Guinean special forces officers said on Sunday they had captured the head of state Alpha Condé, taken control of Conakry and “dissolved” the institutions, in a coup that could spell the retirement of a veteran of African politics, increasingly isolated.
No death was reported Sunday during this coup, despite the intense crackling of automatic weapons heard in the morning in the capital of this country familiar with brutal political confrontations. The apparent end of more than ten years of the Condé regime gave rise to scenes of jubilation in various districts of the capital.
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, however “firmly” condemned in a tweet “any seizure of power” in Guinea “by force of the gun”, calling “for the immediate release of President Alpha Condé”, 83 years old. .
“We decided after taking the president, who is currently with us (…) to dissolve the Constitution in force, to dissolve the institutions”, including the government, said, in a video, the head of the special forces, the lieutenant -colonel Mamady Doumbouya, on behalf of a “National Committee for Rally and Development”, alongside putschists in uniform and in arms.
He also announced the closure of the land and air borders of this West African country plunged for months into a serious economic and political crisis.
Denouncing the “mismanagement”, Lieutenant-Colonel Doumbouya, wrapped in a Guinean flag, then promised to “engage in national consultation to open an inclusive and peaceful transition”, in a statement on national television which interrupted its programs.
The putschists also released a video of President Condé in their hands. They ask him if he has been mistreated and Alpha Condé, in jeans and a crumpled shirt on a sofa, refuses to answer them.
“We hold all of Conakry and we are with all the defense and security forces to finally put an end to the Guinean evil”, declared on France 24 television Lieutenant-Colonel Doumbouya, a very little known personality until then.
– “Many deaths for nothing” –
The defense ministry said in a statement that the presidential guard pushed back the “insurgents” when they tried to take the presidential palace. But the authorities in place until then have then sank into silence.
Hundreds of Conakry residents, especially in suburbs known to be pro-opposition, took to the streets to cheer on special forces soldiers, AFP correspondents noted.
“We are proud of the special forces, shame on the police, shame on the militia of former president Alpha Condé, who died to the torturers and murderers of our youth,” a protester exclaimed on condition of anonymity.
“I could not imagine that Alpha Condé was going to leave power in my lifetime, so much he wronged me,” said Madiaou Sow, a driver. “He killed in the demonstrations my sister Mariama, my nephew Bissiriou, my cousin Alphadio and none of them benefited from the compassion of power,” he said.
He was referring to the bloody crackdown on opposition demonstrations and the mobilization against the adoption by referendum in 2020 of a new Constitution, which Mr. Condé used as an argument to run for a third term.
“We are going to rewrite a Constitution together, this time, all of Guinea”, assured the leader of the putschists, deploring that there were “a lot of deaths for nothing, a lot of wounded, a lot of tears”.
“We no longer need to rape Guinea, we just need to make love to her, quite simply,” he concluded.
The main opposition leaders, requested by AFP, did not wish to speak.
But the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), a coalition of political movements and civil society which led the protest against a third term of Alpha Condé, took note of the “arrest of the dictator” and of the statements by the military on the Constitution.
– “Excited soldiers” –
Early in the morning, heavy gunfire from automatic weapons rang out on the Kaloum peninsula, the nerve center of Conakry, where the presidency, institutions and business offices sit.
“I saw a column of military vehicles aboard which excited soldiers fired into the air and chanted military slogans,” a resident of Tombo district, near the center of the capital, told AFP.
For months, the country, among the poorest in the world despite considerable mineral and hydrological resources, has been in the throes of a deep political and economic crisis, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr. Condé, a former historical opponent, in 2010 became the first democratically elected president in Guinea after decades of authoritarian regimes.
Human rights defenders castigate his authoritarian drift questioning the gains from the beginning.
Mr. Condé prides himself on having advanced human rights and having rehabilitated a country he says he found in ruins.