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Guinea NEWS ______________________________________________

Nearly 60 wounded in Guinea Ebola riots, local government says

Drums Boston Djembe
Health workers take off their protective suits as they finish their shifts at the Pita hospital in Guinea Photo: AFP

At least 55 hurt after clashes between protesters and security forces in Guinea's second-largest city - at the epicentre of West African Ebola outbreak


Clashes between protesters and security forces in a Guinean city at the epicentre of the West African Ebola outbreak have left at least 55 wounded, the local government said on Saturday.


A curfew was imposed in N'Zerekore, Guinea's second-largest city, after two days of protests Thursday and Friday by market stall holders against a team of health workers sent, without notice, to spray their market with disinfectant.


Regional governor Lancei Conde said at least 27 law enforcement officers forces were among the wounded.

"In N'zerekore and elsewhere, there are two camps - those who believe in the existence of Ebola and those who think that the epidemic is imported. Investigations are ongoing," he said.


City prefect Aboubacar M'bop Camara said protesters had "attacked the regional hospital's ambulance, UNICEF vehicles, the vehicle of the cardiologist at the regional hospital (and) the car of a private individual".


Local politician Honomou Kourouma blamed the violence on former rebels, without specifying which groups he was referring to.


"If the turmoil has caused enormous damage, it is due to the presence of suspicious troops populating the city," he told AFP.


"It's no secret that former rebels are in N'zerekore. They are there in plain sight of everyone. They represent a threat to the city, the country and the region," he said.

The population of N'zerekore has more than doubled to 300,000 in the last two decades, due largely to refugees escaping civil wars in neighbouring Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.


Mr Kourouma's claim was dismissed by Mr Camara, who nevertheless admitted that "security forces were targeted by gunfire".


More than 1,500 people had been confirmed dead from Ebola in four countries - Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria, with Senegal announcing its first case on Friday.


In Guinea, where the virus emerged at the start of the year, 430 people have died.

Cause of Ebola Outbreak poss. due to funeral in Guinea

Drums Boston Djembe
Since the West African outbreak started in March, at least 1,552 have died

The May funeral of a healer in Guinea may have caused the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone at a time when experts hoped the disease was under control, according to a new study.


By touching or washing the body in preparation for the ceremony, more than a dozen women contracted the deadly virus and spread it in Sierra Leone. The disease then exploded in the country, according to new DNA mapping of Ebola by a team of 50 scientists – five of whom died of the disease while fighting the outbreak.


Health researcher Stephen Gire, who was part of the team which mapped the outbreak, told reporters: “You had this huge burst after it looked like the outbreak was starting to die down,”


“It sort of threw a wrench in the response,” he added.

Researchers from the MIT and Harvard University-affiliated Broad Institute made their map based on specimens collected from 78 patients.


By plotting the genetic code of the Ebola strain which has spread in West Africa, Gire and his 50 colleagues have helped to demonstrate how important the funeral in May was to the outbreak.


The study, which was published in the journal 'Science' on Thursday, shows that the virus has mutated more than 300 times from previous strains of Ebola.


Pardis Sabeti, joint lead author of the study alongside Gire, explained that this rate is faster than normal for viruses of Ebola’s type. Each mutation could see the virus become harder to fight, stronger or easier to spread. However, in turn, the virus could mutate and become weaker.


The experts hope their database will help them understand the disease, which has killed over 1,552 people in West Africa - with 40 per cent of the cases occuring in the last three week, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). On Thursday, WHO added that the death-toll is likely hugely underestimated.


The detailed map could also help doctors to diagnose and fight the disease, especially with working in preliminary vaccines.


Sabeti said she hopes researchers worldwide will look at the data and use it to beat the devastating disease.


"We need to crowd source this outbreak response,“ Sabeti said. ”I want high school students analyzing this sequence. You want people in every country working to do something."


Additional reporting by AP

If They Survive in the Ebola Ward, They Work On

Guinea fights the ebola virus - drumconnection
Josephine Finda Sellu, deputy nurse matron at a government hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone, where 15 Ebola nurses have died. Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

KENEMA, Sierra Leone — The best defense against despair was to keep working. Many times, that choice was far from obvious: Josephine Finda Sellu lost 15 of her nurses to Ebola in rapid succession and thought about quitting herself.


She did not. 


Ms. Sellu, the deputy nurse matron, is a rare survivor who never stopped toiling at the government hospital here, Sierra Leone’s biggest death trap for the virus during the dark months of June and July. Hers is a select club, consisting of perhaps three women on the original Ebola nursing staff who did not become infected, who watched their colleagues die, and who are still carrying on.


“There is a need for me to be around,” said Ms. Sellu, 42, who oversees the Ebola nurses. “I am a senior. All the junior nurses 

look up to me.” If she left, she said, “the whole thing would collapse.”


 

The other nurses call her Mummy, and she resembles a field marshal in light brown medical scrubs, charging forward, exhorting nurses to return to duty, inspecting food for patients, doing a dance for once-infected co-workers who live — “nurse survivors,” she called them enthusiastically — and barking orders from the head-to-toe suit that protects her from her patients.


In the campaign against the Ebola virus, which is sweeping across parts of West Africa in an epidemic worse than all previous outbreaks of the disease combined, the front line is stitched together by people like Ms. Sellu: doctors and nurses who give their lives to treat patients who will probably die; janitors who clean up lethal pools of vomit and waste so that beleaguered health centers can stay open; drivers who venture into villages overcome by illness to retrieve patients; body handlers charged with the dangerous task of keeping highly infectious corpses from sickening others.


Their sacrifices are evident from the statistics alone. At least 129 health workers have died fighting the disease, according to the World Health Organization. But while many workers have fled, leaving already shaky health systems in shambles, many new recruits have signed up willingly — often for little or no pay, and sometimes giving up their homes, communities and even families in the process.


“If I don’t volunteer, who can do this work?” asked Kandeh Kamara, one of about 20 young men doing one of the dirtiest jobs in the campaign: finding and burying corpses across eastern Sierra Leone.


When the outbreak started months ago, Mr. Kamara, 21, went to the health center in Kailahun and offered to help. When officials there said they could not pay him, he accepted anyway.


“There are no other people to do it, so we decided to do it just to help save our country,” he said of himself and the other young men. They call themselves “the burial boys.”


Doctors Without Borders trained them to wear protective equipment and to safely clear out dead bodies potentially infected with Ebola. They travel across backbreaking dirt roads for up to nine hours a day.


Ms. Sellu, who is one of the only Ebola workers at the Kenema hospital who have neither contracted the virus nor fled.


In doing their jobs, the burial boys have become pariahs. Many have been cast out of their communities because of fear that they will bring the virus home with them. Some families refuse to let them return.


After Mr. Kamara started working, his family said, he was no longer welcome in his village. His uncle, the family patriarch, told him never to come back. At first, he stayed with a friend, but the man’s wife was afraid and kicked him out, too. With no pay for months, he sometimes begged on the street after work to get enough money for food. 


Recently, he talked the owner of a small shop into clearing out enough space in a back room for him to sleep there.


He is finally getting paid, about $6 a day, and he hopes to find a room to rent, probably at an inflated price. Some of the other burial boys have tried to rent apartments but have been refused.


“If I have a long life, I can go back to my people,” Mr. Kamara said. “I can talk to them: ‘I’m doing this job for you.’ Maybe they can understand me.”


At the government hospital a few hours away in Kenema, photographs of the dead nurses are still plastered on the crumbling walls. Notes to young women suddenly cut down, like Elizabeth Lengie Koroma — “Lengie We All Love U But God Loves U” — offer visual reminders of the pain that remains.


“Today three, tomorrow four — it was just like that, rapid,” Ms. Sellu recalled, her cheery demeanor quickly dropping. “We said, ‘What is happening?’”


She added, “You are asking, ‘Who is next?’ ” In all, some 22 workers at the hospital died.


The nurses and doctors here had banked on their experience treating Lassa fever, another deadly disease that causes bleeding. But Ebola is of a different order, and they had never seen it before.


With the first cases, the nurses simply used their Lassa goggles. Ebola demands a far more protective face shield. They also used “light gloves,” Ms. Sellu said. Now, she puts on two layers of heavy-duty rubber gloves. The inadequate initial precautions had fatal consequences, even for the revered young doctor who headed the Lassa unit, Dr. Sheik Umar Khan.


“Such a careful man, always saying, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that,’ ” Ms. Sellu said. “That is the mystery.” Dr. Khan died on July 29, a huge blow to the nation.


Ms. Sellu also spoke about the nurses she had lost to Ebola. Usually so keen on projecting strength to her subordinates, she began to cry.


“It has been a nightmare for me,” she said, her features contorting. “Since the whole thing started, I have cried a lot.” She added: “It came to a time when I was thinking of quitting this job. It was too much for me.”


But the lesson she drew appeared inevitable to her. “You have no options. You have to go and save others,” Ms. Sellu said. “You are seeing your colleagues dying, and you still go and work.”


At the height of the deaths last month, her two teenage children and her family in the capital, Freetown, urged her to stop. The remaining nurses at the hospital staged a revolt. One morning, 40 of them appeared outside the door of her home in Kenema, yelling, “If one of us dies again, prepare yourself to die!”


Frightened, her children warned her. “ ‘They have come for you! Mummy, don’t go there again!’ ” she recalled. “And my relations in Freetown were saying, ‘Don’t go there again!’ ”


Ms. Sellu disobeyed all of them. “I was sneaking in at the end of the day,” she said.


With precision, she recalled the day the nightmare at the hospital began: May 25. In neighboring Guinea, where the epidemic started, the crisis had appeared, falsely, to be abating. In Kenema, a patient was bleeding profusely.


“The nurses were curious; they called me,” she said. “Dr. Khan said, ‘Do the test.’ ” It was positive for Ebola.


“The whole hospital went haywire,” Ms. Sellu said. “All the nurses were put into quarantine.”


But it was the second case, in the hospital’s private annex for V.I.P.s, “that put the calamity on us,” she said. The patient was a local chief suffering from severe diarrhea and vomiting. He infected three nurses and a porter. The porter and one nurse died. The dying nurse was pregnant and miscarried, infecting all four nurses who aided in the delivery. All four died.


“There are times when I say, ‘Oh my God, I should have chosen secretarial,’ ” Ms. Sellu said. But her job as a healer, she said, “is the calling of God.”

The Kenema hospital is a different place now. In the last several weeks, with international help, a more rigorous system for screening, filtering and holding Ebola patients has been instituted. Confidence among the nurses has been restored.


Outside the hospital, they continue to face stigma. Some of Ms. Sellu’s staff spoke of husbands abandoning them and neighbors shunning them. One nurse told of returning home to find her belongings in suitcases on the sidewalk, and her spouse warning her to stay away. Another nurse, seeking lodgings, lied to the landlord, telling him she was a student.


“If you meet with them, they will balance this way and that not to touch you,” said Veronica Tucker, a nurse who survived an Ebola infection, doing a little jig to demonstrate her experience on the streets of Kenema.


The epidemic goes on. International aid workers say the official figures — an estimated 2,615 cases and 1,427 deaths in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone — are almost certainly much lower than the real number of infections and deaths.


Ms. Sellu finds some reason for optimism, though. She has seen the flood of Ebola patients diminish. And she and her nurses are no longer alone in the fight.


“Some went, but we stayed,” said a nurse, Nancy Yoko. “We have kept coming. We never left.”


Ms. Sellu then shooed away her visitors, put on her suit and prepared for work.


“By the grace of God, it will end,” she said.

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CDC: 3 to 6 months may be needed to stem Ebola in West Africa

Ebola virus disease (EVD)
Ebola virus disease (EVD)

By Ben Brumfield and Jacque Wilson, CNN

July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)

Source: CNN

 

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

NEW: CDC issues warning issues warning against "nonessential" travel to affected countries

NEW: It could take three to six months to stem the epidemic, CDC says

• Ebola hemorrhagic fever believed to have killed 729, WHO says

• Some humanitarian organizations are leaving the region to protect their own

 

(CNN) -- Nancy Writebol fought for her life against Ebola hemorrhagic fever on Thursday. While she did, the virus that befell the American missionary in Liberia as she worked to save its victims continued on a rampage through West Africa.

 

It is believed to have killed 729 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria from

March through July 27, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

 

It is the worst Ebola outbreak in history. There is no cure and no vaccine, but care from medical workers so far has helped sustain the lives of nearly half of those stricken.

 

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday that even in a best-case scenario, it could easily take three to six months to stem the epidemic in West Africa.

 

The outbreak also prompted the CDC to issue a warning against all "nonessential" travel to the countries coping with an outbreak, Frieden said.

 

As for Writebol, her family is praying that her life is spared, too.

 

U.S. government officials are in ongoing talks to bring Writebol and another Ebola-stricken American, fellow aid worker Dr. Kent Brantly, back from Liberia, an administration official and a State Department source said on Thursday.

 

Writebol's husband, David, who is with the same mission as his wife, is near her, said their son Jeremy, who spoke with CNN's Chris Cuomo from the United States.

 

But she is isolated from him, and he has to wear head-to-toe protective clothing similar to a hazmat suit so that he does not contract a disease that starts out with similar symptoms as a strong flu but can end in internal bleeding and death.

 

"Mom continues in stable condition but it's very serious, and she's still fighting," her son said. "She's weak, but she's working through it."

 

Writebol gets 'experimental serum'

Both Brantly, a 33-year-old who last lived in Texas, and Writebol were caring for Ebola patients in Liberia, both affiliated with faith-based international charity Samaritan's Purse.

 

The two were in "stable but grave condition," though Brantly took a slight turn for the worse Wednesday night into Thursday, the charity said. Writebol has been given an experimental serum, the charity said, without elaborating on what it was.

 

There was enough for only one person, and Brantly -- "still focused on the well-being of others," asked that Writebol get it instead of him, the charity said in a news release Thursday.

 

Late Wednesday, members of Writebol's church in Charlotte, North Carolina, met to pray for her struggle. Calvary Church sent her on the Liberia trip through missionary group Serving in Mission.

 

Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown said his country could ill afford to lose health care workers like Writebol and Brantly.

 

"We join the families in prayers that they can come through this and become ... shining examples that, if care is taken, one can come out of this."

 

Another physician in West Africa was not so fortunate; Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan fell ill early last week while overseeing Ebola treatment at a Sierra Leone hospital and died days later.

 

Record death toll

The current death toll that is the highest on record with the World Health Organization and still growing.

"This epidemic is without precedent," said Bart Janssens, director of operations for Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, a group of medical workers nursing victims through the disease as it runs its course. "It's absolutely not under control, and the situation keeps worsening."

 

Ebola fears hit close to home

The rate of infection has slowed in Guinea, but it has increased in neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia. As infection accelerates, some aid groups are pulling out to protect their own.

 

Samaritan's Purse and the missionary group Serving in Mission have recalled all nonessential personnel from Liberia.

The Peace Corps announced Wednesday it is doing the same, removing its 340 volunteers from the three severely affected nations.

 

While there are no confirmed cases, a Peace Corps spokeswoman said two volunteers came into contact with someone who ended up dying from the virus.

 

Those Americans haven't shown signs of Ebola but are being isolated just in case. The spokeswoman said they can't return home until they get medical clearance.

 

Presidents doubling down

The swelling cases have prompted the heads of state of two countries to cancel travel plans on Thursday to direct their full attention toward fighting the outbreak of the virus that has crippled parts of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and stirred palpable concerns that it will spread around the region and the world.

 

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Sierra Leone's President Ernest Koroma both canceled trips to the United States, and Koroma declared a state of emergency. He announced an action plan to tear down many barriers that international medical workers say they face while fighting disease.

 

Ebola concern around the world

 

Ebola crisis is an international problem

Some residents in affected villages have accused medical workers of bringing the disease into the country and have barricaded their towns or otherwise blocked access to Ebola victims.

 

"The most challenging" aspect of trying to help people is that "we go into communities where we are not necessarily welcome," said Monia Sayah, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders.

 

People don't want to believe they or their loved ones have Ebola -- in part because "they understand now that the survival rate is not very high," she said. Koroma said he will deploy police and military to accompany the aid workers.

They will search house to house for the infirm and enforce orders designed to curb the virus' spread.

 

American dies in Nigeria

One American, 40-year-old Patrick Sawyer, died in a Nigerian hospital earlier this month -- having come from Liberia. He was in a plane to Lagos, when he became violently ill. He was planning to go back home to Minnesota to celebrate his daughters' birthdays, but the disease took his life before he could.

 

The Nigerian government said Thursday it has located 10 more people who had contact with Sawyer, the first American who died in the Ebola outbreak. Meanwhile, none of the 67 people under surveillance and the two people in quarantine have shown symptoms of the disease, Nigerian Minister of Information Labaran Maku said.

 

A naturalized American citizen who worked in Liberia, Sawyer flew to Nigeria intending to attend a conference.

After exhibiting symptoms upon arrival July 20, he was hospitalized and died on July 25.

 

Nigeria's Minister of Health Onyebuchi Chukwu says the government is still searching for more people that had contact with Sawyer on his journey on a plane that stopped in Accra, Ghana and Lome, Togo, before traveling on to Lagos. On Monday, the CDC issued an alert warning travelers to avoid hospitals with Ebola patients and funerals for those patients.

 

The CDC also plans to send an additional 50 health specialists to help fight the outbreak, Frieden said.

 

On Thursday, International Air Transport Association issued a calming statement, saying it was not recommending travel restrictions to affected areas. Referring to the WHO, it said travelers there faced "extremely low" risk of contracting Ebola.

 

As of now, the outbreak has been confined to West Africa. But it could spread via travel, especially since people who have Ebola may not know it; symptoms usually manifest two to 21 days. Further complicating matters, signs of Ebola include fever, headaches, weakness and vomiting -- symptoms that also define many other ailments, from malaria to the flu, that Brown notes often pop up "at this time of year."

 

Sawyer, for example, very well could have made it out of the region, perhaps to the United States, before showing symptoms of Ebola; it's only then that the virus spreads.

 

"If the situation does not improve fairly quickly, there is a real risk for new countries to be affected," Janssens said.

Ebola spreads through the transmission of bodily fluids. Those most at risk are loved ones of those infected, as well as health care workers tending to the ill.

 

Sawyer is believed to have been infected by his ailing sister, who he spent time with in Liberia, according to Brown. Neither likely knew she had Ebola.

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34 Killed in Stampede at Guinea Concert Marking End of Ramadan

drums ma
Debris lay strewn across the beach in the aftermath of the stampede

July 30, 2014 12:17 AM

 

At least 34 people were killed in a stampede at a beachside concert celebrating the end of Ramadan in Guinea's capital, the French news agency AFP reported.

