Guinean authorities arrested more than 20 soldiers on Thursday on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the West African country’s junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara, a military source said.
Camara, head of a group of soldiers who seized power in a December coup, pulled out of a planned trip to Libya on Wednesday and heavily armed soldiers deployed at strategic points in Conakry overnight, Reuters reports.
Tension at Guinea’s main military barracks prompted the deployment, police and military sources said. Some of the barricades were lifted on Thursday afternoon.
“Up to now, we have made over 20 arrests,” said a military source, adding that some of the soldiers arrested were officers.
“They are all suspected of a plot against the head of state,” he told Reuters.
A Conakry resident said he saw soldiers under the guard of other military personnel boarding four wheel drive vehicles and heading into the city centre.
Camara’s National Council for Development and Democracy (CNDD) junta, which vowed to end corruption and restore the rule of law, was broadly welcomed at first but increasingly erratic behaviour by its leaders have fomented concerns of instability.
Military and police sources in the Alpha Yaya base on Wednesday night said there were suspicions that soldiers angry about losing influence under Camara were plotting to oust him.
Corinne Dufka, West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, warned that the incidents pointed to simmering problems.
“The first four months of CNDD rule have been characterised by a concentration of power within the hands of a very small group of military officers attempting to control nearly all the affairs of the state — financial, judicial and security.”
“The rumours of infighting among the military should serve as a wake up call that there should be no further delay in organising a proper transition to democratic rule,” she said.
Conakry residents said troops erected barricades overnight at the main bridge into the city centre, around a major military base and outside the state radio and television buildings.
Barricades at the bridge were lifted late on Thursday, traffic began to flow freely and offices opened for trade.
Camara, a relatively junior army officer, seized power in the world’s biggest bauxite exporter after the death of President Lansana Conte, who ruled the West African country with an iron grip for more than 24 years.
Speculation about rifts within the military and a counter-coup have increased in recent weeks amid growing frustrations over Camara’s rule.
Since coming to power, he has unnerved mining firms by threatening to cancel deals struck under Conte. He has also threatened to close gold mines run by foreign companies because of the harm they were causing to the environment.