In the early hours of 23 December 2008, Aboubacar Somparé, the President of the National Assembly, announced on television that Conté had died at 6:45 pm local time on 22 December "after a long illness", without specifying the cause of death. According to Somparé, Conté "hid his physical suffering" for years "in order to give happiness to Guinea." Conté had left the country for medical treatment on numerous occasions in the years preceding his death, and speculation about his health had long been widespread. Contrary to his usual practice, Conté did not appear on television to mark Tabaski earlier in December 2008, and this sparked renewed speculation, as well as concern about the possibility of violence in the event of his death. At around the same time, a newspaper published a photograph suggesting that Conté was in poor physical condition and having difficulty standing up. The editor of that newspaper was arrested and the newspaper was required to print a photograph in which Conté looked healthy.
According to the constitution, the President of the National Assembly was to assume the Presidency of the Republic in the event of a vacancy, and a new presidential election was to be held within 60 days. Somparé requested that the President of the Supreme Court, Lamine Sidimé, declare a vacancy in the Presidency and apply the constitution. Prime Minister Souaré and
Diarra Camara, the head of the army, stood alongside Somparé during his announcement. Declaring 40 days of national mourning for Conté, Souaré urged "calm and restraint". He told the army to secure the borders and maintain calm within the country "in homage to the memory of the illustrious late leader".
Six hours after Somparé announced Conté's death, a statement was read on television announcing a coup d'état. This statement, read by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara on behalf of a group called the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), said that "the government and the institutions of the Republic have been dissolved". The statement also announced the suspension of the constitution "as well as political and union activity".
Conté's funeral was held in Conakry on 26 December. His body was put on display in the parliament building before being taken to the national stadium, where over 20,000 people were in attendance. Leaders of neighboring countries were present for the funeral. General Mamadou Ba Toto of the CNDD said at the funeral that "we pray God to give us the courage to continue [Conté's] work of tolerance and peace for the welfare of Guinea". Afterwards, his body was buried the village of Lansanaya in front of his mansion. It was taken out of its coffin and placed into the ground, then covered with handfuls of dirt tossed by mourners. The burial was marked by some disorder, as thousands of mourners tried to reach the grave and security forces formed a cordon around it.