Dangerous Game: Guinea’s President Plays the Ethnic Card by Peter Pham

 Link to French version appears after the English version

May 12, 2015

Source: Présidence de la République de Guinée

Two months ago, I warned that unless the international community steps up quickly to pressure the incumbent regime in Guinea to achieve a consensus with the political opposition and civil society regarding the sequencing and scheduling of the elections constitutionally required less than six months from now, the West African country’s belated and fragile democracy might well prove stillborn. Last month, I noted that there were alarming signs that tribal tensions were being stoked and that, in a region where ethnic groups transcend borders which themselves are all-too-porous, such a conflict will be impossible to contain. Now these worst fears are being confirmed by the actions of Guinea’s President Alpha Condé.

Guinea has extraordinary potential for prosperity and, indeed, wealth, thanks to its prodigious natural resources (including the largest bauxite reserves in the world). Moreover, unlike some of its neighbors, it does not want for water: the country has, in fact, been described as the “château d’eau d’Afrique de l’Ouest” because of the many great rivers—including the Niger, the Senegal, and the Gambia—which flow from its highlands. But for all these endowments, the country has seen precious little development, ranking a miserable 179th place among 187 countries in the most recent edition of the Human Development Index published by the United Nations.

The incumbent head of state, Condé, who came to power in disputed elections in 2010, has given voters few compelling reasons to award him a second and final term in the presidential election scheduled for October 11. Both urban and rural poverty have increased during the president’s tenure according to his own finance ministry’s report to the International Monetary Fund. The country faces a multimillion-dollar action in a U.S. federal court seeking to enforce a May 2014 decision by the Common Court of Justice and Arbitration, the highest tribunal of a sixteen-member African regional body on commercial law to which Guinea belongs, ruling that the Condé regime illegally ripped up a port management contract with French cargo company, Getma International. Aside from the nearly $50 million judgment against the government, the harm to the country’s reputation with desperately needed foreign investors is incalculable. And all this was before military and security forces started firing on protesters who, in recent weeks, have regularly been gathering peacefully in the capital of Conakry to support opposition demands for a free, fair, and transparent electoral process.

Absent positive achievements of note, it is not surprising that the embattled leader might turn to a crass appeal to ethnic divisions. Although precise numbers are hard to come by absent a reliable census since colonial times, it is generally estimated that the 11.5 million Guineans are roughly divided between the Peul (or Fulani) with some 40 percent of the population, the Malinké with about 30 percent, the Sousou with around 20 percent, and various smaller groups who make up the remaining 10 percent. Since independence in 1958, the country has been governed by three Malinké (Ahmed Sékou Touré, 1958-1984; Sékouba Konaté, 2009-2010; and Alpha Condé, 2010-present), a Sousou (Lansana Conté, 1984-2008), and a Guerze from the Forest Region (Moussa Dadis Camara, 2008-2009). Despite the group’s numerical plurality, no Peul has ever been president, although a good case might be made that opposition leader, former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, who handily won the first round in the 2010 election had the race stolen from him in the run-off despite an electoral pact with the third-place finisher, former Prime Minister Sidya Touré, who threw his support behind him.

This sets the context for the crass tribal appeal Condé made this past weekend when he flew to Kankan, Guinea’s third-largest city and the center of the Malinké lands. There he was warmly welcomed by the regional governor, Nawa Damey, who is best known for having used his position as minister of territorial administration in the interim government during the 2010 election to put in as head of the national electoral commission Louceny Camara between the two rounds of voting and to pressure local government officials to throw their weight behind Condé’s candidacy in the run-off; his prize was an appointment by the new leader as head of this key bastion. Responding to the governor’s welcome, Condé pandered to the massive crowd of supporters with a nearly forty-minute speech, an audio recording of which I received from a friend in Guinea. What was most disconcerting about the discourse, however, was Condé’s opening and the enthusiastic response it received: “Si vous avez accepté le gouverneur Nawa Damey, alors qu’il est forestier, c’est parce que la Guinée appartient aux malinkés, aux forestiers et aux soussous!

