Guinea: International uproar after coup d’état against Alpha Condé
The soldiers who instigated a coup against Guinea's Alpha Condé summoned the outgoing ministers on Monday 6 September, stating that, “any refusal will be considered a rebellion”.
By Jeune Afrique
A coup in Guinea has toppled President Alpha Condé. Since early in the morning of 5 September, the Guinean presidential palace and its environs saw heavy gunfire. The putsch was carried out by the Special Forces Group, led by Mamady Doumbouya.
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Update: Lieutenant-Colonel Mamady Doumbouya has announced that regional political leaders will be replaced by garrison commanders, the dissolution of parliament and other institutions, and has summoned ministers to an 11AM meeting on 6 September.
Everything happened very quickly on Sunday 5 September. At around 8am, heavy gunfire broke out in the vicinity of Sékhoutouréya, the presidential palace where the head of state was then, and continued throughout the morning.
According to our information, the coup plotters, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, the commander of the Special Forces Group (GPS), were stationed in Forécariah, about 100 km from Conakry.
They reached the Guinean capital in about fifty trucks and progressed to the palace without encountering much resistance; the presidential guard in charge of protecting Alpha Condé did not put up much of a fight.
In a few hours, the coup plotters managed to seize the president and broadcast a video in which he appears. Sitting on a sofa in a room of the palace, he looks stunned, his shirt open and his feet bare.
“Did anyone touch a single hair on your head? Have you been brutalized, Excellency?” asks one of the soldiers in fatigues surrounding him. Alpha Conde, 83, seems fine but remains silent.
Within minutes, he is led out of Sékhoutouréya. Photos show him sitting in the back of a vehicle on his way to an unknown destination. Rumours have it that he is on his way abroad but, according to our information, as of Sunday evening, he is still on Guinean territory.
Mamady Doumbouya is from the Malinke from the Kankan region. He was one who announced, in a video broadcast on social networks, red beret on his head and sunglasses on his nose, that “the socio-political and economic situation of the country, the dysfunction of republican institutions, the instrumentalisation of justice, the trampling of citizens’ rights, the financial mismanagement […] have led the republican army to live up to its responsibilities towards the people of Guinea.”
He also announced the dissolution of the Constitution, the government, the institutions, the closure of the borders and the creation of a “National Committee for Rally and Development, CNRD”.
These announcements were confirmed in the afternoon on national television. Addressing Guineans, he added that a new constitution would be written and that the junta wanted to “bring together” Guineans. “I know that we are capable of taking our destiny in hand,” he concluded. “Guinea is beautiful: we no longer need to violate it. We just need to make love to her.”
A former legionnaire in the French army, Doumbouya had been called back to Guinea to head the GPS. In recent months, his desire to make the GPS autonomous from the Ministry of Defence had aroused the mistrust of the authorities. In May, unfounded rumours of his possible arrest had even circulated in the Guinean capital.
A minister close to Alpha Condé told us at midday that “the forces loyal to Alpha Condé [had] not said their last word”. According to our sources, however, several elements of the Bataillon des troupes autonomes aéroportées (BATA), led by Abdoulaye Keita, known as the “Commando Faranah”, have gone over to the coup plotters (the BATA being the original unit of Moussa Dadis Camara, who took power after the death of President Lansana Conté in 2008).
In some parts of Conakry, residents took to the streets to celebrate the coup, but gunfire was still heard in other parts of the city.
I am personally following the situation in Guinea very closely. I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of the gun and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Conde.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) September 5, 2021
Internationally, reactions are still rare and circumspect, a few hours after the announcement of the seizure of power by the CNRD. “I am personally following the situation in Guinea very closely,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. I strongly condemn any seizure of power by force of arms and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Condé.”
J. Peter Pham, former US special envoy to the Sahel, called the coup “disturbing”. “Whatever the justification, extra-constitutional regime change is always destabilising for a country (and bad for its economy),” the US diplomat commented.
Alpha Conde came to power in 2010 and was re-elected in 2020 for a third term after a controversial revision of the Constitution.
In early August, the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy visited Alpha Condé in Conakry.
Sarkozy is a regular in Conakry.
In 2019, he played the role of intermediary between Alpha Condé and mining magnate Beny Steinmetz, unofficial boss and official adviser of the BSGR Resources group, which had long been in conflict with the Guinean state over the Simandou mines, before Conakry decided to drop the proceedings.
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Mamady Doumbouya, leader of the special forces, seized power on 5 September. The former French legionary returned to Guinea barely three years ago and managed to gain the confidence of President Alpha Condé, whom he has since turned against.
On Monday, 24 hours after overthrowing president Alpha Condé, Mamady Doumbouya and his men summoned former government members to a meeting. No one missed it. Former Prime Minister Ibrahima Kassory Fofana was present, as was former Minister of Defense Mohamed Diané, and former Secretary-General of the Presidency, Kiridi Bangoura. Not even the former government spokesman, Tibou Kamara was left out - all had responded to the summons served the day before...not that they had much choice.
Following Guinea's coup d'etat on 5 September led by Mamady Doumbouya, the regional bloc ECOWAS has just announced its suspension. A high-level mission will be sent over to evaluate the situation before any further decisions are made. But in the aftermath of the coup, there are questions that stand out: Why was it so easy to capture President Alpha Condé? Why did he ignore everyone’s warnings about Doumbouya? And where does Conakry’s new master really come from?
In what state of mind does Guinea's deposed president find himself? Under what conditions might he hope to be released? An ECOWAS mission was able to meet with Alpha Condé on 10 September. We've got this exclusive report from that meeting.
[Fact-checking] After a video was released showing a number of US marines celebrating the fall of Guinea’s President Alpha Condé, rumours started spreading about their possible involvement in the coup. Washington has formally denied them.
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