Tuesday, February 13, 2007

[Guinean news] Media activity halted on first full day of martial law, many Americans to be evacuated

In the first full day of martial law, Guinéenews notes that its reporting from Guinea is being seriously hampered as all cybercafés in Conakry have been shut down. It added that its "volunteer correspondents in Conakry who risk their lives to send dispatches can not work at this moment."

Radio France Internationale's FM broadcasting in Conakry has also been off the air.

Under the martial law decree ordered by the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté, Guineans are not allowed to leave their homes except between 4:00-8:00 PM. Even the Guinean Red Cross, which runs the country's only ambulance service, is grounded by the decree.

Despite martial law and the absolute power it gives to the army:

-A World Food Program warehouse in Kankan was looted and 450 metric tons of food stolen. In this time when Guineans are in an even more desperate situation because of the general strike and crackdown against it, the WFP was forced to temporarily suspend operations in Guinea;

-Gangs of machete-wielding young people prowled the streets of Conakry and its suburbs. Opposition leader Bâ Mamadou said, "Hooligans have taken control in a number of neighborhoods of the capital" and encouraged local communities to form crisis committees to address the situation;

-Unrest has spread to an elite military unit and many suspect this is related to the widespread assumption that Conté has called in mercenaries from the neighboring countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau. This is generally interpreted to be a lack of confidence in the Guinean military. Though Conté has reportedly made a number of promotions within the army in recent days to secure their support.

The International Labor Organization has called for an end to the 'senseless violence' in Guinea. And UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appealed for calm and said that he "regrets the failure to implement the agreement reached on 27 January, which has triggered the resumption of the crisis and threatens to plunge the country into generalized instability."

A spokesman for the US embassy in Senegal's capital Dakar said that a transport plane was being sent to Guinea to airlift private citizens and the family of embassy staff from the country. He stated that the action did not constitute a full evacuation.

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