 

A statement released by the president of Guinea declared a week of mourning after the deadly stampede, calling the incident a "tragic drama."

 

The French news agency AFP said the stampede Tuesday at a beach in Conakry's Ratoma neighborhood left 24 people dead.

The popular Guinean rap group Instinct Killers, among other artists, was playing at a celebration marking the end of the Ramadan holiday.

 

The presidential statement noted some deaths and injuries but did not give a death toll.

 

“While waiting for the results of an investigation, information from health and security authorities indicate deaths and several injuries,” the Presidency said late Tuesday.

 

An investigation has been launched to determine what caused the tragedy. The official in charge of organizing such events was suspended, AFP reported.

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Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies in ambulance

djembe
Health workers take blood samples for Ebola virus testing at a screening tent in the local government hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone, June 30, 2014

BY UMARU FOFANA

 

FREETOWN Sun Jul 27, 2014 5:31pm EDT

 

(Reuters) - A Sierra Leone Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer, died in an ambulance on the way to hospital, a health official said.

 

Health officials say fear and mistrust of health workers in Sierra Leone, where many have more faith in traditional medicine, are hindering efforts to contain an Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 450 people in the country.

 

In recent days crowds gathered outside clinics and hospitals to protest against what they see as a conspiracy, in some cases clashing with police as they threatened to burn down the buildings and remove the patients.

 

Amadu Sisi, a senior doctor at King Harman hospital in the capital Freetown, from which the patient was taken, said on Saturday that police found her in the house of a healer.

 

Her family refused to hand her over and a struggle ensued with police, who finally retrieved her and sent her to hospital, he said.

 

"She died in the ambulance on the way to another hospital," Sisi said.

Across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, at least 660 people have died from the worst outbreak yet of the hemorrhagic fever, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, placing great strain on the health systems of some of Africa's poorest countries.

 

The virus is still spreading. A 33-year-old American doctor working for relief organization Samaritan's Purse in Liberia tested positive for the disease on Saturday. The charity said on Sunday a second American, whom it named as Nancy Writebol, had also tested positive.

 

She was helping a team treating Ebola patients at a case management center in Monrovia, it said.

 

In Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, a Liberian man who tested positive died in on Friday.

 

West African health officials say the deep cultural suspicions mean relatives in some countries will continue to try to remove sick patients from hospitals and carry out traditional funerals, which often involve the manual washing of the body, instead of allowing the authorities to bury them.

 

ANGRY CROWDS

Sierra Leone now has the highest number of Ebola cases, at 454, surpassing neighboring Guinea where the outbreak originated in February.

 

Police were guarding the country's main Ebola hospital in Kenema in the West African country's remote east on Saturday, where dozens are receiving treatment for the virus.

 

Thousands had gathered outside the clinic the day before, threatening to burn it down and remove the patients. Residents said police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds and that a 9-year-old boy was shot in the leg by a police bullet.

 

The protest was sparked by a former nurse who had told a crowd at a nearby fish market that "Ebola was unreal and a gimmick aimed at carrying out cannibalistic rituals".

 

Samaritan’s Purse, which is leading treatment of Ebola patients in Liberia, said on Sunday it will end its outreach in Lofa, a community in the north, after an attack on a team of health workers who came to collect the body of a person who was suspected of dying from the disease.

 

The organization’s outreach team until now has transported suspected patients between villages and clinics and also bodies of Ebola victims.

 

A nearby community from which it was going to collect a body put up a roadblock, attacked the ambulance and broke the windshield and tore up the tires with a machete, according to the group's country director Kendell Kauffeldt.

 

"We will continue to manage the center up there, but we will stop outreach, we will not go into communities to retrieve bodies or patients at this point," he said. "We will continue to accept patients to the center. We just cannot afford to put ourselves at that risk at this point."

 

Ebola can kill up to 90 percent of those who catch it, although the fatality rate of the current outbreak is around 60 percent. Highly contagious, especially in the late stages, its symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea as well as internal and external bleeding.

 

(Additional reporting by Clair MacDougall in Monrovia, Adam Bailes in Freetown and Tom Miles in Geneva; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, David Evans and Eric Walsh)

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WHO opens Ebola response centre in Guinea

WHO Health Center
WHO Health Center

 

Conakry (Guinea), July 26 (IANS/WAM) The World Health Organisation (WHO) has opened a Sub-regional Outbreak Coordination Centre in here after continuing reports of new cases and deaths attributable to Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

 

"The centre will allow monitoring in real-time of the activities to fight the epidemic, in collaboration with the national committees and the teams deployed on the ground," said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Luis Gomes Sambo.

As of July 12, the cumulative number of cases attributed to EVD in the three countries stands at 964, including 603 deaths, said WHO on its website Friday.

 

"The centre will act as a platform to consolidate and harmonize the technical support being provided to West African countries affected by the outbreak. It will also help to mobilize resources for the response," said Francis Kasolo, director for disease prevention and control for the WHO African Region.

 

"Alongside national health authorities and WHO, other partner agencies involved in the Ebola response, such as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Red Cross, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and technical partners in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), will also work from the Centre."

 

The establishment of the centre was sought by health ministers from 11 African countries at an emergency meeting convened by the WHO in Accra, Ghana, in a meeting July 2-3.

 

The Accra meeting identified critical challenges and gaps in the response: coordination, communications, cross-border collaboration, treatment of patients, contact tracing and community participation, human resources and financial support.

 

"Addressing these challenges in the three countries will be far more efficient through a single coordination mechanism," said Benido Impouma, WHO epidemiologist and the technical coordinator of the new Centre.

 

"Finding and treating all Ebola patients and then tracing and observing the close contacts of these persons over a period of 21 days to ensure they have not been infected is a key to halting transmission. This can be only done with full community participation," he added.

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Nigeria Death Shows Ebola Can Spread by Air Travel

DrumConnection
The Ebola virus has already spread from Guinea to Liberia and Sierra Leone

ABUJA, Nigeria — Jul 26, 2014, 3:31 PM ET

By HEATHER MURDOCK Associated Press

 

Nigerian health authorities raced to stop the spread of Ebola on Saturday after a man sick with one of the world's deadliest diseases brought it by plane to Lagos, Africa's largest city with 21 million people.

 

The fact that the traveler from Liberia could board an international flight also raised new fears that other passengers could take the disease beyond Africa due to weak inspection of passengers and the fact Ebola's symptoms are similar to other diseases.

Officials in the country of Togo, where the sick man's flight had a stopover, also went on high alert after learning that Ebola could possibly have spread to a fifth country.

 

Screening people as they enter the country may help slow the spread of the disease, but it is no guarantee Ebola won't travel by airplane, according to Dr. Lance Plyler, who heads Ebola medical efforts in Liberia for aid organization Samaritan's Purse.

 

"Unfortunately the initial signs of Ebola imitate other diseases, like malaria or typhoid," he said.

 

Ebola already had caused some 672 deaths across a wide swath of West Africa before the Nigeria case was announced. It is the deadliest outbreak on record for Ebola, and now it threatens Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation.

 

"Lagos is completely different from other cities because we're talking about millions of people," said Plan International's Disaster Response and Preparedness Head, Dr. Unni Krishnan.

 

Nigerian newspapers describe the effort as a "scramble" to contain the threat after the Liberian arrived in Lagos and then died Friday.

 

International airports in Nigeria are screening passengers arriving from foreign countries for symptoms of Ebola, according to Yakubu Dati, the spokesman for Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria.

 

Health officials are also working with ports and land borders, he said. "They are giving out information in terms of enlightenment, what to do, what to look out for."

 

And Nigerian airports are setting up holding rooms to ready in case another potential Ebola victim lands in Nigeria.

Airports in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three other West African countries affected by the current Ebola outbreak, have implemented some preventive measures, according to officials in those countries. But none of the safeguards are foolproof, say health experts.

 

Doctors say health screens could be effective, but Ebola has a variable incubation period of between two and 21 days and cannot be diagnosed on the spot.

 

Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for the Liberian Ministry of Finance arrived in Nigeria on Tuesday and was immediately detained by health authorities suspecting he might have Ebola, Plyler said.

 

On his way to Lagos, Sawyer's plane also stopped in Lome, Togo, according to the World Health Organization.

Authorities announced Friday that blood tests from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital confirmed Sawyer died of Ebola earlier that day.

 

Sawyer reportedly did not show Ebola symptoms when he boarded the plane, Plyler said, but by the time he arrived in Nigeria he was vomiting and had diarrhea. There has not been another recently recorded case of Ebola spreading through air travel, he added.

 

Nearly 50 other passengers on the flight are being monitored for signs of Ebola but are not being kept in isolation, said an employee at Nigeria's Ministry of Health, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

 

Sawyer's sister also died of Ebola in Liberia, according to Liberian officials, but he claimed to have had no contact with her. Ebola is highly contagious and kills more than 70 percent of people infected.

 

An outbreak in Lagos, Africa's megacity where many live in cramped conditions, could be an unprecedented disaster in what is already the largest Ebola outbreak on record.

 

"Lagos is completely different from other cities because we're talking about millions of people," said Plan

 

International's Disaster Response and Preparedness Head, Dr. Unni Krishnan.

 

Ebola is passed by touching bodily fluids of patients even after they die, he said. Traditional burials that include rubbing the bodies of the dead contribute to the spread of the disease, Krishnan added.

 

There is no "magic bullet" cure for Ebola, but early detection and treatment of fluids and nutrition can be effective, said Plyler in Liberia. Quickly isolating patients who show symptoms is also crucial in slowing the spread of the disease.

 

West African hospital systems have weak and "often paralyzed" health care systems, he added, and are not usually equipped to handle Ebola outbreaks. International aid organizations like his and Doctors Without Borders have stepped in, but they also lack enough funding and manpower. "We need more humanitarian workers," he said. "We need resources."

———

AP writer Krista Larson contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.

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Ebola: a survivor’s story from Guinea

Kadiatou holds up the certificate declaring her healthy status.
Kadiatou holds up the certificate declaring her healthy status.

Kadiatou’s was one of the earliest cases of Ebola in the country.

 

Shortly after the outbreak of Ebola in Guinea, when it seemed like bad news was the only news, UNICEF’s office in Guinea started to receive reports of something that seemed almost impossible given the climate. Ebola victims were being released from the hospital, completely recovered. They were healthy and even given certificates signed by health authorities stating that they could safely return to normal life.

 

We knew that there would be a few survivors, but the initial days of the outbreak were grim enough to turn most optimists into cynics. Talk of very high mortality rates; a rapid spread of the virus to the capital and beyond the borders in neighboring countries; and a palpable

fear on the streets zapped the psychic energy of us who live and work here.

 

But there they were: people, weak and squinting in the bright sunlight but healthy, emerging from isolation wards. And not just the lucky few we expected, but more than 30 per cent of those infected were surviving.

 

The story in the media quickly turned to the stigmatization of these people. Journalists talked about how they were not welcome at work, school, even at home, but for many the stigma passed quickly and still others were welcomed back, almost immediately, into their old lives.

 

UNICEF sat down with an Ebola survivor, one of the earlier cases in the country – Kadiatou*. She met us on a main street in Conakry and walked us back to her home, through scores of children playing football on muddy roads. We sat on plastic chairs in a circle while her mother hung the laundry behind us.

 

“I have no idea where I got Ebola,” she said as she chewed on a sachet of ready-to-use therapeutic food—as part of her post-Ebola treatment. Ready-to-use therapeutic food is normally provided by UNICEF as life-saving emergency nutrition to the thousands of children here who suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Ebola victims lose a lot of nutrients and fluids as a result of vomiting and diarrhea and the ready-to-use therapeutic food help them regain their strength.

 

“I am a medical student, and in my work, I encounter many sick people.”

 

Kadiatou’s initial symptoms were pretty typical of many illnesses—a sudden onset, pounding headache and high fever, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. Her knowledge as a medical student probably prevented Kadiatou from spreading Ebola to those caring for her. “When my Aunt would clean up my vomit, I insisted that she wash her hands with bleach.”

 

As part of our response UNICEF has distributed many of the materials families are using to protect their family members, including over 350,000 bottles of chlorine, almost one million bars of soap, and materials for disinfecting hospital rooms and victims’ homes.

 

A few days after Kadiatou tested positive for Ebola she was sent directly to the isolation ward in Donka hospital. The isolation center was busy. Families brought food to their sick relatives. And, “there were many journalists.”

 

“In the beginning we were all in the same room. But as patients improved, they were separated from those who weren’t as fortunate. I first knew I was going to survive when I saw a patient recovering. I thought, ‘maybe it is possible for me too’.

 

For the first few days, I was desperate. I drank a lot of mineral water and had infusions…maybe it helped me to survive.”

 

Kadiatou holds up the certificate declaring her healthy status.

 

After what must have seemed like an eternity for her, but in real time was a matter of weeks, Kadiatou was given new clothes, a certificate declaring her healthy, and was sent home.

 

We asked her about the widely reported stigma that affected survivors. “When I went back to school, some of my friends avoided me, but it’s getting better. People don’t believe that I had Ebola because they can’t believe I survived.”

 

Of course, Kadiatou is aware that Ebola is real. But UNICEF remains vigilant in keeping the public informed. We have been in the markets, mosques, churches, schools, on the radio and the television providing information on Ebola so health workers and regular people are armed with the knowledge to protect themselves and their children. To date, UNICEF and our partners in Guinea have reached over 3.2 million people.

 

“Others call me, ‘Kadiatou the new born’—because I was given a second chance.”

 


Timothy La Rose is a UNICEF Communication Specialist based in Conakry, Guinea.

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Sierra Leone chief Ebola doctor infected

Drum in Africa
Ebola virus disease (EVD)

For most of us in the United States, the Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa seems far away.

 

Since March 21, Ebola has killed 632 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization, making it the largest outbreak ever of the deadly virus.

 

For those of us in the medical community, the virus hit closer to home with the news this week that the chief doctor treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone himself became an Ebola patient; three nurses who work with him have died from Ebola this week. Although the

medical community has vowed to do everything it can to help him, the statistics are grim. The highly contagious virus kills up to 90 percent of those it infects.

 

Smaller outbreaks of Ebola have occurred since 1972, but they typically affected small groups of people living in remote villages near tropical rainforests in Central Africa. This Ebola outbreak, fueled by fear and civil war, is the first that has been reported in a capital city. Reports Thursday indicated a possible case in Lagos, Nigeria, population 21 million. It’s spreading faster than we’ve ever seen.

 

So imagine my reaction when a friend and former co-worker at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told me that he was being deployed to West Africa to help stop the outbreak.

 

“Feeling a bit overwhelmed with Ebola preparations,” he emailed. Overwhelmed with fear is what I felt. Just one week after the tragic loss of two friends who were on their way to an AIDS conference on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, I wasn’t ready to think about losing another friend.

 

There’s no treatment for Ebola. It kills you slowly and painfully, thickening the blood so that sticky lumps of blood cells block veins and arteries. When the clotting machinery is cruelly used up, blood runs like water through the body, leaking out of every cut and orifice. Organs, hungry for blood, shut down and die.

 

The best that doctors can offer is fluids and pain relief. “When an Ebola patient loses consciousness and bleeds copiously, there is no hope,” the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders said in an emailed statement. “At this point, we ease the patient’s pain and accompany her or him until the end.”

 

Blood, sweat, vomit and breast milk have all been shown to spread the disease. Although my friend will be wearing two pairs of latex gloves, safety goggles, a surgical cap and a protective Tyvek suit that will be burned each time he leaves an Ebola isolation zone, chances are he’ll never be fully protected against the virus. It can creep through gaps in clothing and permeate the eyeballs, gums and cheeks of its victims.

 

The virus isn’t the only threat he’ll be watching out for. Those brave enough to fight at the front lines of this epidemic have had to contend with violence. Just last week, a team of aid workers burying Sierra Leoneans who had succumbed to the infection were attacked by locals who didn’t want the corpses buried in their community.

 

In Guinea, rocks were hurled at aid workers from Doctors Without Borders who were accused of bringing the disease into the country.

 

Distrust, misunderstanding and health care systems ruined by decades of civil war make fighting this deadly virus that much harder.

 

The challenges aren’t just in West Africa. They’re here in Texas, too. In a lab that he describes as “a box within a box within a box,” Ebola scientist Thomas Geisbert, at the University of Texas Medical Branch, has dedicated 23 years of his life to finding a cure for the disease. It seems to have paid off.

 

With a $26 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, his team has come up with a vaccine that works in monkeys. “We can completely protect monkeys with this vaccine with just a single shot,” he said.

 

But he’s frustrated.

 

“You look at this outbreak and the doctor [infected with Ebola] in Sierra Leone,” he said. “The people most at risk are the people who put their life on the line, and it would be great to vaccinate those people.”

 

The scientists have done their part. It’s up to policymakers and regulators to push the vaccine through the next step, which involves testing its safety in healthy human volunteers. That will be too far in the future to protect my friend and the many others at risk of Ebola in West Africa.

 

My friend will need a hefty dose of courage to face the outbreak each day. I hope he zips up that Tyvek suit extra tight.

 

Seema Yasmin, a physician and former disease detective at the Centers for Disease Control, is a staff writer for The Dallas Morning News and professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her email address is syasmin@dallasnews.com.

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‘There is no such thing as Ebola’

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Health workers carry the body of an Ebola virus victim in Kenema, Sierra Leone, on June 25, 2014. (Umaru Fofana/Reuters)

“I don’t believe in Ebola,” Craig Manning’s local driver told him as he chauffeured the viral emergency specialist through Freetown, Sierra Leone, where infection rates are rising. The man came from a rural part of the country where people were already dying from the virus. He was adamant, like many others in his community, that “there is no such thing as Ebola.”

 

He is wrong. The epidemic, the deadliest on record, continues to batter Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, with 85 new cases and 68 new deaths reported in only four days earlier this month, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Sierra Leone bore the brunt of new infections and deaths, with 49 new cases and 52 deaths reported. The total number of cases stands at 982, with 613 deaths as of July 17.

 

Yet, as the Ebola virus continues to spread in West Africa, so do the rumors. Some say you can contract Ebola from a motorcycle helmet. Others say you can cure the deadly virus by

drinking Nescafé mixed with cocoa and sugar — or with two large onions.

 

It’s Manning’s job to take onions out of the equation.

 

A health communications strategist with the Viral Special Pathogens Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Manning was sent to Guinea at the first outbreak of the Ebola crisis in March. When one of his colleagues, Pierre Roland, an expert on Ebola, gave a presentation at the U.S. Embassy in Conkary about mitigating risks of transmission, Manning recorded him. He then had the edited 30 second snippets translated into 10 local languages and broadcast over local radio stations and TV.

