Guinea

Guinea: Ripe for international "protection" force?

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DAKAR, 14 December 2009 (IRIN) - Diplomats and African leaders are calling for an international civil-military force in Guinea to protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian assistance, but a junta official has warned such a deployment would be seen as a "declaration of war".

Moussa Keita, who led a junta delegation at a 13 December meeting in the Burkina capital Ouagadougou, told journalists: "We categorically oppose the deployment of any kind of force that is not requested by the [military leadership and the government].Any country ready to send troops should hold back because we will consider this act as a declaration of war and measures will be taken."

He said: "We are a sovereign nation and if one will must reign in Guinea it is the will of the people."

The reaction came after Mohamed Ibn Chambas, head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) commission, reiterated a call for an international observation and security force. "Given the threat of mass human rights violations and uncontrolled violence I propose.a preventive deployment of a protection force to protect civilians and humanitarian aid, which will contribute to restoring security for the Guinean people."

"All the ingredients are there for an explosive situation," Chambas said, warning that further chaos in Guinea could trigger trouble in the region.

The International Contact Group on Guinea (ICG-G), holding its ninth session on 13 December in Ouagadougou, endorsed ECOWAS's call. ICG-G in a communiqué expressed "serious preoccupation with the rapid deterioration of the security, humanitarian and human rights situation".

It was the first meeting of the ICG-G since the 3 December assassination attempt on junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara, who is in Morocco for medical treatment.

Sweeping arrests by the military came after Camara was shot by an aid, but even beforehand - since the deadly crackdown on civilians on 28 September - citizens have reported repeated carjackings, lootings and arbitrary arrests by men in military uniform.

Humanitarian aid workers have recently been the target of carjackings and armed robberies in the capital Conakry.

Mixed

Guineans IRIN spoke to are mixed on the idea of a proposed force. Abdoul Diallo, a chauffeur in the capital Conakry, told IRIN it is difficult to say whether an international intervention force would be a good thing.

"If that could give us security, fine. But if it just creates other problems, I'd prefer we drop the idea. In Guinea today it's difficult to say; we are not at war but we are not safe either."

One man who identified himself just as 'M.D.' is ready to see an international force, because, he said, the Guinean army is not playing its role. "The army is incapable of ensuring our security. Regularly we hear that someone else has been killed [by soldiers]..Instead of protecting the people, the army massacres them."

Lawyer Mohamed Manckona Koïvogui said the international community should allow interim junta leader Sékouba Konaté time to determine whether he can ensure the people's security.

The think-tank International Crisis Group said in a 14 December op-ed in Le Monde that a regional military force is necessary.

"Divided and power-hungry, the Guinean army could lead the country to chaos," ICG head Louise Arbour said in the op-ed. Guinea must urgently transfer state civil responsibilities to a transitional authority as well as disarm militias and get all troops back to the barracks, according to ICG. "A military protection mission of one battalion.will be necessary to accompany this process."

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