Guinea bans mass gatherings after stadium bloodbath

Guinea on Wednesday banned “subversive” gatherings as it announced two days of national mourning after troops killed at least 157 people in a brutal crackdown on an opposition rally,
rights activists said.

The country’s military ruler said he was sorry for the violence, but a human rights group alleged junta soldiers killed three more people outside the capital Conakry on Tuesday, a day after the crackdown, and kidnapped victims of the crackdown from hospitals.

“I declare a national mourning on Wednesday and Thursday,” junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara said on television.

“Any mass gatherings which are of a subversive nature are banned,” he added.

Camara urged Christian and Muslim priests, political and civic leaders and journalists to “abstain from acts that disrupt public order”.

He also asked for national prayers to be held on Friday and Sunday in memory of the dead.

Rights activists reported fresh killings for a second day on Tuesday.

“Today we recorded three more deaths from army shootings, two in Wanidara and one in Cosa,” both neighbourhoods outside Conakry, said Thierno Maadjou Sow, an official with the Guinean Organisation for the Defence of Human Rights.

“The young people went outside and the soldiers shot at them.” Sow also alleged that soldiers removed wounded people from hospitals and took them to unknown locations.

“Soldiers went to take away the injured being treated at the Donka hospital [in the capital] to bring them to an unknown destination as well as women who had been raped and were being treated at the local health centre in Ratoma [outside the capital],” he said.

The United Nations, African Union and European Union, the United States and Canada all expressed alarm over the killings, which took place on Monday at a stadium where tens of thousands of people
attended a rally against Camara, who took power in December last year.

Camara on Tuesday made his first appearance in public since the crackdown, visiting two hospitals in Conakry to meet with the wounded, witnesses said.

“It’s unfortunate, it’s dramatic,” Camara told French radio station RFI. “Very frankly speaking, I’m very sorry, very sorry.”

He said “this is the first time such a thing has happened in Guinea,” and accused opposition leaders of fomenting unrest by “distributing money to the youth to incite them to revolt”.

The opposition has accused junta forces of collecting bodies in a bid to hide “the scale of the massacre” which the Guinea rights group said left at least 157 dead and 1 253 wounded.

“The exactions by soldiers are continuing … even if there is nobody on the streets, they are firing in the air and looting shops,” a resident said.

Sydia Toure, one of two former prime ministers injured at the protest, said that the shootings were “a deliberate attempt” to eliminate the opposition.

Mamadi Kaba, head of the Guinean branch of the African Encounter for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO), said the rapes of women began in the Conakry stadium.

“The military raped women” at the stadium and later at army barracks, police posts and other parts of Conakry, Kaba said, adding that there were reports of new rape attacks by soldiers on Tuesday.

Opposition activist Mouctar Diallo said he saw soldiers putting their rifles into the vaginas of naked women. “I saw this myself,” he told RFI.

“They were raping women publicly,” Diallo added. “Soldiers were shooting everywhere and I saw people fall.” A Red Cross source said military commanders ordered all bodies at the stadium taken to the Alpha Yaya Diallo military camp, the junta headquarters, rather than to morgues.

Witnesses and rights group said the military was massively deployed throughout the capital on Tuesday and more violent actions by soldiers were reported.

“The bad behaviour continues in the suburbs, carried out by the military. Even if there’s nobody on the street, they shoot in the air, loot shops and beat people up,” Kaba said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon slammed the “excessive use of force” and said he was “shocked by the loss of life, the high number of people injured and the destruction of property”.

The protesters had gathered in the stadium to oppose any bid by the junta leader to run for president in an election due in January. Camara also faces strong international pressure to step
down.

Camara took over the West African nation after leading a bloodless coup within hours of the death of Guinea’s strongman leader Lansana Conte, who had ruled the country since 1984. – AFP

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