The president of Guinea, the coastal West African country with a population of about 12 million people, was ousted by a military official in a coup Sunday morning, a soldier in the country’s army announced on local television, according to The Associated Press.
Reports indicate that Alpha Conde, the three-term elected president, was detained following gunfire in the nation’s capital of Conakry. Later in the day, Army Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya appeared on television and declared that the constitution was invalid and that the country would chart a new path forward.
“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,” said Doumbouya, reports The Associated Press. “We have to wake up.”
Conde, 83, became the country’s first democratically-elected president in 2010 but since then has declared that constitutional term limits no longer apply to him. According to Reuters, the country’s defense ministry issued a statement Sunday saying they had fought back an attack, making it unclear who was actually in charge of the government.
Doumbouya has vowed to rewrite the constitution, which was approved back in 2010.
The Biden administration issued a statement Sunday declaring “violence” and “extra-constitutional measures” would only erode the country’s future prospects.
“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,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“We urge all parties to forgo violence and any efforts not supported by the Constitution and stand by the rule of law. We reiterate our encouragement of a process of national dialogue to address concerns sustainably and transparently to enable a peaceful and democratic way forward for Guinea to realize its full potential,” he added.
With the situation on the ground still uncertain, a curfew has reportedly been declared.
According to The New York Times, Guinea has undergone several military coups, including in the 1980s and the late 2000s, when in the course of days, military officials seized control of the country following the death of President Lansana Conte. He himself took control of the country in a coup back in 1984, after the pro-Marxist leader Ahmed Sékou Touré, the first president of Guinea, died while in surgery.
“A ruthless ruler who accepted little dissent and no challenges to his rule, Mr. Toure was widely admired in Africa by militants for his often stormy denunciations of the West and by a long list of imperialist plotters that later came to include one of his erstwhile allies, the Soviet Union,” The Washington Post reported upon Touré’s death. “His years in power, however, were marked by Guinea’s economic paralysis and by bloody purges in reprisal for countless ‘plots’ against his rule. The last massive reprisal was carried out in 1976 against the Fulani population of 1 million, the largest of Guinea’s ethnic groups.”
“A broad-shouldered, handsome man of 36 years at the time of independence, Mr. Toure took his small West African nation along his own trail of pan-African socialist revolution and Stalinist-like terror that included a 13-year period of isolation of the country from the African and world community,” the Post added. “As he mellowed in the mid-1970s, Mr. Toure, a charismatic politician and mesmerizing speaker, began to loosen his grip on the affairs of his country’s 6 million people.”