Guinea’s security forces used excessive force in post-election violence that left seven people dead and may exacerbate tension unless they are reined in, said advocacy groups including Amnesty International.
“Unless the Guinean authorities put an immediate stop to the unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force by its military and police, there is a risk that the country will be plunged into a situation which could give rise to further serious human-rights abuses,” Gaetan Mootoo, a researcher at the London-based group, said in an e-mail today.
Ethnic clashes flared across the West African country after Alpha Conde, who draws his support from the Malinke, the second- largest ethnic group, was declared the winner of a Nov. 7 runoff presidential election. His rival, former Prime Minister Cello Dalein Diallo, has contested the results. Diallo was largely supported by the Peul, the country’s largest ethnic group.
Security forces “disproportionately attacked members of the Peul population,” Corinne Dufka, a researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a phone interview from Conakry, Guinea’s capital. “Ethnic tensions remain very high.” The Peul represent 40 percent of the country’s 10.3 million people and the Malinke account for 30 percent, according to the website of the CIA’s World Factbook.
State of Emergency
Calm returned to the country today, two days after a state of emergency was declared following the seven deaths and the wounding of at least 240 people. A curfew has been imposed and the army has been deployed across the country. Security forces are “aggressively patrolling” and continue to fire weapons in the air to disperse groups of Peul youth, Dufka said.
Guinea hasn’t had a democratic transfer of power since it gained independence from France in 1958. The country holds as much as half of the world’s reserves of bauxite, an ore used to make aluminum. It also has more than 4 billion metric tons of “high-grade” iron ore and “significant” deposits of diamonds and gold, according to the U.S. State Department.
Companies operating in Guinea include Russia’s United Co. Rusal, the world’s largest aluminum producer, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., Africa’s biggest gold miner, and Brazil’s Vale SA, the No. 1 iron-ore producer.
In a first round of voting on June 27 Diallo won 39.72 percent of the vote to Conde’s 20.67 percent. In the Nov. 7 runoff, Conde, 72, surged to 52.52 percent, while Diallo received 47.48 percent.
Such a large swing of votes in Conde’s favor in the second round was “absolutely incredible,” said Tibor Nagy Jr., a former U.S. ambassador to Guinea from 1996 to 1999. “I think it’s going to be extremely messy unless there is some real deal- making.”
The country’s Supreme Court is due to decide on Diallo’s election challenge next week, at which point violence may reignite, Nagy said. The United Nations urged Guineans to accept the results of the election in a statement Nov. 16, asking them to “resolve any differences through legal means.”
Guinea has faced political instability since a group of military officers took power in December 2008 following the death of former President Lansana Conte, who had ruled for 24 years. General Sekouba Konate became the leader of the junta in December 2009 after an aide shot the 2008 coup leader, Moussa Dadis Camara, in the head.
Konate said today he is willing to take up the post of defense minister if the country’s new president offers him the job, Agence France-Presse reported.
Special forces and the presidential guard, known as the red berets fired on crowds with live ammunition this week, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said. One hospital treated 140 people for bullet wounds, the Geneva-based body said in an e-mailed statement. The OHCHR has documented “numerous” allegations of human-rights violations in Guinea, it said.
Security forces killed at least 150 democracy activists who demonstrated in Conakry in September 2009 and raped dozens of women. None of those involved has been prosecuted.
“The security forces have a long history of responding to unrest with excessive force,” said Dufka. “They behave as if they know they will get away with it.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at firstname.lastname@example.org.