<!-- IMAGE -->
A senior State Department official said Friday the Obama administration
is considering financial sanctions against Guinea's military rulers to
try to prompt junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara to step aside and allow
free elections. International pressure on Guinea's military government
has been building since security forces killed more than 150 opposition
protesters in late September.
The Obama administration imposed U.S. travel
restrictions on members of Guinea's military leadership and key
supporters earlier this week. And a senior State Department official
says the United States may follow the African Union in imposing
targeted financial sanctions against key officials in Conakry in an
effort to help move the troubled African state toward free elections.
comments came from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African
Affairs William Fitzgerald, who has played a lead role in U.S.
diplomacy on Guinea since the military attack on protesters in Conakry
September 28th that drew international condemnation.
was sent to the Guinean capital days after what he described as the
"massacre" of opposition demonstrators to express U.S. outrage over the
killings and reported sexual assaults by troops, and to demand that
Captain Camara adhere to a pledge made early this year to step down in
favor of an elected government.
<!-- IMAGE -->
The opposition crowd had turned
out at the rally at Conakry's main stadium to protest suggestions by
Captain Camara that he would run for president in elections planned for
Deputy Assistant Secretary Fitzgerald, in a Washington
press briefing, said he believes the attack was an effort by the
government to intimidate the opposition even though Captain Camara told
him in Conakry he did not order the bloody crackdown.
him quite frankly, I said Mr. President, that doesn't work. You are the
head of the junta. You call yourself the commander in chief of the
armed forces and yet you did nothing to stop it. You were unable to
stop it. The responsibility rests with you. The buck stops with you,
Mr. President, whether like it or not. You have explaining to do to the
international community," he said.
Fitzgerald said the United
States imposed the travel curbs, and is considering the financial
sanctions, to show that impunity in unacceptable in Guinea and
He said the United States is working with others in
support of the early convening of a U.N. commission of inquiry on the
September 28 attack, and backing African mediation led by Burkina
Faso President Blasé Compaore aimed at moving Guinea to civilian rule
He said it if Captain Camara stood for
election in January, it would be difficult to see how such a vote could
be credible or bring normalization of ties between Guinea, its
neighbors, and the international community.
"We believe, the
U.S. government believes, that the Guineans now have the right, and
really merit the opportunity, to have a democratic election," said
Fitzgerald. "The 50 years of authoritarian rule has been debilitating
to the country."
"Money that went to the armed forces that could have
been or should have been spent on health and education, social
services, was basically squandered. In any case the time is right now
for democracy, for the people of of Guinea to get the elections they
were hoping for," he added.
Under questioning, Fitzgerald expressed
concern about continued Chinese investment in Guinea following the
September 28 violence, saying the fact Beijing supports the military
government and accepts it as legitimate is "very difficult." At the
same time, he noted that China did not block the U.N. Security
Council's condemnation of the killing of opposition protesters or the
move to set up an inquiry commission.