“Guinea belongs to the Malinké, to those from the Forest Region, and to the Sousou!” No mention of the Peul, the country’s largest ethnic group. A cynical, possibly even rational, political play, to be sure, but certainly not the statesmanship one would expect of a man who would be president of a multiethnic country—at the very least it is a highly irresponsible gambit in one of Africa’s most volatile and fragile subregions, one just recovering from long years of conflict, recently afflicted by Ebola, and currently on edge with an uptick in Islamist militancy coming out of the Sahel. We have seen the seeds of this type of poisonous tribalism sown before elsewhere in Africa and the harvest is always unfailingly bitter. The international community had better start paying more attention to the dangerous game that Alpha Condé is playing before it is too late.

J. Peter Pham is Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. Follow the Africa Center on Twitter at @ACAfricaCenter.

Link to French version: 

Jeu dangereux: quand le président de la Guinée joue la carte ethnique


Guinea: Deal with the Devil – Political Parties Sign Agreement with Same Election Cops Who Brutalized Opposition in 2010 Presidential Election

NOTE:  FOSSEL should be operating in full force for the Sept. 19 opposition demonstration given that they are activated for before, during and after the election.
On September 11, 2013, political parties signed a memorandum of understanding with FOSSEL (article is last document below), an election force comprised of gendarmes and police charged with the overall security of the 2013 election and maintaining order.  But, this is no MOU.  It is an edict from the government to political parties to let them know that the FOSSEPE will be everywhere to secure the vote and protect the public.  Sounds reasonable, right?  Yet, the devil is in the details. Here is a excerpt from the “agreement” which demonstrates that FOSSEL’s role is pervasive and murky.  
. . . the Fossel is responsible for ensuring the safety of places of meetings and public events, polls, candidates, branches of CENI, leaders of political parties, national and international observers, the private and public media and electoral materials impartially.
This provides carte blanche for FOSSEL to be anywhere it wants, including political party meetings and presumably those of the private and public media.  The FOSSEL is made up of both gendarmes and police forces as was the FOSSEPEL used during the 2010 election. FOSSEPEL leveled brutal attacks against the opposition, primarily Peul supporters, throughout the presidential election.  Please see excerpts from Human Rights Watch press releases (further below), which span from November 5 -29, 2010 about FOSSEPEL’s brutal abuses and targeting of Peuls.
And the guy running the FOSSEL show for the 2013 elections? That would be Gen. Ibrahima Balde, who also led the 2010 FOSSEPEL.  Read the ominous warning he issued to the opposition just before the announcement of the 2010 presidential election results: 
The general leading Guinea’s election security forces on Wednesday urged candidates to accept the outcome of Sunday’s presidential run-off, as authorities issued a fresh batch of results.

“The leaders must understand they have a responsibility to accept the results, for the loser to accept defeat graciously,” General Ibrahim Balde, head of the national guard and electoral security forces, told Reuters.

“If they do not, I do not want to say what will happen. No one wishes it,” he said.


  • November 5, 2010
    Press release

    “However, FOSSEPEL officials’ response to political violence in late October in Conakry, the capital, was characterized by excessive force, lack of discipline, criminality, and ethnic partisanship.

    “The chances for violence during, and particularly after, this election are very real,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Guinean security services must do all they can to protect all Guineans and ensure that the electorate is able to cast their votes free of fear.”

    General Ibrahim Baldé, the head of the National Gendarmerie, commands the special unit. In July, Baldé signed a much-needed Use of Force Policy, under which Guinean security forces are required to adhere to internationally recognized best practices for responding to violence, including minimum use of force.

    During the October clashes, Human Rights Watch received numerous credible reports of misconduct by policemen and gendarmes serving with FOSSEPEL, including beatings and assaults on party supporters. In some cases, the victims were even chased into their homes and workplaces. Based on the reports, some members of the security unit used the unrest as a pretext to loot shops and commit criminal acts, including theft of mobile phones, money, and other goods.

    Each of the two candidates for the run-off election is from one of the country’s two largest ethnic groups, and members of each group largely support the candidate from their own group. Cellou Dalein Diallo, of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (Union des forces démocratiques de Guinée, UFDG), is a Peuhl; and Alpha Condé, Rally of the Guinean People Party (Rassemblement du peuple de Guinée, RPG), is a Malinké. Very few Peuhls are members of the security services, though.

    Witnesses described how some FOSSEPEL officers targeted individuals for abuse and theft on the basis of their ethnicity, using racially motivated threats and warning them not to vote for a particular party. Scores of protesters were also arbitrarily detained in gendarme camps and denied access to legal representation.

