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Interim leader promises 'free elections' on anniversary of coup


Latest update : 2009-12-24

The interim leader of Guinea's ruling junta, Sekouba Konate, who stepped in for injured strongman Moussa Dadis Camara, has vowed to hold elections "at the earliest possible date", in a speech to mark one year since a military coup.

AFP - Guinea's interim leader vowed Wednesday to hold democratic elections and urged national reconciliation after a massacre of opposition supporters, as the restive west African country marked a year since a military coup.

"My dear brothers in arms, today our concern, for everybody, remains to lead (the nation) at the earliest possible date... to elections, the first free and democratic elections in our history," General Sekouba Konate said addressing soldiers a year to the day after the army seized power following the death of long-standing ruler Lansana Conte.

The general became interim leader in the west African nation after the junta chief, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, was shot in the head by an aide de camp three weeks ago.

The regime has come under international pressure since the September massacre of opposition supporters by junta forces.

"That is the concern of the Guinean people, that is our mission. Nothing and nobody... can distract or distance us from this ideal," said Konate, who also serves as defence minister.

He added: "This is the place and the time to reaffirm with force our desire, mine and that of my companions, to help the Guinean people choose their leaders through free and democratic elections."

Camara remains in hospital in Morocco, but his aides say he is recovering and plans to return to Conakry as soon as possible.

Both Washington and Paris have said they fear Camara's return could spark civil war in the west African country.

Konate also called for "essential reconciliation" in the country after the killings at Conakry stadium on September 28, which the UN has described as crimes against humanity and have led to sanctions being imposed on the junta.

During the massacre "many of our compatriots, civilians and military personnel, lost their lives," said Konate. Human Rights Watch has said it has found no evidence that any member of the armed forces was hurt or killed.

The general added he understood the pain and anger of families affected by the mass killing and said Guinea was a country "where too much blood has been spilled."

"Once again, Guineans are following the path to exile. It is too much, that is enough now," Konate said.

The regime celebrated one year in power on Wednesday as pressure mounts from the international community to take action over alleged crimes against humanity.

A UN report published Monday accused Guinean soldiers of massacring at least 156 protesters in the stadium killing. Hundreds of others were wounded and soldiers also systematically raped women and young girls.

France's deputy ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Riviere, on Wednesday called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, telling reporters at the Security Council in New York that "impunity cannot be an option."

The European Union responded on Tuesday by toughening sanctions against the junta by imposing a freeze on all funds and economic resources known to belong to its members and banning supplies that could be used for internal repression.

Camara took power in a bloodless coup early on December 23, 2008, just hours after the announcement of Conte's death from an illness.

Despite pledging to root out corruption and clean up the west African country's government, Guinea has been mired in economic, social and political chaos.

Most of the population wants the military to quit power and people fear further violence after the stadium bloodbath. The junta has banned street demonstrations and most opposition leaders have fled abroad.

Date created : 2009-12-23


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