Guinea in turmoil as soldiers claim they have dissolved the government

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Soldiers who staged an uprising in Guinea’s capital have said in a short broadcast on state television that they have dissolved the constitution and the government in the West African state.

Unverified videos shared on social media on Sunday apparently showed President Alpha Conde being surrounded by soldiers. His whereabouts were unclear.

This followed earlier reports of heavy gunfire in Conakry near the presidential palace though it was unclear who was responsible.

Guinea’s defence ministry said that an attack by mutinous special forces on the presidential palace had been repelled, though it was not immediately clear who held power.

An unidentified soldier, draped in Guinea’s national flag and surrounded by eight other armed soldiers, said in the broadcast that they planned to form a transitional government and would give further details later.

The defence ministry said the attempted insurgency had been put down.

“The presidential guard, supported by the loyalist and republican defence and security forces, contained the threat and repelled the group of assailants,” it said in a statement.

“Security and combing operations are continuing to restore order and peace.”

Reports of gunfire

Earlier on Sunday, a military source told Reuters news agency the bridge connecting the rest of the city to the Kaloum neighbourhood, which houses most ministries and the presidential palace, had been sealed off and many soldiers were posted around the palace.

A military source said the gunfire involved angry members of the special forces, an elite army corps. The source did not say what caused the anger.

Another military source said the only bridge connecting the mainland to the Kaloum neighbourhood, which houses most of the ministries and the presidential palace, had been sealed off and many soldiers, some heavily armed, were posted around the palace.

Three witnesses told Reuters they saw two civilians with gunshot wounds.

“I see groups of soldiers heading towards the presidency. There has been a lot of shooting,” said Ousmane Camara, a resident of Kaloum.

Footage shared on social media showed heavy gunfire ringing out over the city, and vehicles full of soldiers approaching the central bank, close to the palace.

Two convoys of armoured vehicles and pick-up trucks were seen heading towards Conakry Autonomous Port, also near the palace. The convoy was accompanied by a white vehicle that appeared to be an ambulance.

Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Dakar in neighbouring Senegal, said troops had been deployed in downtown Conakry and ordered residents over loudspeakers to remain indoors.

Haque said the area near the Hotel Kaloum was the scene of the shooting and President Conde was reportedly nearby.

“This comes a week after the national parliament voted an increase in budget for the presidency and parliamentarians, but a substantial decrease for those working in the security services like the police and the military.”

Disputed elections

Conde won a third presidential term in a violently disputed election last October. He ran after pushing through a new constitution in March 2020 which allowed him to sidestep the country’s two-term limit, provoking mass protests.

Dozens of people were killed during demonstrations, often in clashes with security forces. Hundreds were also arrested.

Conde, 83, was then proclaimed president on November 7 last year – despite complaints of electoral fraud from his main challenger Cellou Dalein Diallo and other opposition figures.

A former opposition activist himself, Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and won re-election in 2015 before doing so again last year. Critics, however, accuse him of veering towards authoritarianism.

Guinea has witnessed 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.

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