    After the unrest in October, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that at least one person had been killed and 62 injured by the security forces in what it determined was excessive use of force. Members of FOSSEPEL have been implicated in many of the recorded incidents. During some incidents, demonstrators erected roadblocks, burned tires, and threw stones, wounding some members of the security forces.

    Instead of initiating investigations into allegations of abuse, FOSSEPEL officials appear to have distanced themselves from responsibility, Human Rights Watch said. Local news sources have reported that senior members of the security forces, including Baldé himself, said the alleged abuses were committed by “uncontrolled elements” within the police, gendarmes, and army.

    Political and ethnic tension has been steadily rising in Guinea since September. The body charged with overseeing the election has only recently resolved a leadership crisis, while Guineans have waited through three postponements for the presidential election’s second round. A suspected poisoning of dozens of supporters of the Guinean People Party during a meeting in Conakry spurred ethnically motivated attacks against members of the Peuhl ethnicity in at least four towns. The violence displaced about several thousands of people, mostly from the eastern towns of Siguiri, Kouroussa, and Kissidougou.”

  • November 24, 2010
    Press release

    Inter-communal Violence and Detentions
    On November 15, 2010, the day the electoral commission declared Alpha Condé the winner of the presidential election, communal violence broke out between his largely Malinké and Susu supporters and the largely Peuhl supporters of his rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo. Some 125 people, including 26 boys, were among those arrested, charged, and transferred to Conakry’s central prison.

    While numerous witnesses described supporters of both parties engaging in widespread acts of aggression, prison records seen by Human Rights Watch indicate that the detained men and boys are overwhelmingly Peuhl. The numbers suggest a disproportionate and ethnically motivated response to the violence by security forces, very few of whom are Peuhl. Human Rights Watch was unable to ascertain how many of those arrested were detained on the basis of credible allegations of criminal acts, or whether they were arbitrarily detained on the basis of their ethnicity.

    Witnesses in Conakry told Human Rights Watch that security forces had severely mistreated many of the men and boys both during and after their arrests, which in several cases occurred at their homes. Human Rights Watch urged government leaders to ensure that members of the security forces suspected of unlawful violence against the detainees are investigated and prosecuted in accordance with international fair trial standards.
    HRW:  New President Needs to Rein in Security Personnel, Ensure Political Neutrality
    November 29, 2010 
The grim accounts regarding how security forces acted and the rising inter-communal violence show just how challenging the new president’s job will be. To end Guinea’s long history of violence, the incoming government will need to rein in and ensure the neutrality of the security forces, and urgently address the causes of lingering ethnic tensions.
Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch

(Dakar) – Security forces in Guinea used excessive force and displayed a lack of political neutrality when responding to election-related violence, Human Rights Watch said today. The violence, between supporters of presidential candidates Alpha Condé and Cellou Dalein Diallo, and between protesters and security services, took place in Conakry, the capital, and other cities between November 15 and 19, 2010. At least seven people died, and 220 were wounded.

Human Rights Watch conducted interviews in Guinea with over 80 victims and witnesses. The interviews confirmed that the security forces, dominated by ethnic groups that largely supported Condé’s party, used lethal force to suppress violence by members of the Peuhl ethnic group, who were protesting electoral irregularities against Diallo, their candidate. Guinea’s Supreme Court is expected to announce this week the final results of the contested, second-round election, which, despite some irregularities, was considered by international observers to be the freest in Guinea in 50 years. On November 15, election officials declared Condé the winner of the November 7 run-off election.

“The grim accounts regarding how security forces acted and the rising inter-communal violence show just how challenging the new president’s job will be,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “To end Guinea’s long history of violence, the incoming government will need to rein in and ensure the neutrality of the security forces, and urgently address the causes of lingering ethnic tensions.”

The Human Rights Watch investigation in Guinea showed that members of the security forces used ethnic slurs against members of the Peuhl ethnic group, collaborated with civilian mobs from ethnic groups that largely supported Condé, and in several cases looted and stole property from people who were perceived to have supported Diallo. Although the security forces may have sought to quell the violence that seized the cities of Conakry, Dalaba, and Labé, they failed to provide equal protection to all Guineans, Human Rights Watch said.

Behaving more as predators than protectors, security force members in Guinea have for decades been allowed to get away with abuses including extortion, banditry, theft, kidnapping, racketeering, and excessive use of lethal force, with no apparent fear of being held accountable. Successive authoritarian heads of state have used the security services for partisan ends to repress political opponents, influence the outcome of elections, and intimidate the judiciary.

