‘Have we touched a single hair of yours?’ – President detained as soldiers attempt a coup in Guinea

Soldiers have detained the president of Guinea, the head of the nation’s special forces said yesterday, adding another potential coup d’etat to a long history of military takeovers.

ol Mamady Doumbouya said President Alpha Condé was in custody following hours of gunfire in Conakry, the capital of the West African nation, and gave warnings for people to go home.

“If you see the state of our roads, of our hospitals – it’s time for us to wake up,” Doumbouya said on state television.

With Guinea’s red, yellow and green flag draped on his shoulders, the colonel pledged to forge a transition government that would not harm the nation but “make love” to it.

Soldiers flooded the streets of Conakry, blocking key roads. Confusion abounded before Doumbouya released a video on social media, citing “the trampling of the rights of citizens” and “the disrespect of democratic principles” as motivations for the overthrow.

Condé, 83, took office 11 years ago in the country’s first democratic election since independence from France in 1958. He vowed to steer the nation of 13 million out of a culture of corruption that had shaped decades of authoritarian rule while blunting development.

But Condé sparked deadly riots last autumn after he sought a third term in what critics blasted as defiance of Guinea’s constitution. He argued that changes in the law under his tenure, engineered by his government, had reset the clock on his allowed number of terms. Yesterday, photos and video circulating on WhatsApp showed the president flanked by men in military fatigues. One asked: “Excellency, have we touched a single hair of yours?” A silent Condé, wearing jeans and a tie-dyed dress shirt, did not respond and kept his gaze from the camera.

The president’s detention roused speculation that the army was angry after parliament moved to fatten the salaries of politicians last week while slashing the budget for security forces.

UN Secretary General António Guterres condemned “any takeover of the government by force of the gun.” In a tweet, Guterres called for Condé’s “immediate release.”

Local media reported that several soldiers and the president’s bodyguards died in the clashes. By midday, video footage from Conakry captured people cheering as trucks carrying troops rumbled down the streets.

“Bravo!” some onlookers shouted. “Bravo! It’s done!”

Not everyone was joyful.

“It’s a disappointment, a feeling of failure,” said Mamady Kaba, president of the League for Rights and Democracy in Africa in the capital.

Despite Guinea’s immense natural riches, nearly half the population lives in poverty. The country boasts the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, the main source of aluminum for cars and beer cans and foil wrap. Condé cut flashy deals with foreign companies to fashion Guinea into a top bauxite exporter but critics say he has failed to share the wealth with the people and ruined land in the process.

© Washington Post

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