The colonel behind a coup in Guinea promised investors on Monday that trade deals would not be affected by the country’s latest coup and vowed to form a “national union government” to oversee a political transition.
In a speech the day after his men arrested the 83-year-old president, opening a new chapter in Guinea’s long history of unrest, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya also declared that there would be no “witch hunts” against members of the previous government.
Doumbouya, looking to the mining industry which is the backbone of the economy, said that “activities in the country continue normally.”
Guinea “will keep all its commitments (and) mining agreements,” he promised, emphasizing “its commitment to give favorable treatment to foreign investment in the country.”
Doumbouya was wearing a military uniform when he addressed former ministers and institutional leaders who had been summoned to hear him.
He also said that “a consultation” would be launched that would “establish the general parameters” of the political transition.
“A national union government will be established to lead the transition,” he said, but did not give details on how long the consultation or handover would take.
On Sunday, Doumbouya’s special forces arrested President Alpha Conde, a former champion of democracy who faces mounting anger for circumventing constitutional limits on the presidential term.
Within hours, the military declared they were repealing the contested constitution, imposed a curfew, dissolved the government, and replaced the top governors and other senior administrators with the military.
Public discontent had been brewing for months over the Covid-hit economic downturn and the leadership of Conde, who became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010.
Five years later, he was re-elected, but in 2020 he unleashed fury after introducing changes to the constitution that allowed him to serve a two-term limit.
Doumbouya appeared on public television on Sunday draped in the national flag, accusing the government of “endemic corruption” and “trampling on the rights of citizens.”
An umbrella group called FNDC, which led protests against Conde’s constitutional changes, said the jailed members would be released on Monday.
A video sent to AFP by the coup plotters on Sunday showed Conde sitting on a sofa surrounded by troops.
Wearing a wrinkled shirt and jeans, he refused to answer a question from a soldier about whether he had been abused.
Guinea’s 13 million people are among the poorest in the world even though their country is a treasure trove of minerals, from bauxite and iron ore to gold and diamonds.
It has rarely known stability since declaring its independence from France in 1958, and bloody repression is entrenched.
Conde was accused of following the same path towards authoritarianism in the last years of his government.
Dozens of people died during the demonstrations against his candidacy for a third term and hundreds more were arrested.
He was proclaimed president last year after an election that his main rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo, and other opposition figures denounced as a sham.
The latest turbulence erupted on Sunday morning, when gunfire erupted in downtown Conakry. For several hours, the situation was unclear, as the government said that an attack on the presidential palace had been “repulsed.”
There has been no official casualty report and there were no reports of any major incidents overnight.
The end of the Conde regime sparked jubilation in parts of Conakry, especially in the pro-opposition districts.
The board said on Sunday that the land and air borders had been closed, but on Monday it said that the air borders had been reopened.
Conakry, usually a bustling city, woke up calm Monday and many stores were closed.
The meeting in the parliament took place under a huge awning installed in the assembly hall.
Hundreds of people grabbed the bars, many of them shouting “freedom, freedom” and “long live the army.”
Outside of Guinea, international leaders condemned the latest episode of unrest in a region where many countries struggle with poverty, inequality and jihadist bloodshed.
“Violence and any extra-constitutional measures will only erode Guinea’s prospects for peace, stability and prosperity,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price, urging all parties to respect the rule of law.
The African Union and the United Nations called for Conde’s release.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), through its acting president, Ghanaian leader Nana Akufo-Addo, threatened to impose sanctions if Guinea’s constitutional order was not restored.
The EU and France, the former colonial power, have condemned the coup, the latest in a region that has seen recent military takeovers in Mali and Chad.