(Update 1: Adds information, quotes)
Dakar, Sep 5 (EFE).- Confusion reigned on Sunday in Guinea-Conakry after elements of the military staged a coup d’etat, detained President Alpha Conde and declared both the constitution and the government to be invalid.
Conde, who had governed the West African nation with a firm hand since 2010, was detained by members of the army’s Special Forces Group, according to the commander of that elite body, Col. Mamady Doumboya, who was identified by local media as a former French Foreign Legion soldier who had returned to Guinea in 2018.
The colonel, in a video posted on the social networks that was further broadcast by Guinean media, announced that the military agreed to “dissolve the prevailing constitution” and the government of the country, which gained independence from France in 1958.
“After taking the president, who currently is with us, we decided to dissolve the government, dissolve the prevailing constitution, dissolve the institutions and close the land and air borders,” Doumboya said.
“We call on our brothers in arms for unity, with the aim of satisfying the legitimate aspirations of the people of Guinea,” the coup leader said.
A while later, Doumboya appeared on state-run television flanked by several soldiers and with the national flag draped over his shoulders, to report the creation of a “National Committee of Unity and Development,” which seeks to “launch a national consultation to open up an inclusive and peaceful transition.”
The colonel justified the coup by saying that it was motivated by “the (government’s) lack of respect for democratic principles, the excessive politicization of the public administration, poor financial management, endemic poverty and corruption,” which – in his judgment – endangers the country.
In photographs and videos broadcast by local media, the 83-year-old Conde appeared dressed in blue jeans and a print shirt seated on a sofa with a serious face and surrounded by soldiers armed with rifles, the location of the photo evidently being the presidential palace in Conakry.
The situation has been confused because the Defense Ministry said in a communique that “the Presidential Guard, backed by the loyal and republican defense and security forces, contained the threat and repelled the group of attackers.”
“Security and search operations are continuing to restore order and peace,” the official statement said, although it made no mention of the fate of the president and its content seems to have been refuted by subsequent events.
The coup came early Sunday morning when heavy gunfire was heard in the central part of the capital city and army soldiers took up positions in the area.
Automatic weapons fire was heard in Conakry’s commercial and financial Kaloum district, where the presidential palace and numerous government ministries are located.
Streets in the area were deserted as gunfire continued to be heard and witnesses said that armored vehicles were moving in the direction of the presidential palace.
At present, the uprising seems to enjoy a certain amount of popular support, given that many people took to the streets in the capital shouting “Long live the army! Long live the coup d’etat!”
In early international reaction to the apparent coup, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on his Twitter account that he was “personally following the situation in Guinea very closely,” adding that “I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of the gun and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Conde.”
Conde came to power on Dec. 21, 2010, after the military coup staged on Dec. 23, 2008, shortly after the death of President Lansana Conte, who had occupied the presidency since 1984.
The military junta that took power in 2008 under the leadership of Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara had governed the country until late 2010, when Conde won the presidency in an electoral runoff.
On Oct. 18, 2020, Guinea-Conakry held a presidential election in which Conde ran for a controversial third term, something the constitution does not allow in principle, after which 91.5 percent of voters in March 2020 opted in a referendum to change the constitution.
In rejecting the third presidential term, opposition groups and civil society regrouped as the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC) and on Sunday announced an “urgent meeting” to analyze the situation.