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Guinea Military Ruler Rejects Foreign Intervention Force

By Scott Stearns
19 October 2009

Facing a regional arms embargo, Guinea's military ruler says he is ready to continue with mediation efforts. But Captain Moussa Camara says he will never accept a foreign intervention force.

Camara says he is ready to meet again with Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore who is leading mediation efforts on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States.

ECOWAS imposed an arms embargo Saturday on Guinea, accusing the military of "mass human-rights violations" during a demonstration last month against Captain Camara's expected presidential candidacy.

Human-rights groups say at least 157 people were killed when troops opened fire on protesters in Conakry's main sports stadium. The military government says 57 people died, most in the crush of people fleeing the stadium.

The International Criminal Court has opened a preliminary investigation into possible crimes against humanity during that violence. A U.N. team is in Conakry to start a probe into the killing.

Captain Camara denies responsibility, blaming the violence on political opponents and what he calls "uncontrollable elements" of the military. He has launched his own inquiry into the killing, but political parties, trade unions, and civil society groups are refusing to take part.

That main opposition coalition will not join direct talks in President Compaore's mediation unless Captain Camara resigns and his ruling council is dissolved.

The African Union had given Captain Camara until midnight Saturday to promise in writing that he will not be a candidate in January elections. But the group's Peace and Security Commission is delaying that decision to consult with President Compaore.

Captain Camara does not want the issue of his candidacy separated from other parts of the Burkinabe leader's mediation. He has taken action on one of President Compaore's recommendations concerning intimidation by government troops.

Captain Camara says young soldiers should no longer wear their uniforms and carry their weapons into the city at night because that can make people afraid. He says the military does not have to make people afraid any more, and soldiers should avoid provoking civilians.

He says what he calls "predators" are using the media to campaign for an international intervention force in Guinea.

Captain Camara says he will never, ever accept such an outside intervention force because Guineans would no longer be free, and such a force would divide the country. He says foreign troops would favor some geographic regions, arming some people while taking weapons from others. And that would prevent dialogue as he says has already been seen in other countries.

Captain Camara was part of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone in 2001 and 2002, so he says he knows that such a force is only used to separate different factions. That is not the case in his country, so he says Guineans do not need an intervention force.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade told the U.N. General Assembly last month an intervention force in Guinea would "forestall the situation from degenerating into chaos." President Wade was one of Captain Camara's earliest supporters, following the coup that brought him to power last December.

At the time, Captain Camara said none of the soldiers who took power would stand as political candidates. He now says he will not insult his supporters by ignoring their demands that he run for president. But he has not yet formally announced his candidacy.

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