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Guinea. Risk of a civil war

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Dakar/Brussels - If military rule in Guinea is not rapidly ended, there is a serious risk the country will slide into a civil war that could destabilise all West Africa. 

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Guinea: Military Rule Must End, the latest policy briefing from the International Crisis Group, focuses on the events of 28 September – when security forces killed at least 160 people in a crackdown on opposition to the military regime – and their implications for the stability of the country and the sub-region. It discusses dangerous fractures within the military and signs that various members are raising ethnic militias, warns that Guineans will not accept an attempt by the army to remain in power and calls for the end of military rule and a re-opening of the democratic transition process.

“The mood on the street is hardening against the junta”, says Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group’s West Africa Project Director. “The Guineans are desperate for democratic change and an end to economic misery, while security forces are ready to use lethal force to remain in control. Worse trouble is likely unless combined domestic and international pressure is applied to force the soldiers from power”.

The junta, the National Council for Democracy and Development (Conseil national pour la démocratie et le développement, CNDD), seized power in December 2008 following the death of Guinea’s long-time autocratic ruler, Lansana Conté. Since then, it has steadily consolidated its grip on power despite widespread opposition. The tragic events of 28 September, which included widespread sexual violence against women, came after a breakdown in dialogue over the democratic transition process and increasing indications that junta leader Dadis Camara intends to seek the presidency in the January 2010 election in violation of the commitment he and his fellow junta members gave at the beginning of the year.

The junta must drop any plans to contest the elections in any form. It should agree to a handover to a civilian coalition government that includes representation from the Forces Vives, the umbrella group of opposition parties and civil society, and accept the offer by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to mediate talks on its exit from power.

ECOWAS, which has named Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré to mediate, should consider sending an exploratory military mission to establish requirements for stabilising the country. The UN Secretary-General should dispatch the Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial Killings to investigate the 28 September massacre. If the junta digs in, the international community must isolate it by imposing targeted sanctions on CNDD members and key supporters. It should also begin contingency planning with ECOWAS for a rapid regional military intervention should the situation deteriorate further.

“It is urgent to devise an exit strategy for the junta,” says Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director, François Grignon. “Unless immediate and concerted efforts are made by the Forces Vives and the international community to wrest the transition process away from the military, further violence threatens first Guinea and then its neighbourhood, which is just beginning to recover from years of civil war”.
© Crisis International -
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