Clashes between Guinea protesters and police leave 19 hurt
At least 19 people were injured Thursday in clashes between Guinea police and opposition protesters demanding long-delayed legislative polls, a demonstration that drew thousands and paralysed the city.
Security forces fired tear gas and beat people back with their batons as they tried to prevent youths headed to the rally from passing in front of the ruling party headquarters in the Hamdallaye suburb, an AFP journalist said.
“We’ve received 15 who were wounded in the opposition protest. They were all hit with rifle butts,” said Ibrahima Balde, head of a Conakry clinic.
Balde said some of the wounded had lost consciousness.
Earlier in the same suburb police fired tear gas at a group of protesters, who responded by throwing stones.
A doctor at Donka public hospital meanwhile said staff had treated and released four people, all injured by baton blows.
“Today Guineans are speaking out against President Alpha Conde’s desire to rig the legislative elections, which he won’t be able to win transparently,” said the country’s main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, who estimated at least 50,000 people attended the rally.
“Guinea doesn’t belong to just one individual, it belongs to more than 12 million people,” said fellow opposition leader Sydia Toure.
The protest paralysed the city from mid-morning to late afternoon.
Opposition leaders had on Monday announced the launch of a national protest campaign calling for talks with Conde’s government on holding elections.
Most shops, schools and petrol stations kept their doors shut Thursday, fearing violence, and security forces maintained a strong presence, especially around the headquarters of the national election commission (CENI).
CENI has been accused by the opposition of being biased toward the ruling party, Rally for the Guinea People (RPG).
RPG urged the opposition to “banish violence”, saying it was important to organise the elections peacefully.
The already delayed elections were set for July 8, but in April they were postponed as Conde said there were “technical problems” that had not been resolved.
Legislative elections were to be held under constitutional rules within six months of Conde’s inauguration in December 2010.
The European Union has warned it will not release any aid to the country without democratic polls.
The opposition has called for an audit of the voter roll before elections are held, among other demands.
The last legislative polls were held in June 2002 during the regime of president Lansana Conte, who died in December 2008 after 24 years in power.
A transitional council has served as a parliament since 2010 during the transition from military to civilian rule.