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Guinea-Bissau Activists Worry Over Renewed Violence


U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has called for the Guinea-Bissau government to take control of a recent burst of violence in a country historically rocked by coups. The murder of a former navy chief last week resulted in a series of riots. Kari Barber reports from our West Africa bureau.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon issued a statement urging the Guinea-Bissau government to exercise restraint dealing with the upheaval that has followed the killing of former navy chief Mohamed Lamine Sanha. Following his death, riots broke out in the capital Bissau, and police fired on the crowd, killing at least one person and injuring others.

Last year the government accused Sanha of planning a coup and he was briefly detained.

Secretary-General Ban called for the people of Guinea-Bissau not to take the law into their own hands.

Activist and Bissau Chamber of Commerce President Macaria Barai says the country is calm now, but tensions are still high. She says that because the country suffers from poverty and weak infrastructure, it will be difficult for the government to bring Sanha's killers to justice.

"The government needs to have the means to investigate it. They need to find out who. And at the same time finding out who, even if they arrest them, where are the prisons? We do not have prisons," she said. "So all we have are a lot of things we can not stop because we do not have the infrastructure."

Barai says she was not satisfied with Secretary-General Ban's expression of concern about Guinea-Bissau and his call for the government to take action. She says she would like the U.N. and other international bodies to get more involved locally to help quell the simmering violence.

"What helps is action. And what we need is the support of the international community to create the means to control the violence because the government is not in the position to create this means because they are forced to deal with the problems of paying salaries," added Barai.

Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has been wracked by instability since its independence from Portugal in 1974, most recently a military coup overthrew the government in 2003.

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