Guinea awaits future after coup leaders demand talks

Monday September 06 2021
People celebrate in the streets with members of Guinea's armed forces.

People celebrate in the streets with members of Guinea's armed forces after the arrest of President Alpha Conde in a coup d'etat in Conakry, September 5, 2021. PHOTO | CELLOU BINANI | AFP


The West African state of Guinea awaited word on its future on Monday as a new military junta summoned the outgoing cabinet a day after toppling the president.

Elite troops led by Lieutenant-colonel Mamady Doumbouya told outgoing ministers and institutional leaders to gather at 1100 GMT at parliament in the capital Conakry.

"Any refusal to attend will be considered a rebellion," they warned.

Impoverished and volatile, the West African state was hit by fresh turmoil on Sunday when special forces arrested 83-year-old President Alpha Conde, declared they were scrapping the constitution, and imposed a curfew.

Land borders have been shut, the government dissolved and top governors and other senior administrators have been replaced by the military, the junta said.

Discontent had been growing for months over a flatlining Covid-hit economy and the leadership of Conde, who became Guinea's first democratically elected president in 2010.


Five years later, he was re-elected -- but in 2020 he sparked fury after ramming through changes to the constitution enabling him to sidestep a two-term limit.

Doumbouya appeared on public television on Sunday draped in the national flag, accusing the government of "endemic corruption" and "trampling of citizens' rights".

"We are no longer going to entrust politics to one man, we are going to entrust politics to the people," the coup leader said.

"Guinea is beautiful. We don't need to rape Guinea anymore; we just need to make love to her."

He promised to launch a "national consultation to open an inclusive and calm transition."

An umbrella group called the FNDC, which led protests against Conde's constitutional changes, said imprisoned members would be freed on Monday.

A video sent to AFP by the putschists on Sunday showed Conde sitting on a sofa surrounded by troops. 

Wearing a rumpled shirt and jeans and sitting on a sofa, he refused to answer a question from a soldier about whether he had been mistreated.

Troubled nation

Guinea's 13 million people are among the poorest in the world even though their country is a treasure trove of minerals from bauxite and iron ore to gold and diamonds.

It has rarely known stability since declaring independence from France in 1958 and bloody repression is entrenched.

Conde was accused of following that same path towards authoritarianism in the final years of his rule.

Dozens of people were killed during demonstrations against his bid for a third term and hundreds more were arrested.

He was proclaimed president last year after elections that his main challenger Cellou Dalein Diallo and other opposition figures denounced as a sham.

The latest turbulence erupted on Sunday morning, when gunfire broke out in the centre of Conakry. For several hours, the situation was unclear, as the government said an attack on the presidential palace had been "repulsed".

There has been no official account of any casualties and there was no report of any major incident during the night. 

The end of Conde's regime triggered jubilation in some parts of Conakry, especially in pro-opposition districts.

The junta on Sunday said that land and air borders had been closed, but on Monday said that air frontiers had been reopened.

Conakry, usually a bustling city, awoke in calm on Monday. Many shops were closed, and the main market of Medina was exceptionally quiet.

International condemnation

Outside Guinea, international leaders condemned the latest bout of turmoil in West Africa, a region where many countries are struggling with poverty, inequality and jihadist bloodshed.

"Violence and any extra-constitutional measures will only erode Guinea’s prospects for peace, stability, and prosperity," US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, urging all parties to abide by the rule of law.

The African Union and the United Nations both called for Conde's release.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), through its acting president, Ghana's leader Nana Akufo-Addo, threatened sanctions if Guinea's constitutional order was not restored.

The EU and France, the former colonial power, have both condemned the coup -- the latest in a region that has seen recent military takeovers in Mali and Chad.