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Tear Gas Disperses Guinean Opposition March

  • Jennifer Lazuta

Opposition protesters disperse after tear gas is fired in their midst, in Conakry, Guinea, February 27, 2013.

Opposition protesters disperse after tear gas is fired in their midst, in Conakry, Guinea, February 27, 2013.

Guinean security forces fired tear gas Thursday to disperse an opposition march in the capital, Conakry. The government said that two people have been admitted to the hospital for injuries and that authorities have arrested “several” people, including two opposition party leaders, who it said will be processed and then released. The country’s main opposition coalition had organized the march against what it says is a lack of transparency in the organization of legislative polls.

A march by hundreds of opposition supporters in Conakry descended into chaos Thursday.

The government said in a written statement that some protesters tried to veer off the pre-authorized march route at two intersections and began throwing rocks. Security forces responded with tear gas.

The government said it has deployed 4,000 police and gendarmes to maintain order.

The protest came four days after the government set a new date for legislative elections, June 30th.

Moctar Diallo is head of the opposition party, the New Democratic Forces. He says they “categorically oppose” that decision.

"We are not necessarily against the date but rather the current organization of the vote," said Diallo. "The conditions for free and fair elections have still not been met and the way the government is organizing the polls violates election laws. The opposition will continue to protest until there is full transparency."

Diallo said that police blocked the marchers Thursday for “no reason.”

The legislative poll was originally supposed to take place by June 2011. It was to be the last step in a rocky transition to democratic rule after the December 2008 military coup that followed the death of authoritarian President Lansana Conte.

But disagreements between the ruling party and opposition leaders over the electoral commission and which company will handle the technical side of voter registration and vote-counting have led to repeated delays.

The opposition accuses the government of trying to rig the polls, something the government denies.

The government says the opposition is making unreasonable demands and holding up the elections.

It appeared the two sides were ready to settle their differences last month, when the government agreed to the opposition's request to use an international mediator to facilitate negotiations.

But disagreements over choosing that mediator have once again held up the talks.

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