Col Mamady Doumbouya is seen as the new man in charge of Guinea after he led a unit of elite soldiers to seize power on Sunday.
Announcing the military takeover, the 41-year-old former French legionary said the army had little choice because of the rampant corruption, disregard for human rights and economic mismanagement under President Alpha Condé.
“The president is with us, he’s in a safe place,” he told French media on Sunday.
Dressed in a red beret, sunglasses and army fatigues, he had announced earlier on Guinea’s state TV that “the Guinean personalisation of political life is over. We will no longer entrust politics to one man, we will entrust it to the people”.
President Condé remains in detention while the UN, African Union and regional body Ecowas all condemn the military junta that claims to have replaced him.
After meeting ministers from Mr Condé’s government on Monday, the colonel said a new “union” government would be formed within weeks and promised there would be no “witch-hunt” against former officials.
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Little is known about Col Doumbouya’s early life, except that he is from the Malinké community like President Condé and hails from Guinea’s eastern Kankan region.
By some accounts he is a brilliant commander, while others say his credentials are dubious.
Notably, Col Doumbouya is among 25 Guinean officials the EU has been threatening to sanction for alleged human rights abuses committed in recent years under President Condé.
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Yet after Sunday’s takeover, he told the nation “we will learn from all the mistakes we have committed and all Guineans”.
Col Doumbouya also quoted the late Jerry Rawlings of Ghana – who seized power in 1979 – saying “if the people are crushed by their elites, it is up to the army to give the people their freedom”.
His 15-year military career has seen him serve in missions in Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Central African Republic and close protection in Israel, Cyprus, the UK and Guinea.
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He is said to have “brilliantly completed” the operational protection specialist training at the International Security Academy in Israel, as well as elite military training in Senegal, Gabon, and France.
After serving in the French foreign legion for several years, Col Doumbouya was asked by President Condé himself to return to Guinea to lead the newly established elite Special Forces Group (GFS) in 2018.
He was then based in Forecariah, western Guinea, where he served under the bureau of territorial surveillance (DST) and the general intelligence services.
In recalling Col Doumbouya to set up the GFS, President Condé will have had no idea that he was hastening his own political demise.
Guinea coup leader to form new government in weeks
Meanwhile, Col Mamady Doumbouya told ministers who served in Mr Condé’s government that there would be no witch-hunt against former officials.
“A consultation will be launched to set down the broad parameters of the transition, and then a government of national union will be established to steer the transition,” he said in his statement.
He told former ministers that they could not leave the country and had to hand over their official vehicles to the military. He also announced the reopening of land and air borders.
After the meeting Col Doumbouya drove around the capital, Conakry, which has been tense since Sunday when heavy gunfire was exchanged near the presidential building for several hours.
Crowds chanted the military leader’s name.
“They were just happy. Some people undressed and shouted ‘Doumbouya, Doumbouya, Doumbouya’ and ‘freedom, freedom, freedom,'” Alhassan Sillah reported.
It captures the feeling of many who are relieved that President Condé has been deposed, he said.
Guinea’s main opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, a long-standing rival of deposed President Alpha Conde, said on Tuesday that he and his party were open to participate in a political transition following Sunday’s military coup.
Diallo, 69, who was defeated by Conde in an October presidential election in which the president was seeking a third term, told Reuters that he had no objection in taking part in a political transition.
“We would send representatives, why not, to participate in the process to bring the country back to constitutional order,” Diallo said, adding that he was surprised by the coup from an army showered with funds by Conde.
“At the moment, I have not been invited,” Diallo said.
Diallo said there was a need to establish a transition that would organise free and transparent elections, and put in place legitimate and democratic institutions.
“Sometimes during such periods, some would want to take on grand missions. But for me the principal mission is to get the country out of this exceptional period,” he said.
The military takeover in the world’s top producer of bauxite has been condemned by its partners and international organisations.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), whose leaders are meeting on Wednesday to discuss Guinea, have threatened to impose sanctions.
Diallo said he would welcome a facilitator such as a head of state appointed by regional leaders to help Guinea through the transitional process.