Eth­nic fault line un­der­ly­ing Guinea’s re­cent elec­tion

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

CON­AKRY: A pud­dle of blood runs down a slop­ing road here where chil­dren once raced "cars," tow­ing boxes of sar­dines on strings. It was so large that neigh­bors tried to cover it with sand.

The stain marked the spot where a young man from the Peul eth­nic group was shot dead by po­lice of an­other eth­nic­ity. It also marks how this African coun­try of 10 mil­lion which was once held up as a model of eth­nic tol­er­ance has taken a turn to­ward hate.

Af­ter a con­tested pres­i­den­tial elec­tion this month, Guinea's armed forces aligned them­selves with the Malinke group, from which the new pres­i­dent comes. Pla­toons of sol­diers in­vaded Peul neigh­bor­hoods, blud­geoned fam­i­lies and rounded up hun­dreds for ar­rest, leav­ing at least seven dead. Text mes­sages say­ing the army planned to "elim­i­nate the Peul" be­gan cir­cu­lat­ing, lead­ing pri­vate cell phone providers to tem­po­rar­ily cut off their text mes­sag­ing ser­vice. The tar­get­ing of one eth­nic­ity threat­ens a re­gion where Guinea has long acted as a buf­fer against its neigh­bors and has jeal­ously guarded its rep­u­ta­tion as a dot of rel­a­tive peace on a map of war. But more wor­ry­ing still is the fact that the se­cu­rity forces them­selves, who are largely Malinke, are tak­ing part in the vi­o­lence against the Peul.

"If it was just be­tween us, we could de­fend our­selves," said Moustapha Diallo, in a Peul neigh­bor­hood where you could crunch bul­let cas­ings un­der­foot. "But against the sol­diers, what can we do? They have arms. We have rocks."

The eth­nic fault line un­der­ly­ing Guinea's re­cent elec­tion was ex­posed dur­ing the first round of vot­ing in June, when the field of 24 can­di­dates was nar­rowed to Peul can­di­date Cel­lou Dalein Diallo and Malinke politician Al­pha Conde, pit­ting the coun­try's two largest eth­nic­i­ties against each other.

Each group is es­ti­mated at around 35 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to cen­sus of­fi­cials. On the morn­ing of Nov. 15, as word spread that Diallo had lost, his sup­port­ers be­gan burn­ing tires, throw­ing rocks at pass­ing cars and set­ting fire to the homes of Malinke neigh­bors.

The re­sponse was im­me­di­ate and bru­tal. Over the next three days, se­cu­rity forces sys­tem­at­i­cally at­tacked Peul com­mu­ni­ties, spray­ing pop­u­lated ar­eas with bul­lets. They burst into homes where they beat, slapped, stabbed and burned peo­ple. Mul­ti­ple wit­nesses said po­lice and sol­diers shouted slurs di­rected at the com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing "We're go­ing to fin­ish the Peul!" and "You Peul bas­tards, you thought you'd win the elec­tion?"

In front of an AP re­porter, po­lice grabbed a 40-year-old Peul man try­ing to cross the street near a Malinke house that had been set on fire hours ear­lier. They dragged him to their pickup, where an of­fi­cer took off his fiber­glass hel­met and beat the man over the head with it un­til blood ran down his tem­ple. Also in view of a re­porter, sol­diers blud­geoned a Peul teenager and kicked him with their boots, as he lay on his back try­ing to cover his head. The hos­pi­tal where most of the vic­tims were taken said they treated 251 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 86 with bul­let wounds. Among them was a boy who had been shot in the groin, a 1-year-old with a bul­let lodged in her throat and a man whose in­testines were sliced in two by a shot to his stom­ach. Nearly all the pa­tients were Peul, ac­cord­ing to doc­tors at Donka Na­tional Hos­pi­tal and a tour of the hos­pi­tal's wards.

On Nov. 16 and 17, Peul neigh­bor­hoods in the cap­i­tal looked like ghost towns as peo­ple cow­ered be­hind locked doors. Sev­eral wit­nesses said they saw sol­diers and riot po­lice take aim at peo­ple who were do­ing lit­tle more than stand­ing in front of their homes or walk­ing qui­etly.

Cherif Diallo, who was shot through the knee, said he only ven­tured out­side to go to the bath­room. When he stepped into the street, his legs buck­led un­der him. -Ap

CHUNGJU: South Korean mil­i­tary vet­er­ans burn a cutout photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il dur­ing a rally de­nounc­ing last Tues­day's North Korean bom­bard­ment on a South Korean border is­land. -Ap

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