Guinea: State of Emergency After Post-poll Riots

Rukmini Callimachi, Comcast News, Nov. 17, 2010

Guinea’s military on Wednesday declared a state of emergency following violence after a tense presidential election.

Armed forces chief Nouhou Thiam read the decree Wednesday on state television. The decree prohibits civilians from circulating on the streets, he said, but did not give further details. Only military and security forces will have unrestricted movement, he said.

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The decree will hold until the Supreme Court declares final results from the Nov. 7 poll. They have eight days to do so after results were announced late Monday, allowing a decision by next week.

Presidential candidate Alpha Conde, a Malinke, was declared winner in the runoff, prompting Peul supporters of his opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo to riot. They burned tires, barricaded roads and destroyed the homes and businesses of Malinke neighbors.

On Wednesday, some members of Guinea’s Malinke ethnic group said they armed themselves for possible clashes with their Peul neighbors. Groups of men lining the road from the capital Conakry to the downtrodden suburbs shouted to cars passing by, shaking sticks, guns and machetes.

“We are here to protect ourselves. We have knives . . . and sticks,” said Mohamed Camara, who is Malinke.

The mostly Malinke security force in Guinea has taken over troubled neighborhoods which now look like ghost towns. Bullet casings and the smoldering, burned tires litter the road. Few residents venture outside. Reports of police brutality against Peul citizens are multiplying and at least four people have been killed and 62 injured since results were announced Monday night.

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The ethnic tension has already sparked clashes in neighboring Sierra Leone, where police said Wednesday that Peul and Malinke members had clashed a day earlier. Assistant Inspector General of Police Sorie Kargbo said 20 people were arrested in Sierra Leone’s town of Kenema for rioting. He said the dispute was between Peul and Malinke.

Guinea borders Sierra Leone and Liberia, nations recovering from wars fueled by ethnic divisions. For decades Guinea was a counterpoint to these two nations, with Peul and Malinke not only living side-by-side but also frequently intermarrying.

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