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Guinean forces announce detention of president, dissolution of government

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Sep 06, 2021 - 04:05 AM

KIGALI, Rwanda/DAKAR, Senegal/PARIS (AA) – Guinea’s president was detained Sunday by soldiers led by an army colonel, who announced the move on state television.

Addressing the nation on public broadcaster RTG, Col. Mamadi Doumbouya said President Alpha Conde is safe and in custody.

“We have taken all measures to ensure that he has access to health care and he is in contact with doctors. Everything will be fine,” said a statement attributed to Doumbouya.

Vowing to restore democracy in the West African nation, Doumbouya said the National Committee for Rally and Development, the name the troops had given themselves, would dissolve the country’s constitution and government while also closing its land and air borders for a week.

Draped in a Guinean flag, the colonel was flanked by a half dozen other soldiers in uniform, underlining that “the duty of a soldier is to save the country.”

He accused Conde of personalizing politics and not doing enough to improve the people’s economic and social conditions.

“We will no longer entrust politics to one man. We will entrust it to the people,” he said, claiming that he was “acting in the best interests of the nation.”

Footage of Conde being detained by special forces circulated earlier in the day on social media.

Conde, 83, was re-elected for a third term in October 2020 in polls marred by violence.

He first came to power in 2010 in a vote seen as the first democratic election since the former French colony gained independence.

His detention was reported in local media within hours of heavy gunfire being heard in the capital Conakry around the presidential palace on Sunday morning.

The report also said that soldiers were seen driving through the capital near the presidential palace and urging residents to stay home.

Doumbouya later also replaced all regional governors with military commanders.

The statement attributed to Doumbouya also said that local officials had been replaced by the army while secretaries-general of the ministerial departments are now responsible for day-to-day affairs.

“The outgoing ministers are invited to a meeting Monday, Sept. 6 at 11 a.m. at the people’s palace. Any refusal to turn out will be constituted as a rebellion,” the statement said.

The decisions were disclosed hours after the military announced the takeover of the government in the West African country, effectively dissolving the National Assembly and constitution.

To ensure continuity, the military also called on Guineans to report to work Monday, noting that all arrangements shall be made to ensure the safety of citizens and their property.

An overnight nationwide curfew will be in place until further notice.

A military source told local media that the only bridge connecting the mainland to the Kaloum neighborhood, which houses most ministries and the presidential palace, had been sealed off by heavily armed troops.

Access to the greater Conakry area remained blocked by soldiers from Coyah, a city located 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the capital.

– Condemnation

On Twitter, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly condemned” the power grab.

“I am personally following the situation in Guinea very closely. I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of the gun and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Conde,” he said.

The chairman of the African Union, Felix Tshisekedi, and African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat joined Guterres late Sunday in condemning the coup and demanding the immediate release of President Conde.

In a joint communiqué, Tshisekedi, who is also president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mahamat called for an urgent meeting of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to “consider the new situation in Guinea and to take appropriate measures in the circumstances.”

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union also condemned the coup.

In a written statement, ECOWAS noted that Conde’s physical integrity should be respected.

It also called for the immediate release of Conde and those detained along with him.

ECOWAS also urged parties to immediately establish constitutional order in the country.

It also condemned the military takeover of power and threatened sanctions.

The statement from the sub-regional bloc demanded “a return to constitutional rule,” failure of which “sanctions will apply.”

“ECOWAS reaffirms its disapproval of any unconstitutional political change,” said the statement, which was signed by its chairman, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo.

The African Union in a statement called for the immediate release of Conde.

It also called on the African Union Peace and Security Council to hold an emergency meeting.

France’s Foreign Ministry also condemned the coup and said that Paris is in close contact with its African and international allies.

Meanwhile, the French Embassy in Conakry asked its citizens in Guinea to stay at home until further notice.

Rejecting the military’s seizure of power, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a written statement that violence and unconstitutional steps will only erode Guinea’s prospects for peace, stability and prosperity.

“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,” he noted.

Late Sunday, Turkey condemned the “coup attempt” in Guinea and the detention of the country’s president, saying it views recent developments with “deep concern.”

Local media reports indicated that opposition supporters took to the streets in Conakry with jubilant youth dancing to welcome the military takeover.

Conde narrowly survived an assassination attempt in 2011 after gunmen raided his home and fired rockets at his bedroom and other parts of the compound, killing one of his bodyguards.

*Zehra Nur Duz and Burak Bir contributed to this story from Ankara

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