Terror Continues In Conakry
Trigger happy soldiers continue to gun down protesters on the streets of Conakry, a day after the indiscriminate killing of peaceful civilians trying to enter the stadium for a mass meeting. Yesterday, following world wide condemnation, the soldiers have started taking away the bodies to an unknown destination for what has been described as a secret mass burial. 175 people have been confirmed killed, and the number is said to be rising as the wounded in the hospitals continue to die daily for lack of drugs and medical personnel. This was revealed by Guinea’s Human Rights Organization.
The African Union has condemned in no uncertain terms the killings and the decision of Guinea’s military junta leader Dadis Camara contesting as a presidential candidate even though he had earlier proclaimed in a nationwide TV broadcast that he has no plans in politics.
The civilians, said to number about 50,000 had gone to the football stadium in Conakry to protest peacefully the decision of the military junta to hold onto power. Soldiers of the elite gendarme and the Beret Rouge unit had opened fire even though the demonstrators were only chanting anti slogans and carrying placards.
The military opened fire and eye witnesses revealed it was an unprovoked attack from the soldiers. Crowds panicked and fled as the firing is said to have continued for over ten minutes resulting in some being trampled to death in the stampede as they tried to escape from the stadium.
In an interview with Radio France, Guinean junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara blamed soldiers whom he described as “uncontrollable elements.” On the issue of his plan to contest in presidential elections, Camara said he had not given his final word about contesting for the presidency. He said he will call a national consultative meeting of all stakeholders in the country to know those who support him to contest and those who do not want him to enter politics. “If the number of those who say I should leave power are more than those who support my leadership, I will not contest,” he said.
He went on further to state that he had not given his final word yet. “Some people want Moussa Dadis Camara as president some others do not, I am calling on the international conference and all Guineans to know those who do not want Dadis as president.”
Meanwhile, France has suspended military cooperation with Guinea on Tuesday and said it would press EU partners to adopt sanctions against those responsible for a deadly crackdown on opposition protesters.
“France has decided to immediately suspend military cooperation with Guinea. It is also reviewing its entire bilateral aid,” Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a statement.
The European Union will meet tomorrow in Brussels to examine additional measures.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana condemned the use of force by the Guinean junta. He added, “I urge the immediate release of the arrested political leaders and call on the authorities to exercise maximum restraint and ensure a peaceful and democratic transition.”
Condemnation also came from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. While the African Union said it deplored the “indiscriminate firing on unarmed civilians,” the organization is yet to make any substantial plans to bring the situation under control.
The killings occurred when thousands of people led by a coalition of opposition parties gathered outside Conakry’s largest stadium to challenge any bid by Camara to run for president in an election due next January. Witnesses say protestors defied a ban and entered the stadium, which has official capacity for 25,000. Police squads initially used tear gas and baton charges outside the stadium. Then shots were heard and bodies were later seen in and around the stadium.
The news agency AFP quotes a police source as saying 87 bodies were collected. Medical sources said trucks picked up “dozens of bodies” from a hospital, including those of four women, and took them to the Alpha Yaya Diallo military camp, the junta’s headquarters. Other sources put the death toll as high as 157.
Captain Dadis Camara took over Guinea in December 2008. He led a bloodless coup within hours of the death of the then-strongman Lansana Conte, who had been in power since 1984.
France has called on the junta to “show responsibility” by respecting the Guinean people’s “legitimate aspiration” to democratically choose their leaders. Paris added that Camara should help calm to return by not standing for election.
Dr. Chierno Maadjou with the Guinean Organization for Defense of Human Rights said Tuesday that 157 people died and more than 1,200 people were wounded.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said eyewitnesses reported that security forces had raped female protesters in the streets, and stabbed protesters with knives and bayonets.
Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the killing of dozens of unarmed protesters is “shocking even by the abusive standards of Guinea’s But Conteh is vehement in his defense concerning the killing, saying “Even I, as head of state in this very tense situation, cannot claim to be able to control those elements in the military.”
Abdulai Wade, president of Senegal who had initially supported Dadis Camara’s junta also denounced the violence. The opposition protest drew some 50,000 people to the soccer stadium, with demonstrators chanting “We want true democracy.”
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