The 411 on the Last 24 Hours in Guinea: Police Prevent Opposition from Rally at Stadium
And, tomorrow, on the second anniversary of the September 28, 2009 massacre of unarmed opposition demonstrators by the Guinean military, Conde is calling for a” national day of reconciliation.” More on this in the next post.
Guinean police on Tuesday prevented an opposition rally in the capital, amid growing concern that the historic gains made in last year’s polls could be reversed in upcoming December elections.
Dozens of vehicles of the police and paramilitary forces prevented access to the September 28 stadium, where the rally was planned, and blocked off access roads in parts of the capital, an AFP correspondent reported.
At least five youths were arrested in a district considered a stronghold of the opposition, which accuses President Alpha Conde of mishandling preparations for the December 29 legislative elections.
Apart from a massive turnout of security vehicles, Conakry streets were largely empty of cars, though many pedestrians were out and about. For fear of violence, most shops and petrol stations were closed.
One opposition leader, Sidya Toure, said the crackdown on the protest, which had already been banned by the city governor, was “regrettable”.
“The security forces had only to marshal the demonstration instead of preventing it,” he said.
“Our pride and our satisfaction is that we have managed to paralyse the town of Conakry,” he added.
France on Tuesday called for calm and warned its nationals in the former west African colony to be careful.
“France is very preoccupied by calls for hatred and violence. It calls for calm and restraint by everybody,” foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in Paris.
A meeting late Monday between Prime Minister Mohamed Said Fofana and leaders of the opposition, convened on Conde’s orders, brought no solution.
The opposition leaders, acting in a broad coalition, decided to maintain the call for the rally.
The opposition denounces what it sees as the “unilateral” manner in which the date of parliamentary elections has been fixed, for December 29, by the authorities and by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI).
The opposition wants the CENI restructured.
The coalition has said it fears “a sham” and “an electoral hold-up” by the authorities. The polls should have been held within six months of the inauguration of Conde as president on December 21, 2010.
Conde, who had been a veteran opposition leader during years of despotic rule, was elected in November 2010 in the second round of the first free polls in the history of the country since independence in 1958.
“The process of dialogue and consultation that we have begun can help us to give hope to the people in need,” the prime minister said after Monday’s meeting, because “peace is now more necessary than ever to Guinea”.
But Cellou Dalein Diallo, who heads Guinea’s largest opposition party and lost to Conde last year, told AFP that protests would go ahead as the government “has put nothing on the table”.
Diallo has accused the president of stalling preparations for the legislative vote.
Guineans will on Wednesday mark the second anniversary of a massacre in the September 28 stadium, when thousands gathered there to voice opposition against Moussa Dadis Camara’s military junta.
Troops converged, killing at least 157 and injuring hundreds more. Reports indicate 131 women were raped in the chaos, which preceded the fall of Camara’s regime and a transition towards democracy.
In a report released Sunday, the International Crisis Group said there are indications that Conde’s party will perform badly in the polls and “his unilateral move to overhaul the electoral system” has sparked suspicions of rigging.
“A genuine agreement between the main political actors on the organisation of the legislative elections is crucial and urgent,” the ICG said.
The think-tank’s report said Guinea’s gains over the past two years could quickly be reversed if the upcoming vote is mishandled.