Special forces soldiers apparently expelled Guinea’s President Alpha Conde on Sunday, telling the West African nation that it had dissolved its government and constitution and closed its land and air borders.
While the United Nations and Nigeria, the region’s dominant power, condemned any takeover, the army’s elite unit chief, Mamady Doumbouya, said “endemic poverty and corruption” had prompted his forces to remove Count from office. .
“We dissolve governments and institutions,” Doumbouya told state television, draped in Guinea’s national flag and surrounded by eight other armed soldiers. “Let’s rewrite a constitution together.”
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Shooting broke out and fighting broke out near the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, on Sunday morning. Hours later, videos shared on social media, which Reuters was unable to authenticate immediately, showed the Count in a room surrounded by Army special forces.
Conde, whose whereabouts was unclear, won a third term in October after changing the constitution to allow him to run again.
This has led to violent protests from the opposition and, in recent weeks, the government has drastically raised taxes to replenish state coffers and raised the price of fuel by 20%, causing widespread frustration.
However, the defense ministry said the takeover attempt was thwarted by the presidential guard.
This comes after hours of heavy gunfire near the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the apparent coup and demanded the immediate release of President Condé.
Guinea, a West African country, is rich in natural resources, but years of unrest and mismanagement mean it is one of the poorest countries in the world.
Barefoot President on a Sofa
The TV speech featured nine unidentified soldiers, several with the national red, gold and green flag, who said they had taken control because of rampant corruption, mismanagement and poverty.
Calling themselves the National Committee for Reconciliation and Development, they said that the constitution had been dissolved and that there would be consultations to create a new and more inclusive one.
Numerous reports say the coup was led by an elite unit led by a former French legionnaire, Lt. Col. Mamady Doumbouya.
In a video, which the BBC was unable to verify, soldiers ask President Condé, 83, to confirm that he is unharmed, but he refuses to respond.
Sitting barefoot on a sofa, wearing jeans and a print shirt, he has no visible injuries. His current whereabouts are unknown.
Those responsible for the coup said all land and air borders were closed for a week.
The opposition took to the streets to celebrate the supposed fall of the government.
According to Reuters, a witness said he saw pickup trucks and military vehicles accompanied by motorcyclists honking their horns and applauding spectators.
“Guinea is free! Bravo,” shouted a woman from her balcony.
“As the president everywhere proclaimed that he wanted to govern differently by annihilating corruption, the embezzlement of public funds increased. The nouveau riches were teasing us,” Alassane Diallo, a resident of Conakry, told Reuters.
“That’s what made things easier for the military.”
As a result of the unrest, Guinea’s World Cup qualifying match against Morocco at home on 6 September has been postponed.
FIFA football governing body said the decision was taken to “guarantee the safety and protection of all players and to protect all referees”.