A warm welcome home from Russia for Guinea’s President Alpha Conde. Tens of thousands of his supporters thronged the capital Conakry on Thursday.

Calling for a referendum on the constitution. It was a sharp contrast to recent mass protests held by opposition parties and civil society groups. They were rejecting any changes to the constitution which could allow the president to run for a third term.

At least nine people were killed in those rallies and dozens of opposition members were given short prison sentences for inciting violence.

Eighty-one-year-old Conde’s second five-year term expires next year. He’s refused to rule out running again. Opponents fear he could use a referendum to extend his stay in power.

Conde’s first election victory in 2010 raised hopes for democratic progress in Guinea after years of military and authoritarian rule.

But his critics say he’s since cracked down on dissent and violently repressed protests — charges he denies.