By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, Associated Press Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press 1 hr 52 mins ago
CONAKRY, Guinea – Some members of Guinea’s Malinke ethnic group were arming themselves Wednesday for possible clashes with their Peul neighbors as ethnic tensions increased over the country’s disputed election.
Groups of men lining the road from the capital Conakry to the downtrodden suburbs shouted to cars passing by, shaking sticks, guns and machetes.
“We are here to protect ourselves. We have knives … and sticks,” said Mohamed Camara, who is Malinke.
Presidential candidate Alpha Conde, a Malinke, was declared the victor Monday night of Guinea’s Nov. 7 runoff election, prompting Peul supporters of his opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo to riot. They burned tires, barricaded roads and destroyed the homes and businesses of Malinke neighbors.
The mostly Malinke security force in Guinea has taken over troubled neighborhoods which now look like ghost towns. Bullet casings and the smoldering, burned tires litter the road. Few residents venture outside. Reports of police brutality against Peul citizens are multiplying and at least four people have been killed and 62 injured since results were announced Monday night.
Gunshots continued Wednesday and hospitals reported more injured people were arriving.
Observers fear that if the violence in Guinea gets out of hand, it could spill over and destabilize its fragile neighbors.
The ethnic tension has already sparked clashes in neighboring Sierra Leone where police said Peul and Malinke were fighting Wednesday. Assistant Inspector General of Police Sorie Kargbo said 20 people were arrested in Sierra Leone’s town of Kenema for rioting. He said the dispute was between Peul and Malinke.
Guinea borders Sierra Leone and Liberia, nations recovering from wars fueled by ethnic divisions. For decades Guinea was a counterpoint to these two nations, with Peul and Malinke not only living side-by-side but also frequently intermarrying.
Associated Press writer Clarence Roy-Macaulay contributed to this report from Freetown, Sierra Leone