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Military Supporters in Guinea Reject African Union Sanctions

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Supporters of Guinea's ruling military council say sanctions threatened by the African Union are unfair but the AU says it will impose them anyway if the country's military ruler decides to run for president.

The African Union Peace and Security Council is giving Captain Moussa Dadis Camara one month to make his intentions known.

When the 45-year-old took power last December, he said none of the coup leaders would run for president.  Now political supporters are urging him to stand as a candidate in January elections.  Captain Camara has not formally announced his candidacy, but he has told supporters that he will not insult them by ignoring their demands.

The African Union says it is concerned about the "deteriorating situation" in Guinea and the consequences for not returning to constitutional order.  So the alliance has decided to impose unspecified sanctions against Captain Camara in October if he does not make clear that he is not running for president.

The captain's supporters say that is not fair.  Pokpa Dopovogui joined demonstrators outside the African Union offices in Conakry.

"We support the patriot Dadis. He is the president and he is going to be the president. We do not want sanctions, but even if there are sanctions, life in Guinea will be better with Captain Camara, so Dadis or death," said Dopovogui.

He also says Guinea does not need the international community because without it Guinea will have a better life. He says the country can develop and move forward without the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States or the United Nations.  Dopovogui says the National Revival Party is going to present Captain Camara as its candidate in 2010.

After taking power, Captain Camara said there would be no elections this year.  But he eventually agreed with a coalition of political parties, labor unions, civil society groups and religious leaders to hold legislative elections next month and a presidential vote in December.

Those elections have now been postponed and their order reversed with presidential balloting in January and legislative elections in March.

Guinea National Labor Confederation Secretary General Hadja Rabiatou Sera Diallo says AU sanctions reflect what is going on in Guinea.

Diallo says the African Union is playing its role and that it has principles to be followed and respected.  She says those principles were in place were before this crisis in Guinea.  Just because there is the crisis in Guinea, the African Union is not going to renounce its principles, neither will the United Nations.  They will never do it.

That is why, Diallo continues, it is the responsibility of all Guineans to think about these sanctions and for religious leaders to get involved in finding a solution.  If there are sanctions, who will be the first victims, she asks.  It is the poorest people who are going to suffer and women who will be most affected by sanctions, not the other people.  That is why she says everyone in Guinea must think about finding a solution to this crisis since everyone knows what we need.

Diallo says the trade union's appeal is to all Guineans.  She does not want to divide the people of Guinea from the military because all civilians have someone in their family who is in the military.  Soldiers are Guinean.  We are all Guinean, she says, and we all have responsibilities.  It is not for the president or for the ruling military council alone to decide.

Guinea's ruling council this month banned all radio and television call-in shows because people were complaining about Captain Camara's expected candidacy.  That ban was eventually lifted, following talks with Guinea's radio and television union, which had said the measure violated freedom of expression.

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