Guinea’s military special forces staged a coup on Sunday, saying they had arrested the country’s president, dissolved the government and scrapped the constitution to make way for a new one. This came on the back of hours of heavy gunfire near the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry.
The military special forces, who said they had seized power because of widespread corruption, mismanagement and poverty, announced a nationwide curfew “until further notice”. They said they would convene President Alpha Conde’s cabinet ministers and other senior politicians at 11am (11:00 GMT) on Monday, Aljazeera reported.
The military will replace the country’s governors and other top administrators while all land and air borders will be closed for a week, those behind the coup said.
An earlier video shows President Conde sitting on a sofa surrounded by troops. The 83-year-old leader is asked by one of the soldiers if he is being treated well, but he refuses to answer.
“The president is with us, he’s in a safe place. He’s seen a doctor there’s no problem,” Lieutenant-Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, who is said to be the coup leader, told FRANCE 24. “The whole army is here, from Nzérékoré to Conakry, to help build this country.”
Doumbouya had said earlier on public television that: “We are no longer going to entrust politics to one man, we are going to entrust politics to the people.”
“Guinea is beautiful. We don’t need to rape Guinea any more, we just need to make love to her,” Doumbouya said.
Guinea remains one of the world’s poorest countries in spite of its mineral resources. It has seen both chronic political instability and violence over the years. Condé has been Guinea’s president since 2010. He is only the country’s third democratically elected president in 62 years since the West African nation gained independence from France.
But in 2019, Condé proposed a change in the constitutional term limit that would see him go for another term. This year, the March 22 referendum was held in spite of the scare posed by early coronavirus infections in the country as well as protestations by civil bodies and political parties. The opportunity for a third term was granted by the referendum creating political tension.
Conde won a controversial third term last year. Scores of people who protested against his third term were killed during clashes with security forces. Hundreds were arrested. Conde, who came to power in Guinea’s first democratic transfer of power, has since been accused of being authoritarian.
On Sunday, several people, including opposition supporters and activists took to the streets in celebration of the coup.
The chairman of the African Union, DR Congo President Felix, has condemned the coup, calling for Conde to be freed. The acting president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, also criticized the takeover, demanding the immediate return to constitutional order. The United Nations and the U.S. State Department also decried the coup.
“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,” the State Department said in a statement.
Since August 2020, there have been two military takeovers in Mali and a failed attempt in Niger and experts are concerned about what this means for democracy in the region. But Youssouf Bah, a journalist in Conakry, said members of the special forces told him: “This is not a military coup. We are here to free the people.”
Coup leader Doumbouya has also vowed to save the country. So who really is Doumbouya?
Born March 4, 1980, in the Kankan area, a border region close to Côte d’Ivoire and Mali, Doumbouya was a French legionnaire before he returned to Guinea in 2018 to lead the Special Forces Group, an elite military unit created by Conde. As part of the French Foreign Legion, he rose to the rank of master corporal.
The 41-year-old is a licensed officer of the School of War, and has over fifteen years of military experience, largely during operational missions (Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Central African Republic) and close protection (Israel, Cyprus, United Kingdom, Guinea), according to AA.
Doumbouya has had military training in Israel, Cyprus, and the United Kingdom. In Israel, he completed the operational protection specialist training at the International Security Academy. He also completed the unit commanders training course at the Infantry Application School (EAI – Senegal), the training of staff officer (EEML – Libreville) and the Paris War School.
“Colonel Doumbouya is able to identify and defuse risky situations by remaining calm in the face of a hostile environment and extreme pressure,” journalist Aladji Cellou, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense of Guinea, was quoted by AA.
“He adapts and improvises to any situation that requires self-control, risk assessment and rapid decision-making,” he added.
Married with three children, Doumbouya holds a Master 2 (bac + 5) defense and industrial dynamics at the Panthéon Assas Paris II University, defense expert in management, command and strategy.
Wearing sunglasses and a red beret during a broadcast after Sunday’s coup, Doumbouya said his actions were in the best interests of the country. Condemning the country’s lack of progress, Doumbouya said: “If you see the state of our roads, if you see the state of our hospitals, you realize that after 72 years, it’s time to wake up.”
“We have to wake up.”