: There's no official biography, no allocated office, no communication service.
From Chabeuil, France, to Conakry, Guinea, from the men of the National Committee of Rally for Development (CNRD) to the Darboux family, everyone protects the mystery surrounding this woman who stands at a height of 5-foot-9, standing tall next to her physically imposing husband.
Google Street View screenshot of Chabeuil's gendarmerie
Guarding the Élysée Palace
According to our information, Mamadi Doumbouya and Lauriane met shortly after his arrival in France in 2005. The man who would become the head of the Special Forces Group (GFS) came to Europe to don the green beret of the Foreign Legion, a section of the French army for highly trained soldiers.
The Foreign Legion is unique for being open to foreign recruits and offering a path to citizenship. For five years, Doumbouya served in the Second Foreign Infantry Regiment of Nîmes. Lauriane had just completed a three-month training course at the Tulle school for assistant gendarmes.
Athletic and self-confident.
One of her former classmates describes her as "athletic" and "self-confident." She was also a good horseback rider, which led her to leave the south of France in 2006 to join the Republican Guard in Paris, which guards the Élysée Palace and other government buildings.
But things didn't go as planned. The menial roles given to the deputy gendarmes of the Guard did not excite her: "She wanted to be a gendarme, but because she was so young, she didn't consider the sacrifices she would have to make," says one of her classmates.
Another adds: "We were young and we had just graduated from high school. At that age, many of us were there without really knowing what to do later on." This classmate describes Lauriane Darboux as "joking," "jovial" and "lively."
Photo of the first couple at the inauguration
Doumbouya couple at last month's inauguration
screenshot Djoma TV
Two careers, three children
She left Paris without having lost her accent to return to the south of France. She was drawn to the Rhone Valley where members of her family still live. After going to Libourne (Gironde) in 2006 to do her non-commissioned officer training, she returned to her native town, Chabeuil, which is where her career as a gendarme really started. According to our information, by Sept. 2008, Lauriane was donning her uniform.
Did she meet Mamadi Doumbouya during one of his breaks? Until 2010, he was only able to visit her occasionally, because a legionnaire is entitled to just 45 days of leave per year (with the agreement of the command), plus weekends. It was shortly after his release from the legion in 2011 that he married Lauriane. They now have three children.
For Lauriane, the amateurism of her early days gave way to determination. In 2011 and in 2014 she received bonuses for exceptional results. Not stopping there, she became a judicial police officer of the gendarmerie in 2016 and chief marshal in 2017. It was a rapid ascent, like that of her husband.
Between Europe and Africa
After a few years during which we have no trace of him, Mamadi Doumbouya was sent in 2013 to the School of Application of Infantry of Thies, in Senegal. Then in 2014, he completed an internship at the Institut des hautes études de défense nationale in France. Four years later, he received the brevet d'études militaires supérieures from the École de guerre in Paris. He was then promoted to commander of the Special Forces, the elite unit in charge of counter-terrorism.
Doumbouya has since settled permanently in Conakry, Guinea's capital, and it's unclear whether his wife comes and goes between Europe and Africa, or what her current status is with the French military police. According to a source close to the government, she has developed close relations with some of her in-laws in Kankan, Mamadi Doumbouya's hometown.
In 2018, she was seen there at the Muslima Tabaski (or Eid al-Adha) celebrations. According to our information, just after her husband's Oct. 1 inauguration, Lauriane Doumbouya was staying at the People's Palace, just a few steps from where ousted President Alpha Conde was being held in custody. Since then, the first lady has not appeared publicly, neither in Conakry nor in Chabeuil.