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AFP
February 23, 2020

Clashes erupt as Guinea deputies barred from anti-referendum protest

World

AFP
February 23, 2020

CONAKRY: Clashes broke out Saturday in central Guinea after opposition deputies were prevented from protesting against a referendum they say would let President Alpha Conde run for a third term.

Violence erupted in several parts of Mamou after news of the authorities´ action spread, witnesses said. The Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea and other opposition groups are contesting a referendum to be held on March 1, alongside parliamentary elections, that could allow Conde to run again for president after he finishes his second and final five-year term under the current constitution. UFDG deputies were confined to a hotel by security forces and could not attend a protest rally organised by the country´s leading opposition party. Shop owner and activist Amadou Diallo told AFP that after hearing the news “demonstrators barricaded major intersections and burned tyres, and for the moment no vehicles are moving through the city.

“Security forces fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, but the city is big and hotspots can be seen everywhere so it is complicated,” he added. Conde became Guinea´s first democratically elected president in 2010 and was returned to office by voters in 2015. Earlier this month he left the door open to running for a third term, saying there was “nothing more democratic” than his planned constitutional referendum, which the opposition calls a ploy for him to retain power. On Saturday, “the authorities deployed two trucks of security agents before the hotel,” where UFDG deputy and vice president Fode Oussou Fofana was staying, he told AFP by telephone.

“We are now sequestered. They also barricaded the site where we were supposed to hold the rally,” he said, adding that two other UFDG deputies were blocked along with him inside the hotel. A security agent at the site told AFP: “We have instructions to let no-one enter or leave the hotel. Mamou governor Amadou Oury Diallo declined to comment on the situation.

Guinea has suffered serious unrest since mid-October owing to protests against the constitutional reform, and at least 30 people, along with a para-military gendarme, have lost their lives, according to an AFP tally. The National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) has called for a boycott of the poll.