Monday, January 24

Army Colonel on Guinean TV Says Government Dissolved and Borders Closed

A Guinean army colonel seized control of state television on Sunday, declaring that President Alpha Conde’s government had been dissolved and the West African nation’s borders closed, an announcement that came after hours of intense gunfire near the presidential palace.

Sunday’s dramatic events had all the hallmarks of a West African coup. After taking over the airwaves, the mutinous soldiers pledged to restore democracy and gave themselves a name: the National Committee for Encounter and Development.

Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya sat draped in a Guinean flag with half a dozen other uniformed soldiers beside him as he read the statement, promising: “A soldier’s duty is to save the country.”

He did not mention Conde’s whereabouts and it was not immediately known where the 83-year-old leader was after Sunday’s attack. Conde’s popularity has plummeted since he sought a third term last year, saying term limits did not apply to him.

“The personalization of political life is over. We will no longer entrust politics to one man, we will entrust it to the people, ”said Doumbouya, adding that the constitution will also be dissolved and the borders will be closed for a week.

Doumbouya, who has headed a special forces unit in the military, said he was acting in the best interest of the nation of more than 12.7 million people. Not enough economic progress has been made since independence from France in 1958, the colonel said.

“If you see the state of our roads, if you see the state of our hospitals, you realize that after 72 years, it is time to wake up,” he said. “We have to wake up.”

Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, said on Twitter: “I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of a weapon and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Conde.”

Strong gunfire had erupted early Sunday near the presidential palace in the capital of Conakry and lasted for hours, raising fears of a coup attempt. The Defense Ministry claimed that the attack had been repelled, but uncertainty grew when there were no signs of Conde on state television or radio.

His re-election in October sparked violent street demonstrations in which the opposition said dozens of people were killed. The events of Sunday underscored how he had also become vulnerable to dissident elements within his military.

Conde came to power in 2010 in the country’s first democratic elections since its independence from France. Many saw his presidency as a new beginning for the country, which has been bogged down by decades of corrupt and authoritarian rule.

Opponents, however, say it has failed to improve the lives of Guineans, most of whom live in poverty despite the country’s vast mineral riches such as bauxite and gold.

In 2011, she narrowly survived an assassination attempt after gunmen surrounded her home overnight and hit her room with rockets. Rocket-propelled grenades also landed inside the compound and one of his bodyguards was killed.

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