 

When the virus spread to Sierra Leone, Manning followed it, teaming up with BBC Media Action to bring together radio station managers from across the country to help spread the word.

 

Manning said aggressive intervention is necessary to prevent more people from becoming infected, but ensuring local populations understand Ebola first is essential. For instance, in areas where the virus has spread, relatives wash bodies by hand before funerals, putting families at risk of new infections.

 

“People do not easily accept the idea that teams will take their deceased loved one, put them in a bag and bury them somewhere different,” said Manning. “The challenge is to strike a balance.”

 

This balance demands communication, according to WHO spokesperson Daniel Epstein.

 

“There are a set of beliefs and myths that impede our messages about treatment – it is a huge challenge,” he said. 

Doctors Without Borders has been unable to gain access to some affected areas due to hostility from the people there. Local communities fear outsiders are bringing the virus with them or want to exterminate the infected, since so few who get treatment return alive.

 

WHO is helping coordinate information sessions on Ebola to train local leaders how the virus is transmitted and how people can stop it.

 

“It is necessary for any group engaging in Ebola control to provide health education prior to initiating any other intervention,” said Rashid Ansumana, a researcher at Mercy Hospital Research Lab in the city of Bo, Sierra Leone, where 15 physicians treat a population of more than 150,000. Ansumana comes from the city of Kailahun, an epicenter of the outbreak, and said a large number of new infections are going undetected. His family lives in constant fear.

 

“One false rumor that is circulating is that health officials might inject suspected Ebola patients with lethal substances,” he said. He suggested HIV prevention protocols, which people are familiar with, can be used to explain how Ebola can be transmitted through blood or other body fluids.

 

In 2012, Mercy Hospital used the crowdsourcing platform Ushahidi to monitor an outbreak of the highly infectious Chikungunya virus, technology he believes could be employed to combat Ebola.

 

Crowdsourcing data during emergencies has become an important new way to quickly source information about people at risk and to locate the epicenters of the crisis, used to great effect during the earthquake in Haiti to aid a targeted, effective response.

 

“In West Africa, someone who has Ebola might not seek testing or treatment due to the monetary costs or the fear of getting a positive result for the virus, the impact and potential stigma that has for their family,” said Kathryn H. Jacobsen, associate professor for epidemiology at the Department of Global and Community Health at George Mason University. For diseases such as malaria, she said, people in this region will often go to a local pharmacy where medication is available without a prescription, rarely going to hospital.

 

“To have people reporting in cases through text messaging would be a very helpful system,” she said.

 

WHO has been operating emergency Ebola hotlines in the affected countries that get 200 to 300 calls a day. The organization is exploring text messaging, since 40 percent of affected populations use mobile phones.

 

Doctors Without Borders have brought anthropologists on board in an attempt to better understand the traditions and cultures of the people they are treating.

 

While expert advice is important, the key to getting the message through to communities in more isolated areas is building a network of local spokespersons and engaging religious and cultural leaders.

 

There have been small victories. Manning said his driver had come to trust him.

 

One day, his driver tugged on his sleeve at a gas station. Out of the blue, he said: “I want you to speak to these people about Ebola.” 

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An 'Overhappy' Survivor, A Guarded Forecast: Reporting On Ebola

boston drumming
Saidu Kanneh speaks to the community in Koindu, Sierra Leone, about surviving Ebola. He spent 12 days in a treatment center and was released this week.

by MARC SILVER

July 18, 201412:16 PM ET

 

Saidu Kanneh speaks to the community in Koindu, Sierra Leone, about surviving Ebola. He spent 12 days in a treatment center and was released this week.

 

Tommy Trenchard for NPR

 

Ebola Wreaks Economic Woe In West Africa

NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Sierra Leone, covering the Ebola outbreak that began in March in Guinea and has spread to neighboring countries. When we spoke Friday, he had an inspirational story to share.

Between the plane shot down in Ukraine and the war in Gaza, this has been a sad week for the world. How are things in Sierra Leone?

I have some good news for you. Today I was at that corner of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the first cases of Ebola [were reported]. I was following around MSF [Doctors Without Borders]. They're training volunteers to explain to the community what causes Ebola, what the symptoms are, how to protect yourself.

 

We're in this meeting with probably three dozen people, and this guy walks in. He is the former health officer from the region called Koindu, which sits right up against the [Guinea] border. And he got Ebola.

 

He had just gotten out of the treatment center this week. He walked in to this hero's welcome; everyone started cheering and clapping. It was like he was taking the stage in The Price Is Right. He came running up to the front of the room, declaring that he's free [of Ebola] and that he survived. It was this incredibly joyful moment.

 

What was his name, and how did he look?

He's Saidu Kanneh, and he's about 40 years old. He just had this spring in his step, this incredible smile across his face. He was full of energy. He was planning to spread the word that you can survive this. He refers to himself as "overhappy."

 

Does he know how he was infected?

He was one of the first medical workers dealing with cases. He said he was working with this woman who had Ebola. He was wearing rubber gloves, but there was a gap between the gloves and his shirt. He believes that's how it happened.

 

How long was he ill?

He spent 12 days in the treatment center in Kailahun and got out this week, completely cured. MSF people tell me no virus could be detected in him anymore.

 

Did you talk to him when he was in isolation?

I talked to him across the fence [separating the isolation area]. He was saying he was incredibly bored inside. He would come and sit by the fence and listen to his radio. He was eager to get out.

 

Do Sierra Leoneans stand by the fence to talk with family members in isolation?

Supposedly people are able to do that. But we didn't see any family members interacting with patients while we were there. That's not to say [such interactions] are not going on. But people are quite nervous about coming to the treatment center.

 

Do we know why some people are able to survive Ebola?

The MSF people say getting people in early [for treatment] gives them about a 10 percent better chance of surviving. You basically treat it like influenza. You rehydrate patients. If people have a fever, you knock it down with Tylenol.

 

Did Kanneh have any advice to share?

If doctors told him to drink 4 liters [1.1 gallons] a day of water, he drank 10 liters [2.6 gallons]. For him, it was just focus, focus, focus on recovery

 

Did anything surprise you from your time in Sierra Leone covering Ebola?

Ebola is not quite as scary as it seemed when I first got here. It's not like everybody here has Ebola. There are a couple hundred cases in this part of Sierra Leone — a district with half a million people. That's not to downplay the problem. But being here has made me realize that Ebola is not as "in your face" as you think it'd be. And it's quite clear that this can be contained.

 

Goats and Soda

No School, No Handshakes: Reporting On Ebola From Sierra Leone

 

Is anyone predicting when this outbreak will end?

 

Goats and Soda

Feeling The Heat, Burning The Suits: Reporting On Ebola From Sierra Leone

 

Everybody seems to feel this is going to go on for months — if we're lucky — rather than years. People are hoping to get over the hump and see numbers go down. The turning point has not been reached. But the elements are coming together that could wipe this outbreak out.

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WHO can’t fully deal with Ebola outbreak, health official warns

Treating Ebola in Guinea
Ebola Tents

By

Marianne LeVine

 

WASHINGTON — International health officials warned Thursday that recent budget cuts have impeded the ability of the World Health Organization to respond to the Ebola outbreak that has killed at least 603 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

 

"The situation in West Africa should be a wake-up call to recognize that this weakening of this institution on which we all depend is not in anybody's interest," Scott Dowell, director

of disease detection and emergency response at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a briefing in Washington. "In my view, there's no way that WHO can respond in a way that we need it to."

 

Partly because of declining donations from member countries during the global recession, the United Nations-backed WHO has suffered a 12 percent drop in its program budget in the last two years. This year's budget is $3.98 billion.

 

Efforts to address the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in 40 years also have been hindered by the failure of some countries to implement the WHO's International Health Regulations, which went into effect in 2007, Dowell said. The regulations require countries to report outbreaks of certain diseases, including smallpox, polio and new strains of influenza, to the organization.

 

"We saw spread and chaos ... and, frankly, a lack of strong leadership combined with very poor public health infrastructure in the area," Dowell said. Such poor management led to the resurgence of the virus, he said.

About 80 percent of U.N. member countries, including the U.S., have not met their public health policy obligations to the organization, Dowell said.

 

Many countries could take years to develop the ability to survey disease outbreaks, including monitoring who is travelling into the country and developing a laboratory that can track pathogens nationwide, said Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director general for health security. In the meantime, they will need technical assistance from wealthier countries, he said.

 

"If there are poor areas of the world where pathogens can get a head start, we're all vulnerable," Dowell warned.

Fukuda also expressed concern about his organization's ability to respond to simultaneous, multiple outbreaks around the world.

 

"I think the answer is fairly clear," Fukuda said. "I don't think we're quite ready. We're not adequately set up or prepared to deal with those things."

 

 

Los Angeles Times

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A Fight as U.S. Girls Face Genital Cutting Abroad

FGM
Naima Abdullahi runs a support group for victims of genital cutting. She was cut at age 9.

ATLANTA — Last summer, an American-born teenager of Somali descent fled her parents’ home in a suburb here after she discovered that a coming vacation to Somalia would include a sacred rite of passage: the cutting of her genitalia. In Guinea, a New Yorker escaped to the American Embassy after an aunt told her that her family trip would involve genital cutting. And in Seattle, at least one physician said parents had sent girls back to Somalia to undergo cutting.

 

Immigrant parents from African and other nations have long sent their daughters back to their ancestral homes for the summer, a trip intended to help them connect with their families and traditions.

 

During their stays, some girls are swept into bedrooms or backwoods and subjected to

genital cutting in the belief that it will prevent promiscuity, ready them for marriage or otherwise align them with the ideals of their culture.

 

“Vacation cutting,” as the practice is deemed by those who oppose it, has existed in immigrant enclaves around the world for decades. Federal law has banned genital cutting in the United States since 1996, and last year it became illegal to transport girls for that purpose.

 

The Fight Against Female Genital Cutting

 

In October 2011, The New York Times’s Celia Dugger reported from West Africa on community-based efforts to eradicate female genital cutting.

 

But some are concerned that such cutting could be on the rise. The number of African immigrants in the United States has more than quadrupled in the past two decades to almost 1.7 million, according to the Census Bureau. The growing numbers have brought new attention to the issue, and have spurred a small Internet-age, app-enabled support network of girls and women who have been victims of cutting, or believe they will be.

 

About 228,000 women and girls in the United States have been cut or are at risk of it, according to an analysis that uses 14-year-old census data.

 

At the center of this new network is Jaha Dukureh, 24, a Gambian immigrant who was cut twice, once as an infant in Gambia and again at age 15 in New York. A former Wells Fargo banker and a mother of three, she lives here in Atlanta. In February, she filed an online petition, urging President Obama to conduct a study of the issue.

 

She now fields hundreds of text messages, phone calls and social media messages a week from immigrants who want to talk about cutting but have never been able to do so.

 

Ms. Dukureh, who is college-educated and drives — unlike many of her immigrant friends — switches easily among the roles she has adopted in the past few months: caseworker, health educator, political strategist, media coordinator.

 

The questions she gets are both intimate and universal. “I have girls calling me who have been cut, asking: ‘Can I have sex? Will it hurt?’

 

“No one is really talking about this in the U.S.,” she said. “No one knows. When I tell people what we are trying to do, people are in shock.”

 

Representatives Joseph Crowley of New York and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, both Democrats, have also spoken out on the issue. 

 

On Wednesday, they will deliver a letter to Congress and several federal agencies, requesting a national plan to study and address the cutting of American girls.

 

They suggest emulating efforts in Britain, which has established a help line for potential victims, created passport inserts that explain the law regarding female cutting, and delivered repeated warnings to school staff members about the dangers of the practice.

 

Last month, several British law enforcement agencies conducted a weeklong operation at Heathrow Airport intended to catch families sending girls abroad for cutting.

 

In Atlanta, Ms. Dukureh connects daily with 16 girls in places across the country who share messages, videos and fiery self-authored poems using the app WhatsApp.

 

Mariam Camara, 22, and Haddiejatou Ceesay, 19, are the authors of “They took it!” It goes: I had my female cut from me, my sensations stolen and discarded replaced with numbness and pain. My say in the matter? Negligible and disregarded.

 

I was told it was to cleanse me. Purify me, ensure my chastity till the day my husband took me at sunrise.

 

"So they mutilated me, without second thoughts or anesthetics they cut me with razor sharp non-sterilized blades, they sliced me. They took it!"

 

The tradition of female genital cutting is nearly nonexistent in many African and Middle Eastern cultures, but is deeply entrenched in others, and occurs primarily in 29 countries, according to the United Nations. The highest rates are in Somalia (98 percent of women are cut), Guinea (96 percent), Djibouti (93 percent), Eritrea (89 percent) and Mali (89 percent).

 

It can take many forms. Sometimes, a community member cuts just a portion of the clitoris. In the most extensive cases, the clitoris may be removed, the labia are sliced and brought together and a seal is created, leaving a small hole for urination and menstruation.

 

Unlike male circumcision, the practice has no health benefits. Occasionally, it is accompanied by an under-age marriage.

 

Its existence in the United States remains unknown to many American officials, clinicians, teachers and counselors. The reasons are twofold: Immigrant families rarely speak about it to outsiders, and outsiders, often unsure about how to approach the tradition of a foreign culture, do not know how to ask.

 

Those working to end cutting say that they seek to do so in a culturally sensitive way, recognizing the practice’s long history, and gently educating families about its consequences: immediate and long-term physical pain, complications during birth, loss of sexual feeling and mental health issues.

 

One goal, they say, is to dispel the falsehood that the tradition is supported by Islamic law.

 

“They think they’re doing their best for us,” said Naima Abdullahi, 37, a Kenyan-American who was cut at age 9 and now runs a support group in Atlanta for victims. “It’s about engaging the community to talk. Why do we do these things?”

 

Another goal is to teach doctors how to treat women who have been cut.

 

The education process can be difficult. In some families, not being cut can limit a girl’s chances of marriage and isolate her from her community. Parents sometimes agree to a child’s cutting, even if they have reservations.

 

One African social worker living in New York explained that when she learned a 12-year-old client was headed to Mali this summer, she made repeated school visits to educate her about the consequences of genital cutting, plying her with notebooks and other small gifts. 

 

“I’m like, ‘You know you’re going to get married, do you know what that means? Do you know what circumcision is?’ ” said the counselor, who asked that her name not be used so she could protect her client’s privacy. “And she’s like, ‘Yeah, they did it to everybody.’ I ask, ‘Do you think that’s what’s going to happen in Mali?’ And then she shut off. She’s like, ‘My mom told me not talk about that.’ ”

 

“The thing was,” the counselor continued, “if they don’t say that they want the help, we can’t do anything.”

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West Africa states adopt new Ebola strategy

Doctors Save Lives in Guinea
At least 467 people have died of the virus since February, according to the World Health Organization

Health ministers commit to better surveillance and increased local collaboration and engagement with global partners.

 

At least 467 people have died of the virus since February, according to the World Health Organization.

 

West African countries and international health organizations adopted a fresh strategy to fight the world's deadliest Ebola epidemic, which has killed hundreds of people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

 

At a two-day meeting in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, officials committed to better surveillance to detect cases of the virus, enhance cross-border collaboration, better

engagement with local communities and closer cooperation with the United Nations, World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners.

 

Ministers also recommended setting up a sub-regional control centre in Guinea to coordinate technical support.

 

We believe that closing borders is not an option because we believe it would not work. Bernice Dahn, Liberian deputy health minister 

 

The decisions involve governments, the United Nations, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aid agencies and the private sector.

At least 467 people have died of the virus since February, according to WHO.

 

"The governments are required to mobilize relevant sectors, community, religious and political leaders to improve awareness, psycho-social support and understanding of the Ebola situation," Francis Kasolo, WHO Africa director for disease prevention and control, told a news conference.

 

The meeting's final communique made no reference to increased financial support for the effort and there was little detail about how the measures would be implemented. Even so, ministers said the meeting had provided a valuable forum to share ideas.

 

Health ministers also said it was essential for regional bodies such as the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States to lead the effort.

 

There is no plan to close borders in a bid to prevent the spread of the disease but instead efforts at the border to educate people about risks should be stepped up, said Liberian deputy health minister Bernice Dahn.

 

"We believe that closing borders is not an option because we believe it would not work," Dahn said on the sidelines of the conference.

 

"We urge all parties present at this meeting to turn their promises into immediate concrete action on the ground," Marie-Christine Ferir, emergency desk manager for health charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), said in a statement.

 

Confirmed or probable cases

 

Ebola causes fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea and kills up to 90 percent of those it infects. Highly contagious, it is transmitted through contact with blood or other fluids.

 

The current outbreak is hard to control because it involves coordinating three separate governments, which makes devising common health protocols more difficult, a senior international health official said.

At the same time, border areas are quite densely populated and have a high level of social mobility but poor government healthcare services, the official said.

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A look at how West Africa is combating Ebola

A Liberian woman reads an Ebola information poster on the prevention of the Ebola epidemic, during UNICEF's sensitization campaign at the Mission for Today Holy Church, in Newkru Town, Monrovia, Liberia, on June 22, 2014.
A Liberian woman reads an Ebola information poster on the prevention of the Ebola epidemic, during UNICEF's sensitization campaign at the Mission for Today Holy Church, in Newkru Town, Monrovia, Liberia, on June 22, 2014.

The World Health Organization says there is an "urgent need" to coordinate the response across the borders and is convening a meeting in Accra, Ghana on July 1 with the three countries involved as well as other nations that experienced outbreaks in the past.

There is no cure for the deadly disease caused by the Ebola virus which has an incubation period of two to 21 days and starts with fever and fatigue before descending into headaches, vomiting, violent diarrhea and then multiple organ failure and massive internal bleeding.

Ebola was first reported in 1976 in Congo and is named for the river where it was recognized. The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected

person, or objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions. The American Center for Disease Control says the disease most likely reaches humans from infected wildlife, with fruit bats being the most likely candidate.

Ebola kills more than half of its victims and treatment largely consists of keeping the patient hydrated as the disease runs its course.

Combating Ebola is a matter of stopping its spread by educating people on how to protect themselves and isolating the sick and dead — since corpses are still contagious — and figuring out who the infected had contact with in order to isolate them as well.

---

GUINEA

The first case of the outbreak was identified in Guinea on March 21 and since then there have been a total of 396 cases with 280 fatalities as it has spread beyond the remote rural areas to the capital city of Conakry. Experts say the outbreak may have begun as far back as January. Ebola typically begins in remote places and it can take several infections before the disease is identified, making a precise start date virtually impossible to pin down.

Education has been the main strategy of fighting the spread and Guinea has used radio and television spots telling people how to stay safe from the disease and urging them to immediately go to hospitals if they are sick.

