CONAKRY, Reuters, Special forces soldiers appeared on Sunday to have ousted Guinea’s long-serving president, telling the nation they had dissolved its government and constitution and closed its land and air borders.
As the United Nations condemned any takeover by force and the West African region’s economic bloc threatened reprisals, the elite army unit’s head, Mamady Doumbouya, said “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his forces to remove President Alpha Conde from office.
“We have dissolved government and institutions,” Doumbouya – a former French foreign legionnaire – said on state television, draped in Guinea’s national flag and surrounded by eight other armed soldiers. “We are going to rewrite a constitution together.”
Gunfire erupted near the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, on Sunday morning. Hours later, videos shared on social media, which Reuters could not immediately authenticate, showed Conde in a room surrounded by army special forces.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement headed, “On the military seizure of power in Guinea,” and said: “The United States condemns today’s events in Conakry.”
It said violence and any extra-constitutional measures would only erode Guinea’s prospects for peace, stability and prosperity, and added: “These actions could limit the ability of the United States and Guinea’s other international partners to support the country as it navigates a path toward national unity and a brighter future for the Guinean people.”
Military sources said the president was taken to an undisclosed location and that the forces commanded by Doumbouya – whom one of the sources, a close colleague, described as calm and reserved by nature – had made several other arrests.
They included senior government officials, the sources said.
The junta that appeared to have seized power later said that Conde was not harmed, his wellbeing was guaranteed and he was being given access to his doctors.
Outgoing ministers and heads of institutions were invited to a meeting on Monday morning in parliament, they said in a statement read on the state broadcaster.
“Any failure to attend will be considered as a rebellion against the CNRD,” the group said referring to its chosen name, the National Rally and Development Committee (CNRD).
Guinea’s main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, denied rumours that he was among those detained.
TAXES AND PROTESTS
Conde won a third term in October after changing the constitution to allow him to stand again, triggering violent protests from the opposition.
In recent weeks the government has sharply increased taxes to replenish state coffers and raised the price of fuel by 20%, causing widespread frustration.
By Sunday evening it was not clear if Doumbouya had taken full control, the defence ministry having issued a statement saying an attack on the presidential palace had been repelled.
But United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he strongly condemned “any takeover of the government by force” and called for Conde’s immediate release.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened to impose sanctions after what its chairman, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, called an attempted coup.
The African Union said it would meet urgently and take “appropriate measures” while the foreign ministry in Nigeria, the region’s dominant power, called for a return to constitutional order.
Videos shared on social media had earlier shown military vehicles patrolling Conakry, and one military source said the only bridge connecting the mainland to the Kaloum neighbourhood, where the palace and most government ministries are located, had been sealed off.
‘THE RICH WERE TAUNTING US’
By mid-afternoon, when the shooting had stopped, residents were venturing back onto the streets of the capital to celebrate the uprising’s apparent success.
A Reuters witness saw pick-up trucks and military vehicles accompanied by motorcyclists honking their horns and cheering onlookers. “Guinea is free! Bravo,” a woman shouted from her balcony.
Alexis Arieff, at the United States Congressional Research Service, said that, while mutinies and coups were nothing new in West Africa, the region had seen “major democratic backsliding” in recent years.
Both Conde and Ivory Coast’s leader have moved the legislative goalposts to extend the clock on their presidencies in the past year, while Mali has experienced two military coups and Chad one.
Guinea has seen sustained economic growth during Conde’s decade in power thanks to its bauxite, iron ore, gold and diamond wealth.
But few of its citizens have seen the benefits, and critics say his government has used restrictive criminal laws to discourage dissent, while ethnic divisions and endemic graft have sharpened political rivalries.
“While the president was proclaiming everywhere that he wanted to govern differently by annihilating corruption, the embezzlement of public funds increased. The new rich were taunting us,” Alassane Diallo, a resident of Conakry, told Reuters.
“It is all this that made it easier for the military.”
Reporting by Saliou Samb, Bate Felix, David Lewis and Camillus Eboh and Fadimata Kontao; additional reportng by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Hereward Holland and John Stonestreet; Editing by Frances Kerry, John Stonestreet and Sandra Maler
Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter, Zoleka, dies of cancer at 43
South African anti-apartheid struggle hero, Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter, Zoleka Mandela, has died of cancer aged 43, her family said on Tuesday.
The family said recent scans revealed “significant” progress in cancer that affected her hip, liver, lung, pelvis, brain and spinal cord.
“We mourn the loss of a beloved grandchild of Mum Winnie and Madiba,” the Nelson Mandela Foundation wrote on social media, using the name by which the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was fondly known.
“Her work in raising awareness about cancer prevention and her unwavering commitment to breaking down the stigma surrounding the disease will continue to inspire us all.”
Rwanda’s Kagame says he will run for fourth term
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has said for the first time that he plans to run for a fourth term in elections due to be held next year.“Yes, I am indeed a candidate,” Kagame, who has ruled over the country with an iron fist for decades, told Jeune Afrique, a French-language news magazine, in an interview published online on Tuesday.
“I am pleased with the confidence that Rwandans have placed in me. I will always serve them, as long as I can,” the 65-year-old was quoted as saying.
The Rwandan government in March decided to synchronize the dates for its parliamentary and presidential elections, which are due to be held in August next year.
Kagame had previously not made his intentions clear but has presided over controversial constitutional amendments that allowed him to serve a third term.
A former rebel chief, Kagame has been regarded as the country’s de facto leader since the end of the 1994 genocide.
He won a third term in 2017, taking home nearly 99 percent of the votes.
US, EU back African Union bid to join G20
The African Union looks set to become the newest member of the G20, officials said on Friday, as the bloc’s bid won backing from existing members gathered for a summit in India.
G20 host and Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, called for the pan-African organisation to become a permanent member, arguing that developing nations need a greater say in global decision-making.
The proposal has won backing from Washington and on Friday, the European Union said it would also back the move.
“I look forward to welcoming the AU as a permanent member of the G20”, European Council president Charles Michel told reporters in New Delhi, where the two-day G20 summit begins on Saturday.
The Group of 20 major economies currently consists of 19 countries and the European Union, making up about 85 per cent of global GDP and two-thirds of the world population.
But South Africa is currently the only G20 member from the African continent.
The Ethiopia-headquartered AU was created in 2002, following the disbanding of the Organisation of African Unity.
At full strength, it has 55 members, but six junta-ruled nations are currently suspended. Collectively it has a GDP of $3trillion with some 1.4 billion people.
India’s top foreign service officer, Vinay Kwatra, said it expected a decision on AU membership would be made at the summit on Saturday morning.
In December 2022, U.S. President, Joe Biden, said he wanted the AU “to join the G20 as a permanent member”, adding that it had “been a long time in coming, but it’s going to come”.
On Tuesday, Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, reiterated the stance while discussing the U.S. priorities for the New Delhi summit.
“We’re also looking forward to warmly welcoming the African Union as a permanent member of the G20 — the newest permanent member. We believe that the African Union’s voice will make the G20 stronger,” Sullivan said at a White House briefing.
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