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International Mediators Fear Guinea Could Destabilize Region


Guinea's military ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara (Oct 2009 file photo)

Economic Community of West African States Secretary General says Guinea is a potentially 'explosive' situation that could undermine regional efforts to consolidate peace in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, and Ivory Coast

International mediators say insecurity in Guinea could destabilize still unsteady neighbors, including Liberia and Sierra Leone. That is one the reasons they want an outside security force for Guinea.

Diplomats in the International Contact Group on Guinea are pushing for an "order and security" force to contain the political crisis before it spills outside Guinea's borders.

Economic Community of West African States Secretary-General Mohamed Ibn Chambas says Guinea is a potentially "explosive" situation that could undermine regional efforts to consolidate peace in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, and Ivory Coast.

Liberia and Sierra Leone are still recovering from long civil wars. Guinea-Bissau this year elected a new leader to replace a president who was killed by mutinous troops hours after his chief political rival died in a bomb blast. Ivory Coast is still divided by its brief civil war and new elections there have been postponed for years.

Facing the prospect of spreading violence, regional humanitarian officials are preparing a contingency plan to feed as many as 500,000 civilians in Guinea and six of its neighbors if the political crisis deteriorates.

Thomas Yanga directs World Food Program operations in West Africa.

"The security situation remains very unstable. A deterioration of the situation leading to population displacement could potentially affect the sub-region," Yanga said.

During their wars, various Sierra Leonean and Liberian rebels were based in Guinea. The head of Guinea's national observer mission for human rights, Aliou Barry, says the free flow of arms in the region means instability spreads faster.

Barry says Guinea has all of the ingredients to deteriorate into a Somali-like situation of total insecurity. As the president of Sierra Leone has said, if Guinea is unstable, Sierra Leone will be drawn into the conflict. If nothing is done in Guinea, Barry says, the country will fall down and take the region with it.

That is one of the reasons why the International Contact Group is calling for outside intervention in Guinea. There is recent precedent in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ivory Coast. But in all those cases, there were rival military factions to separate.

Guinea's instability exists within its armed forces and in how those forces respond to political protest.

Local human-rights groups say security forces killed at least 157 protesters and raped dozens of women in breaking up an opposition demonstration September 28. Military leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara was shot by members of the presidential guard 12 days ago.

Acting-leader Defense Minister Sekouba Konate has moved quickly to improve military discipline and respect for civilians.

But the military government says its rejection of an outside intervention force is non-negotiable. Ruling council spokesman Colonel Moussa Keita says dispatching any foreign force to Guinea would be considered an attack on state authority and the nation's territorial integrity.