ELECTION CRISIS in Guinea; state of emergency declared as death toll rises

ELECTION CRISIS: Guinea declares state of emergency as death toll rises.
AFP/By Laurence Boutreux in Conakry, November 17, 2010: Guinea’s acting leader declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after violence which has raged since a disputed presidential election claimed three more lives.
Interim president General Sekouba Konate, who has led the troubled country since January, decreed a state of emergency would last until results, which name opposition leader Alpha Conde the victor, are confirmed by the Supreme Court.
The announcement came as the death toll since Monday rose to seven. Three more bodies were discovered in Ratoma, the only suburb in Conakry which defeated candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo won in the November 7 vote.
“The president of the republic decrees a state of emergency throughout the country as of today November 17 until the proclamation of definitive presidential election results by the Supreme Court,” said Major Mohamed Kasse, reading the decree on national television.
In later comments to AFP, Kasse explained the decree meant “any protest, any gathering” was forbidden.
He said it was about “creating order so that people do not continue fighting, in order to preserve the gains of democracy, because political leaders have not really played their role of appeasement”.
Army chief General Nouhou Thiam said on television the decree was made “in order to preserve peace and national unity”.
Diallo, a member of the Fulani ethnic group, has said he is the rightful winner and is challenging the results, citing massive voter fraud.
While he called on his backers to refrain from violence his supporters have clashed with security forces in several of his strongholds around the country.
A doctor on board an ambulance in the Conakry district said three deaths had been recorded on Wednesday.
“We have witness accounts from the scene and we were told it was members of Fossepel who fired,” he said, referring to the special electoral security force set up by the interim government.
The director of a Conakry clinic, Abdoulaye Barry, exhibited two of the bodies, taking them wrapped in mats to Diallo’s home. “We will go to the home of (interim) Prime Minister Jean-Marie Dore and then to General Konate (interim president) so that they can see as well,” said Barry.
While various sources have reported at least seven deaths in violent clashes following the announcement of election results, the government up until now has not announced any fatalities.
However Guinea’s interim prime minister, Jean Marie Dore, blamed the violence on Diallo’s supporters whom he branded “hooligans”.
He said Diallo had sparked the protests on Monday with his fraud claims after the victory of Alpha Conde, who won 52.52 percent of the votes against Diallo’s 47.48 percent.
“There were unacceptable acts, despite our repeated calls to respect the law,” he said, referring to unrest in Diallo’s electoral strongholds of Ratoma in Conakry and Labe, Pita and Dalaba in Middle Guinea, a predominantly Fulani ethnicity region.
Dore said an overnight curfew had been imposed in the Labe region.
As observers raised concerns of excessive force by Guinean security forces, Diallo accused them of “savage brutality” against his supporters and members of his Fulani ethnic group.
The firing of automatic weapons in Ratoma could be heard in the capital from Tuesday night until dawn.
Inhabitants and journalists from Pita and Dalaba contacted by telephone accused police officers of abusing people and looting shops overnight.
After a campaign marred by inter-ethnic clashes between the two majority tribes, the Fulani and Malinke, Conde reached out to his rival after being announced the victor, saying it was “time to join hands.” The election is the country’s first ever shot at democracy after over 50 years of authoritarian and military rule.
If the Supreme Court confirms the election results, Conde will become the fifth leader of Guinea, ruling a country which is desperately poor, despite massive stores of bauxite and iron ore.
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