This statement was originally published on mfwa.org on 24 March 2020.
About ten people are reported killed, several arrested, including one journalist, and the internet was disrupted as Guinean authorities went ahead with legislative elections and a referendum on removing term limits, amidst fierce protests by the main opposition parties.
Ahead of the polls, there were several red flags about possible violence, as months of bloody crackdowns against opponents of President Alpha Conde’s single-minded third term ambitions had already resulted in the killing of about 42 protesters.
Two days to the polls, three of the country’s telecommunication companies separately announced that international calls and internet connection would be disrupted on the eve of the elections and on polling day as a result of upgrade works on submarine cables. On the eve of the polls, (October 21, 2020) Netblocks reported in a tweet that “social media has been blocked by #Guinea’s leading internet providers Orange and MTN on the eve of legislative elections ; real-time network data confirm Twitter Facebook, Instagram now cut and WhatsApp restricted; incident ongoing.”
Under cover of the digital darkness, the Guinean security forces proceeded to exact one of the heaviest death tolls for a single day since the contentions began in June 2019.
The Front National pour la defense de la Constitution (FNDC), a coalition of civil society organisations and political parties coordinating the nationwide resistance against President Conde, issued a statement at the close of polls on March 22, 2020 in which it deplored the brutal crackdown on its supporters and leaders by security forces. The FNDC named the following persons as those who died on the election day bloodshed:
Diallo Nassouralaye, 18 yers; Boubacar Diallo, 35; Thierno Oumar Diallo; Thierno Hamidou Barry, 25 ans; Hafiziou Diallo, 28 ans; Mamadou Oury Diallo, 23 ans; Mamadou Bailo Diallo, 12 ans; Ousmane Barry, 23 ans; Issa Yero Diallo, 29 ans; Thierno Mamadou Barry, 20 ans.
“Keeping faith with Article 21 of the Constitution which prescribes resistance against oppression, the youth rose up courageously to say no to this crime; and a thousand times, rather than once. they braved the bullets of the police who arrested many, fired indiscriminately, brutally molested and killed at least 10 people, wounding several dozens with gunshots,” the FNDC said its statement.
Electoral materials were vandalized at Loppet, Gaoual, Kindia, Gaoual Central, Koumbia, Kakoni, Garaya, Madina, while a polling booth was set on fire at Nzerekore, same as Télimélé where electoral officers were forced to flee. In the face of threats by angry youth to scatter the vote counting process at the polling stations 1 and 2 located at Tougué Primary School, the military was called to escort the ballots to the military camp for counting. Similar threats forced electoral officials in Labe to carry the ballots to the office of the Governor for counting under tight security.
In the morning of March 22, 2020, a group of journalists who were covering the polls were attacked by hostile youngsters protesting against the elections at Sonfonia Casse in the Ratoma suburb of Conakry.
One of the journalists, Mohamed Doré, a reporter with Guinéematin.com, sustained a cut on his scalp when he was hit in the head with a metal object by the irate youth who said the media coverage amounted to giving legitimacy to the process. Other journalists attacked were Thierno Sadou Diallo of Médiaguinée, Amadou Oury Baldé of Radio Bonheur FM, Mariama Ciré Diallo of Ledjely.com and Maimouna Barry of Média d’Afrique.
In another incident, the police arrested Amadou Tidiane Diallo, a reporter with the news website Objectif224, on the eve of the elections and detained him overnight.
Diallo was covering clashes at Bambeto, Conakry, between some protesting youth and the security forces who had been deployed across the country on March 21, 2020. Obviously uncomfortable with the journalist’s filming of their brutalities, the police arrested him and took him to the Criminal Investigations office where he was detained overnight. Diallo was released the following day after a clamour by the media.
The violence recorded during the polls has been condemned by human rights organisations and activists in Guinea and abroad.
In a telephone interview with the news website Guineematin.com, the Chairman of the Guinea human rights organization Guineenne des Droits de l’Homme, Abdoul Gadiry Diallo, said it would demand the prosecution of the perpetrators of the gross violations.
“We will produce a comprehensive report on what we monitored, and above all, try to use the judicial mechanisms that exist to demand that the state create the conditions for the prosecution of those responsible for these crimes. These are fundamental demands on which we should not waver,” Diallo concluded.
The Media Foundation for West Africa also condemns in no uncertain terms the excessive use of force against civilians that has led to ten deaths. While the youth opposed to the holding of the elections appear to have displayed some level of aggression, the deliberate targeting of civilian protesters with live bullets is unacceptable. Given the Guinean government’s failure to tackle impunity for such crimes over the years, the MFWA urges the international community to demand and ensure justice for the victims and accountability among the security agencies.
We also condemn the violations perpetrated against journalists by both the security forces and civilians and urge the authorities to investigate and punish the culprits.
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Source: MEDIA FEED