Guinea riots spread outside capital, election talks splutter

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 04, 2013 11:27 AM
Guinea riots spread outside capital, election talks splutter

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Stone-throwing protesters clashed with police in Guinea's capital Conakry on Monday and rioting spread to another city as main opposition leaders boycotted a meeting called by President Alpha Conde after days of unrest that has killed five people.

Hundreds of protesters have been injured since tensions over upcoming legislative polls triggered days of unrest that began on Wednesday. Guinea's notoriously ill-disciplined security forces have a history of brutal crackdowns on protests.

Conde wants to discuss preparations for a long-delayed election that is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule after a 2008 military coup. He missed a deadline on Sunday for a presidential decree to officially call the election for May 12.

Preparations for the vote, which is essential to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in European aid to the world's largest bauxite supplier, are being hampered by opposition claims that the government is seeking to rig the outcome.

A reduced opposition delegation, led by spokesman Aboubacar Sylla and former prime minister Jean-Marie Dore, went to the talks on Monday with Conde, who narrowly won a 2010 election.

"We put forward our demands and argued that today our country has need of peace and development," Sylla said after the meeting. The opposition reiterated its call to replace South African firm Waymark which manages the electoral roll, he said.

A source who took part in the talks, and asked not to be named, said the brief meeting was concluded after statements from both sides and did not involve negotiation.

"This was simply a preliminary meeting to set a framework for dialogue," said government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara.

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Earlier on Monday, the violent protests had spread to Labe, a fiefdom of opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, in central Guinea some 450 km (280 miles) from the coastal capital.

"We are showing our support for our dead and injured brothers in Conakry," said Yimbering Diallo, a Labe resident. "We demand free and fair elections."

In Conakry's Madina residential neighborhood close to the sprawling main market, police fired teargas at protesters when traders gathered to protest at the destruction and looting of their stalls.

In the Dixxin district, protesters blocked roads with barricades and burning tires.

(Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Louise Ireland)