Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Guinea Protests 'Will Continue' Says Opposition Party

Guinea protests 'will continue'

A leading Guinean opposition leader has said protests will continue in the country to get rid of what he called the "criminal" military regime.

Alpha Conde, head of the Rally of the People of Guinea party, said he would return there to "mobilise the people".

Rights groups say at least 157 people were shot dead by troops on Monday and that woman have been publically raped.

But the interior ministry said 57 people died in the protests. Officials denied knowledge of sexual assaults.

"We can't fight and then draw back, we fought for change so we can't retreat now," Mr Conde, speaking from New York, told the BBC.

"We want free and democratic elections, but considering what happened yesterday, we now want the government to go and for it to be replaced by a national government that can organise elections."

Mr Conde said the government had been "discredited" by the violence, which he said had been "planned and were directed by the president's own advisor".

“ Frankly it saddens me immensely. Frankly, it is very regrettable ”
Capt Camara

Guinean soldiers used tear gas, baton charges and fired live ammunition on Monday to break up demonstrations in the capital, Conakry.

About 50,000 people were protesting over rumours that Junta head Capt Moussa Dadis Camara intends to run for president in an election scheduled for next January.

The Guinean Organisation for Defence of Human Rights put the toll at 157 people killed and more than 1,200 wounded.

Guinea's interior ministry told the BBC that a total of 57 people died during the violence.

Bodies 'hidden'

Human rights groups say they have had reports of soldiers bayoneting people and women being stripped and raped in the streets during the protest.

"The military is going into districts, looting goods and raping women," Mamadi Kaba, the head of the Guinean branch of the African Encounter for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO), told AFP.

"We have similar reports from several sources, including police sources and some close to the military," said Mr Kaba, from his office in Dakar, Senegal.

The interior ministry source admitted that some soldiers had fired live rounds into the crowd, but said that only four people had died from gunshot wounds. The others, the ministry said, were trampled to death.

The opposition has accused the army of taking away some bodies to hide the scale of the violence.

Capt Camara denied knowledge of sexual assaults, but admitted that some of his security forces had lost control.

He said he was waiting to hear exactly how many people had died.

"Frankly, it saddens me immensely. Frankly, it is very regrettable," he told French radio.

Capt Camara said he had not yet decided whether to run for the presidency and was unsure what the correct move would be.

There has been worldwide condemnation of the violence.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the Guinean authorities to exercise maximum restraint, while the West African regional body Ecowas is reported to be pursuing sanctions against the military regime.

The African Union has expressed grave concern over the latest violence, condemning the "indiscriminate firing on unarmed civilians".

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Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/09/29 22:15:56 GMT

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