/ 30 October 2009

AU, US impose sanctions on Guinea junta

African leaders and the United States have joined the European Union in imposing fresh sanctions on Guinea’s military rulers after last month’s massacre of scores of opposition supporters.

Heads of states who sit on the African Union peace and security council decided ”to take all the necessary measures towards the implementation of targeted sanctions including denial of visas, travel restrictions and freezing of assets”, a statement said on Thursday in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

The sanctions will target junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara ”as well as members of the government and any of the civilian or military persons whose activities are aimed at maintaining the unconstitutional status quo in Guinea”.

”The sanctions will enter into force immediately,” said the head of the AU peace and security commission, Ramtane Lamamra.

A list of persons targeted by the sanctions is to be sent to the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organisation of The Islamic Conference and a grouping of French-speaking countries in order to give the measures ”a universal character”, said the statement.

Washington also imposed new travel sanctions on the junta, barring entry to the United States to some of its members, the State Department said on Thursday.

”The United States imposed restrictions on travel to the United States by certain members of the military junta and the government, as well as other individuals who support policies or actions that undermine the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in Guinea,” spokesperson Ian Kelly said.

The sanctions went into effect on October 23, he added in a statement.

”The citizens of Guinea deserve the right to choose their own leaders after decades of authoritarian rule,” Kelly said.

”The military junta in power has shown itself disrespectful of human rights and incapable of shepherding Guinea through a peaceful transition to democracy.”

The moves come a month after junta troops opened fire at a rally in a Conakry stadium urging Camara not to stand in presidential elections planned for January.

At least 150 people died, the United Nations says. Human rights groups put the toll at 157 dead and more than 1 200 injured, including women who were publicly raped.

The military regime has said that 56 people died and 934 were wounded.

The junta seized power in the mineral-rich state on December 23 last year, just hours after the death of Guinea’s long-serving ruler Lansana Conte, who was an autocratic army general.

The AU sanctions are the latest in a string of punitive measures taken against the junta.

On Tuesday the European Union said it was imposing an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel bans on junta leaders.

The Economic Community of West African States also imposed an arms embargo earlier this month.

The United Nations has already announced it will set up an inquiry into the massacre, while the International Criminal Court said it will hold a separate preliminary inquiry to determine if war crimes were committed.

The junta has so far refused to ease its grip on power, but has pledged to work with a regional mediator — Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore.

Next Monday, the Guinea opposition is due to meet Compaore in Ouagadougou for talks about the political crisis.

The opposition has refused to talk to the junta until the army quits power, and has proposed forming a new government of national unity to pave the way for elections. — Sapa-AFP