Guinea boosts security in hotspots

2010-11-19 08:08

Conakry - Security forces patrolled hotspot areas of Conakry on Thursday after Guinea was placed under a state of emergency following deadly clashes over disputed election results.

Interim president General Sekouba Konate decreed a state of emergency on Wednesday after three days of sporadic violence in strongholds of the losing presidential candidate who claims he is the rightful winner, citing voter fraud.

The state of emergency announcement came as the unofficial death toll since Monday rose to seven on Wednesday in the clashes after opposition leader Alpha Conde was announced the winner of the election with 52.5% of votes.

No incidents were reported on Thursday in Diallo's troubled strongholds. In parts of Ratoma, a suburb home to one-fifth of the population of Conakry, pick-up trucks loaded with helmeted and armed police roamed the streets while paratroopers were positioned at intersections, automatic rifles in hand.

Ratoma is the only suburb in Conakry which Diallo won in the vote and is home to members of his Fulani ethnic group. His rival Conde is a Malinke and the election campaign was marred by clashes between the two ethnic majorities.

Most small shops in the suburb remained closed, but markets were active, while traffic, almost non-existent since Monday, slowly resumed.

Precarious clam

Ratoma's main road Prince Avenue was still littered with debris from barricades erected by young supporters of losing candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo, during violent clashes with police.

"Yesterday police were beating people, insulting Diallo and the Fulani but since they decreed a state of emergency people have stayed at home and this morning there was no more chaos," said 22-year old Ratoma inhabitant Ousmane Barry.

However most residents of the suburb say they have been unable to sleep as security forces fire their guns all through the night.

"It's a precarious calm because people are hiding in their homes but remain frustrated because they stole Diallo's victory," said Ibrahima Dubreka Diallo, 58, a businessman.

Konate said emergency rule would remain in place until the results of the presidential run-off had been confirmed by the court, which should take place no later than November 26.

International concern has risen in the tense run-up to the Supreme Court ruling as Diallo challenges the November 07 poll results, citing massive voter fraud.

France issued a warning to its citizens on Thursday to "formally advise against travelling to the country in the current circumstances".

Savage brutality

Foreign ministry spokesperson Christine Fages told reporters: "France is following with concern the development of the situation in Guinea, in particular the acts of violence in recent days. We firmly condemn them." Meanwhile Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade held talks with both Conde and Diallo with a view to "a rapid exit from the crisis", the presidency said in a press statement.

Wade has also been in touch with Guinea's interim Prime Minister Jean-Marie Dore, and with Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, who is mediating Guinea's political crisis.

The United States condemned the violence on Wednesday.

"Such incidents have no place in the democratic society that Guinea aspires to become," said US State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley said.

Observers have raised concerns of excessive force by Guinean security forces who Diallo accuses of "savage brutality" against his supporters.

According to certain journalists the violence was however less brutal than that seen in recent years. In September 2009 the capital was traumatised by the massacre of some 150 opponents to a military junta by security forces.

If the Supreme Court confirms the election results, Conde will become the fifth leader of Guinea, ruling a country which is desperately poor, despite massive stores of bauxite and iron ore.