Coup chaos in Guinea as soldiers detain 83-year-old President

Coup chaos in Guinea as soldiers detain 83-year-old President and close the country’s borders

  • Army colonel goes on TV to declare Guinea government is dissolved in coup
  • President Alpha Conde, 86, is seen detained and surrounded by coup’s soldiers
  • But Defence Ministry claims that the attack on presidential palace was repelled

A Guinean army colonel has gone on state television to say that President Alpha Conde’s government has been dissolved along with the constitution in a coup.

Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya sat, draped in a Guinean flag with other soldiers by him, as he read a statement Sunday on the uprising on state television, vowing: ‘The duty of a soldier is to save the country.’  

The group call themselves the National Committee of Gathering and Development vowed to restore democracy and also ordered the closure of the country’s borders. 

The mutinous soldiers vowed to restore democracy and closed the country’s borders. Members of the Armed Forces of Guinea are seen going through the central neighbourhood of Kaloum in Conakry on Sunday

However, the Defense Ministry put out a statement of its own Sunday, saying that the attack on the presidential palace in the capital of Conakry had been repelled. 

President Alpha Conde, 83, who has been in power for more than a decade, has been seen today in the custody of army special forces.

He had seen his popularity plummet since he sought a third term last year, saying that term limits did not apply to him.

‘We will no longer entrust politics to one man; we will entrust it to the people,’ Doumbouya said, adding that the constitution would also be dissolved and the country’s borders would be closed for one week.

Doumbouya, who has headed a special forces unit in the military, said he was acting in the best interests of the nation, since he said not enough economic progress has been made since the country became independent from France in 1958.

Photos and video showing President Alpha Conde in the custody of soldiers circulated widely on social media

‘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,’ he said. ‘We have to wake up.’

Heavy gunfire had erupted early Sunday near the presidential palace and went on for hours, sparking fears in a nation that already has seen multiple coups and presidential assassination attempts. The Defense Ministry claimed that the attack had been stopped but uncertainty grew when there was no subsequent sign of Conde on state television or radio.

It was not immediately known how broad Doumbouya’s support was within the military’s ranks. In Sunday’s speech, he called on other soldiers ‘to put themselves on the side of the people’ and stay in their barracks.

The president’s reelection in October had prompted violent street demonstrations in which the opposition said dozens were killed. Sunday’s developments underscored how he had also become vulnerable to dissenting elements within his military.

Mr Conde, in power for more than a decade, had seen his popularity plummet since he sought a third term last year, saying that term limits did not apply to him

Mr Conde came to power in 2010 in the country’s first democratic election since independence from France. Many saw his presidency as a fresh start for the country, which has been mired by decades of corrupt, authoritarian rule.

Opponents, though, say he has failed to improve the lives of Guineans, most of whom live in poverty despite the country’s vast mineral riches, which include bauxite and gold.

Guinea has had a long history of political instability since independence. In 1984, Lansana Conte took control of the country after the first post-independence leader died. He remained in power for a quarter century until his death in 2009.

A second coup soon followed, leaving army Capt. Moussa ‘Dadis’ Camara in charge. He later went into exile after surviving an assassination attempt, and a transitional government later organized the landmark 2010 election won by Conde.

The following year, Conde narrowly survived an assassination attempt after gunmen surrounded his home overnight and pounded his bedroom with rockets. Rocket-propelled grenades also landed inside the compound and one of his bodyguards was killed.

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