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Guinean government dissolved and borders shut, army colonel says

The whereabouts of President Alpha Conde were not known.

Alpha Conde's popularity has plummeted since he sought a third term last year.
Alpha Conde's popularity has plummeted since he sought a third term last year.
Image: Eric Gaillard/Pool/AP

A GUINEAN ARMY colonel seized control of state television airwaves today and announced that President Alpha Conde’s government had been dissolved, hours after heavy gunfire erupted near the presidential palace.

Conde’s whereabouts were not immediately known, and colonel Mamadi Doumbouya made no mention of the 83-year-old president, whose popularity has plummeted since he sought a third term last year.

“The personalisation of political life is over.

“We will no longer entrust politics to one man, we will entrust it to the people,” the colonel said, adding that the constitution was also dissolved and land borders now closed.

Doumbouya, who has headed a special forces unit in the military, said he was acting in the best interests of the nation of more than 12.7 million people.

Not enough economic progress has been made since independence from France in 1958, the colonel said.

“If you see the state of our roads, if you see the state of our hospitals, you realise that after 72 years, it’s time to wake up,” he said.

“We have to wake up. The duty of a soldier is to save the country,” he said.

Heavy gunfire had erupted early today near the presidential palace in the capital Conakry and went on for hours, sparking fears of a coup attempt.

The defence ministry later claimed that the attack had been repelled but uncertainty grew when there was no sign of Conde on state television or radio.

Conde has faced mounting criticism since he sought a third term in office last year, saying the two-term limit did not apply to him because of a constitutional referendum he had put forward.

He was ultimately re-elected, but the move prompted violent street demonstrations in which the opposition said dozens were killed.

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He came to power in 2010 in the country’s first democratic election since independence from France. Many saw his presidency as a fresh start for the country, which has been mired in decades of corrupt, authoritarian rule.

Opponents, though, say he has failed to improve the lives of Guineans, most of whom live in poverty despite the country’s vast mineral riches.

In 2011, he narrowly survived an assassination attempt after gunmen surrounded his home overnight and pounded his bedroom with rockets.

Rocket-propelled grenades landed inside the compound and one of his bodyguards was killed.

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