Guinea’s president was detained on Sunday by soldiers led by an army colonel in the country, who announced the arrest on the country’s public broadcaster.
Addressing the nation on public broadcaster RTG, Col. Mamady Doumbouya, who led the special forces troops taking over, claimed that President Alpha Conde is safe and in the soldiers’ custody.
Vowing to restore democracy in the West African country, Doumbouya said the National Committee of Gathering and Development, the name that 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 army 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 population’s economic and social condition.
“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 the special forces soldiers had circulated earlier in the day on social media.
Conde, 83, was re-elected for a third term in October 2020 in an election marred by violence.
He first came to power in 2010 in a vote seen as the first democratic election since the former French colony — now with a population of 2.7 million — gained independence.
His arrest was reported on local media within hours of heavy gunfire being heard in the capital Conakry around the presidential palace on Sunday morning.
The report also said soldiers were seen driving at high speeds through the capital near the presidential palace and urging residents to stay home.
A military source told local media that the only bridge connecting the mainland to the Kaloum neighborhood, which houses most of the ministries and presidential palace, had been sealed off by heavily armed troops posted around the palace.
Access to the greater Conakry area remained blocked by soldiers from Coyah, a city located 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the capital.
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.
Conde had previously narrowly survived an assassination attempt in 2011 after gunmen raided his home overnight and fired rockets at his bedroom and other parts of the compound, killing one of his bodyguards.
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