Gunfire erupted near the presidential palace in Guinea’s capital Conakry on Sunday morning, with several sources saying an elite national army unit led by a former French legionnaire, Mamady Doumbouya, was involved.
According to a senior government official, President Alpha Conde, 83, was unharmed, but no further details were provided. Meanwhile, social media videos showed military vehicles patrolling the streets.
A military source said the only bridge connecting the mainland to the Kaloum neighbourhood, where the palace and most government ministries are located, had been sealed off. Many soldiers, some heavily armed, were posted around the palace, the source said.
Two civilians were injured by gunshots, according to three witnesses.
‘I see groups of soldiers heading towards the presidential palace. There has been a lot of shooting,’ said Ousmane Camara, a resident of Kaloum.
Two convoys of armoured vehicles and pick-up trucks headed towards the Port autonomous of Conakry, which is also located near the palace, said a Reuters reporter. The convoy was accompanied by a white vehicle that appeared to be an ambulance.
As usual, Radio Television Guinea was broadcasting programs at midday. There were no signs of violence near the station’s headquarters, and an RTG reporter said the situation was calm.
Conde won a controversial third term in October after changing the constitution to allow him to run again despite violent protests from the opposition. The move has raised concerns about a backslide in a region beset by coups in Mali and Chad.
A video shared on social media, which Reuters was not able to verify immediately, shows heavy gunfire ringing out over Conakry, and vehicles full of soldiers approaching the central bank.
“President Alpha Conde is doing exceptionally well… the situation is under control,” an ally of the president said in a Whatsapp video.
Guinea has experienced sustained economic growth during Conde’s tenure as president, but only a few of its citizens have reaped the benefits.
Government restrictions and ethnic divisions have sharpened political rivalries, say critics, who believe the government has used criminal laws to suppress dissent.