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Coup in Guinea: What we know about the putsch that toppled Alpha Conde

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Guinea Coup – the Fall of Alpha Condé

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Sunday, 5 September 2021 21:32, updated on Tuesday, 7 September 2021 18:00

Alpha Conde, surrounded by soldiers of the Special Forces who carried out his "arrest", Sunday, September 5, 2021.

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 promises a new constitution

Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, commander of the Guinean Special Forces, during a military parade in 2019.

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.”

Tense situation in Conakry

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.

Early international reactions

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.

French connection

In early August, the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy visited Alpha Condé in Conakry.

Conakry the 6 August 2021 © Guinée News

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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