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US, France Push for Elected Government in Guinea

Senior U.S. and French diplomats met in Morocco Tuesday with members of Guinea's military junta to urge a transition to elected democratic rule in the west African state. The leader of the Guinean military government, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, has been hospitalized in Morocco since being wounded in an assassination attempt a month ago.

The State Department says the American and French officials did not meet junta leader Camara, who sustained a serious head wound when shot by an aide in the December 3rd assassination bid.

But it says they did meet with the acting junta leader, Sekouba Konate, and other Guinean officials to press for a transition to civilian rule in the troubled west African state.

Guinea, run by army officers since the death of the country's longtime ruler Lansana Conte at the end of 2008, has been in political turmoil since September 28 when troops attacked anti-government demonstrators at a stadium in the capital Conakry, killing more than 150 people.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and a senior French colleague met with acting leader Konate to discuss Guinea's political crisis and ideas by the western powers on how to peacefully resolve it.

"We support the transition to a civilian government and hope that Guinea will begin a process that leads to a free, fair and transparent democratic election. We have had specific meetings with Captain Dadis in the past and told him the very same thing," he said.

A State Department official who spoke to reporters was non-committal about specific terms for a political transition and whether acting junta leader Konate should be part of it.

But he made clear the United States opposes a return to Conakry by Captain Camara, who faces possible prosecution for the September killings, saying the U.S. preference is that he seek a different residence.

A United Nations panel that examined the September 28 events recommended last month that Captain Camara and two other officers be referred to the International Criminal Court at The Hague for crimes against humanity.

The report compiled by three African legal experts said that in addition to the deaths of protestors, troops involved in the stadium attacks raped and otherwise abused more than one hundred women demonstrators.

The jurists said because victims were buried in mass graves, the death toll may have far exceeded the number reported.

Guinea's embassy in Rabat said acting junta leader Konate, the country's defense minister, left for home after meeting the U.S. and French diplomats.

The west African regional grouping ECOWAS has been trying to resolve the Guinean political crisis with its mediator, Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore last month proposing a power-sharing arrangement between the junta and the political opposition.