At least one person shot dead in Guinea protest


At least one person was shot dead and several were wounded in clashes between security forces and demonstrators after a protest by tens of thousands of opposition supporters in Guinea on Thursday, government and opposition figures said.

Opposition parties accuse President Alpha Conde, who took office in 2010 following Guinea’s first democratic transfer of power since independence in 1958, of trying to rig coming legislative elections in the world’s largest bauxite exporter.

They called for protests after Conde this month set an election for June 30 without agreeing to demands that he strip a South African company, Waymark, of its contract to manage the voter list and allow the mostly pro-opposition diaspora to vote.

Government spokesman Damatang Albert Camara said authorities would request an international enquiry to determine who had fired the shots during Thursday’s demonstration.

“There was one dead and two wounded by bullets,” he told Reuters. “It is in everyone’s interest to find out why there was shooting with live bullets and who was responsible.”

A government communiqué said two members of security forces were wounded.

Sidya Toure, a leader of the opposition, said one of its supporters had been killed and several others wounded, one of them seriously.

The person killed was identified as 16-year-old Babacar Diallo.

“This is an unacceptable situation. Those in power do not respect the rights of our citizens,” Toure said. “Why open fire on unarmed people after we had marched peacefully for hours?”

Long-term instability in Guinea has helped to deter investment in its vast untapped reserves of gold, iron ore and diamonds.

At least 24 people have been killed in political protests since Conde took office. In February and March, nine people were killed and 300 wounded during days of clashes between opposition protesters, security forces and government supporters.

The latest bloodshed comes a day after the government and opposition signed a pact to avoid politically motivated violence.

The election, originally scheduled for 2011, is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule following a military coup in 2008, and could unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in European aid.

The crisis has alarmed Guinea’s neighbors and the international community, which are working behind the scenes to bring both sides to the negotiating table.