Opposition leaders in Guinea rejected a yesterday call by the ruling junta to enter a national unity government, dismissing it as a tactic to divert attention from a lethal crackdown on street protesters.
Junta chief Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, facing the threat of international sanctions after security forces killed scores of anti-government protesters earlier this week, wants to ease tensions in the world’s top exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite.
But opponents greeted his proposal of a unity government with widespread scepticism after Camara indicated in a radio interview that he planned to stay in power.
“This does not interest me in the slightest,” Sidya Toure, an ex-prime minister and leader of Guinea’s opposition Union of Republic Forces (UFR), said of Camara’s offer.
“At the moment we are more interested in burying our dead,” he said of killings which a local human rights group said claimed at least 157 lives. Hundreds of people were injured.
Earlier Mouctar Diallo of the New Forces of Democracy party dismissed Camara’s proposal as a “diversion”.
“Moussa Dadis Camara is no longer credible to lead a transition (to democracy),” Diallo told reporters.
“He has massacred his own people, and he has lost all credibility. We are not interested in this type of proposal.”
Camara’s National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), which seized power in a bloodless coup last December, called for an African leader to be appointed mediator in talks on a unity government.
It also proposed UN-backed investigations into the violence, for which Camara has blamed uncontrolled army elements, and into a February 2007 crackdown on opponents of late President Lansana Conte in which more than 180 died.
Camara stepped into the power vacuum that opened after Conte died, promising to allow a transition to civilian rule in an election now set for January 31. But in the latest of several recent hints he intended to remain in power, Camara warned on Tuesday there might be an army coup if he stood down.
“The army have taken me hostage. They tell me ‘if you step down then we’ll take over’,” he told French RFI radio.
The violence, the worst since the CNDD came to power, 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 out of presidential elections due on January 31, warning of sanctions if he misses that deadline.
“There is too much at stake for the international actors to allow Guinea to enter a downward spiral like Guinea Bissau,” Yale anthropologist and West Africa specialist Mike McGovern said of Guinea’s tiny neighbour, a narcotics hub for Europe characterised by some analysts as close to a failed state.
“If Guinea goes down, it puts the rest of the region at risk,” McGovern said of its strategic position surrounded by fragile states such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.
Despite the unity call, Camara has taken a tough line on opponents since the violence, banning all “subversive” meetings and pledging to punish any opposition trouble-makers.
Senior opposition figure Cellou Dalein Diallo, who suffered five broken ribs in Monday’s violence, was prevented by the junta from leaving the country to receive medical treatment in France, an aide told Reuters.
Pic: Captian Moussa Dadis Camara of Guinea