Guinea: ‘The day when Alpha Condé fell,’ as told by former state minister Bangoura

By Marième Soumaré

Posted on Monday, 21 March 2022 09:24
Alpha Condé, surrounded by the Special Forces soldiers who carried out his “arrest”, on 5 September 2021. © DR

On 5 September 2021, Kiridi Bangoura, the then minister of state and the presidency’s secretary-general, was surprised by the coup. He tells us what it was like to get arrested by Mamadi Doumbouya's men.

On 5 September at around 7:30am, I was told that the Special Forces had surrounded the presidency. We later learned that they were led by Mamadi Doumbouya. I immediately called the head of state. Alpha Condé told me that part of his guard had joined him – about 16 men – and that the assailants had already reached the first floor of the Sekhoutoureya Palace.

He had also received phone calls from the security services, who kept him informed about how the situation was evolving. He very calmly explained the facts to me. I reminded him of the procedures that he should follow in such circumstances: stay away from doors and above all do not try to flee. In these conditions, it would have been far too risky.

Kalashnikov to the head

I left home to join him at the palace. As the presidency’s secretary-general, I felt that my place was with him. I should not have left my house. I should have stayed at home until things had settled down. This is the procedure in such situations. My aide-de-camp, who is in charge of my safety, tried to dissuade me but, given how stubborn I was being, he gave up and followed me. My personal driver also came. Neither of them had to, but they did.

At the Moussoudougou interchange, we were stopped by a group of Special Forces. There were several dozen soldiers there – I recognised one of them. Six men surrounded us and quickly took us to their base, which was right next door, a stone’s throw from the National Assembly.

One of the young men put his Kalashnikov to my head. I knew then that it was serious. They immediately called Doumbouya to inform him that they had arrested a minister and then asked me to state my identity. I still tried to joke with one of the young people. “It’s good that you know how to keep your cool,” I told him. “You’ve got a good grip on your gun.” “Shut up!” he replied. “Don’t try to calm me down.” So I decided to keep a low profile. They were decent the whole time.

I was released quite quickly, at around 9 o’clock. I think they had already got hold of the president by then. I finally turned around and started walking home. On the way, I met two members of the internal intelligence service, who recognised me and offered me a ride home.

Facing Doumbouya

My aide-de-camp was released much later, at around 7pm. He spent the day with several dozen other men, including some officers who had been arrested at the palace. He told me that they had all been waiting, sitting on the floor in silence.

Doumbouya himself appeared at the end of the day and told them: “It’s over. The president has been arrested.” He gave them a little reassuring speech, promising that no harm would come to them, telling them to remain calm and go home. He told them that, as long as they followed his instructions, everything would be fine.

Once back at home, I watched the rest of the events unfurl on TV. I was both very sad and relieved to see that the president was alive. Like many people, I was very surprised by the coup. How could anyone have foreseen such a thing? If I hadn’t had malaria that morning, I would have been in my field in Wonkifon, 66km from Conakry, when Condé was overthrown. I know I was lucky. Things could have gone seriously wrong.

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