Special forces soldiers appeared on Sunday to have ousted Guinea’s long-serving president, telling the nation they had dissolved its government and constitution and closed its land and air borders.
As the United Nations condemned any takeover by force and the West African region’s economic bloc threatened reprisals, the elite army unit’s head, Mamady Doumbouya, said “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his forces to remove President Alpha Conde from office.
“We have dissolved government and institutions,” Doumbouya – a former French foreign legionnaire – said on state television, draped in Guinea’s national flag and surrounded by eight other armed soldiers. “We are going to rewrite a constitution together.”
Gunfire erupted near the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, on Sunday morning. Hours later, videos shared on social media, which Reuters could not immediately authenticate, showed Conde in a room surrounded by army special forces.
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.”
It said violence and any extra-constitutional measures would only erode Guinea’s prospects for peace, stability and prosperity, and added: “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.”
Military sources said the president was taken to an undisclosed location and that the forces commanded by Doumbouya – whom one of the sources, a close colleague, described as calm and reserved by nature – had made several other arrests.
They included senior government officials, the sources said.
The junta that appreared to have seized power later said that Conde was not harmed, his wellbeing was guaranteed and he was being given access to his doctors.
Outgoing ministers and heads of institutions were invited to a meeting on Monday morning in parliament, they said in a statement read on the state broadcaster.
“Any failure to attend will be considered as a rebellion against the CNRD,” the group said referring to its chosen name, the National Rally and Development Committee (CNRD).
Guinea’s main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, denied rumours that he was among those detained.