Coup in Guinea as President is detain*International communities condemn action* Defence ministry says attack repelled
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
29 African Migrants trying to cross to Italy die as Boat Sinks in Tunisia
A boat carrying 29 African migrants trying to cross to Italy has capsized. Tunisia’s coast guard recovered 10 bodies from the migrant boat which sank near the coast, the second vessel to sink within hours off Tunisia, bringing the death toll to 29, according to a security official. According to Al Jazeera, Houssem Jebabli, a national guard official, said that the boat sank off the coast of Mahdia, without giving further details. Earlier on Sunday, a human rights group said at least 19 refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa had drowned off the coast of Tunisia while trying to cross the Mediterranean and reach Italy. Romdhane Ben Amor, an official at the Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES), told the Reuters news agency that the deaths also occurred when a boat carrying the refugees and migrants sank off the coast of Mahdia after a journey that started from Sfax beaches. He said the Tunisian coast guard was able to rescue five people from the boat. Tunisian authorities were not immediately available for comment. Reports of the deaths came as Italy’s ANSA news agency said more than 2,000 asylum seekers had arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa within 24 hours. The agency described the arrivals on Saturday as a “record”. In the last four days, at least five boats carrying refugees and migrants have sunk off the southern city of Sfax, leaving 67 missing and nine dead. The coast guard previously said it had stopped about 80 boats heading for Italy in the past four days and detained more than 3,000 people, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries. The coast near Sfax has become a major departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East in the hope of a better life in Europe. The latest disaster comes amid a campaign of arrests by Tunisian authorities of undocumented sub-Saharan Africans. According to United Nations data, at least 12,000 people who reached Italy this year set sail from Tunisia, compared with 1,300 in the same period of 2022. Previously, Libya was the main departure point for refugees and migrants.
Three arrested over murder of South African Rapper, AKA
Three suspects have been arrested over the murder of South African rapper, Kiernan Forbes, popularly known as AKA. Recall that he was gunned down on February 10, 2023 around Florida Road. Confirming the devastating development, the police in Durban said the rapper was killed in a drive-by shooting on Florida Road by persons in two cars around 10 pm on Friday. It was reported that AKA was standing outside the Wish Restaurant when he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. Reports, however, emerging in the last week of March, revealed that after investigations into AKA’s killing, the police in Cape Town arrested three people on Sunday after monitoring them during the week. According to reports, the suspects, now in police custody, would be brought to Durban, where they are expected to be charged. Western Cape police spokesperson Colonel André Traut, while addressing journalists referred questions about the arrest to the KwaZulu-Natal police. “It is a KZN case; should we get any information, it will be sent to them. You should contact them for information,” he reportedly told the local publication, The South African.
Court adjourns Fayose’s alleged N6.9bn fraud trial till May 8
Justice Chukujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Wednesday, March 21, 2023, adjourned further hearing in the trial of a former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, and his company, Spotless Investment Limited, over an alleged N6.9bn fraud, till May 8, 2023.
The Lagos Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had, on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, re-arraigned Fayose and Spotless Investment Limited on an 11-count charge bordering on money laundering and stealing to the tune of N6.9bn ( Six Billion Nine Hundred Naira).
The defendants had first been arraigned on October 22, 2018 before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun.
At the resumed sitting today, the 12th prosecution witness, PW 12, Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence, told the court that he had no document showing that he withdrew the sum of N1.2billion, which he allegedly gave Fayose.
During cross-examination by counsel to the second defendant, Olakekan Ojo, SAN, Obanikoro told the court that he never, at any time, showed the EFCC operatives any document showing that he gave instruction or withdrew the sum of N1.2 billion from the Diamond Bank account of Sylva McNamara Limited.
Obanikoro, in his previous testimony, had told the court that the sum of N1.2 billion was deposited into the account of a company, Sylva McNamara, to fund “clandestine security operations” to prevent terrorists’ activities in Lagos State in two installments.
When asked if he produced any resolution of Board of Directors of Sylva McNamara, authorising him to control the management of the account of the company, he said “No.”
According to him, “I didn’t produce any Board resolution or letter to the EFCC. Also, there was no letter from Sylva McNamara to the then Diamond Bank, telling the bank that I was asked to control and manage the account.”
Obanikoro, who said Sambo Dasuki, a former National Security Adviser, had no interactions with Fayose or Diamond Bank in respect of the N1.2billion withdrawn from the account of Sylva McNamara Limited, further told the court the EFCC exonerated him of any wrongdoing after investigations.
Asked if he was ever asked to refund money to the EFCC, he said: “Yes, I refunded, as it was part of the conditions given for my release. Anywise man would do the same.”
When asked how much was refunded, the he said: “I do not recall.”
But when Ojo asked Obanikoro if the money he refunded was between N100m and N200m, he responded: “ Okay, around that…”
Obanikoro, while reacting to the question about the sum of $4bn he allegedly gave Fayose, said: ”In our line of business, it is not customary to ask for receipt or acknowledgement of such money.
“So, there was no confirmation of the money.”
The case was adjourned till May 8 and 9 and June 6, 8, 2023 for continuation of trial.
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