13.09.2013 9:54 p.m.

The political parties involved in the organization of elections signed Wednesday, September 11 a memorandum of understanding with the special security force legislative elections (Fossel), and in the presence of Major General, Ibrahima Balde, Top Commander of the Force, Director of Military Justice, Commander Fossel.

Indeed, it is mentioned in the MoU that “Fossel mission is to maintain peace, the security and freedom of movement, protection of persons and property on
the territory National before, during and after the general elections of 2013. “

Understood that Fossel is committed to fulfill its mission without interfering in political and administrative local government affairs, nor to question the traditional role assigned to the security forces and defense.

Furthermore, Fossel is committed to improving collaboration with political parties, and further understood that political parties claim to have an internal security organization in the context of elections, political parties understood that engaged in the electoral process are bound by the provisions of the Electoral Code and the Code of Conduct for political parties, and at the same time, the parties undertake to improve collaboration with Fossel.

From the foregoing, the Fossel is responsible for ensuring the safety of places of meetings and public events, polls, candidates, branches of CENI, leaders of political parties, national and international observers, the private and public media and electoral materials and it impartially.

Then in the MOU it is also said that political parties are required to apply the rules of internal security for all activities relating to elections including their seats, places of meetings and procession routes.

And political parties are also responsible to educate their leaders and activists on the need to observe discipline and safety rules before, during and after the announcement of the results until the installation of the National Assembly.

Speaking, General Ibrahima Balde division above all thanked political parties while stating that this signature is a success for the simple reason of having put in place for the first time a legal framework and adaptable to different security realities in conjunction with the legislative elections, the holding is 24 September.

A report on the 31 political parties contesting only 17 responded to the call. And recognizing this fact, General Ibrahima Balde Division recommends that Fossel services in connection with all other political parties, trying to go through all the ways and means for all the other parties to the absent meeting may sign this Protocol.

Balla Yombouno

Tel: 664 745 365

GUINEA: Ethnic-Religious Violence in Nzerekore, Beyla

Since an incident at a gas station on Sunday in Nzerekore, the administrative capitol of the Forest region, where a man of the Koniake (Malinke) ethnic group was shot by the station keeper, a man of the Guerze ethnic group, for stealing, the situation has escalated dangerously.  Aminata.com is reporting this morning that fighting continues in Beyla between the two ethnic groups and hospital quthorities say 40 people are dead, primarily by firearms and machetes.  Further, a least 100 people  have been wounded.  Health care facilities in the area are completely overcome.

Adding a religious edge to the conflict is the burning of churches (Guerze are Christian) and mosques (Koniake are Muslim).
And, a political twist.  Forest region natives Claude Pivi and Thiegboro Camara, members of Conde’s cabinet and long thought to be the primary perpetrators of the September 28, 2009, massacre in Conakry, have gone to the area of the fighting in the Forest region. 
Stay tuned . . . 

Guinea Update 4-4: Lawyers File to Send Conde to ICC for Crimes Against Humanity, Conde Denies Dadis Camara Return to Bury Mother, Former Conde Supporter Tells All (VIDEO-FR), and Telliano Badgered in Court

French attorneys file complaint against Alpha Conde to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity

Based on information from: guineeactu.com, aminata.com, and guinee58.com

A group of Guineans have obtained the services of two French lawyers of the Paris Bar to file a complaint against Alpha Conde for crimes against humanity associated with brutal repression during and after the February 27, 2013 opposition march.

The lawyers are Houcine Bardi and Damien Ayrole and in their complaint they say:

“Facts of crimes against humanity following the brutal repression that has befallen the population at peaceful demonstrations in February 2013, which caused many casualties among the civilian population.”

Here is a link to the document filed (in Frnech) by the attorneys, Plainte contre Alpha Condé au TPI


Alpha Conde Bars Guinea’s Military Junta Leader from Attending His Mother’s Funeral in Guinea

From guinee58.com (translated via Google with editing by Guinea Oye)

Thursday, April 4, 2013 5:27

dadis_ouaga It is a real thunderbolt that has descended on the sages of the coordination of the forest for several days leading negotiations for the presence of Captain Dadis Camara at the funeral of his mother whose death was announced yesterday after afternoon.