One of the main goals is to explain to people how to deal with the dead: Washing the corpse of a victim before burial, as is customary, can transmit the disease.

Volunteers, including survivors of the disease have been recruited in the campaign to educate people, which is also targeting community and religious leaders.

With the help of Doctors without Borders, treatment centers have been set up in the outbreak areas and the World Health Organization has worked to boost the capacity of the labs needed to confirm the virus's presence.

---

LIBERIA

Soon after the outbreak was identified in Guinea, it appeared just across the border in neighboring Liberia on March 30, though since then this small nation has been the least hit with just 63 cases and 41 fatalities.

The Health Ministry has set up treatment centers and started a public service campaign to slow the spread of the disease, including training health professionals to use protective clothing while forbidding hospitals to turn away patients with Ebola symptoms.

They also have forbidden possible victims to be buried without being first tested and issued a death certificate to ensure that there is proper reporting of who has been affected by the disease and who they have been in contact with.

---

SIERRA LEONE

Ebola was identified in Sierra Leone in late May just as it had been hoped the outbreak in Guinea and Liberia was winding down. It has since spread to at least two districts with 176 cases claiming at least 46 lives.

Like the other countries, Sierra Leone formed a national task force with daily meetings and set up treatment centers in the affected areas.

One of the main obstacles to stemming the disease has been combating popular fears which treated the disease as a "demonic" affair. In one recent case in the village of Sadialu, residents burned down the treatment center over fears that the drugs being administered to victims were actually causing the disease.

The Health Ministry has also warned people that sheltering the infected is a crime and lamented that people were escaping from hospitals and hiding.

The local press has also highlighted that for the first month of the outbreak, the government was reporting a substantially lower death toll than the WHO because it was only listing confirmed Ebola fatalities, rather than suspected cases as had been the usual practice.

On Wednesday, WHO announced that it was changing its methodology for reporting Ebola fatalities — just in Sierra Leone — at the government's request, reducing the death toll by 32.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/28/4207278/a-look-at-how-west-africa-is-combating.html#storylink=cpy
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Ebola epidemic in West Africa 'out of control'

Sanjay Gupta
Sanjay Gupta

(CNN) -- The deadly Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has hit "unprecedented" proportions, according to relief workers on the ground.

 

"The epidemic is out of control," Dr. Bart Janssens, director of operations for Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement.

There have been 567 cases and 350 deaths since the epidemic began in March, according to the latest World Health Organization figures.

 

In April, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta traveled to Conakry, Guinea, to report on what was being done to treat patients and contain the outbreak.

"It took only moments to feel the impact of what was happening here," Gupta wrote after landing in Conakry. "There is a lot we know about Ebola, and it scares us almost as much as what we don't know."

 

Ebola outbreaks usually are confined to remote areas, making it easier to contain. But this outbreak is different; patients have been identified in 60 locations in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

 

Officials believe the wide footprint of this outbreak is partly because of the close proximity between the jungle where the virus was first identified and cities such as Conakry. The capital in Guinea has a population of 2 million and an international airport.

 

People are traveling without realizing they're carrying the deadly virus. It can take between two and 21 days after exposure for someone to feel sick.

 

Ebola is a violent killer. The symptoms, at first, mimic the flu: headache, fever, fatigue. What comes next sounds like something out of a horror movie: significant diarrhea and vomiting, while the virus shuts off the blood's ability to clot.

 

As a result, patients often suffer internal and external hemorrhaging. Many die in an average of 10 days.

 

Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, is the only aid organization treating people affected by the virus. Since March, they have sent more than 300 staff members and 40 tons of equipment and supplies to the region to help fight the epidemic.

 

Still, they warn, it's not enough.

 

"Despite the human resources and equipment deployed by MSF in the three affected countries, we are no longer able to send teams to the new outbreak sites."

 

The good news is that Ebola isn't as easily spread as one may think. A patient isn't contagious -- meaning they can't spread the virus to other people -- until they are already showing symptoms.

 

Serious protective measures

Inside the isolation treatment areas in Conakry, doctors focus on keeping the patients hydrated with IV drips and other liquid nutrients. Health officials have urged residents to seek treatment at the first sign of flu-like symptoms.

 

There is no cure or vaccine to treat Ebola, but MSF has shown it doesn't have to be a death sentence if it's treated early. Ebola typically kills 90% of patients. This outbreak, the death rate has dropped to roughly 60%.

 

Gupta describes the scene outside an isolation ward in Guinea:

Before the doctors go into the isolation ward, Gupta says, they stop in a separate tent beforehand to gear up.

 

Healthcare workers dressed in scrubs and thick white rubber boots. They slipped on blue latex gloves, then a thick yellow impermeable suit, followed by a mask, then a white hood with another mask built into it. A pair of large clear goggles went over the hood, and then a large white apron.

 

"It has to be this way for these doctors and nurses who knowingly expose themselves to Ebola," Gupta wrote. "But you have to wonder what goes through the minds of the patients, seeing these rubber-clad aliens looming in front of them."

 

MSF says they'll continue to isolate and treat Ebola patients in West Africa with the resources they have available, but they urge a "massive deployment" by regional governments and aid agencies to help stop the epidemic.

 

World Health Organization officials say they're planning high-level meetings for the Minister of Health in the subregion July 2-3 to discuss the deployment of additional resources and experts to the area.

 

 

The outbreak will be considered contained after 42 days -- twice the incubation period -- with no new Ebola cases.

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$50mil to Revamp Electricity Sector in Guinea

Africa electricity
Electric in Guinee

Priyanka Shrestha Infrastructure & Generation, Markets & Finance 0

 

The electricity sector in Guinea is getting a $50 million (£29.5m) boost which is expected to benefit around 1.5 million people in the West African nation.

 

The cash will be used for the Power Sector Recovery Project, which will help improve the “technical and commercial performance” of the national power utility, the Electricite de Guinee (EDG).

It will also fund the rehabilitation and upgrade of the national distribution system to improve electricity reliability and reduce power cuts in the country.

 

Moez Cherif, Task Team Leader for the project at the World Bank, which is providing the loan said: “Lack of investment and maintenance of power infrastructure in Guinea for many years, combined with poor management of the national power utility, has led to widespread power shortages for households and businesses.

 

“Today’s project, in combination with investments that are supported by other donors, aims to address those issues, thus leading to increased and more reliable power supply, which in turn will facilitate economic growth and job creation.”

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Guinean President donates tractors to farmers

President of Guinea
Alpha Conde

President Alpha Conde of Guinea has offered 24 tractors and 75 motorized pumps to a group of young farmers from 26 settlements in the country.

 

President Conde said the donation was intended to reduce rural exodus and explained that in three years, government has invested 70 billion CFA francs in agriculture.

 

The donation falls within the framework of a program dubbed “Hope for Young Farmers in Guinea,†in the form of a revolving credit by the Youth Ministry.

 

According to the Minister of Youth, Moustapha Naite, the project will generate over 20,000 jobs in the rural area.

In response, the beneficiaries’ spokesman Cesar Tolno of the Agricultural and Friendship Cooperative (CAPA) explained that the donation would help them expand their farmlands, create job opportunit

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Over 1 Million in Guinea Get Meningitis Vaccine

Vaccine
Vaccine

VoA - News Tuesday 17th June, 2014

 

DAKAR, SENEGAL - More than 1.1 million people have been successfully vaccinated against meningitis in eastern Guinea, according to the country's Ministry of Health, the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Health Organization (WHO).

 

Health workers in Guinea say the mass vaccination campaign could help stop a deadly outbreak of meningitis, which has claimed at least 52 lives since the first cases were reported in January.

 

The country had an estimated 400 suspected cases last year, according to the WHO.

Meningitis, which inflames the protective tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord, is passed from person to person by way of bacteria that live in the throat. It most often affects children and young adults. According to the WHO website, symptoms commonly include headaches, high fever and a stiff neck. Meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial form of the illness, can cause severe brain damage and, if untreated, kills half its victims.

 

Experts say vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease and stop its spread.

 

"In Guinea, only [around] 35 percent of the children are fully vaccinated," said Timothy La Rose, spokesman for the U.N. Children's Fund in Guinea.

 

La Rose, in an interview with VOA in the capital city of Conakry, said UNICEF had joined with the government, WHO and other partners to launch "a campaign to vaccinate 95 percent of people ages 1 to 29 who live in the affected areas."

 

Guinea lies in the "meningitis belt," a part of Africa stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east that sees regular outbreaks of the disease.

 

La Rose said UNICEF and its partners also conducted community awareness campaigns to educate people about meningitis and the importance of getting vaccinated.

 

Previous vaccination campaigns either have halted or dramatically slowed outbreaks, he said.

 

Communicating information is one hurdle in the vaccination campaign. Building sufficient infrastructure is another.

 

La Rose pointed out that the vaccines generally need to be refrigerated. "You can imagine in a country with electricity problems and infrastructure issues, it can be quite a challenge," he said, adding it was a challenge "to keep the cold chain strong so that the vaccinations would not expire or go bad during the transport and delivery."

 

Incidentally, a pilot program indicated constant refrigeration was not essential for delivering viable meningitis vaccine in rural Africa, JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported earlier this year, citing study results published in the journal Vaccine.

 

La Rose said UNICEF has been working with local health centers to distribute antibiotics to treat children who contract meningitis.

 

He said UNICEF plans to offer a second round of vaccinations later this year.

 

- See more at: http://www.bignewsnetwork.com/index.php/sid/223000773#sthash.VSXvgJvJ.dpuf

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Guinea opposition pulls out of parliament, threatening protests

Protests Guinea
Protests Guinea

(Reuters) - Guinea's main opposition parties withdrew from parliament on Monday and threatened to hold street protests over delays in organizing local elections promised in a political deal with the government last year. Mineral-rich Guinea completed its transition to civilian rule with parliamentary elections last year but tensions run deep between the rival camps and protests frequently turn violent.

 

Although many in the political class have already turned their attention to 2015 elections in which President Alpha Conde is expected to seek a second term, local elections were due to be held early this year, according to the deal signed between rival parties in 2013.

"We have decided to withdraw from the National Assembly," Aboubacar Sylla, a spokesman for the opposition alliance, told journalists on Monday.

 

"At the same time, we are organizing protests on the main roads and in public places to denounce the attitude of the government, which is refusing to stick to the agreements signed on July 3," Sylla added.

 

The July 2013 agreement laid out a road map for last year's parliamentary vote and the local elections. The government has not given any reason for the delay in holding the vote.

 

A government spokesman said the opposition's decision was a surprise as they had recently been in contact with the prime minister over holding talks.

 

"We regret that the opposition, which claims to have the country's best interests at heart, withdraws just as concrete progress is being made," Damantang Albert Camara told Reuters.

 

Conde and his allies secured a majority in last year's vote but the opposition alliance controls 54 seats in the 114-seat parliament.

 

Their absence would mean some laws that require the presence of two-thirds of parliament for votes cannot be passed.

 

It would also undermine efforts to deepen democracy in a country that is rich in minerals but has seen little but dictatorship and misrule since independence from France.

 

Underscoring the importance of the parliamentary vote last year, the European Union released 140 million euros ($192 million) in aid soon after it was held.

 

No details were given for when demonstrations might start. Last year's vote was repeatedly delayed and dozens of people were killed in protests over preparations for the election.

 

The International Monetary Fund said on Monday that it expects economic growth to rebound later this year after social and political tensions saw it slow to 2.3 percent in 2013 and an outbreak of Ebola virus weighed on the economy in 2014.

 

Guinea's iron ore mines are home to some of the world's biggest untapped reserves and have attracted investments from the world's biggest mining firms, including Rio Tinto and Vale.

 

However, political instability in the run-up to last year's election unnerved investors.

 

(Additional reporting by Anna Yukhananov in Washington; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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Alpha Conde moots ruling party restructuring

Boston Drums
Alpha Conde

Guinean president, Alpha Conde has underlined the need for his ruling Rally of the Guinean People (RPG-Rainbow) to undergo massive restructuring ahead of the next elections.
Conde said this is to address the lack of confidence between its leadership and the grassroots.

 

Speaking on the sidelines of the party’s weekly traditional meeting held at Hamdallaye, President Conde pointed out that he was not dishing out instructions but taking stock of the situation surrounding the rainbow coalition.

 

There is a crisis of confidence between the sympathizers and the officials. And let me be clear, when members of the party want their leaders changed it simply means that the latter are not workingâ€, the Guinean leader pointed out.

Conde said the party which won 53 seats out of the 114 up for grabs during the last legislative polls, is presently undermined by “lies and lack of confidence.

Alpha Conde who could not come to terms with his party’s defeat in five Conakry communes had promised to remake the structures of the RPG-Rainbow by selling membership cards.

 

Leading Guinea’s main opposition for decades, President Conde came to power as president in December 2010 at the end of a transition presided over by the military.

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Senegal re-opens border with Guinea as Ebola threat eases

Boston drummer
Health workers wearing protective suits walk in an isolation center for people infected with Ebola at Donka Hospital in Conakry on April 14, 2014 (AFP Photo/Cellou Binani)

DAKAR May 6 (Reuters) - Senegal reopened its border with Guinea on Tuesday, over a month after it sealed land crossings with its southern neighbour to try to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus that has killed dozens in Guinea.

 

The move comes days after Guinea's President Alpha Conde said the 4-month outbreak - which has spread from Guinea's remote southeast to the capital, Conakry, and also into neighbouring Liberia - was under control.

 

"Border crossings with Guinea have been open since 8 a.m. this morning," Mbaye Sadi Diop, an advisor in Senegal's interior ministry, told Reuters on Tuesday.

 

The threat of the virus has put a string of weak national health systems under strain across the region and governments said it posed a threat to national security.

However, Guinea has complained that its neighbours had over-reacted and United Nations health officials have said there was no need for borders to be closed, even though they admitted this was one of the most challenging outbreaks ever faced.

 

Guinea has revised down its official figures for the death toll from Ebola and now only refers to cases that have been confirmed by laboratory tests. As of May 2, Guinea's government said there had been 81 deaths from 127 confirmed cases of Ebola. Previously cases of haemorrhagic fever suspected of being Ebola were included and the death toll in Guinea passed 122.

 

Between April 17 and May 1, Guinean health authorities recorded another six cases of haemorrhagic fever that were being monitored, the government said.

Liberia has recorded 13 deaths from Ebola but suspected cases in Sierra Leone, Mali and Gambia have tested negative.

 

Ebola is endemic to a number of countries in Central Africa and scientists believed the outbreak in West Africa was the Zaire strain until research published last month showed that a new strain had emerged in Guinea. 

 

(Reporting by Diadie Ba; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Daniel Flynn)

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Guinea Opposition Says Stability Hangs on Transparency in Vote

Guinea Voting
Voting in Guinea

By Jesse Riseborough and Pauline Bax

 

Guinea’s leading opposition politician, Cellou Dalein Diallo, said the country’s stability will hinge on the transparency of a 2015 presidential election, in which he plans to run against President Alpha Conde.

 

The head of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea said in a May 2 interview in London that he has enough support to win the vote and warned that any attempt to rig the ballot may result in violence. Diallo challenged the outcome of the 2010 presidential election in court and also rejected the results of a legislative ballot last year.

“If the elections are not transparent, there won’t be any peace and stability in Guinea,” he said through an interpreter, adding that his supporters accepted the results of the 2010 election, which they say were flawed. “In 2015, my electorate will not accept that, even if I ask them to. They will kill me and claim their victory. This is how it is in politics.”

 

The 2010 election was hailed as the first democratic transfer of power in Guinea since it gained independence from France in 1958. The country, where more than half the population of 10 million lives below the poverty line, is the world’s biggest exporter of bauxite, used to make aluminum.

 

Diallo has repeatedly accused Conde of rigging the second round of the 2010 election, which was delayed twice after Diallo received the most votes -- 44 percent -- in the first round. Conde, who won 18 percent of the vote in the first round and 53 percent in the second, has rejected the allegations.

 

Government Guarantee

“We can guarantee the political parties that the 2015 presidential elections will be transparent,” Minister of Communication, Alhoussein Makanera Kake, said by phone on May 2. “It doesn’t make sense when Cellou Dalein Diallo says the presidential elections will be rigged by those in power. Guineans have other things to worry about than listening to threats of destabilization or unrest.”

 

The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, said last year that Conde’s government showed contempt for the opposition by refusing to engage in dialogue. Political disagreement over the electoral process has sparked regular outbreaks of violence between opposition members and Conde supporters since 2011, most often in the capital, Conakry.

 

“We are organizing ourselves to request that the conditions for a free and fair election to be put in place,” Diallo said. “We have already started seeing some difficulties with President Conde because he doesn’t want that.”

 

Ethnic Support

Diallo draws support from the Peul, one of two main ethnic groups in the country, alongside the Malinke. He has accused Conde, a Malinke, of ethnic favoritism and using the security forces against the Peul.

 

The government’s review of mining licenses, which last month resulted in Brazil’s Vale SA (VALE:US), the biggest iron ore exporter, and billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s mining company being stripped of mineral rights, has deterred investors, Diallo said.

 

“We encourage any revision that can benefit Guinea and the Guinean people, but we shouldn’t scare away investors,” he said. “We need to find a win-win situation where the Guinean people will benefit from it, but also the investors would benefit from it.”

 

To contact the reporters on this story: Jesse Riseborough in London at jriseborough@bloomberg.net; Pauline Bax in Accra at pbax@bloomberg.net

 

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net Andres R. Martinez, Paul Richardson

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Guinea reports six more Ebola cases

DrumConnection
Scientist

Guinea's health ministry has reported six more cases in the country's Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, lifting the total to 224, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in an update yesterday.

 

So far, of 202 patients tested, 121 have been lab confirmed, the agency said. Two more deaths have been reported, pushing that number to 143, an increase of 2 since the WHO's previous update on Apr 25.

The new cases are from only two of the outbreak's six locations: Conakry, Guinea's capital, and Guekedou. The WHO said last week that the outbreak situation appears to be improving, but it said today that it's likely that Guinea officials will report more new cases in the weeks ahead. 
Apr 28 WHO 

 

In related developments, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today shared more details about a software tool it developed that health officials in Guinea are using to respond to the outbreak.

 

In an Apr 9 statement, the WHO said responders were updating Epi Info, an outbreak information management system, with data from the field and that it would be used as the main portal for all partners.

 

The CDC said in a press release that the viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) application is designed to speed up contact tracing, one of the most challenging steps in investigating an outbreak. The Epi Info VHF tool also helps collect and manage epidemiologic, clinical, and laboratory information for each case. The system is designed to easily work in locations where Internet network connections are limited.

