Junta chief digs in despite mounting international pressure

The world continues to scrutinise Guinea, one day after the UN began a probe into a massacre of opposition supporters and junta chief Moussa Dadis Camara (photo) missed a deadline to declare whether he intends to stand in presidential elections.


Officials from around the world continued to keep a close eye on developments in Guinea on Monday, one day after a UN diplomat arrived to probe a massacre of opposition supporters and the junta chief missed a deadline to declare whether he intends to stand in presidential elections.

Junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara is facing increasing international pressure to step down following the killing in September of scores of protesters at a Conakry stadium who were demanding he give up power.

The African Union had given Camara until midnight on Saturday to commit to not standing in the January 2010 presidential election, as he had vowed when he seized power in a coup in December.

The Union’s Peace and Security Commissioner raised the possibility of sanctions after Camara said he wanted to further discuss his standing for election.

Persistent international concern

On Saturday, a summit of the 15-country Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has already suspended Guinea as a member, slapped an arms embargo on the country after the junta sought to buy more weapons.

France approved the move, with Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner reiterating his denunciation of the violence against demonstrators. “The killers and rapists must be identified, tried and punished, as well as those who ordered these acts," he said.

But Guinea's Foreign Minister Alexandre Cece Loua said Camara was still unwilling to stand aside, and was instead calling for international mediation.

Aside from threats of sanctions, international investigations over the September 28 massacre are evidence of the world’s continued concern regarding the latest turmoil in the country.

UN Assistant Secretary General Haile Menkerios arrived in Conakry on Sunday and met Camara and Guinean Prime Minister Kabine Komara, reporting afterward: "The prime minister assured me that the government welcomes the investigation and will cooperate with it.”

The International Criminal Court in The Hague is also investigating the massacre, which occurred when government troops opened fire on demonstrators at a football stadium in Conkary, reportedly killing at least 157 (the junta says 56 people died). Local rights groups also say many women were raped by soldiers during the crackdown.

Camara has said he is "very, very sorry" for the killings, but also defended himself by saying he could not control the army.

West African leaders fear the crisis in Guinea -- the world's top exporter of bauxite, the most important aluminium ore -- could erupt into civil war and destabilise the region.

Media access has been largely limited, with six French journalists -- including three from FRANCE 24 -- being turned away by authorities at Conakry airport on Saturday. One of those reporters, Willy Bracciano, said of his experience: “The soldiers at the police checkpoint asked us for an invitation letter, without which we couldn’t enter the country….our attempts to negotiate were in vain….they calmly directed us back to the plane that had brought us there, accompanied by around ten soldiers who ensured that we, along with our baggage, indeed left the territory.”

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders says several Guinean journalists have received death threats for "giving information to foreigners".

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