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Guinea putschists free ‘political detainees,’ opposition ready for power transition

Detainees walk outside the Central Prison in Conakry. Guinea, on September 7, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Putschists who seized power in Guinea at the weekend have freed a group of political detainees as the main opposition leader signals openness to participating in a power transition in the West African state.

The military, led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, seized power in Guinea on Sunday, and arrested President Alpha Conde.

The coup has sparked international condemnation with West African countries threatening the mineral-rich, but improvised nation, with sanctions.

The coup leader, a former officer in the French Foreign Legion, has ,however, promised a transitional government of national unity and a “new era for governance and economic development.’

On Tuesday, he repeated a pledge to hold talks on forming a new government. 

"The government to be installed will be that of national unity and will ensure this political transition," Doumbouya tweeted. 

The country’s main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, said later in the day that he had not yet been consulted about the transition but was ready to participate, Reuters reported.

“We would send representatives, why not, to participate in the process to bring the country back to constitutional order,” he said.

Diallo said he hoped that the move will lead to "a peaceful democracy" in the nation of 13 million people. 

The coup leaders have, in the meantime, released a group of political opponents of the deposed president.

About 20 prisoners were released from prison in the capital Conakry on Tuesday evening, including prominent opposition activists, according to AFP.

Lawyers representing the detainees said that 79 people had been cleared for release in discussions with the military.

Also on Tuesday, soldiers began to dismantle police and army roadblocks around the capital, which are said to have been installed by the government to control protests.

No deaths have been officially reported during the coup, but reports in the country’s media have suggested that between a dozen and 20 people were killed. 

The coup, however, triggered broad diplomatic condemnation, including from the United States, European Union (EU), African Union and the West African bloc ECOWAS, with calls for Conde's release. 

The ECOWAS is due to hold a virtual extraordinary summit to discuss the political crisis on Wednesday.

Russia also reacted to the crisis in Guinea, saying it wanted Guinean institutions restored "as soon as possible.”

"We expect in any case that the interests of our businessmen... will not be affected," said a Kremlin spokesman.

Russian business interests in Guinea include three major bauxite mines and one alumina refinery.

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