We told you in our previous editions that the mother of the former strongman of the CNDD died at the age of 103 years. When Camara expressed his desire to attend the funeral, the people of the Forecst spared no effort. People were appointed to approach Alpha Conde about granting Camara entrance into Guinea so he could bury his mother, hoping, that due to the circumstances, Conde would grant the trip.

“Rather, we ran up against a wall. He told us that the presence of Dadis Camara would cause public disorder “reveals this group. “This is unacceptable to prevent someone in this case, Dadis Camara, to attend the funeral of his mother.” The Professor Alpha Condé, is he afraid of the unwavering popularity for Camara that can be found in military garrisons?

Other sources reported the involvement of several heads of states of the subregion who pleaded the cause of Captain Dadis Camara so he could accompany his mother to her final resting place. But until we dispatch this line, the position of President Alpha Conde has not changed one iota. From the beginning, his answer was always “no” and it has not changed.

Of this refusal, President Alpha Condé shows his contempt of Guineans. This illustrates once again that his word is based only on the wind and we should not trust him.

To be continued …

Aly Soumah www.guinee58.com , Conakry

Former Supporter of Alpha Conde’s Tells All

From guinea58.com (translate via Google with editing by Guinea Oye)

Repentance of a former militant Alpha Conde

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 7:42 p.m.

alpha_kourouma Rare enough are those to be noted as Conde supporters are experts in the art of disguising the truth. Mr. Alpha Kourouma delivers a poignant frightening look at life in the RPG. Mr. Kourouma is a former supporter of Alpha Condé who is disillusioned like thousands of Guineans. He owns his past and proudly claims rallying to the opposition.

Without jargon, Mr. Kourouma describes the dictatorial regime of Alpha Condé. In crude terms, he portrayed the character of tribal politics Alpha Condé. He tells very informative stories about the shameful practices of Conde’s administration, including appointment to positions based on ethnicity in Conakry. According to Mr. Kourouma, Guineans are dismissed from the administration because of their ethnicity and others are recruited because they are of President Alpha Condé’s ethnic group, Malinke. He witnessed the dismissals of young Soussous and Peulhs to allow the recruitment of young Malinkés.

Driven by his patriotic conscience, Mr. Kourouma eventually resigned for not endorsing the dictatorship of Alpha Condé.

Alpha Kourouma urged Guineans to refuse the division and the instrumentalization of ethnicity.

Below is a video of his statement (in French):

Jean Marc Telliano’s “Theatre of the Absurd” Day in Court

Based on guineelibre.com article

Telliano appeared in court on Tuesday morning and two leaders of the opposition were there to support him, Cellou Dalein Diallo and Mouctar Diallo. Some opposition supporters gathered outside the court, but security dispersed them. Telliano was charged with “insulting the president,” something that after two years with Alpha Conde as president, well over half the population could be charged with.

In case “insulting the president” didn’t carry enough weight to get him locked up an embezzlement charge was thrown in.

You may recall that Telliano made statements at the February 27 opposition march that cut a little too close to the bone for Conde. Telliano said he would like Conde to show the graves of his parents in Guinea, but knows he can’t because his parents are of burkinabe and senegalo-malienne origin. What he was referring to is that Conde has little tie to Guinea or its people because of his parents origins. And there is the fact that Conde spent 59 years in France.

After the trial Cellou Diallo shared his impressions:

We came to show our solidarity with Jean Marc Telliano . Nobody denies that the President of the Republic of Guinean is a citizen with all the rights. He was elected as a Guinean citizen, but everyone knows that he has origins in Burkina Faso. This is not an insult, it’s not an insult, it is a reality and no part of it taints his honor or dignity “

“So, on this basis, we can not call, try and convict Jean Marc Telliano. It is in the context of a political rally he recalled these facts, which are facts and do not constitute any breach of honor or dignity of any person.”

Telliano’s lawyer said that he was questioned for hours at the court in Mafanco and that he was supposed to return today for more.

If You Rely on Reuters’ Saliou Samb for News on Guinea, You Will Be Clueless

September 28, 2009 massacre, a perfect example of an ethnic cleanse wrapped in a political narrative.  “Tiegboro” Camara, the only person to be “indicted” as one of the perpetrators of this massacre, continues to walk the streets of Conakry freely as well as maintain the ear of the head of state, Alpha Conde.

