CONAKRY (Reuters) – Guinea’s ruling military junta called yesterday for a government of national unity to be formed and for an international inquiry into a bloody crackdown on opponents in the West African country earlier this week.
The ruling National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, has faced a storm of international criticism after a local rights group said security forces killed 157 people during an opposition rally on Monday.
“The CNDD asks for … the formation of a government of national unity integrating members of different political parties and tasked with the transition,” presidency official Mandjou Deoubate said on state television.
The junta, which seized power in the world’s biggest bauxite exporter in a bloodless coup last December, called for an African leader to be appointed mediator, and for “a national and international commission of enquiry with the United Nations to shine a light onto the events of January and February 2007, and September 28 2009,” Deoubate said.
More than 180 people were killed in a general strike and protests against then President Lansana Conte in early 2007. Camara and the CNDD stepped into the power vacuum that opened after Conte died, initially winning popularity by promising elections by the end of the year, and to fight corruption and the illegal drugs trade.
Since then, that timetable has slipped, and international bodies have urged Camara to give assurances he would not stand for president, which he has not done. The United Nations’ human rights chief earlier yesterday called on Guinea’s military rulers to allow a full inquiry into Monday’s crackdown which she described as a “blood bath”.
Hospital sources cited by a local rights group said at least 157 people were killed as security forces broke up a rally with live rounds in the capital Conakry, while eyewitnesses spoke of sexual assaults on women and other abuses.
Camara has promised an inquiry into the killings but said any opposition troublemakers would be punished and accused crowds at the rally of looting weapons from a police station.
“Monday’s blood bath must not become part of the fabric of impunity that has enveloped Guinea for decades,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, a former high court judge in South Africa, said in a statement.
Any inquiry had to be “both independent and impartial”, she declared in a statement issued from her Geneva office.
Guinea began observing two days of national mourning yesterday. Most shops were closed, the streets of Conakry were quiet and there was no sign opposition leaders — some of whom were wounded in the crackdown — were planning further rallies.
Monday’s violence, the worst since the December coup, drew broad international condemnation. Former colonial power France said it had cut military cooperation with Guinea and would discuss further measures with European partners.
The African Union has given Camara until mid-October to confirm he will stay clear of presidential elections slated for Jan. 31, warning of sanctions if he misses that deadline. Pan-African rights group RADDHO said the international response so far had been inadequate and urged the UN Security Council to charge the Hague-based International Criminal Court to investigate what it called crimes against humanity. Camara has blamed uncontrollable elements within the Guinean army for the killings, saying he cannot be held responsible.