Heavy gunfire rang out in the centre of the Guinean capital Conkary on Sunday morning and troops were seen on the streets, with a Western diplomat in the city describing the events as an attempted coup.
Gunfire near the presidential palace in Guinea Conakry. President Alpha Conde is said to be safe.
The government in the west African nation has not yet commented on the situation. The whereabouts of President Alpha Conde is not yet clear.
Guinea — one of the world’s poorest countries despite boasting significant mineral resources — has long been beset by political instability. On Sunday, residents reached by telephone in Conakry’s Kaloum peninsula — the government quarter — reported hearing sustained gunfire.
Speaking on condition of anonymity for their safety, they reported seeing a number of soldiers on the streets who called on residents to return to their homes and stay there. One resident said that he had seen a “column of military vehicles with excited soldiers” on board, driving towards the city centre.
“They were firing in the air and chanting their own military slogans,” he added. A Western diplomat in Conakry, who also declined to be named, said there was “no doubt” that the unrest was an attempted coup. He said the unrest started after the government tried to dismiss a senior commander in the special forces — provoking some of its highly trained members to rebel and occupy the presidential palace.
AFP was unable to independently confirm this account. Similar turmoil has taken place in Guinea before. Last year, the military blocked access to Kaloum after an alleged military rebellion east of the capital the day before a presidential election. Conde, 83, also survived an assassination attempt in 2011.
— Violent elections –The most recent presidential poll in the national of some 13 million people, in October 2020, was violently disputed and also marred by accusations of electoral fraud.
Conde won a controversial third term in that poll, but only after pushing through a new constitution in March 2020 that allowed him to sidestep the country’s two-term limit.
Dozens of people were killed during demonstrations against a third term for the president, often in clashes with security forces. Hundreds were also arrested.
Conde was then proclaimed president on November 7 last year — despite his main challenger Cellou Dalein Diallo as well as other opposition figures calling the election a sham.
After the poll, the government launched a crackdown and arrested several prominent opposition members for their alleged role in abetting electoral violence in the country.
A former opposition leader himself who was at one point imprisoned and sentenced to death, Conde became Guinea’s first democratically-elected leader in 2010 and won re-election in 2015.
Hopes of a new political dawn in the former French colony have withered, however, and he has been accused of drifting into authoritarianism.