Guinea coup leader bans officials from exiting country

UN denounces takeover by Doumbouya as regional actors threaten sanctions

The leader of a coup in Guinea, Mamady Doumbouya, has 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 multiparty democracy since the 1990s.

Mr Doumbouya, a former French legionnaire officer, told a meeting of Mr 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.

Curfew lifted

Mr 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 Mr 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 Mr 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.

Mr Doumbouya said on Sunday that “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his forces to remove Mr Conde from office.

Conde detained

Amnesty International in a statement on Monday called on the coup leaders to clarify the legal basis for Mr Conde's ongoing detention, and to release those Mr 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 US 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. – Reuters