 

The CDC began developing the software in 2012 following Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fever outbreaks in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 
Apr 29 CDC 

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Guinea Ebola Cases in Decline

Ebola
Ebola

CAPE TOWN – Although fewer cases of Ebola hemorrhagic fever are being reported in Guinea the outbreak is still being treated as an epidemic, Doctors Without Borders said on Tuesday.

 

According to the health ministry’s latest figures, more than 140 people have died in Guinea and Liberia.

 

Ebola spread to Conakry in March , a city of some two million people, signalling an escalation of the outbreak in one of the world’s poorest nations.

 

Doctors Without Borders Guinea spokesperson Sam Taylor says the infection rate appears to be slowing down.

“Our activities are continuing even though, to be honest, we don’t have that many patients at the moment.

 

“We have six patients in Guéckédou in the south of the country. We have four patients in Conakry in the capital. We have zero patients in our first treatment centre.”

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West Africa Ebola outbreak among 'most challenging' ever: WHO

Drumming Boston
Map of African containment of the virus

Geneva (AFP) - West Africa's Ebola unprecedented outbreak is among the "most challenging" for health workers since the deadly disease emerged elsewhere in Africa four decades ago as the suspected death toll topped 100, the WHO said Tuesday.

 

Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said the agency was concerned about the spread of the virus from its epicentre in the forests of southern Guinea.

 

"We have not had an Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa before," said Fukuda, whose agency has rushed scores of aid workers to the region to contain the epidemic.

 

"This is one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks we have

ever faced," he said.

 

The most severe strains have had a 90 percent fatality rate, and there is no vaccine, cure or specific treatment.

 

The outbreak has sparked fear in Guinea, where a mob in the south of the country last week attacked international aid workers, who they blame for bringing the haemorrhagic fever.

 

"It's absolutely critical to get out as much accurate information as possible to communities and the countries affected, to reduce the rumours, so that people have facts to work with," Fukuda unedlined said.

 

"Ebola is clearly a severe disease. It's an infection with a high fatality rate. But it's also an infection that can be controlled," he said.

 

According to fresh WHO figures released Tuesday, there have been 157 suspected cases in Guinea, 101 of them fatal. Of those, 67 have been confirmed as Ebola victims by laboratory tests.

 

Twenty of the cases have been in the capital Conakry, a sprawling port city on Guinea's Atlantic coast and home to up between 1.5 million and two million people.

 

The WHO has not recommended any trade and travel restrictions for Guinea.

But other countries across west Africa have been bracing against the epidemic, with Senegal closing its border with Guinea.

 

"We have everything in place to take measures against Ebola. We have a well-oiled system, which we are perfecting daily," Senegal's Health Minister Eva Marie Coll Seck said Tuesday after visiting the port and airport in the capital, Dakar.

 

The disease is a particular concern for Senegal because it is a leading tourist destination in the region, with arrivals topping one million in 2011, according to the World Bank.

 

- 'Need to remain vigilant' -

 

In Liberia, there have been 21 cases, including 10 fatalities, of which five have been confirmed as Ebola.

 

There have also been two suspected cases in Sierra Leone, affecting people believed to have been infected in southern Guinea but who died over the border.

 

In Mali, there have been nine suspected cases, with tests so far showing two of them did not have the virus.

 

A suspected case in Ghana meanwhile turned out not to be Ebola.

 

"Obviously there is a risk that other countries might be affected, therefore we absolutely need to remain vigilant," said Stephane Hugonnet, a WHO medical officer who returned last weekend from Guinea Forestiere, the southern hotbed.

 

"Clearly in Guinea Forestiere the outbreak is not over. This is the epicentre of the outbreak, and as long as this is not controlled there, there may be cases being exported from Guinea Forestiere in the rest of the country and likely in other countries," he added.

 

Ebola was first recorded in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

The largest-ever outbreak was in 2000-2001 in Uganda, with 425 cases, half of whom died, according to WHO data. Until the Guinea outbreak, the last recorded Ebola cases had been in 2012 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 29 people died.

 

Ebola leads to haemorrhagic fever, causing muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in severe cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.The chances of survival increase if patients are kept hydrated and treated for secondary infections.

 

The virus can be transmitted to humans who handle sick or dead wild animals -- believed to be its original source -- and between humans through direct contact with another's blood, faeces or sweat. Sexual contact, or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses, can also lead to infection.

 

Ebola's spread can be stemmed by identifying the sick and tracing those with whom they have had contact -- more than 600 people, according to Hugonnet -- and applying infection-control measures in homes and clinics.

 

"We fully expect to be engaged in this outbreak for another two, three, four months," said Fukuda.

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Crowd attacks Ebola treatment center in Guinea

CONAKRY, GUINEA — A crowd angry about an Ebola outbreak that has killed 86 people across Guinea attacked a center where victims were being held in isolation, prompting an international aid group to temporarily evacuate its team, officials said Saturday.

 

The violence took place in the southern town of Macenta, where at least 14 people have died since the outbreak emerged last month. The mob who descended upon the clinic accused Doctors

Without Borders health workers of bringing Ebola to Guinea, where there had never previously been any cases.

 

Some young people threw rocks at the aid workers, though no one was seriously hurt, said Sam Taylor, a spokesman for Doctors Without Borders.

 

"We understand very well that people are afraid because it is a new disease here," Taylor said. "But these are not favorable working conditions so we are suspending our activities."

 

Patients are continuing to receive treatment from Guinean health ministry personnel, Taylor said.

 

Guinea's government swiftly condemned the attack, saying that Doctors Without Borders and other international aid groups are key to stopping the spread of Ebola.

 

"The international community has rapidly mobilized to help us in these difficult moments with considerable medical support and specialists on the ground at the disease's epicenter," the statement said. "That's why the government is calling on people to stay calm and allow our partners to help us eradicate this epidemic."

 

There is no cure for Ebola, which causes fever and severe bleeding, and up to 90 percent of patients die from the strain of the virus that has been detected in Guinea. Some patients are held for observation, and then transferred to another area if they are confirmed to have Ebola.

 

Confusion about the process has prompted misinformation in this remote corner of Guinea. Resident Kolie Martin accused doctors of transferring patients to the isolation ward who had not tested positive for Ebola.

 

"As soon as someone is brought here, they don't try to figure out whether he is sick or not, they just transfer him directly to the sick ward. So it's them who are killing the people who are in good health," Martin said.

 

A total of 86 people have died so far from Ebola in Guinea and two other confirmed deaths have been reported in neighboring Liberia. Authorities in Mali are also investigating three suspected cases of Ebola, and they have sent samples overseas for testing.

 

Experts say that Ebola is carried by fruit bats living in West Africa, and that it could have been transmitted to a human who ate a bat or another animal that had bitten by a bat. Health officials emphasize it can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is infected. But that hasn't stopped fear and misinformation from spreading.

 

In Guinea, passengers aboard a crowded bus fled at the sight of an elderly man who vomited, fearing he was ill with Ebola. In Mali, people protested in the neighborhood where the suspected Ebola patients were being isolated, fearing their presence.

 

An Air France flight from the Guinean capital that landed in Paris on Friday was briefly quarantined after the crew discovered indications that a passenger had been sick in the toilets. After medical checks on board the flight, the 180 passengers and 11 crew members were released, Air France said.

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Virus in Guinea capital Conakry NOT Ebola

There is no known cure or vaccine for Ebola
There is no known cure or vaccine for Ebola

Tests on the suspected cases of deadly Ebola virus in Guinea's capital Conakry are negative, health officials say.

 

On Sunday, United Nations officials said that the virus had spread to the capital, a port city of up to two million, from remote forests in the south, where some 61 people have died.

 

The government has sent out text messages, urging people to stay calm and wash their hands with soap.

Ebola is spread by close contact and kills between 25% and 90% of victims. There is no known cure or vaccine. Symptoms include internal and external bleeding, diarrhoea and vomiting.

 

There are fears that Ebola could spread quickly in the bustling city of Conakry. Neighbouring countries such as Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone are said to be on high alert in case the disease spreads.

 

Five people are already reported to have died in Liberia after crossing from southern Guinea for treatment, Liberia's Health Minister Walter Gwenigale told journalists.

 

However, it is not clear whether they had Ebola.

 

The BBC's Jonathan Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Liberia says the country's health facilities are closer and more accessible to Guineans living on the border than those in big Guinean cities.

Cross-border trade is huge between the two countries, which share some cultural and linguistic ties, he adds.

 

Mr Gwenigale confirmed tests were being carried out on those who had died. He also urged people to avoid close contact with people, such as shaking hands and kissing.

 

Guinea is also currently grappling with epidemics of measles, cholera and meningitis. It is said to be the first time Ebola has struck Guinea, with recent outbreaks thousands of miles away, in Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

There have been 87 cases so far, with 61 deaths, according to Guinea's health ministry. After two people died from a haemorrhagic fever in Conakry, samples were sent to the Pasteur Institute in neighbouring Senegal for testing.

 

WHO spokesman Collins Boakye-Agyemang told the BBC these had shown that the victims had not been infected with Ebola. It is not known what killed them.

 

Outbreaks of Ebola occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests, the World Health Organization says.

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Guinea confirms Ebola as source of epidemic

Guinea Disease

Medical experts identify highly contagious virus in epidemic that has killed 59 people in the West African nation.

 

Guinea's government raised the death toll in the Ebola epidemic raging through its southern forests to 59.

The health ministry told the AFP news agency workers battling to contain the outbreak in the border region had added a further 25 deaths to the toll of 34 given earlier on Saturday, with a total of 80 cases registered.

"The Ebola fever epidemic raging in southern Guinea, including the prefectures of Gueckedou and Macenta, since February 9 has left at least 59 dead out of 80 cases identified by our services on the ground," said Sakoba Keita, the ministry's chief disease prevention officer.

"We are overwhelmed in the field, we are fighting against this epidemic with all the means we have at our disposal with the help of our partners but it is difficult. But we will get there," he told AFP.

No vaccine

To date, no treatment or vaccine is available for Ebola, which kills between 25 and 90 percent of those who fall sick, depending on the strain of the virus, according to the World Health Organisation.

The disease is transmitted by direct contact with blood, faeces or sweat, or by sexual contact or unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.

Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a statement it would strengthen its team of 24 doctors, nurses, logisticians and experts in hygiene and sanitation already in Guinea.

The organisation has set up isolation units for suspected cases in the southern region of Nzerekore and is looking for people who may have had contact with the infected.

'Highly contagious'

"These structures are essential to prevent the spread of the disease, which is highly contagious," said MSF tropical medicine adviser Esther Sterk said.

"Specialised staff are providing care to patients showing signs of infection."

MSF said it was sending around 33 tonnes of medicines and isolation, sanitation and protective equipment in two planes leaving from Belgium and France.

Ebola, one of the world's most virulent diseases, was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1976 and the country has had eight outbreaks.

The most recent epidemic, in the DRC, infected 62 people and left 34 dead between May and November 2012, according to the country's health ministry.

There are fears it could be used in a biological weapons attack.

According to researchers, the virus multiplies quickly, overwhelming the immune system's ability to fight the infection.

A medic in Monrovia told AFP on condition of anonymity that Liberia was at considerable risk from the disease.

"We have a 90 percent chance of having cases in Monrovia because about 80 percent of goods on the Liberian market come from Guinea," he said.

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GUINEA: Obstacles, omens and opportunities

Boston Drums

Recent History in Guinea

 

 

President Alpha Condé: Promising to steer a new course for GuineaDAKAR, 21 March 2011 (IRIN) - Alpha Condé, a former student activist, trade unionist, radical publisher, lecturer, political prisoner and exiled opposition leader, finally took over the presidency of Guinea at 72. 

Sworn in on 2 December 2010 before 13 African heads of state, Condé promised: "I say loud and clear: poverty and underdevelopment in the Republic of Guinea does not to have to be our destiny." 

 

But Condé admits to having inherited empty state coffers and daunting social and economic problems. The prices of key commodities have risen sharply in the markets of Conakry. A sack of rice that was about 175,000 Guinean francs (US$23) before the elections is now 280,000 francs ($36). The government imported 35 tons of rice, which sold for 160,000 francs a sack, but supplies were limited. There have been similar rises in commodities such as sugar and peanut oil. Ironically, as Guinea loses its pariah status and attempts to become a functioning democracy, living costs are increasing and patience is being severely tested. 

 

"There has been no change yet," says Mariame Sacko, out shopping in the market. "We are in a difficult position. You can see for yourself that everything in the market is expensive." 

 

Yolande Guilavogui agrees. "Prices have more than doubled, but you don't see any increase in salaries. If it continues like that, we find ourselves risking being put in the street." 

 

Blame game 

 

The price hikes have been blamed in some quarters on local traders, overwhelmingly from the Peul community, engaging in profiteering. But there have been warnings too of a dangerous simplification of complex problems. 

 

"People are engaging in a false debate," a local journalist told IRIN. "How can people say that it is bureau de change owners [accused of currency speculation] and Peul traders [one of the two big ethnic groups] who are responsible for inflation and rocketing prices in the market?" 

 

He accused Condé and his supporters of allowing Peul traders to be made scapegoats. He pointed out that Condé's election campaign had focused strongly on the poor governance and mishandling of the economy under previous regimes, but once in office Condé had chosen former ministers of the same discredited administrations. 

 

Ministers have also publicized budgetary problems from the previous administrations, hinting at profligacy and a lack of accountability on the part of the previous military leaders in charge. A Conakry-based diplomat acknowledged that "the financial situation is even worse than Condé and his colleagues had feared". 

 

Inclusion or division? 

 

The challenges go well beyond a bruised economy. While the elections won by Condé were markedly freer and fairer than any held previously, they were marred by ominous outbreaks of violence between the Peul and Malinké. Condé and his party, the Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinée (RPG), faced persistent accusations from opponents of playing the ethnic card and mobilizing a coalition to block the political advancement of the Peul, in this case represented by defeated candidate, former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, leader of the Union des forces démocratiques de Guinée (UFDG) from the Peul heartland of Fouta Djallon, or Moyenne Guinée. 

 

While Condé's speeches have highlighted the need for inclusivity and an end to sectarianism, there has been no easy accommodation with the opposition. Diallo has repeated accusations that Condé is far from being a peacemaker and unifier, and has demanded wholesale changes in the Commission Electorale nationale Indépendante (CENI) before legislative elections can take place. 

 

Senior human rights activist Thierno Madjou Sow, who is president of the Organization Guinéene de Défense des Droits de l'homme (OGDH), acknowledges that Condé had inherited a country where education, health, infrastructure and public administration have been allowed to go into steep decline and was "starting from zero". 

 

However, for Sow Condé's pledges on change counted for little so far. "We are all used to speeches," Sow told IRIN. "But we have seen no real signals from Condé. We want concrete measures. 

 

Impunity is the norm; perpetrators of past violence and human rights violations have gone unpunished, including those responsible for massive human rights violations "It should be remembered that we came close to a situation of genocide in the last elections," Sow told IRIN. He cited in particular areas such as Siguri in the northeast, "where thousands of people whose families had lived there for over 100 years were forced to flee because they were no longer seen as Guineans". 

 

A report by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide after a mission to Guinea in March 2010 offered a bleak account of past atrocities and the state's inability deal with them effectively. "Impunity is the norm; perpetrators of past violence and human rights violations have gone unpunished, including those responsible for massive human rights violations committed during the previous regimes of Sékou Touré and Lansana Conté." 

 

Sow said nothing had changed with the election of Condé. "Look at the events of September 28, 2009, when you had hundreds of people killed at the stadium, thousands more injured, women and girls raped and killed in public. But it's as if nothing happened." Sow says despite the interest of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the support of other bodies, the Guinean government was doing little to bring the perpetrators of the stadium massacre to justice. 

 

What to do with soldiers? 

 

A major concern for both civil society activists and international partners is the continuing strength of the military. But as the International Crisis Group (ICG) noted in a report, Reforming the Army, issued in September 2010, restructuring and scaling down the armed forces will not be easy. "The army's well-deserved reputation for indiscipline and resistance to democratic civilian rule is a product of its troubled past," the ICG warned. Successive regimes have built up their own patronage networks, often favouring troops from their own ethnic group and/or home region, or recruiting from outside. As the ICG pointed out, Guinea plays host to "multiple militias and irregulars". 

 

Where is the wealth? 

 

Despite the country's mineral wealth, Guinea came 156th out of 169 in the UN Development Programme's Human Development Index (HDI) for 2010. Development analysts are quick to concede there is no prospect of the country meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There is a unique opportunity to make more of Guinea's resources, particularly bauxite and iron ore. But there are obvious caveats about corporate interests and Guinea's own priorities and the extent to which partnerships that look lucrative on paper will deliver employment, amenities and major new revenue streams. 

 

Overcoming poverty 

 

The International Fund for Agricultural Development's (IFAD) Country Strategic Opportunities Programme (COSOP) for 2009-2014 highlights key priorities for the 75 percent of the population in rural areas: only 1.2 million hectares of land cultivated when 6.2 million ha should be available; the low levels of mechanization and agro-inputs; the small size and non-sustainability of farms; the high level of post-harvest losses and the weakness of local market systems. Condé's campaign speeches made frequent references to the need for food self-sufficiency in Guinea and a steady move away from food imports, but Guineans point out that that is contingent on significantly improving productivity. 

 

Helen Keller International People are hungry for change, and just plain hungry Child nutrition remains a major problem, as are maternal and infant mortality. Helen Keller International (HKI), a long-established NGO in Guinea, has attributed 18 percent of maternal deaths and 23 percent of peri-natal deaths to anaemia, and warned of the continuing dangers of Vitamin A deficiency. An under-resourced health service has struggled to work effectively against malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. The severe flooding in September 2010 exposed the fragility of the water system, leaving thousands vulnerable to water-borne diseases. 

 

Humanitarian headaches 

 

Condé's early focus on social and humanitarian issues has been applauded by Guinea's aid partners, but there are also longstanding concerns about capacity and funding. Speaking from Kankan in eastern Guinea, the head of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Guinea, Julien Harnais, said initial signals were promising. "On the positive side, there is a government that is concerned about the population," Harnais told IRIN. "The challenge the country is going to have is in converting good intentions into good results for kids." 

 

The wealth of Guinea's resources has been repeatedly documented. In addition to the huge reserves of iron ore and bauxite, there are large deposits of diamonds and gold, as well as titanium, manganese, copper, nickel, zircon, platinum and uranium. "There are a lot of companies coming in, but we must choose those that can really bring something to Guinea," Condé has emphasized. "It is for us to defend our own interests, to create competition between different interests and work out who is bringing most to Guinea." 

