The military coup in Guinea on Sunday said they had arrested the president and staged a coup to destabilize the impoverished West African nation as the government insisted on fending off the attack.
“We have decided, after having taken the president, to dissolve the constitution,”said a uniformed officer surrounded by soldiers handing out machine guns, said in a video broadcast to AFP.
The official also said Guinea’s land and air borders had been closed and the government dissolved.
However, the situation remains unclear, as the Conde government issued a competitive statement stating that the special forces attack on the presidential palace had been “repulsed”.
Another video sent by the coup plotters to AFP showed the motley-looking President Alpha Conde sitting on a sofa surrounded by troops. He refused to answer a soldier’s question about whether he had been mistreated.
Guinea – one of the world’s poorest countries, despite its significant natural resources – has long been plagued by political instability.
Residents of the district capital Kanaum in the government district of Conakry said on Sunday they had heard heavy gunfire.
On condition of anonymity about their safety, they said they saw a number of soldiers on the streets asking residents to return to their homes and stay there.
A Western diplomat in Conakry, who also declined to be named, said the unrest started after the sacking of a high-ranking special forces commander and provoked some of its highly qualified members to revolt and occupy the presidential palace.
AFP was unable to independently verify this account.
Later on Sunday, the head of Guinea’s special forces, Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, appeared on public television with the national flag, citing the government’s “mismanagement” as a reason for his actions.
The coup, which appears to have come amid a long period of political tension in Guinea, was sparked for the first time by Conde’s contested candidacy for a third term last year.
The day before last year’s presidential election, the military blocked access to Kaloum following an alleged military uprising east of the capital.
Conde, 83, also survived an assassination attempt in 2011.
The last presidential election in a nation of some 13 million people in October 2020 was fiercely contested and also overshadowed by allegations of electoral fraud.
Conde won a controversial third term in opinion polls, but only after he passed a new constitution in March 2020 that would allow him to cross the country’s bilateral borders.
Dozens of people have died in demonstrations against a third term, often in clashes with security forces. Hundreds were also arrested.
Conde was then declared president on November 7 last year – although his main opposer Cellou Daleine Diallo and other members of the opposition called the election wrong.
According to opinion polls, the government took a tough stance and arrested several prominent opposition figures for their alleged role in supporting electoral violence in the country.
The former opposition leader himself, who was jailed and sentenced to death, became Guinea’s first democratically elected leader in 2010 and re-elected in 2015.
However, hopes for a new political revival in the former French colony were dashed and he was accused of having lapsed into authoritarianism.