Army colonel on Guinean TV says govt dissolved, borders shut

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) – A Colonel in the Guinean Army took control of state television on Sunday, saying the government of President Alpha Conde had been dissolved and the borders of the West African nation closed, an announcement that came after hours of heat

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) – A Colonel in the Guinean Army took control of state television on Sunday, declaring that President Alpha Conde’s government had been dissolved and the borders of the West African nation closed, an announcement made after hours of heavy gunfire in took place near the presidential palace.

The dramatic developments on Sunday bore all the hallmarks of a West African coup. After the insurgent soldiers took over the radio, they swore to restore democracy and gave themselves a name: the National Committee for Assembly and Development.

Col. Mamadi Doumbouya sat next to him in a Guinean flag with half a dozen other soldiers in uniform as he read the statement and swore, “A soldier’s duty is to save the country.”

He did not mention Conde’s whereabouts, and it was not immediately known where the 83-year-old leader was after the attack on Sunday. Conde’s popularity has declined since he went for a third term last year as he said the tenure restrictions did not apply to him.

“The personalization of political life is over. We will no longer entrust politics to a man, we will entrust it to the people, ”said Doumbouya, adding that the constitution would also be dissolved and the borders would be closed for a week.

Doumbouya, who heads a special military unit, said he was acting in the best interests of the nation with more than 12.7 million people. Not enough economic progress has been made since independence from France in 1958, said the colonel.

“When you see the state of our roads, when you see the state of our hospitals, you find that after 72 years it is time to wake up,” he said. “We have to wake up.”

In the vicinity of the presidential palace in the capital Conakry, heavy shots broke out early on Sunday, which lasted for hours and feared an attempted coup. The Department of Defense claimed the attack had been repulsed, but uncertainty grew when there was no sign of Conde on state television or radio.

His re-election in October led to violent street demonstrations in which, according to the opposition, dozens were killed. Developments on Sunday underscored how vulnerable he had also become to dissenting elements within his military.

Conde came to power in 2010 in the country’s first democratic elections since independence from France. Many saw his presidency as a new beginning for the country, which has been shaped by decades of corrupt, authoritarian rule.

However, opponents say he failed to improve the lives of Guineans, most of whom live in poverty despite the country’s vast mineral resources, including bauxite and gold.

In 2011, he barely survived an assassination attempt after gunmen surrounded his home overnight and bombed his bedroom with rockets. Rocket propelled grenades also landed on the premises and one of his bodyguards was killed.

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The Associated Press Writer Krista Larson contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.

Boubacar Diallo, The Associated Press

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