 

Condé has been circumspect about the government's approach to investors, telling reporters: "There will be three to five difficult months, since we've decided not to renegotiate contracts but instead to define a new mining policy." 

 

At a recent meeting in Conakry, the Publish What You Pay coalition argued for communities in mining areas to be directly involved in discussions on contracts. Civil society activists hope that Guinea's renewed membership of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) may help create more transparency and accountability. Whatever corporate players come and go, small-scale artisanal mining will remain a crucial, if modest, source of income for large sections of the population. 

 

Artisanal mining has been practised since at least the 12th century and offers a modest livelihood to hundreds of thousands of Guineans today, particularly in the northeastern gold belt region of Haute-Guinée and in the riverbeds and other alluvial sites in the southeast. Conditions remain precarious. A technical mission by the Blacksmith Institution and the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in 2006 warned of serious safety and sanitation concerns and suggested artisanal mining in Guinea was a long way behind other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, describing the gold processing methods used as "the most primitive ones on the planet". 

 

Exploiting assets 

 

Guinea has the world's largest deposits of bauxite, accounting for more than one-third of the world's known reserves. Bauxite and alumina constitute about 60 percent of exports and generate a quarter of the country's tax revenues. Production was initially dominated by a French company, Pechiney Ugine, but others from North America, Russia, Australia and the Middle East have become involved. 

 

As the International Monetary Fund () has noted, "Annual production of bauxite is very low considering the proven reserves," while the sector's contribution to GDP and taxes has declined. Factors behind this under-achievement include: taxation problems, difficulties in relations between governments and corporations and a weak investment climate. 

 

Given that a ton of alumina (aluminium oxide) is worth more than 10 times a ton of bauxite, industry analysts have long argued for sustained investment in the domestic transformation of bauxite to alumina. Finally, this looks likely to happen, with several new projects at various stages of development. 

 

Guinea is reported to have more than four billion tons of high-grade iron ore. The main deposits are in the Simandou hills, near Nzérékoré in the southeastern Guinée Forestière region, and at Kalia, 360km east of Conakry, just north of Guinea's border with Sierra Leone. 

 

For gold, the open-pit Siguiri gold mine 850km northeast of Conakry has a proven reserve of about 60 million tons. Relations with the previous government proved difficult at times but South African group AngloGold says it is optimistic about the new administration. The other major gold-producing belt is the Lefa Corridor, 700km northeast of Conakry. 

 

Diamond production has risen and fallen in recent years, but Guinea can normally be expected to produce at least 500,000 carats, while total reserves are estimated at between 20 and 25 million carats. As with the gold sector, artisanal mining dominates, with thousands working in the riverbeds in the southeast. 

 

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

 

Original story

The material contained in this article is from IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.

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2 killed in protests in Guinea over power cuts

Drumming Boston
Boys pick up stones during a demonstration in Conakry, Guinea on February 18, 2014 (AFP, Cellou Diallo)

(Reuters) - At least two people were killed and 30 others injured in Guinea's capital Conakry on Tuesday when protests against frequent power cuts turned violent and the offices of a Brazilian construction firm were attacked.

 

The protests reflect Guineans' growing frustration with their government over the lack of development in their West African state, which despite its wealth in minerals remains mired in poverty after decades of misrule.

 

Guinea government spokesman Damatang Albert Camara, told Reuters two people including a gendarme officer were killed, but

did not give details. He added that Guinea's prime minister will address the nation later on Tuesday.

 

Legislative elections late last year completed a transition back to civilian rule after a 2008 military coup. President Alpha Conde is under intense pressure to deliver concrete change ahead of the next presidential vote in 2015.

 

The population lacks even the most basic social services and the country's infrastructure is in urgent need of improvement.

 

Security forces around the Lansanayah neighborhood fired tear gas and beat protesters with batons, according to residents, some of whom said they heard gunfire.

 

"A youth died after being hit by a vehicle (belonging to the security forces). I saw the body," resident Aissatou Diallo told Reuters.

 

Some in the crowds attacked the local offices of Brazilian firm OAS, a privately-owned engineering and infrastructure development company which is involved in a number of public works projects. It was not clear why the company was targeted.

 

There was nobody available for comment at OAS in Conakry but a foreign diplomat, who declined to be identified, said one of the firm's local employees was injured.

 

The power cuts in a number of Conakry neighborhoods in recent weeks have angered residents.

 

The government's plan to improve electricity production has been undermined by trouble connecting an extra 100 megawatts of capacity recently installed at a plant in Tombo to the Guinean power grid.

 

As a result, the government has had to hire an additional 50 MW of power supply from British firm Aggreko at a cost of $10 million every six months.

Guinea is the world's top bauxite exporter and is home to some of the world's largest untapped iron ore reserves.

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Measles Outbreaks Kill 6 In Guinea, Over 2,000 Infected

Measles Outbreak
Measles in Guinea

CONAKRY, Feb 18 (Bernama) -- Measles continues to spread in parts of Guinea with six children dead and over 2,000 people infected so far, Xinhua news agency reported.

 

The Health Ministry said Monday since the epidemic was announced on Jan 19, more than 630 new cases have been reported in the capital Conakry and other affected zones.

 

About 10 suspected cases have been reported in Labe, Fria, N'Zerekore, Telemile, Kindia, Koubia and Kissidougou localities,

where access to primary health care is poor.

 

More than 499,000 children were vaccinated against meascles during a campaign launched last week by the Guinean government in collaboration with the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO).

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INSIGHT-Surge in cocaine trade undermines Conde's bid to revive Guinea

France's President Francois Hollande (L) greets Guinea's President Alpha Conde in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace at the start of the Elysee Summit for Peace and Security in Africa, in Paris, December 6, 2013. Forty-two representatives, including presi
France's President Francois Hollande (L) greets Guinea's President Alpha Conde in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace at the start of the Elysee Summit for Peace and Security in Africa, in Paris, December 6, 2013. Forty-two representatives, including presi

* West Africa a major transit point for cocaine into Europe

 

* Cocaine traffickers returning to Guinea under Conde's government

 

* Guinea lacks resources to tackle trafficking networks

 

By David Lewis

 

CONAKRY, Jan 31 (Reuters) - A surge in cocaine trafficking has transformed Guinea into West Africa's latest drug hot spot, jeopardizing President Alpha Conde's efforts to rebuild state institutions after a military coup and attract billion of dollars in mining investment.

Locals and Latin Americans long-accused of smuggling are

operating freely in the country, some with high-level protection from within Conde's administration, according to Guinean and international law enforcement officials and internal police reports seen by Reuters.

 

The growth of trafficking was overlooked as diplomats focused on securing a fragile transition back to civilian rule after the 2008 putsch.

 

Counter-narcotics agents from the United States and other countries, meanwhile, concentrated on smugglers in neighbouring Guinea-Bissau, a tiny former Portuguese colony dubbed by crime experts Africa's first "narco-state".

 

However, the U.S. State Department's 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report said seizures in Guinea and cases abroad traced back there show a spike in trafficking since Conde won power at a 2010 election.

 

A lack of government figures makes estimating volumes tricky, but a foreign security source said one or two planes landed each month last year, ferrying in cocaine from Latin America mostly for smuggling to Europe.

 

"Whatever the attitude of the head of state, it's clear that traffickers can operate in Guinea. They have deep roots there," said Stephen Ellis, researcher at the African Studies Centre, Leiden, in the Netherlands.

 

Ellis said drug money was having a corrosive effect on attempts by Conde's government to improve governance: "It's worrying because of the effects not just on the politics of Guinea, but the whole region."

 

A July report by Guinea's top anti-drugs agency, seen by Reuters, said traffickers were operating with protection of senior civilian, military and police officials. It said proceeds from the trade are laundered through various channels, including real estate, fishing companies and local mining operations.

 

HIGHWAY 10

Guinea and Guinea-Bissau are at the eastern end of "Highway 10", the nickname given by law enforcement officers for the 10th parallel north of the equator, the shortest route across the Atlantic, used by traffickers over the past decade to smuggle Latin American cocaine destined mainly for Europe.

 

United Nations experts estimated last year that some 20 tonnes of cocaine, mostly from Colombia and Venezuela, pass each year through West Africa, which became an attractive transit point as U.S. and European authorities cracked down on more direct routes.

 

Guinea's role has surged since last year, when an April U.S. sting operation targeted Guinea-Bissau's military chief, prompting traffickers to seek sanctuary in Conakry, law enforcement officials said.

 

The shift of the trade to Guinea raises the stakes. While Guinea-Bissau is an unstable backwater of just 1.6 million people that rarely attracts notice outside a small community of West Africa watchers, Guinea has nearly 8 times as many people and a much larger regional role.

 

With vast reserves of iron ore, it has also secured billions of dollars in pledges for investment from mining firms including Rio Tinto and Brazil's Vale. A breakdown of law and order associated with the drugs trade could have an impact on that investment.

 

In the mouldy, potholed seaside capital, expensive restaurants, gleaming hotels and new apartment blocks highlight pockets of wealth. But they soon give way to teeming, rubbish-strewn neighbourhoods away from the centre of town.

 

"People are frightened to take the lid off Guinea," said one foreign official, who, like others interviewed for the story, declined to be identified. "Authorities know traffickers are there but are powerless to do anything. They need international help."

 

Part of the problem is that Col. Moussa Tiegboro Camara, Guinea's top anti-narcotics officer, has been accused of involvement in a massacre of protesters under the military junta in 2009, making it impossible for Western nations to cooperate with him.

 

He did not respond to a request for comment, nor did officials in Conde's office.

Government spokesman Damantang Camara denied that trafficking was rising or that the state was complicit: "There will be no compromise with drug traffickers." (Camara is a common surname in Guinea and several people in this report who share the name are not related.)

 

Those meant to keep order lack the resources to do so.

 

A Guinean anti-narcotics officer said his men are unarmed, need money for fuel and are forced to buy second-hand laptops. The 230 anti-drug agents are too few to police the air strips, coastal landing points or chaotic main port, making the country a smuggler's paradise.

Local and international officials with access to intelligence reports say cocaine is increasingly landing by sea at unmonitored ports or flown in by small planes using remote air strips. Shipments then often receive military escort.

 

In July, Guinean anti-drugs agents were tipped off about a boat landing carrying cocaine and tried to scramble officers to the scene near Boffa, 80 km (50 miles) north of Conakry.

They didn't get very far. Before they left the capital, they were ordered off the case by other security forces. Their men later found a boat stained with dried blood and stripped of identification andcommunications equipment.

 

"We were shut out by the Navy and the Gendarmerie ... They were hostile to our presence on the ground," said a Guinean anti-narcotics officer with detailed knowledge of the case. "There has been a total blackout on the incident."

 

"THE UNTOUCHABLES"

Drug trafficking in Guinea flourished in the years leading up to veteran president Lansana Conte's death in 2008. Political and military elites, including the late president's eldest son Ousmane Conte, secured the trade, according to Guinean legal documents and foreign law enforcement officials.

 

Dadis Camara, the army captain who seized power in the chaos after the end of Conte's 24-year rule, hauled senior civilian and military figures before him to confess their roles in drug trafficking. The inquisitions - known as the Dadis Show - became popular TV viewing and were used to neutralise rivals.

 

In a signed police transcript, Ousmane Conte admitted in February 2009 to taking $300,000 from an alleged drug trafficker who used the late president's son's name to secure clearance for planes ladened with cocaine.

 

In 2010, Washington nominated Ousmane Conte a drug kingpin. But, like others accused of trafficking, the son of the late president was soon free again.

 

He has said on national television: "I confess that I have participated in the trafficking of drugs, but I am not a godfather." Reuters was not able to reach him for comment. He is now sidelined. But the Guinean anti-drugs officer said the network, dubbed "The Untouchables", is back in action: "We fear they've taken the president hostage. If we don't get international support, we'll never be able to tackle them."

 

Dadis Camara, the junta leader who took over after Lansana Conte's death, fled Guinea after an assassination attempt in December 2009. Elections were held the following year, bringing to power Conde, a longstanding figure in the opposition.

 

Conde took office after years in exile abroad. This has left him vulnerable and reliant on figures who know the system, according to a diplomat who follows Guinean politics.

"He doesn't know who to trust ... Once they realised that he barked but did not bite, the networks reformed," the diplomat said.

 

Guinea's drug operations initially shifted to smaller Guinea-Bissau during a crackdown after Conte's death.

 

But the July memo by Guinea's top anti-drugs unit, which reports directly to the president, said traffickers had "tactically withdrawn" back to Guinea after last year's U.S. sting operation in the smaller country, which missed its target, Guinea-Bissau army chief General Antonio Injai.

 

"They had never gone very far. For a number of years, they have been in touch with Guinea's cocaine networks," the memo said.

 

IN PLAIN VIEW

In 2010, according to Guinean Supreme Court documents reviewed by Reuters, the court seized two dozen buildings owned by suspected traffickers. But legal cases subsequently fell through and the buildings were returned. They now swell the property portfolios of people accused by police of trafficking.

 

One, a half-finished, sky-blue building with a dry-cleaner downstairs, has risen up just down the road from the drug unit's headquarters, according to the local anti-narcotics officer.

Government spokesman Camara said cases against traffickers during military rule had not been properly put together.

 

"Their lawyers had no problem in taking them apart," he said. "Not all those traffickers were neutralised. That doesn't mean they are operating again. I don't believe that."

 

According to a second international law enforcement officer, several known foreign traffickers, many of them targeted in the 2008-9 crackdown, live in Conakry. They come from countries including Colombia, Nigeria, Greece, Brazil and Suriname.

 

At a conference in Abu Dhabi in November, Conde touted the country as "open for business" in a bid to woo Gulf investors. He won billions of dollars in mining investment.

 

Yet Conde faces a tough battle for re-election in 2016. He must also accomplish the delicate task of keeping in check the armed forces, implicated in trafficking.

 

"We are dealing with a government that lacks the most basic forms of governance ... If you are a narco, the conditions you would want are all here," said a second Western diplomat.

The U.S. State Department report said officials tackling trafficking had been threatened due to their work. A State Department spokesman, however, said there appeared to be no significant threats to Guinea's stability from trafficking.

 

However, the July 2013 memo from Guinea's anti-drug unit challenged this, calling on Guinea's highest authorities to "neutralise" traffickers operating in complicity with officials.

"The stability of the country depends on it," it warned.

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Republic of Guinea Will Start Implementation of Kallo MobileCare & RuralCare in 2014

Guinea Travel

CONAKRY, GUINEA--(Marketwired - Dec 9, 2013) - Kallo Inc. (OTCQB: KALO) -- The Minister of Health and Public Hygiene, his Excellency Doctor Edouard Niankoye Lama announced today that Guinea will implement a unique healthcare delivery program to bring a high standard of healthcare to its rural population and accelerate the progress towards Guinea's healthcare Millennium Development Goals.

 

"Child mortalities and maternal health (Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5) are a major cause of concern for our government, and once fully implemented, this US 200 million dollar Healthcare project will help reduce infant mortality, enhance maternal health and deliver a high standard of healthcare in Guinea." said his

Excellency Doctor Edouard Niankoye LAMA - Ministre de la Santé et d'Hygiène Publique, Guinea.

 

"As Guinea prepares for exponential economic growth, we need to ensure that our people are healthy and have access to quality healthcare. To achieve this, a blended program of MobileCare and RuralCare from Kallo Inc. -- a US company -- is expected to commence implementation in the first quarter of 2014 and over the following 24 months Mobile Clinics, Polyclinics, Utility Vehicles and Ambulances will provide medical services locally to the people of Guinea. 

 

The most exciting part of this program is the Education and Training of Guinea's healthcare workforce and the relatively short delivery time that Kallo Inc. has committed to, this will raise the level of education of our healthcare workforce, and achieve WHO mandated healthcare objectives quickly," continued his Excellency Doctor Edouard Niankoye LAMA.

 

The Mobile Clinics, Polyclinic, ambulances and utility vehicles will all be monitored through an administration center and clinical services will be coordinated, synchronized and monitored by a clinical and Administrative command center. "It is a unique healthcare delivery system designed after detailed discussions with Guinea's Ministry of Health for its rural population. Kallo is honored to bring this benefit to the people of Guinea," said John Cecil, Chairman and CEO of Kallo Inc.

 

About Kallo, Inc.

 

Kallo improves the quality and efficiency of care by providing centralized congruent solutions that address healthcare and business issues for ministries of health, hospitals, physicians & other healthcare organizations. The company's technology suite transforms healthcare delivery via rural healthcare, disease management, clinical globalization and oHealth solutions.

 

For more information on Kallo and ongoing business developments, please visit www.kalloinc.ca.

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Guinea Conakry Again

Boston Drums
Guinea Protests

EDITORIAL

 

It was not long ago when we wrote on this page urging Guineans to maintain peace before and after the result of the country's parliamentary election was announced.

 

We argued that Guineans, especially the ruling and opposition parties - whether the loser or the winner - should have the bold mind to accept with grace the outcome of the election.

We urged the loser to realise that there will be another chance. And the eventual winner, we said, should reach out to the loser in the spirit of reconciliation and goodwill so as to move the country forward.

 

But the news coming from Guinea yet again is indeed disturbing.

 

Reuters has reported that one person was killed and nine others injured during clashes in Guinea's capital after a journalist critical of President Alpha Conde said he had been targeted for assassination.

 

The violence highlighted simmering tensions in the West African nation, days after the Supreme Court rejected opposition challenges to the ruling party's victory in a September 28 parliamentary election.

 

The government said security forces intervened on Sunday after youths set up checkpoints and attacked cars in the coastal capital, Conakry.

 

Four of those injured were members of the security forces, said a government statement issued on Monday.

 

The political disturbances that gripped Guinea Conakry before this latest development are still fresh in our minds. About 50 people were killed in political violence before the poll, which was aimed as completing Guinea's move back to democracy, following a 2008 coup.

 

It is however clear that Guinea Conakry is apparently not yet back on track. For a country whose political history has been marked by tragedies and much turbulence, the people of Guinea Conakry seem not to have learned their lessons in dealing with the issues confronting them.

 

One important thing that Guineans should consider is that the responsibility for the country's progress must be borne by its citizens.

 

No one else is going to step in and solve the problems of Guineans; Guineans must help themselves and stand firm to solve their problems.

 

What Guinea needs is peace and stability, which can only be ensured by good governance.

Guineans, like all Africans, have to begin by having confidence in themselves, which they have admirably demonstrated over the years.

 

"Politicians also have no leisure, because they are always aiming at something beyond political life itself, power and glory, or happiness."

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Guinea police disperse opposition protest

Guinea Trip
Protesters run as Guinean security forces use tear gas to disperse them in Conakry.

