Guinea ministers resign over bloody rally

Two Cabinet ministers in Guinea resigned and France urged its citizens to leave the former French colony as armed attacks are increasing in the aftermath of a bloody rally last month where soldiers fired on pro-democracy demonstrators.

Information Minister Justin Morel Jr and Labour Minister Alpha Diallo said they cannot serve a government responsible for such violence.

A peaceful pro-democracy rally in the West African country on September 28 took a violent turn when presidential guard troops opened fire on tens of thousands of demonstrators. A Guinean human rights group says 157 people were killed. The government put the death toll at 57.

Morel resigned late on Thursday citing moral reasons and Diallo on Wednesday, citing religious convictions.

“My conscience has remained tormented, my heart disturbed, and my sense of reasoning has told me that I no longer have any reason to continue to head this ministry and neither do I have the moral force to be the spokesman of the government after these horrible killings,” Morel said in his resignation letter to military leader Captain Moussa “Dadis” Camara.

The resignations follow that of Agriculture Minister Abdulrahmane Sano on Monday.
Sano cited the protest as the reason for his resignation.

The French government has advised its citizens to leave Guinea because of attacks by gunmen against people leaving Conakry’s airport.

In Conakry and the suburbs, there has been “an increase in the number of armed attacks”, French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero said. “Criminals are shadowing people as they leave the airport and are attacking them as they enter their homes so they can go inside and steal.”

Valero said the attacks are violent.

“This is not an evacuation ... it’s a recommendation to leave the country,” he said.

There are about 2 500 French nationals in Guinea, he said.

The French Foreign Ministry says on its website “there is no prospect of improvement in the short term”.

“We unfortunately no longer know who can assure security” in Guinea, French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet said on France-24 television.

Asked if France expects another coup or civil war, he said: “Everything is possible.”

The International Criminal Court announced on Thursday a preliminary investigation into last month’s violence. The violence has drawn widespread condemnation, with United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling for Camara to apologise and step down.

On Thursday, the African Union called on Camara to confirm by Saturday that he would not run in the country’s January elections.

The group condemned the killings and called for the release of demonstrators who were detained.

Camara seized power hours after longtime dictator Lansana Conte died last December. He initially said he would not run in elections scheduled for January, but recently indicated that he may have changed his mind. After the deadly protest, he banned all gatherings and demonstrations.

However, on Thursday Guinea’s junta lifted the protest ban after rising international pressure and mounting internal dissent.

“Public demonstrations are allowed again,” said junta spokesperson Captain Mandjou Dioubate on state television late on Thursday.

Ecowas, a regional bloc of African states, will meet in Abuja, Nigeria, on Saturday to discuss Guinea.—Sapa-AP

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