Reuters is one of the few mainstream media outlets that reports regularly about Guinea in English. For English speakers, articles written by Reuters reporter, Saliou Samb may be their only source of information on the country. If so, this is unfortunate. Samb’s reporting on Guinea is short on context and presents an air-brushed image of the head of state, Alpha Conde, that bears no relation to reality.

Over the last two years, Guinea Oye! has felt obliged to fill in numerous omissions and add context to unbelievable over-simplifications which run through much of Samb’s Guinea coverage (Further below, you will find links to previous Guinea Oye! posts, written during the last stages of the 2010 presidential campaign, which critique Mr. Samb’s coverage and provide much-needed historical context as well as political analysis.).

Through Mr. Samb’s articles, neither Guineans, nor those living elsewhere who follow Guinea closely, would recognize his portrayal of the country. When combined, his omissions and over-simplifications serve to deflect criticism of Conde. His articles transform Conde intoTeflon Man, against whom nothing bad sticks. As for the opposition, Samb paints it as recalcitrant and prone to using insignificant demands to delay elections. This is a Guinea that Alpha Conde would like to show the world and Samb’s articles appear to be the primary mechanism for doing just that. Regardless of whether Samb is going easy on Conde because it is his job or because he is too distracted, tired, uninspired, or possibly frightened to show the full picture, he is betraying readers who deserve nothing short of comprehensive and frank coverage from his prestigious news outlet.

The truth about Guinea is that it is in a perilous mess and Alpha Conde is responsible. Alpha Conde spewed anti-Peul rhetoric throughout the 2010 campaign which incited Malinkes to attack Peuls in the towns of Siguiri and Kourrouso. The result was machete murders, rape, burned homes and businesses, and family property destroyed. Ethnic hatred underlies Guinea’s entire political framework. In Guinea, ethnicity and politics are tightly intertwined. The target of the Conde administration are Peuls who happen to be overwhelmingly aligned with the opposition. When the administration throws a roadblock in front of the opposition, it is throwing a roadblock in front of Peuls and vice-versa. In fact, much of the anti-Peul actions of the government are wrapped in anti-opposition clothing. When prominent media outlets such as Reuters, prop up Alpha Conde and dismiss the opposition, just months before legislative elections, it contributes to a dangerous, artificial narrative likely to put Guineans in more danger. Peuls know that if further escalation of tensions by Conde continue, which they will, the assistance of the international community will be essential. Let’s hope the community is not following events in Guinea, solely through Mr. Samb’s articles.

Mr. Samb’s latest article, which appears below, was published on Monday, March 12, 2012. The focus of the article is “political risks in Guinea.” With the exception of the section on mining, it has enough holes to drive a fleet of trucks through. In fact, much of the non-mining parts are outdated, appear to be a a re-iteration of previous Samb articles, and provide precious little analysis. Alpha Conde’s authoritarian approach to governing grows more audacious every day and the impacts on the population mount. But, you would never know this by reading Samb’s articles. As a result, Guinea Oye! has annotated his most recent article with comments which hopefully will give readers a more comprehensive look at Guinean politics. The comments appear in bold and in brackets []. Continue reading “If You Rely on Reuters’ Saliou Samb for News on Guinea, You Will Be Clueless”

UN, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone to Boost Military in Western Ivory Coast

Sun Sep 18, 2011 2:25pm GMT

By Ange Aboa

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – The United Nations and regional governments are deploying additional soldiers to Ivory Coast’s border area with Liberia after deadly attacks on villages in the densely forested West African region, a military official said.

Some 23 people were killed in the latest raid by suspected mercenaries from Liberia last week in Ivory Coast’s southwest, an area with a history of conflict between indigenous tribes and migrant farmers inflamed by a recent civil war.

“We have sent reinforcements to the area and (the United Nations mission in Ivory Coast) UNOCI has also added patrols to put an end to these attacks,” Ivorian army captain Alla Kouakou told Reuters by telephone late on Saturday.

He said the governments of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone — members of the so-called Mano River Union which has warned insecurity on the border represented a threat for the entire West African region — would also add forces.

He did not give details.

Ivory Coast’s southwest has been fraught with ethnic strife for decades, largely centred around land rights between indigenous tribes and the migrants who now make up the backbone of Ivory Coast’s cocoa industry.

Tensions between the two groups have reignited since last year’s disputed election sparked a civil war that toppled incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, paving the way for election winner Alassane Ouattara to take power.