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Guinean riot police fired tear gas to disperse opposition activists protesting the Supreme Court's confirmation that the ruling party won the country's divisive elections.

 

Police Lieutenant Facinet Kouyate told The Associated Press that police responded Friday night to stone-throwing demonstrators protesting the court's decision that President Alpha Conde's party won 53 of 114 parliamentary seats.

The clashes occurred in Conakry's Hamdallaye neighborhood, an opposition stronghold.

 

Opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, whose party won 37

seats, said government opponents will determine new strategies.

 

The Sept. 28 poll was the first time in more than a decade that Guineans voted in a legislative election. Disputes over how the election's organization led to deadly demonstrations before the polls.

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Poll finds 1/3 Africans paid bribes in past year

Guinea Travel
Aboubacar Traoré had to bribe a doctor at the Donka hospital to treat his daughter Hadya Bintou when she was sick.

By KRISTA LARSON

Associated Press

 

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) - Nearly one-third of Africans surveyed say they have been forced to pay bribes including for medical treatment, according to a 34-nation poll released Wednesday.

 

The Afrobarometer survey also found it was often the poorest people in each country who pressured to pay bribes at health clinics and hospitals.

 

The West African nation of Sierra Leone fared the worst overall, with 63 percent of respondents saying they'd paid up at least once in the previous year. Morocco and Guinea came next, each with 57 percent.

 

"Corruption is a cancer which has spread nationwide," said Onesimus Johnson, an analyst in Sierra Leone where bribes are known as a "put for me." More than 69 percent of citizens polled there said that most or all police were corrupt.

In Guinea, the culture of corruption dates back to the decades of dictatorship that enriched its ruler and his associates. The West African country held its first democratic presidential election in 2010.

 

"Corruption is a national sport every day at the direction of customs officials," said Cherif Mohamed Haidara, who heads a group of businessmen.

 

Medical treatment was the second most common reason cited after paying off officials to obtain a document or permit, said Richard Houessou, who headed the Afrobarometer project in French-speaking Africa.

 

The problem of medical bribes was the worst in Uganda - reported by 46 percent of respondents. Swaziland at 41 percent and Niger with 40 percent were close behind.

"Among the poorest - those who went without food at least once in the past year - 18 percent had to pay a bribe at least once in the previous year to receive treatment, compared to a substantially lower 12 percent among those who were better off," the report found.

 

The survey also found that more than half of the people polled were dissatisfied with their governments' efforts to battle corruption.

 

Nigerians gave the worst ratings to their government on its efforts to battle graft, with 82 percent saying the government was doing fairly badly or very badly.

 

Pollsters with the Afrobarometer project conducted 51,000 face-to-face interviews across Africa between October 2011 and June 2013. Afrobarometer selected 34 countries of the more than 50 on the continent to survey, but did not include many in Central Africa, leaving out Congo, Chad, Central African Republic and Gabon.

___

Associated Press writers Boubacar Diallo in Conakry, Guinea and Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone contributed to this report.

___

Follow Krista Larson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/klarsonafrica.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Steinmetz’s BSGR Queried on Payments to Guinea Officials

Guinea Trip
Guinea Mining

Guinea asked BSG Resources Ltd., billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s mining company, to provide details of gifts and payments to officials as a review into ownership of one of the largest untapped iron-ore deposits nears completion.

 

The final hearing of a government committee probing how BSGR acquired the ground will be held Dec. 10 in the capital Conakry, according to a letter sent to BSGR’s venture in Guinea this week and seen by Bloomberg News. It asks BSGR to clarify responses to allegations made last year, and denied by BSGR, that

payments and gifts were given to senior government and military officials from 2005 that helped it to obtain the site.

 

BSGR has described the review as part of a smear campaign by Guinea and an attempt to “expropriate illegally” its mining rights, including the Simandou deposit. 

 

Steinmetz, Israel’s richest person with a net worth of about $7.7 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, was interviewed by Swiss authorities last month at the request of Guinea, according to his lawyer Marc Bonnant, as part of a widening probe involving at least five countries.

 

The Guinean government “can make the same allegations over and over again but it doesn’t change the answers that we have already given them,” BSGR said today in a statement. “This is their latest attempt to damage our reputation in an effort to illegally seize our private property.”

 

Guinea is seeking to make a ruling on the license review by early next year, a person with knowledge of the matter said last month.

 

Rio Stripped

Rio Tinto Group, the world’s second-biggest mining company, was stripped of two of the four blocks of land making up the Simandou deposit in 2008. Rights to the ground were subsequently transferred to BSGR, which sold 51 percent of its stake to Brazil’s Vale SA (VALE5) in 2010 in a deal valued at as much as $2.5 billion. Rio said in August it would be interested in regaining control of the disputed iron-rich ground.

 

The government’s letter expands on allegations initially put to the company last year and asks for a response within eight days of next month’s hearing. It asks for details of any gifts or payments made to the now deceased President Lansana Conte, senior military figures, former Mines Minister Mahmoud Thiam, who was once an adviser to UBS AG and Bank of America Corp., and Conte’s fourth wife.

 

Since the original 25 allegations were detailed in a letter to BSGR dated Oct. 30, 2012, the company and its operations in Guinea have attracted the attention of authorities in the U.S., Switzerland, France and Guernsey.

 

U.S. Probe

In April, a U.S. grand-jury investigation began looking at whether bribes were paid by a man linked to BSGR, Frederic Cilins, to the wife of former president Conte, Mamadie Toure. Prosecutors say Cilins and others visited Toure in Guinea when Conte was in office to offer $12 million to her and senior members of the government for their help in securing the Simandou mining rights.

 

Cilins has pleaded not guilty. He was denied bail in July on the grounds that he presented a “serious risk of flight” and is awaiting trial on charges that he interfered with the grand-jury probe.

 

The government’s letter repeatedly chides BSGR for providing “vague and imprecise” answers to questions from the Technical Committee set up last year to review ownership of Guinea’s mineral deposits. It demands BSGR clarify its relationship and interactions with three individuals: Cilins, Toure and Thiam.

 

BSGR Responses

The committee’s letter also requests that BSGR provide details of what gifts were offered by Cilins to Guinean officials and their loved ones. It said it was “surprised” by BSGR’s responses concerning Toure. In particular, the committee said it’s interested in BSGR’s statement that Toure wasn’t a spouse of Conte.

 

The company’s previous responses to allegations that Steinmetz met Conte close to his death at a hospital in Geneva and that he’d discussed the project with Glencore Xstrata Plc were also labeled as vague and imprecise. BSGR has said Steinmetz only met Conte in Conakry and that he had no contact with Glencore relating to Guinea, nor offered to sell mining rights to the Baar, Switzerland-based company.

 

On this point BSGR was asked to provide details of all contact between Steinmetz and Conte, including naming the other participants at the meeting in Guinea. The government also requested records and dates of meetings between Steinmetz, a former BSGR executive and representatives of Glencore on matters not relating to Guinea.

 

Glencore declined to comment today.

 

Thiam’s Role

The letter references allegations that BSGR provided Thiam with the use of a corporate business jet and paid for hotel rooms, including the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Geneva. It asks the company to explain the direct or indirect role Thiam played in its operations in Guinea.

 

The government also says in the letter that BSGR never sought its approval for the sale to Vale.

 

BSGR said in March that Guinea was preparing to remove mining rights from its venture with Vale, which plans a $10 billion mining operation at Simandou.

 

Steinmetz told Geneva’s prosecutor he wasn’t involved in bribery or corruption, Bonnant told Bloomberg News Oct. 30. The billionaire declined to give further information because he objected to Guinea’s involvement in the investigation, the lawyer said. His Geneva home and a jet were searched by Swiss police in August following a request by Guinea’s government.

 

Steinmetz amassed his fortune initially in the diamond trade, according to his personal website. Working from a base in Antwerp, Belgium, in the 1980s and 1990s, he joined forces with his brother Daniel to conduct business deals in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana andIndia. Beny Steinmetz and his family moved to Geneva in 2010, according to the website.

 

In addition to diamonds, mining and mineral assets, the Steinmetz family has interests in real estate, financing and the oil and gas industry.

 

To contact the reporters on this story: Jesse Riseborough in London atjriseborough@bloomberg.net; Andy Hoffman in Geneva at ahoffman31@bloomberg.net

 

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net

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Guinea: Security Council urges restraint, calm ahead of election certification

African Drums Africa Culture
Woman voting in the Hamdallaye area of Conakry, the capital of Guinea

Guinea: Security Council urges restraint, calm ahead of election certification

25 October 2013 – The United Nations Security Council is urging Guineans to exercise restraint and calm as the Supreme Court certifies the results of the legislative elections held last month.

"The members of the Security Council commended the Guinean people for their peaceful participation in the electoral process," the

15-members said in a late night press statement yesterday.

Guinea's Nation Independent Electoral Commission published the provisional results on 18 October, a move welcomed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and transmitted the results to the country's top court on 20 October where the ratification process is ongoing.

In their latest statement, the Council members called on all political stakeholders to resolve any electoral disputes through legal recourse.

The long-delayed polls were held on 28 September, following talks in Conakry, the country's capital, between the Government and opposition parties.

An agreement to hold elections in September was signed at the end of the UN-mediated inter-Guinean political dialogue, launched on 28 March, and organized through a Follow-up Committee of the 3 July Agreement.

The Security Council has urged Guineans to implement the recommendations of the Follow-up Committee "without delay" and to remain engaged with the body.

The Council members "looked forward to the establishment of the new, democratic, and representative National Assembly," according to the statement, and encouraged UN entities and international actors, including the Peacebuilding Commission, to continue to support Guinea in this regard.

They also expressed "strong support" for the continued facilitation efforts led by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit.

The Council looked forward to the consolidation of democracy, peace and inclusive sustainable socio-economic development in the country, the statement summarized.

Guinea has been affected by political tumult since Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power in a coup in 2008, following the death of long-time president Lansana Conté. In November 2010, the election of Alpha Condé as President was the final stage of an interim Government's efforts to set the stage for democracy in the country.

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, briefed the Council on the situation in Guinea earlier this week.

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Guinea Passes New Mining Code

Guinea
Guinea Mines

New legislation promises to maximise revenues and tighten regulation.

 

Guinea’s new mining code, passed on September 9, promises to maximise the public revenues generated by foreign deposits and impose stricter regulations upon mining companies operating in the country.

 

The management of the country’s mining practices has been in dire need of reform for some time. Although Guinea possesses

half of the world’s supply of bauxite - the main source of aluminium - it remains one of the world’s poorest countries, with 47% of its population living on less than $1 per day.

 

The 106-page document, which was approved by 125 government advisors, is designed to increase transparency through the commitment to publish all mining contracts, prevent corruption and make the mining sector fully accountable to the Guinean people. 

 

A draft copy produced in February has since been developed through extensive consultation with the public, local and international civil society, international donors and the private sector.

 

The code states that foreign companies would need to invest a minimum of $1 billion and gives the government a free 15% share in mining companies with the option of buying a further 20%, thereby more than doubling the share the state can take in mining projects. In addition to this, customs duties will rise from 5.6% to 8%.

 

Emphasis on transparency

The code’s emphasis on transparency will help the government to better assess the benefits of agreements made, as well as reinforcing the incentive to make itself accountable to the population. The new transparency measures comply with Guinea’s formal commitment to the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

 

The mining code also places greater ethical obligations upon companies. Every company will be required to sign a code of good conduct, committing to not engaging in corrupt practices or those which damage accountability. This creates a strong mechanism for public pressure. Additionally, companies will be required to develop a corruption monitoring plan, thereby publicly confirming the government’s acknowledgement of past corruption within the sector and the necessity to rectify it.

 

Minister of Mines Mohamed Lamine Fofana said: “I plan to clean up the mining sector and will conduct a review to remove unconscionable provisions in certain contracts and ensure we have balance and fairness.”

 

Past deals made between mining companies and the military government headed by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, which governed Guinea between 2008 and 2010, have been overturned by president Alpha Conde’s government. This reportedly includes an agreement with investment group China International Fund, which gave them the rights to all of Guinea’s unexploited oil and mineral resources.

 

But relations between China and Guinea do not appear to have been damaged by the retraction. During a state visit to China on September 16, Alpha Conde continued talks regarding the biggest ever mining contract with a state-owned Chinese company. 

 

Following a previous visit to China in June, Conde seems confident of China Power Investment Corporation’s ability to build a large alumina refinery at Boffa, about 120km from Conakry. The refinery will have a capacity of 4 million tonnes per year. An unidentified source has put the project’s cost at $5.8 billion.

 

Negative reactions

The Moscow-based aluminium company Rusal has voiced the most negative reaction to the new legislation, calling the code “senseless”. It said: “Any investor of good sense will look for investment opportunities somewhere outside Guinea.”

 

Fofana says he anticipated a negative reaction from the mining companies. 

 

“When we say we want to be involved in the shipment of our resources by chartering boats ourselves so we can be aware of the real costs, it will not please people [...] it intrudes on a closed world reserved for major companies.”

 

Rusal claims the increased tax pressures mean it will not be making further investments in Guinea. First deputy CEO for Rusal, Vladislav Soloviev, has expressed concern about “some issues” raised by the code and has proposed a meeting in Paris between all aluminium producers active in Guinea. However, Rusal’s concession to develop the Dian Dian bauxtite deposit and Friguia complex, and its production at the Compagnie des Bauxites de Kindia mine, appear to be guaranteed under agreements the government has signed.

 

Rio Tinto had already agreed that the state could take control of as much as 35% of its Simandou project, including 15% at no cost. This agreement was made on Easter Saturday of this year when Rio made a $700 million payment to Guinea’s Treasury.

 

The code has been hailed as a major turning by experts. Patrick Heller, Legal Adviser for the policy institute Revenue Watch describes Guinea’s new rules as “a very significant step forward”. He said: “From the perspective [of] good governance, this is one of the strongest codes in Africa, and it holds up elsewhere in the world.”

 

The question of enforcement

Revenue Watch warns, however, that the code’s success relies significantly on its effective enforcement. “The government must be vigilant in applying the code and in maintaining an environment of openness with citizens and fair treatment of investors,” it states.

 

Guinea’s 1995 code was never followed, resulting in major obstacles to good governance in the country. A new monitoring body called the Commission National des Mines has been established to provide protection against arbitrary or corrupt decision-making in the award, renewal, transfer, and cancellation of mining contracts. 

 

Composed of representatives of key government ministries, unions and civil society, the Commission will review decisions made by the Ministry of Mines and advise on whether they meet legal requirements and promote the interests of the country. Guinea has also formed a state minerals management company, SOGUIPAMI, which will oversee all aspects of the sector and help to manage a mining fund open to investors.

 

Think Africa Press welcomes inquiries regarding the republication of its articles. If you would like to republish this or any other article for re-print, syndication or educational purposes, please contact:editor@thinkafricapress.com

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Guinea ruling party 'wins' parliamentary poll

Guinea Vote
The parliamentary poll was much delayed and fraught with tensions

The parliamentary poll was much delayed and fraught with tensions.

 

President Alpha Conde's ruling party in Guinea took just under half of the seats in last month's parliamentary poll, electoral officials have said.

 

They said the Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) secured 53 seats in the 114-member parliament.

The main opposition party had 37 seats, while the rest went to smaller parties. The opposition said it would not recognise the result of the poll, which international observers said was marred by "irregularities".

 

President Alpha Conde narrowly won elections in 2010

 

Opposition spokesman Sydia Toure said the announced result of the 28 September election did not reflect "the people's vote". Earlier, the observers said that "breaches and irregularities were observed in a certain number of constituencies, preventing a significant number of votes from being taken into account".

 

The monitors included representatives from the UN, EU, West African block Ecowas and US and French diplomats.

 

The election in the west African nation is intended to replace a transitional parliament that has run the nation since military rule ended in 2010.

 

The run-up to the election was hit by violence, as well as ethnic and religious tension. It has been much delayed and was supposed to be held six months after the 2010 presidential elections, which Mr Conde narrowly won.

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U.N. voices concern over delay to Guinea election results

Drum in Guinea
Guinea Vote at Risk

By Saliou Samb

 

CONAKRY (Reuters) - The United Nations and the international community on Sunday called upon Guinea's electoral commission to publish results of a September 28 election aimed at completing a transition to democracy, saying it was concerned over the delay.

Disputes over a published partial count have held up the final result and raised fears of a resurgence of violence that killed 

about 50 people before the vote.

 

The opposition is calling for the election to be annulled, dampening hopes for an end to years of instability since a 2008 military coup that deterred investment in the world's largest bauxite exporter.

 

The United Nations and representatives of the international community including the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, the European Union and the International Organisation of the Francophonie, which brokered a deal with the opposition to end protests and allow the legislative vote, said they were concerned by delays in the publication of the results.

 

Guinea's "National Election Commission should make every effort to complete the tabulation of preliminary election results for publication in any event before Eid al-Adha," the Muslim feast on Tuesday, said the statement issued by the United Nations and the other entities.

 

It called upon political parties and the election commission to cooperate in publishing results from the Matoto district in the capital Conakry, one of the country's biggest, which both sides claim to have won.

 

Partial results from 37 of the country's 38 electoral districts show President Alpha Conde's ruling RPG party leads with 53 seats, opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo's UFDG has 38 seats and former Prime Minister Sidya Toure's UFR has 9.

 

No party is expected to win an outright majority in the 114-seat parliament, and parties are expected to try to form coalitions after the results are known.

 

Opposition groups, which have rejected the partial results, last week pulled their representatives out of the election's organizing commission, calling for the vote to be annulled.

 

"Everyone knows that the opposition won all the five districts of Conakry including Matoto. In that district, we are ahead with over 2,000 votes," Toure told Reuters on Sunday.

 

The ruling party, however, disputed the opposition claims, arguing that it has requested the vote to be recounted because several result sheets where not included in the count.

(Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Mohammad Zargham)

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U.N. voices concern over delay to Guinea election result

Guinea Travel
A voter prepares to cast her ballot at a polling station in Conakry

CONAKRY (Reuters) - The United Nations on Sunday called upon Guinea's electoral commission to publish results of a September 28 election aimed at completing a transition to democracy, saying it was concerned over the delay.

 

Disputes over a published partial count have held up the final result and raised fears of a resurgence of violence that killed about 50 people before the vote.

 

The opposition is calling for the election to be annulled, dampening hopes for an end to years of instability since a 2008

military coup that deterred investment in the world's largest bauxite exporter.

 

The United Nations and representatives of donor nations that brokered a deal with the opposition to end protests and allow the legislative vote said they were concerned by delays in the publication of the results.

 

"(Guinea's) National Election Commission should make every effort to complete the tabulation of preliminary election results for publication in any event before Eid al-Adha (the Muslim feast on Tuesday)," the U.N. said in a statement.

