Guinea bans protest during FIFA visit

2013-02-06 21:13
Peul youths throw stones toward members of the Malinke ethnic group, during clashes between Malinke and Peul shopkeepers in Conakry. (AP)

Peul youths throw stones toward members of the Malinke ethnic group, during clashes between Malinke and Peul shopkeepers in Conakry. (AP)

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Conakry - Guinea's government on Wednesday banned a march against an alleged attempt to rig a parliamentary election in May, saying it did not want protesters in the streets during a visit by FIFA chief Sepp Blatter.

"The government asks the opposition to postpone the so-called peaceful march it wanted to organise tomorrow to a later date," Interior Minister Alhassane Conde said in a statement broadcast on private radio stations.

"We are welcoming a distinguished guest tomorrow in the person of Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, who is coming to visit our country and the Goal projects financed by his organisation."

On Tuesday, Conde had announced in state media that the march - called to protest the hiring of Waymark, a South African information consulting firm the opposition accuses of helping President Alpha Conde rig the 12 May elections - was "banned".

He justified that decision on Wednesday by saying the country's sports minister had already written to local authorities asking to organise a carnival to welcome Blatter, the president of world football's governing body, in the same area of the capital where protesters had been planning to march.

The opposition Union of Republican Forces (UFR) condemned the government's decision and vowed to press ahead with the march.

"We are keeping our peaceful march on Thursday and so much the worse for the authorities if they want to have clashes," said UFR leader Sidya Toure.

"If Mr Blatter, whom we all love, wants to come to Guinea for football matters, we tell him welcome and have a nice stay, but that does not prevent us from holding our protest."

The legislative polls, initially due to be held six months after Conde's election in December 2010, have been repeatedly postponed, with the opposition accusing election officials of manipulating the voter roll in favour of Conde's Rally of Guinea People (RPG).

Protests over the delays have led to clashes with police.

The troubled nation has a long history of coups and attempted coups, and was ruled by successive authoritarian regimes until Conde's win in the country's first free polls.

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