Heavy gunfire erupted on Sunday in Conakry, Guinea outside of the presidential palace. Soon after, an Army Special Forces Colonel and his troops seized control of the national television to announce that President Alpha Conde’s government had been dissolved.
Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, a former French Foreign Legion officer and the commander of the special forces unit, appeared on state television with the national flag draped across his shoulders. He said that “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his forces to remove Conde from office. He added that “the duty of a soldier is to save the country.”
“We are no longer going to entrust politics to one man, we are going to entrust politics to the people,” Doumbouya said. “Guinea is beautiful. We don’t need to rape Guinea anymore, we just need to make love to her.”
“If you see the state of our roads, if you see the state of our hospitals, you realize that after 72 years, it’s time to wake up,” Doumbouya added. “We have to wake up.”
Calling themselves the National Committee for Reconciliation and Development, the military coup leaders said the constitution had been dissolved and that there will be consultations to create a new, more inclusive one.
A Troubled Country
Guinea is the world’s leading producer of bauxite, which is used to make aluminum; it is also rich in gold. Nevertheless, due to the mismanagement and corruption, the mineral-rich country is one of the poorest in the world.
News of the coup sent the European market prices of aluminum skyrocketing to a 10-year high.
The coup leaders closed the borders for a week and announced a nationwide curfew until further notice. They also have summoned Conde’s ministers and top government officials to a meeting on Monday. An army spokesman told state television that failure to attend the meeting would be considered a “rebellion.”
There seems to be a split among the armed forces. No unit, besides Doumbouya’s, has publicly made any statements on the coup. The Defense Ministry released a statement saying that forces loyal to the president have “contained the threat and repelled the group of assailants.”
However, the coup leaders then released a video of President Conde from an unknown location. Looking unkempt and barefoot, he is seen sitting on a couch surrounded by soldiers. When asked by one soldier if he was being mistreated he refused to answer.
The coup was denounced by the UN, Russia, and the United States. The U.S. State Department warned it could “limit” Washington’s support of Guinea. “The United States condemns today’s events in Conakry,” the State Department said in a statement.
“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,” the State Department added.
Conde had been under heavy criticism since he changed Guinea’s constitution a year ago. This allowed him to run for a third term as president. The October 2020 election was marred by charges of electoral fraud and violence and dozens were killed.
Conde came to power in 2010 in the country’s first democratic election since independence from France. It was hoped that his election would be a fresh start for the country. Instead, Guinea has been the scene of political instability and authoritarian rule.
Supporters of the coup took to the streets in celebration of the removal of Conde from power. Despite the curfew on Sunday night, the headquarters of Conde’s presidential guard was looted by people who made off with rice, cans, oil, air conditioners, and mattresses, according to Reuters.