At least 50 killed in clashes in Guinea

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Witnesses and medical officials say at least 50 people have been killed in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, in clashes between security forces and opposition activists who defied a government ban on protests.

Conakry, the capital of Guinea (2007)
Image: Ppntori.

Witnesses say Guinea's security forces opened fire on demonstrators who had gathered in a large stadium to protest against the possible presidential candidacy of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, the country's military leader. They also say police charged protesters with batons, used tear gas, and detained several opposition leaders.

We have counted 52 bodies and six more have just come in.

—Doctor at Conakry city university medical centre

"We have counted 52 bodies and six more have just come in," the city's university medical centre's doctor said.

On Sunday, Captain Camara's government said all protests would be prohibited until national independence celebrations are held on October 2.

"All demonstrations on national territory are prohibited until the national holiday on October 2," said Frederic Kolie, the interior minister, in a televised address on Sunday.

However, opposition activists decided to proceed with the demonstration they had planned for Monday. Some carried signs that read "No to Dadis", and others chanted "We want true democracy." Some of the demonstrators set furniture on fire as they marched from the outskirts of the capital into the city.

"[...] Conakry can be rightly described as a police state [...] All across town, military people at checkpoints are searching people and people have been forced back into their houses," said Al Hassan Silah, a local journalist, to the Al Jazeera news agency.

Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.

Captain Camara took power in a coup last December, following the death of Guinea's longtime President Lansana Conte.

When he took power, Captain Camara said no one in his ruling council would run for public office. However, the council has since said its members are eligible to be candidates, and Captain Camara has suggested he may run for president in elections, which are scheduled for January 2010.

The African Union said it may impose sanctions on Guinea if Captain Camara decides to run for president. It said it was concerned about what it called a "deteriorating situation" in the country and the consequences of not returning to constitutional order.

Opponents have also accused Mr Camara and his ruling council of human rights abuses and limiting freedom of speech.

Supporters of Guinea's military council are calling the threatened sanctions unfair.


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