Guinea coup leader bars foreign travel for government officials

Leader of army unit that overthrew President Alpha Conde tells government ministers there will be ‘no witch hunt’, a day after coup in West African nation.

Residents cheer on army soldiers after the uprising that led to the toppling of president Alpha Conde in Kaloum neighbourhood of Conakry, Guinea [Souleymane Camara/Reuters]

Guinean government officials are barred from leaving the country until further notice and a curfew imposed in mining areas has been lifted, the leader of an army unit that overthrew President Alpha Conde has said.

On Monday Colonel Mamady Doumbouya – a former French legionnaire officer – told a gathering of Conde’s ministers, including the prime minister and top government officials, that they should also hand back their official vehicles.

“There will be no witch-hunt,” he said a day after the coup which drew international condemnation and threats of sanctions.

The takeover in the West African nation 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.

Light traffic resumed, and some shops reopened around the main administrative district of Kaloum in the capital, Conakry which witnessed heavy gunfire throughout Sunday as the special forces battled soldiers loyal to Conde. A military spokesman said on television that land air borders had also been reopened.

However, uncertainty remains. While the army unit appeared to have Conde in detention, telling 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 state television on Sunday that “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his forces to remove Conde from office.

‘Window for change is very short’

Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Dakar in neighbouring Senegal, called Monday’s meeting an “incredible scene” as the country’s powerful figures were brought inside the national parliament to be summoned by the new leader.

“What’s interesting in this scene is that he was there to both reassure them and threaten them,” Haque said.

“On the one hand, he said … ‘No one’s going to go after you, but we will take your vehicles, your passports, so that you do not run away from the country. The borders are open. The airport is not closed,’ trying to reassure both the international actors who have been condemning this coup but also trying to reassure the Guinean population.

“He calls for a national unity government but he hasn’t given any timeline to when he’s going do that and what framework that’s gonna operate.”

Emmanuel Kwesi Aning of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre told Al Jazeera the coup leaders in Guinea have a short window to enact any change.

“The window for change to take place is very short. The demographics of Guinea and the Sahel and West African states are such that people are losing patience. The military regime have no more than 6-12 months – that is if they will have that length of time – to govern, to demonstrate.

“The optimism with which Conde was voted into power in 2010 has totally fizzled out,” Aning said.

The coup has met condemnation from some of Guinea’s strongest allies. 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 Department of State 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 said, however, that unlike in landlocked Mali, where neighbours and partners were able to pressure the military government 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 benefitting, contributing to pent-up frustration among millions of jobless youths.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies