Guinean soldiers claim to have seized power in coup attempt

Elite army unit says it has deposed president Alpha Condé but defence ministry says attack has been put down

An elite army unit has announced it has seized power in the west African country of Guinea, deposed the president, Alpha Condé, and imposed an indefinite curfew.

After heavy gunfire was heard near the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, on Sunday morning, soldiers announced the country’s leadership had been deposed in the latest political upheaval to beset the mineral-rich and impoverished nation.

Col Mamadi Doumbouya, the head of the unit and leader of the apparent coup, sat draped in the country’s flag during a brief address on the national broadcaster, Radio Television Guinea, and said the country’s parliament and constitution had been suspended and the borders shut.

“We are taking our destiny in our own hands,” he said, further criticising the state of the country under the 83-year-old president. “The personalisation of political life is over. We will no longer entrust politics to one man, we will entrust it to the people.”

A screengrab of video showing Col Mamadi Doumbouya delivering a speech
A screengrab of video showing the leader of the coup attempt, Mamadi Doumbouya, delivering a speech. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Later on Sunday the soldiers announced a nationwide curfew “until further notice”, saying it would convene Condé’s cabinet ministers at 11:00am (1100 GMT) on Monday.

“Any refusal to attend will be considered a rebellion,” the statement added.

The country’s governors and other top administrators would be replaced by the military, the statement said.

However, there had been some earlier confusion about who was in control of the country.

The defence ministry said an attack on the presidential palace had been put down.

“The presidential guard, supported by the loyalist and republican defence and security forces, contained the threat and repelled the group of assailants,” it said in a statement on Sunday. “Security and combing operations are continuing to restore order and peace.”

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, on Sunday condemned the apparent seizure of power by the military unit. “I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of the gun and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Condé,” he said.

The wellbeing of Condé, in power since 2010, has also not been confirmed, but pictures circulating on social media showed soldiers surrounding the president as he leaned back on a sofa in bare feet, in jeans and a partially open shirt and vest.

In the televised address, Doumbouya said elites in the country had mistreated the country and that there would be an 18-month transition period. In videos posted on social media, civilian supporters of the coup were seen hailing soldiers during the city, crying “freedom”.

Unrest had erupted on Sunday morning when residents in Conakry shared videos on social media of military vehicles patrolling the streets.

Alpha Condé sitting on a sofa
Video showed Alpha Condé, the president, sitting on a sofa surrounded by soldiers. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Witnesses told Reuters they had seen two civilians with gunshot wounds amid the fighting. “I see groups of soldiers heading towards the presidency. There has been a lot of shooting,” said Ousmane Camara in the central district of Kaloum, which was deserted and under heavy military presence. There were unconfirmed reports on Sunday of military casualties, and a reporter for Reuters witnessed an ambulance and military convoys approaching the palace vicinity.

Witnesses said soldiers had sealed off the only bridge connecting the mainland to the Kaloum neighbourhood, which houses the presidential palace and most government ministries.

The unrest in Guinea comes less than a year after Condé – a former widely respected activist and veteran opposition figure – won a third term last November, to widespread dismay. Last March, Guinea voted on a controversial referendum approving changes to the constitution, allowing the president to serve a further two terms. The opposition boycotted the referendum and more than 40 people died in violent protests before the vote.

The upheaval in Guinea also comes amid deepening political unrest in west Africa, and fears that democratic gains in many countries are regressing, with a resurgence of third-term bids and attempts to amend constitutions across the region.

In May, a second military coup within a year in Mali brought a young colonel to power in the country beset with jihadist violence, which is rising in the Sahel. Last year, Ivory Coast’s president, Alassane Ouattara, won a controversial third term, running for office after previously pledging to step down.

Condé’s grip on power has sparked outrage in the mineral-rich coastal nation of 12 million people. The president has overseen a rise in economic growth and development yet Guinea remains highly unequal and impoverished, with much of its young population seeing its future outside of the country.

Last week, Condé sparked further outrage after a bill was passed increasing his salary.


Emmanuel Akinwotu West Africa correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Guinean soldiers massacre 157 in crackdown on pro-democracy protesters
Witnesses report looting and rape, and 1,250 injured whilst coup leader puts blame on 'uncontrollable elements'

Xan Rice in Nairobi and agencies in Conakry

29, Sep, 2009 @7:54 PM

Article image
Guinea president held in military detention, say army coup leaders
International community condemns takeover but many in impoverished west African country welcome it

Emmanuel Akinwotu West Africa correspondent

06, Sep, 2021 @1:26 PM

Article image
'Russians have special status': politics and mining mix in Guinea
Activist alleges Russian mining companies are given advantages in country that gets third of its revenues from the sector

Ruth Maclean West Africa correspondent

27, Aug, 2019 @4:00 AM

Article image
French family seized in Cameroon by suspected Boko Haram Islamists freed
Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, his brother, wife and four children released as President Hollande insists no ransom has been paid

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris and agencies

19, Apr, 2013 @5:17 PM

Article image
Sahel faces surge in violence from terror attacks
More than 4,000 deaths reported last year amid fears region may slide into violent chaos

Jason Burke

22, Jan, 2020 @11:50 AM

Article image
New terrorist threat as EU stance on migrants triggers disquiet in Niger
Efforts to buttress Europe’s borders have left people smugglers in Niger jobless and ripe for exploitation by jihadist groups

Ruth Maclean and Omar Hama Saley in Agadez

27, Jun, 2018 @12:58 PM

Article image
‘An economic calamity’: Africa faces years of post-Covid instability
Damage from pandemic could quash ambitions, exacerbate tensions and deepen repression in parts of continent

Jason Burke in Johannesburg

13, Aug, 2021 @1:24 PM

Attempted coup by elements of military in Guinea after death of dictator Lansana Conté

Elements of military claim to have removed civilian government in wake of Lansana Conté's death

Chris McGreal, Africa correspondent

24, Dec, 2008 @12:01 AM

Article image
Guinea president survives assassination attempt by military aide
Moussa Dadis Camara 'doing well' and situation 'under control' after shooting

David Batty and agencies

04, Dec, 2009 @12:00 AM

Article image
Tight security in Guinea capital after failed assassination attempt
President Moussa Dadis Camara flown to Morocco for treatment after being shot in attack linked to September massacre

Peter Walker and agencies

04, Dec, 2009 @10:02 AM