Uneasy calm in Guinea after apparent coup

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Uneasy calm has returned to the streets of Guinea's capital Conakry as its citizens await the announcement of a new government after the apparent overthrow of President Alpha Conde by an elite army unit.

The special forces summoned Conde's ministers and heads of government institutions to a meeting on Monday, warning that failure to attend would be considered a "rebellion".

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 skyrocketing 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 Conakry which witnessed heavy gunfire throughout Sunday as the special forces battled soldiers loyal to Conde.

However, uncertainty remains. While the elite 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.

The special forces unit is led by former French foreign legionnaire officer, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, who said on state television on Sunday that "poverty and endemic corruption" had driven his forces to remove Conde from office.

The apparent coup has been met by 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 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.

Although mineral wealth has fuelled economic growth during Conde's reign, few citizens significantly benefited, contributing to pent-up frustration among millions of jobless youths.

Despite an overnight curfew, the headquarters of Conde's presidential guard was looted by people who made off with rice, cans of oil, air conditioners and mattresses, a Reuters correspondent said.

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