The indigenous tribes in southwestern Ivory Coast and in nearby Liberia are believed to have supported Gbagbo, who was arrested in mid-April after fierce fighting.

Since Gbagbo’s arrest, violence has simmered on.

In the most recent attack overnight on Thursday in the Tai region, officials and residents said the gunmen were likely former Gbagbo supporters from indigenous tribes, including the Guere, who had fled to Liberia during the war.

Some 19 migrant farmers from Niger and Burkina Faso and two government soldiers were among the 23 dead, Kouakou said.

“These were the youths from the villages that left for Liberia during the war and are starting to come back. They did this,” said Issiaka Yameogo, a cocoa farmer in Zriglo, one of the villages attacked.

“We are afraid because Liberia is not far and they can come back again. But we are also worried because we can’t easily return to the bush to harvest the cocoa, and it is the start of the new season and we must harvest.”

Ivory Coast is the world’s largest cocoa grower. The southwest accounts for some 90,000-120,000 tonnes of the annual crop, which this year is expected to top 1.4 million.

Father Laurentin Guei, from the Catholic mission in Tai, said the attack was the second in a month.

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Sophie Hares)

UN Press Release: Guinea – Excessive Force Used Against Demonstrators

Guinea: Excessive Force Used Against Demonstrators
Saturday, 23 October 2010, 12:32 pm
Press Release: United Nations

Guinea: Excessive Force Used Against Demonstrators, UN Rights Office Says

New York, Oct 22 2010 6:10PM The United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today expressed its deep concern over excessive use of force by Guinea’s security forces against demonstrators ahead of this weekend’s long-delayed presidential run-off poll.

One man was killed and more than 60 others injured when Government forces used live fire in their effort to quell demonstrations earlier this week in the capital, Conakry.

The Office said that while it appreciated that authorities had a difficult task in dealing with the demonstrations, which in some cases degenerated into violence, including stone-throwing.

But it said that it believes Government forces committed serious rights violations by indiscriminately shooting at unarmed civilians, sometimes at point-blank range; breaking into and ransacking private homes; and severely beating young men who put up no resistance.

Some of the security forces’ operations appeared to target entire areas indiscriminately and little effort was made to distinguish between violent protestors and those who had taken no part in the demonstrations, OHCHR said.

They also illegally and arbitrarily detained an unknown number of people, preventing them from accessing lawyers. Further, the Office said, human rights officers were not allowed into a gendarmerie detention cell in the commune of Hamdallaye, where several protestors are believed to be held.

OHCHR in Guinea said it is particularly concerned that members of the Force Spéciale de Securisation du Processus Electoral, a special unit that was formed and trained to secure the electoral process, took part in these police operations.

Among the victims of alleged violations documented so far by OHCHR staff in Conakry include a 22-year-old man who was reportedly hit in the head by a tear gas bomb thrown by a police officer in Hamdallaye and is still in a coma.

Others include a 7-year-old boy who took a stray bullet in the head, also still comatose, and a family in the Afnia Minière neighbourhood whose house was broken into by several gendarmes, who reportedly beat an elderly man with their fists, truncheons and rifle butts. The same group of gendarmes also reportedly shot three men between the ages of 18 and 25 at point-blank range, wounding two in the arm and one in the leg.

The Office recorded several other extremely violent incidents seemingly aimed at young men, expressing concern that some members of the security forces appear to be making threats, and even carrying out assaults, based on people’s ethnicity or political affiliation.

It called on political leaders in Guinea to restrain their supporters in the run-up to the elections and urged the transitional Government to ensure that security forces scrupulously adhere to international standards governing the use of force and firearms.

Guinea’s independent electoral authority, known as CENI, had cited technical difficulties when it postponed the ballot between Cellou Dalein Diallo and Alpha Condé, the two candidates with the highest number of votes in the first round of voting in June.

Said Djinnit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for West Africa, has warned that further delays could seriously undermine the transition process in Guinea, which has been plagued by misrule, dictatorships and coups since it gained independence in 1958.

The election is the final stage of the interim Government’s efforts to set up a democracy after the forces of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara – who seized power in a coup in 2008 after the death of long-time president Lansana Conté – shot, raped and attacked hundreds of civilian demonstrators attending a rally in Conakry in September 2009, killing at least 150.