Heavy gunfire has been reported in the heart of Guinean capital Conakry near the presidential palace, with the country’s special forces claiming responsibility.
A senior military official in a live broadcast announced that President Conde had been captured. He also announced sweeping new measures including the dissolution of the country’s government, the suspension of the constitution and other institutions, and the closure of Guinea’s borders. The military official urged all soldiers to remain in their barracks and encouraged the population to remain serene.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X3kP61R0aE (Senior Guinea Military Official announces takeover)
A senior government official said early on Sunday that President Alpha Conde was unharmed but gave no further details. The president was later seen in a video and picture on social media surrounded by soldiers.
A military source told Reuters news agency the bridge connecting the rest of the city to the Kaloum neighborhood, which houses most ministries and the presidential palace, had been sealed off and many soldiers were posted around the palace.
A military source said the gunfire involved angry members of the special forces, an elite army corps. The source did not say what caused the anger, although the national parliament’s vote to increase the budget for the presidency and parliamentarians, but substantially decreasing the allocations for those working in the security services like the police and the military seemed to be the trigger.
Another military source said the only bridge connecting the mainland to the Kaloum neighborhood, which houses most of the ministries and the presidential palace, had been sealed off, and many soldiers, some heavily armed, were posted around the palace.
Three witnesses told Reuters they saw two civilians with gunshot wounds.
“I see groups of soldiers heading towards the presidency. There has been a lot of shooting,” said Ousmane Camara, a resident of Kaloum.
Footage shared on social media showed heavy gunfire ringing out over the city, and vehicles full of soldiers approaching the central bank, close to the palace.
Two convoys of armored vehicles and pick-up trucks were seen heading towards Conakry Autonomous Port, also near the palace. The convoy was accompanied by a white vehicle that appeared to be an ambulance.
President Conde won a third presidential term in a violently disputed election in October 2020. He ran after pushing through a new constitution in March 2020 which allowed him to sidestep the country’s two-term limit, provoking mass protests. This move was contrary to a promise he made upon taking power, to uphold the country’s budding democracy.
Dozens of people were killed during demonstrations, often in clashes with security forces. Hundreds were also arrested.
The 83-year-old was proclaimed president of the heavily flawed election on November 7, 2020. The government ignored complaints of electoral fraud from his main challenger Cellou Dalein Diallo and other opposition figures.
President Conde was a long and strong opposition figure to Sekou Touré and later to Lasana Conté, when the natural win of change happened with the demise of Lasana, the military took over. Two years later a free and fair election took place in Guinea Conakry where Condé came to power, and after his two terms he decided to emulate his peers in other French-speaking African countries by manipulating the constitution to become president for life.
President Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and won re-election in 2015 before seizing a controversial third term in October 2020, embracing authoritarianism.