US forces were training Guinean soldiers who took off to stage a coup

NAIROBI, Kenya – US Green Berets were training local forces in the West African nation of Guinea last weekend when their charges withdre...


NAIROBI, Kenya – US Green Berets were training local forces in the West African nation of Guinea last weekend when their charges withdrew for a mission not listed in any military training manual: they staged a coup ‘State.

Shots rang out as an elite unit of Guinean special forces stormed the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, early Sunday, removing the country’s president, 83-year-old Alpha Condé. A few hours later, a young charismatic officer, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, announced himself as the new ruler of Guinea.

The Americans knew him well.

A team of around ten Green Berets had been in Guinea since mid-July to train around 100 soldiers in a special forces unit led by Colonel Doumbouya, who served for years in the French Foreign Legion, took part in US military exercises and was once a close ally of the president he overthrew.

The United States, like the United Nations and the African Union, condemned the coup, and the US military denied any prior knowledge of it.

For the Pentagon, however, it is a shame. The United States has trained troops in many African countries, primarily for counterterrorism programs, but also for the general purpose of supporting civilian-led governments.

And although many US-trained officers have seized power in their countries, most notably General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, it is believed to be the first time it has been done in the midst of an American military course.

On Sunday, once the Green Berets realized a coup was underway, they went directly to the United States Embassy in Conakry and the training program was suspended, Kelly Cahalan said, US Africa Command spokesperson. The coup, she said, is “incompatible with US military training and education.”

US officials seeking to downplay the episode first pointed out that the base where the training was taking place was in Forécariah, a four-hour drive from the presidential palace, near the Guinean border with Sierra Leone.

But on Friday, US officials said they were investigating reports that Colonel Doumbouya and his fellow coup perpetrators left in an armed convoy from that same base early on Sunday, suggesting they were escaped while their instructors slept.

“We have no information on how the apparent military takeover occurred, and we had no prior indication of these events,” said Bardha S. Azari, also spokesperson for the US Command. for Africa, in an e-mail.

The coup in Guinea, the fourth military takeover in West Africa in 12 months, after two coups d’état in Mali and a contested succession in Chad, fueled fears of a democratic setback in a African region prone to coups.

Unease among U.S. officials over their proximity to coup plotters has been compounded by video footage circulating in recent days showing U.S. military officers smiling into a crowd of cheerful Guineans on September 5, the day of the coup. State.

As a four-wheel-drive vehicle with Guinean soldiers perched in the back crosses the crowd chanting “Freedom,” an American appears to be touching the hands of jubilant people.

“If the Americans are involved in the putsch, it is because of their mining interests,” said Diapharou Baldé, a teacher in Conakry – a reference to The huge deposits of Guinea gold, iron ore and bauxite, which is used to make aluminum.

U.S. officials confirmed the video showed Green Berets returning to the U.S. Embassy on Sunday, but denied that it implied support for the coup. “The US government and military are not in any way involved in this apparent military takeover,” Ms. Azari, the spokesperson, said.

For many Guineans, the Americans’ cameo role in the coup was just part of a week of dizzying change spurred by Colonel Doumbouya, 41, now the second youngest leader of a state African.

The youngest is in neighboring Mali, where Colonel Assimi Goïta only came to power in May, also following a blow.

After an hour-long shootout outside the presidential palace on Sunday in which at least 11 people were killed, Guinean and Western officials said, Colonel Doumbouya appeared on state television wearing sunglasses and draped of the tricolor of Guinea.

He said he was forced to seize power due to the actions of President Condé, a former democracy activist elected president in 2010 after a previous coup paved the way for elections.

But Mr Condé’s legitimacy collapsed last year after amending the constitution to allow him to run for a third term, which he won. After the elections, more than 400 political opponents were thrown into sordid prisons in Guinea, where at least four died, Amnesty International noted.

Images released after the coup showed a disheveled Mr. Condé, surrounded by soldiers, slumped on a sofa and looking dejected. Colonel Doumbouya declined to say where he is being held, although envoys from West Africa’s main political and economic bloc met with Condé on Friday and said he was in good health.

The president was ousted by an officer whose career he once blessed.

Colonel Doumbouya came to the public’s attention in October 2018 during the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of Guinea’s independence, when he marched the country’s newly formed special forces unit via the center of Conakry. Images of the parade have gone viral on Guinean social networks.

“People were very impressed with the soldiers’ choreography and the synchronized movement of their vehicles,” said Issaka K. Souaré, director of the Sahel and West Africa program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. .

Mr Condé, in a 2018 interview, praised the young officer – another member of the Malinke tribe. Colonel Doumbouya, as a French legionnaire, served in Afghanistan and Côte d’Ivoire and underwent commando training in Israel, according to his official biography.

Married to a French military police officer, he is also of French nationality and graduated in defense studies from a Parisian university.

While public disaffection with Condé laid the foundation for the coup, it was also fueled by latent rivalries within Guinea’s defense establishment, a Western official said and an analyst, who could not be identified due to the sensitivity of the case.

They said tensions have grown between Colonel Doumbouya and Guinean defense minister Mohamed Diané. Fearing a putsch in the capital, Mr. Diané moved the Special Forces unit to the Forécariah base.

Colonel Doumbouya publicly complained that his unit was under-resourced.

American officials have known Colonel Doumbouya since the start of his ascension. A photo posted to the U.S. Embassy’s Facebook page from October 2018 showed him standing with three U.S. military officials outside the U.S. Embassy.

But on Friday, U.S. officials said they were puzzled as to why he would choose to mount a coup at a time when he was working closely with the Americans.

This is not the first time that coups d’état in Africa have cast a shadow over American training programs on the continent. As insurgents surged into the desert of northern Mali in 2012, US commanders of the country’s elite army units defected at a critical time, taking troops, trucks, weapons and their newfound skills. to the enemy.

Declan Walsh reported from Nairobi, Kenya, and Eric Schmitt reported from Washington. Abdourahmane Diallo has contributed reporting from Conakry, Guinea, and Christiaan Triebert from New York.



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Newsrust - US Top News: US forces were training Guinean soldiers who took off to stage a coup
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