© Reuters. Prime Minister of Guinea Ibrahima Kassory Fofana, Defence Minister Mohamed Diane and other government members gather to attend a meeting with special forces commander Mamady Doumbouya, who ousted President Alpha Conde in Conakry, Guinea September 6, 2021.
By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY (Reuters) – Guinea coup leader Mamady Doumbouya on Monday banned government officials from leaving the country, a day after special forces soldiers deposed long-serving President Alpha Conde, drawing international condemnation.
The takeover is the fourth since April in West and Central Africa, raising concerns over a slide back to military rule in a region that had made strides towards multi-party democracy since the 1990s.
Doumbouya, a former French legionnaire officer told a meeting of Conde’s ministers and senior government officials that they should also hand back their official vehicles.
“There will be no witch hunt,” he said at the meeting which was open to the media.
The government officials who attended were later escorted by soldiers in red berets through a jeering crowd to the army unit’s Conakry headquarters. It was not immediately clear whether they were being detained.
The takeover in the country that holds the world’s largest bauxite reserves, an ore used to produce aluminium, sent prices of the metal sky-rocketing to a 10-year high on Monday over fears of further supply disruption in the downstream market. There was no indication of such disruption yet.
Prices for Guinean aluminium ore bauxite also hit their highest in almost 18 months in top consumer china.
Doumbouya said a curfew imposed in mining areas on Sunday had been lifted.
Light traffic resumed, and some shops reopened around the main administrative district of Kaloum in Conakry which witnessed heavy gunfire throughout Sunday as the special forces battled soldiers loyal to Conde. A military spokesman said on television that land and air borders had also been reopened.
However, uncertainty remains. While the army unit appeared to have Conde in detention, the coup leaders told the West African nation on state television that they had dissolved the government and constitution, other branches of the army are yet to publicly comment.
Doumbouya said on Sunday that “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his forces to remove Conde from office.
Amnesty International in a statement on Monday called on the coup leaders to clarify the legal basis for Conde’s ongoing detention, and to release those Conde had arbitrarily detained in the months surrounding the election that awarded him a third term.
Some of Guinea’s strongest allies have condemned the coup. The United Nations quickly denounced the takeover, and both the African Union and West Africa’s regional bloc have threatened sanctions.
In an overnight statement, the U.S. State Department said that violence and extra-constitutional measures could erode Guinea’s prospects for stability and prosperity.
“These actions could limit the ability of the United States and Guinea’s other international partners to support the country,” the statement said.
Regional experts say however that unlike in landlocked Mali where neighbours and partners were able to pressure a junta there after a coup, leverage on the military in Guinea could be limited because it is not landlocked, also because it is not a member of the West African currency union.
Although mineral wealth has fuelled economic growth during Conde’s reign, few citizens significantly benefited, contributing to pent-up frustration among millions of jobless youths.
Despite an overnight curfew, the headquarters of Conde’s presidential guard was looted by people who made off with rice, cans of oil, air conditioners and mattresses, a Reuters correspondent said.