ECONOMY

Guinea coup makers secure grip on power

Guinea updates

The soldiers behind a coup in Guinea secured their grip on power on Monday as they prepared to meet members of the ousted cabinet to discuss the transition in the mineral-rich west African country.

International powers condemned the coup. Coup leader Colonel Mamady Doumbouya said he was holding ex-president Alpha Condé in a “safe place”. He ordered that Guinea’s ministers be replaced, according to a statement read on state television. Military commanders will take over as governors of the country’s provinces. The meeting between members of the junta, which is calling itself the National Committee for Reorientation and Development, and the former ministers is set for 11am in the capital Conakry.

“We’re here to allow Guineans to live together and for all of us to enjoy the benefits of this country, that’s our objective. We’re not here to play games. We’re here to learn from the mistakes that have been made — the whole army is here . . . to help build this country,” Doumbouya, a former French legionnaire, told France 24, the French TV station. “We have all the security forces behind us to once and for all end the misery of the Guinean people.”

Aluminium prices hit their highest levels in a decade following news of the upheaval in the world’s second-biggest producer of raw material bauxite, reaching $2,776 per tonne on the London Metal Exchange.

The African Union, UN and regional bloc Ecowas all issued statements condemning the coup. “Ecowas reaffirms its disapproval of any unconstitutional political change,” the bloc said. The US said in a statement that the coup “could limit the ability of the United States and Guinea’s other international partners to support the country”.

Doumbouya and members of an elite national army unit overthrew Condé on Sunday after a brief firefight near the presidential palace. Videos of the 83-year-old president being held by soldiers quickly circulated online, even as the defence ministry claimed that the incursion had been repelled. There were reports of celebration in the streets of Conakry after Condé’s ouster.

People on the streets of Conakry after the junta seized power © Cellou Binani/AFP/Getty Images

The coup comes less than a year after Condé, a former democratic activist, won a contentious third term after cramming through a constitutional change that allowed him to run. The move sparked widespread street protests that the government responded to with a violent crackdown.

Guinea has some of the world’s best bauxite and iron ore deposits, but its 13m people remain largely impoverished. It generates most of its revenues from mining exports, which have helped power the economy to more than 6 per cent growth annually over the past five years, following a severe drop after the west African Ebola outbreak that killed 2,500 Guineans.

Russia’s Rusal and US company Alcoa are big investors in the bauxite sector, while Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto, Chinalco and the China-backed consortium SMB Winning own parts of Simandou, one of the world’s most important iron ore deposits, in south-eastern Guinea.

Sunday’s events make Guinea the third country in the region to suffer a coup over the past year amid fears of democratic erosion across west and central Africa.

Mali is now run by a military junta that overthrew the democratically elected president last year, while Chad has a ruling military council that swiftly installed 37-year-old Major General Mahamat Idriss Déby as president following the death of his father, Idriss Déby, in April.

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