An unverified video showed Guinea’s long-serving President Alpha Condé, 83, surrounded by soldiers, who said they had seized power. They appeared on state television telling the nation they had dissolved the government and constitution and closed all land and air borders for a week.
The elite army unit’s head, Mamady Doumbouya-a former French foreign legionnaire – said “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his forces to remove Conde from office.
“We have dissolved government and institutions,” Doumbouya said on TV. “We are going to rewrite a constitution together.”
Heavy gunfire in the capital Conakry near the presidential palace erupted on Sunday morning. Hours later, videos shared on social media howed Conde in a room surrounded by army special forces.
However, late on Sunday the defence ministry said forces loyal to the president have “contained the threat and repelled the group of assailants”.
In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24’s correspondent Malick Diakité, Doumbouya said:
“The whole army is here, from Nzérékoré to Conakry, to help build this country.” He also confirmed that the president was being held by his men. “The president is with us, he’s in a safe place. He’s seen a doctor there’s no problem.”
The U.S. State Department issued a statement headed, “On the military seizure of power in Guinea,” and said: “The United States condemns today’s events in Conakry. These actions could limit the ability of the United States and Guinea’s other international partners to support the country as it navigates a path toward national unity and a brighter future for the Guinean people.”
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell tweeted: “I invite all actors to act with respect for the rule of law, in the interest of peace and for the well-being of the Guinean population.”
The events also drew concern and condemnation from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said he strongly condemned “any takeover of the government by force” and called for Conde’s immediate release.
Conde, became the west African country’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and won re-election in 2015 before being re-elected for a controversial third term in office amid violent protests last year. Critics accuse him of veering towards authoritarianism.
Guinea is rich in bauxite, iron ore, gold and diamond.
With reporting by France24, Reuters, BBC, Al Jazeera