Special forces soldiers apparently ousted Guinea’s long-serving President Alpha Conde on Sunday, telling the West African nation they had dissolved its government and constitution and closed its land and air borders.
As the United Nations and Nigeria, the region’s dominant power, condemned any takeover by force, the elite army unit’s head, Mamady Doumbouya, said “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his forces to remove Conde fromoffice.
“We have dissolved government and institutions,” Doumbouya 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 and fighting broke out 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 aroom surrounded by army special forces.
Conde, whose whereabouts were not clear, won a third term in October after changing the constitution to allow him to stand again.
That led to violent protests from the opposition, and in recent weeks the government has sharply increased taxes to replenish state coffers and raised the price of fuel by 20%, causing widespread frustration.
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.
Nigeria’s foreign ministry said Guinea’s “apparent coup d’etat” violated Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rules, and called for the restitution of 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 neighborhood, where the palace and most government ministries are located, had been sealed off.