Guinea Opponents Want Military Ruler's Resignation Before Talks
By Scott Stearns
07 October 2009
Political opponents in Guinea say the country's military ruler must resign before they take part in regional mediation efforts following last week's killing of at least 157 protesters. Guinea's military rulers are rejecting those demands.
Just one day after Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore reached agreement on talks between the two sides, civil society groups set preconditions that the military is rejecting.
Civil society spokesman Aboubakar Sylla read a statement from the coalition of political parties, trade unions, and civil society groups saying they welcome President Compaore's mediation but will only take part in those talks following the resignation of military ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara and the dissolution of his ruling military council.
Guinea's military rulers reject those demands, saying none of the preconditions were part of the terms presented by President Compaore, who is working on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner are also calling for Guinea's military rulers to step down.
Commandant Moussa Keita is a member of Conakry's ruling military council.
Keita says Guinea before independence is not the same as Guinea after independence. As the nation is no longer under French colonial rule, he says France will not impose its will on a sovereign, free, and independent country.
Human rights groups say at least 157 people died last Monday when security forces shot demonstrators protesting Captain Camara's expected run for the presidency. The military government says 57 people died, most in the crush of protesters fleeing the stadium.
Captain Camara is blaming his political opponents for holding an illegal rally, saying they should have known that Guinea's military has what he calls "uncontrollable elements." Captain Camara says he is not responsible for the violence because he was not there.
"You have a number of people who are responsible," said Corinne Dufka, who heads West Africa operations for Human Rights Watch. "Being the head of state, he also bears responsibility."
The group is calling on Guinea's government to identify and prosecute those responsible for the violence.
"They need to be held accountable," said Dufka. "And this will begin to address what has been a longer-standing problem of impunity in Guinea in which the military forces and the security forces have been able to get away scott-free with abuses they have committed."
Civil society chief Mouctar Diallo says opposition leaders can not negotiate while opposition demonstrators remain in detention.
Diallo says Guineans are still in prison under difficult conditions following last week's unrest. He says some of them are suffering as they are being detained in shipping containers. Diallo wants President Compaore to put pressure on the military government to free those people immediately and without conditions.
The opposition wants members of the ruling military council blocked from contesting next year's scheduled presidential and legislative elections. Dufka says regional mediation must address those issues.
"The parties have to go with good faith to talk, to look for a solution that would ensure that the rights of Guineans are respected, that free and fair and transparent elections happen as soon as possible, that those elections are not characterized by intimidation and manipulation and undue influence by the military government which is in power," Dufka said.
Since taking power in a coup last December, Captain Camara has replaced local government officials with military and security personnel.
"Which automatically, right there, especially given Guinea's history of the lack of separation between military and civilian life creates an uneven, an unlevel playing field for the election," said Dufka.
Captain Camara has not announced his candidacy, but he has told supporters that he will not insult them by ignoring their demands that he run for president.
The African Union says it will sanction Captain Camara this month unless he makes clear that he will not be a candidate.
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