 

It called upon political parties and the election commission to co-operate in publishing results from the Matoto district in the capital, one of the country's biggest, which both sides claim to have won.

 

Partial results to date show President Alpha Conde's ruling RPG party with a slight lead over opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo's UFDG and former prime minister Sidya Toure's UFR.

 

Opposition groups have rejected those results and last week pulled their representatives out of the election's organizing commission, calling for the vote to be annulled.

 

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; writing by Bate Felix; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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Guinea: Vote Rigging Allegations Overshadow Guinea's Elections

Africa Travel
Guinea Elections

BY KATRIN MATTHAEI, 10 OCTOBER 2013

 

Guinea's opposition is rejecting parliamentary elections held in late September, the results of which are still outstanding. International observers say there were irregularities. Fear of violence is growing.

 

The rift between Guinea's government and opposition appears to be unbridgeable. The opponents of President Alpha Conde refuse to recognize the validity of parliamentary elections held

at the end of September. They speak of "large-scale vote rigging" and demand that the election should be declared null and void.

 

Sidya Toure is a former prime minister who now leads one of the strongest opposition parties, the Union of Republican Forces (UFR). In an interview with DW he said that "no condition had been fulfilled for these elections to go ahead."

 

Guinea is at a crossroads. Will it continue to hinder its own progress towards democratic governance, possibly descending into violence, or will the politicians pull together to find a solution?

 

"I hope the protagonists will have the political maturity to return to the negotiating table," said Saidou Diallo, a Guinean who now lives in the German city of Bonn. He fears the opposition could implement its threat to mobilise supporters to take the conflict on to the streets.

 

Fear of violence

In the run-up to the elections, opposition protests left more than 50 people dead. This time, Diallo is hoping his country's leaders will demonstrate pragmatism. In his opinion: "To dismiss the whole election as invalid is asking too much. If at all, this should only happen in those constituencies where manipulation took place on a large scale."

 

However, the opposition feels its case has been strengthened by statements from international observers from the Union Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

 

Ahead of the elections, which had been postponed several times, the observers had already noted shortcomings. During the actual elections, there were claims of irregularities in eight of the 38 constituencies. In a report published shortly afterwards, EU observers accused the National Election Commission (CENI) of lacking transparency.

 

Claims and counter claims

So far CENI has withheld results from a number of individal constituencies. It is still not known who has won in two important districts of the capital Conakry, with more than 700,000 voters.

 

In the second largest city, Nzerekore, where the opposition is strong, the winner is also not clear. "The election commission has only published 30 percent of the votes cast," said Tomas Caprioglio, deputy head of the EU observer mission.

 

"People exercised their right to vote. A solution must now be found to take account of the votes of all who participated," Caprioglio told DW. The 10-day deadline, after which Guinea's Supreme Court must confirm the official election result, has long passed.

 

The government seems unfazed by the criticism. "I pay no attention to it," President Conde told AFP news agency. "The opposition is playing its role," government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara told DW. "In our eyes, the election results speak for themselves. Publication of partial results shows that the election commission has not made any mistakes."

 

The results in many districts have yet to be released

The partial results indicate that the ruling Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) party is ahead but does not have an absolute majority.

 

"I don't think anyone thought these elections would be free of problems," said Vincent Foucher, West Africa expert with the International Crisis Group. "It should be remembered what a long road Guinea has travelled to hold these elections in the first place."

 

The country was ruled by an authoritarian regime until 2003. Coups followed and there were violent attacks by security forces against members of the opposition.

 

The question now is whether a political solution can be found that is acceptable to both sides. On Tuesday (08.10.2013) the opposition pulled out of talks organized by the UN. International observers are pressing both sides to follow the legal path and allow the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the elections - and to accept the ruling.

 

Many of Guinea's 11 million citizens are hoping life will improve for them after the elections. Although Guinea is a country rich in natural resources, such as bauxite, diamonds and gold, it ranks only 178 out of 187 on the UN Development Index.

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International observers cite Guinea vote flaws

African Drumming
Election Flaws

 

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — International observers say irregularities in Guinea's legislative elections may call into question results from eight districts, potentially bolstering opposition claims that the vote was marred by widespread fraud.

 

In a statement published late Tuesday, the observers said irregularities prevented a significant number of ballots from

being considered. Guinea has 38 electoral districts in total.

 

The observers included representatives from the United States, France, the United Nations, theEuropean Union and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS.

The statement said fraud allegations should be reviewed by the Supreme Court. President Alpha Conde's government has dismissed opposition fraud claims as baseless.

 

The Sept. 28 election was intended to complete Guinea's transition to democratic rule, though it was delayed by nearly two years and the pre-election period saw multiple violent protests.

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Opposition supporters detained as Guinea awaits results of legislative election

Trip to Africa
Election Fallout

CONAKRY, Guinea — A security official in Guinea says 30 young opposition supporters have been detained for staging an unsanctioned protest against alleged irregularities during the country's legislative elections.

 

Alpha Barry, spokesman for a special elections-related security force, said the demonstrators gathered Tuesday to denounce the disappearance of a ballot box in Conakry's administrative district where the office of the president is located.

Tension has been mounting as Guinea awaits full results from the Sept. 28 poll, which was meant to complete the West African nation's transition to democratic rule.

 

The vote was delayed nearly two years because of disputes over how it would be conducted. The opposition has already demanded the results be thrown out, saying the process was marred by widespread fraud. Government officials have denied the fraud claims.

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International Community Reps Pressure Guinea Opposition Leaders and Get, Pretty Much, Nowhere

fair elections
Guinea Election

OCTOBER 6, 2013

 

Said Djinit arrived in Conarky from Dakar on Friday night and spent much of the day on Saturday visiting with the primary opposition leaders at their homes: Lansana Kouyate, Sidya Toure, and Cellou Dalein Diallo. Djinnit was supposed to visit with representatives of Conde’s party, the government and the CENI, yet there is no news about whether this happened, or, if it did, what came out of it.

Djinnit spoke with Africaguinee to indicate what he thought the next steps should be. He stressed the need for the opposition to stick with the CENI vote counting process to its conclusion. After this, he suggests that if the opposition has outstanding “irregularities” or issues of fraud, it should take its case to the Supreme Court, adding that the Court should review the case fairly!

 

Late last night, the opposition signaled its reaction to the visit of the international community representatives. Diallo met late yesterday with his party supporters at their UFDG headquarters in Hamdallaye. He told them to be ready to hit the streets for a demonstration if the CENI proceeds to validate the election results, which the opposition claims are massively fraudulent.

 

Said Djinnit was accompanied in these visits by US ambassador, Alex Laskaris, French ambassador, Bertrand Cochery, and EU representative Philippe Van Damme. Ambassador Laskaris offered to examine the irregularities and fraud identified by the opposition and  determine whether or not they “affect” the overall election.  Given that the opposition says the fraud is massive and widespread, such a comment from Laskaris suggests that, at the outset, he is trying to discount opposition concerns.

 

The other two primary opposition leaders, Sidya Toure (UFR) and Lansana Kouyate (PEDN), also maintain their call for the CENI to annul the election and request their followers to be at the ready. 

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Guinea opposition calls for vote annulment

Guinea elections
Voting in Guinea

Guinea’s opposition coalition called on Friday for the annulment of last week’s legislative election, citing alleged irregularities and fraud in the voting process and threatening to call for protests.

 

Guinea’s political opposition demanded Friday the results from last weekend’s legislative election be invalidated, vowing to protest in the streets if their concerns about fraud and irregularities are not addressed.

The announcement by opposition leader Sidya Toure raised fears about whether the election will remain peaceful as previous demonstrations before the vote had turned deadly.

 

“If this demand to invalidate the results is not taken into consideration, the Guinean opposition will be forced to resort to all legal forms of protest including public demonstrations,” said fellow opposition leader Aboubacar Sylla.

 

Supporters of the president’s ruling party immediately later organized their own news conference, where they alleged that hard-line opposition members also had committed acts of fraud.

 

“We are asking for the public to take responsibility and preserve peace in this country,” spokesman Moustapha Naite said. “We’ve had enough of the intimidation and making people live in fear.”

 

Guinea’s opposition initially had sought a one-month delay of the highly contested vote, citing irregularities with voter lists at polling stations that they did not believe could be resolved by last Saturday’s vote. Within hours of the polls closing, the opposition began charging incidents of alleged irregularities and fraud.

 

The government’s ruling party has denied the accusations of vote-rigging, and President Alpha Conde has called on the country to accept the results of the vote.

 

Tensions, though, have grown amid delays of vote counting and the opposition alleges that tallies are being changed while the ballots are transported to the capital of Conakry. Under the constitution, results had been expected within 72 hours. However, authorities later said that the 72-hour window would not start until it had received all the voting materials.

 

Guinea suffered decades of dictatorship and strongman rule, and did not hold a democratic presidential election until 2010 _ more than a half-century after independence from France. However, disputes have led to repeated delays over the legislative vote, leaving the country without a functioning parliament.

 

U.N. special envoy Said Djinnit, who brokered more than a dozen meetings between the two sides ahead of the vote, has urged Guinea’s electoral commission to release provisional results as soon as possible.

 

Djinnit “encourages the political parties to respect the outcome of the polls and, if need be, to use legal means for a solution to any contentious issues ensuing from the elections.”

(AP)

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UN envoy says Guinea election disputes should be settled in court, appeals for calm

Boston Drum
The opposition says the counting process has become a joke

By Associated Press, Updated: Sunday, October 6, 5:56 AM

 

CONAKRY, Guinea — A United Nations special envoy has called for disputes over Guinea’s hotly contested legislative elections to be settled in court.

 

The remarks from Said Djinnit late Saturday came one day after the opposition announced it would push for the results to be invalidated while threatening to organize street protests if its concerns about irregularities were not addressed.

Djinnit also appealed for calm after presiding over talks that lasted all day Saturday.

 

The Sept. 28 vote was meant to serve as a final step toward democratic rule in Guinea, which held its first presidential election in 2010.

 

But the election was delayed by nearly two years because of disputes over how it would be carried out, and the pre-election period was marred by multiple violent protests.

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Guinea Voter Turnout Tops 80 Percent

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A voter prepares to cast her ballot at a polling station in the Madina neighbourhood of Guinea's capital Conakry, Sep. 28, 2013

People in Guinea are awaiting results from Saturday's parliamentary elections, which officials say were marked by heavy voter turnout.

Guinea's electoral commission says it appears more than 80 percent of eligible voters cast ballots Saturday, despite some logistical problems in the capital, Conakry.

The elections are considered the last step in Guinea’s transition

from military dictatorship to civilian rule.  President Alpha Conde won a close presidential election in 2010, two years after army officers took power in a coup.

The commission says it will being releasing partial results no later than Tuesday.

The Economic Community of West African States sent an observer team to Guinea.  Edem Kodjo, who heads the mission, said the elections took place in "acceptable conditions" with regards to freedom and transparency.

"The shortcomings noted do not visibly stem from any deliberate act that could call into question the integrity of the electoral process," he said.  "These shortcomings stemmed from a misunderstanding of procedures on the part of electoral workers or logistical problems.  These shortcomings did not prevent citizens from voting freely."

While there were complaints about long lines Saturday, voting was calm.

Some 1,700 candidates are seeking the 114 seats in the National Assembly, which will replace a transitional council.

Guinea's parliamentary polls had been repeatedly postponed for more than two years because of disputes in organizing the polls and violence between political parties.

Leading up to Saturday's vote, at least one person was killed and dozens more injured in campaign clashes in the West African nation.

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Guinea holds long-delayed legislative polls

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View of voter cards in Conakry on Sept. 26, 2013, on the last campaign day for Guinea's parliamentary elections

CONAKRY, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- Nearly half of Guinea's 11 million population are expected to go to the polls Saturday to choose deputies of the West African country's National Assembly (parliament), the first time since 2002.

 

The vote, if successful, marks the completion of a transition where the presidential election was held in November 2010 to end a crisis unleashed by a military coup in December 2008, but the legislative polls have been repeatedly postponed although due within six months of the presidential race.

Main contenders for the 114 parliament seats include President Alpha Conde's RPG party, the UFDG headed by Cello Dalein Diallo and the UFR under Sidya Toure. The election date, last put off from Sept. 24 to give more time for preparation, coincides with the fourth anniversary of a massacre at a stadium in the capital Conakry, where more than 150 people were killed in a protest and hundreds of women were raped by soldiers loyal to coup leader Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara.

 

The country has yet to recover from the trauma, while political and ethnic clashes hit the years since the presidential election was held in 2010. In the run-up to Saturday's vote, casualties were reported between rival campaigners in Conakery.

 

An official statement said "one gendarme was killed and dozens of other persons were injured" in reference to the latest wave of violence since last week. Fearing clashes might derail the much-anticipated legislative election, the ruling RPG, the main opposition UFDG and the UFR rarely spoke in one voice this week, calling for calm and the spirit of civility to ensure peaceful polls. NGOs including the FIDH and the OGDH also made an appeal on Friday for calm, hoping the long-delayed polls would be held under conditions in light of a political accord signed by all parties concerned on July 3.

 

The country, among others, faces ethnic tensions which left 80 people dead and 200 others injured as recently as in July in the southeastern region of N'Zerekore. A rift was witnessed during the presidential election in 2010 between the country's Malinke and Peul ethnic groups, each representing around 40 percent of the population.

 

Conde with the backing of the Malinke defeated Diallo supported by the Peul in the race. Local observers have warned of the aftermaths to affect the ongoing polls and even the presidential election in 2015. Guinea won independence from France in 1958. With an area of 245,857 square km and a population of 11.5 million, the country is known for its rich mineral deposits, especially bauxite, which accounts for half of the world's total reserves.

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Guinea warns of 'danger from outside forces'

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People walking in Conakry street, Guinea, September 24, 2013 (AFP)

A Guinean government minister said on Wednesday the country was "in danger" from outsiders plotting against it amid media reports that a coup was being planned in the capital Conakry.

Security Minister Madifing Diane made the comments in response to a story in the latest edition of Paris-based 

weekly Le Canard Enchaine which said it had seen French and American secret service documents "announcing a coup in Conakry".

"Guinea is in danger and the strings are being pulled from outside," the minister told a meeting in Conakry of the International Organisation of the Francophonie, refusing to comment on the specific details of the story.

The report has caused alarm in the former French colony as it prepares for its first parliamentary elections in more than a decade, with polls opening on Saturday.

Le Canard said the coup plot had been put together by "French, South African and Israeli mercenaries with links to Paris and Africa and backed by a diamond magnate".

"The unrest could be triggered as early as next week," the newspaper said.

"These are better organised services than mine, the CIA and the French secret services that are alluding to that," Diane said in response to questions on the plot from the media.

He added however that Saturday's elections would likely take place in a "highly agitated" atmosphere.

The election campaign has been marred by days of clashes in Conakry between pro- and anti-government supporters in which a trainee police officer was shot dead and more than 70 people wounded.

Diane blamed members of the main opposition coalition formed around the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UDFG), led by former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, accusing "UDFG politicians abroad (of) guiding and manipulating" members of the opposition.

He stopped short of pointing the finger at Diallo himself, however.

"The president of the UDFG and his allies have called for restraint, saying that those who are on the street are not members of their parties, they are thugs who harm their people," he said.

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US Issues Travel Alert Following Rescheduling Of Guinea Elections

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Guinea Elections

The U.S. State Department has urged American citizens traveling to or living in Guinea to be very careful during the election period, during which there is a possibility of political violence.

 

The African country's legislative elections, previously announced for September 24, have been rescheduled for September 28.

 

Currently, there is broad-based agreement among the political parties on the elections. Prior to the current agreement, there

were marches and demonstrations, some of which turned violent. The possibility of spontaneous protests during this and any election cycle remains, the department said in a Travel Alert update.

 

U.S. citizens in Guinea were strongly urged to avoid polling booths, demonstrations, political rallies, or large crowds of any kind during the election period. Even gatherings intended to be peaceful can turn violent with little or no warning.

 

The U.S. embassy in Conakry is closely monitoring Guinea elections and will provide updates as the situation warrants on its website and via Facebook and Twitter. U.S. citizens have been urged to monitor these sites, as well as local media. They are advised to be aware of their surroundings and exercise good judgment in the coming weeks. General information on preparing for emergencies is available on U.S. embassy Conakry's website.

 

U.S. citizens in Guinea must enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so that they can gain access to vital security information and enable the embassy to contact them in case of emergency, the State Department said.

 

by RTT Staff Writer

 

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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U.S. Welcomes Agreement in Guinea to Delay Legislative Elections until September 28th

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Protesters confront the police in Conakry, where violence erupted while Guinea's long-delayed nationwide elections, which were due to be held on September 24, have been postponed to September 28

The United States Government welcomes the agreement between the government and political parties in Guinea to delay legislative elections from September 24 to September 28. With this additional time, the technical preparations are now in place for elections and all parties are focused on the campaign. 



 

President Alpha Conde and the leaders of Guinea’s political parties came together in promoting an inclusive and peaceful electoral process, one in which all parties can compete with confidence. This important decision, which was facilitated by UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa Said Djinnit, is critical to electing a new parliament and continuing Guinea’s democratic transition.

 

The people of Guinea are to be commended for the competitive, peaceful and dignified manner in which they have campaigned for their political parties. The U.S. Embassy in Conakry, working with its Guinean and international partners, will continue to work for the success of the process from now until the day the new National Assembly assumes its role in Guinea’s democracy.

 

At that point, we will turn our efforts to building the institutional capacity of Guinea’s new legislature.

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New Clashes Erupt Before Guinea Vote

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Voting in past years in Guinea

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) - Security forces in Guinea's capital used tear gas to break up clashes that erupted Sunday between supporters of the opposition and ruling parties campaigning for long-delayed and hotly-contested legislative elections, resulting in multiple injuries, witnesses said.

 

The clashes come one day after a United Nations special envoy announced that the vote, scheduled for Tuesday, would be pushed back to Sept. 28 in response to opposition concerns about the voter list and other issues.

 

A group supporting the ruling party of President Alpha Conde was gathering in Conakry's Bambeto neighborhood when a caravan of opposition supporters on motorbikes approached and provoked a confrontation Sunday afternoon, said Kaba Mamady, one of the Conde supporters.

 

"We were dancing and having our rally when the bikers came and entered our circle. They provoked us and we would not leave," Mamady said.

 

But opposition supporter Gadirou Barry said the altercation began when ruling party supporters lobbed stones at the

 

opposition caravan and later set a minibus on fire.

 

He said 20 people were injured, though officials couldn't confirm that number.

Guinea's last legislative vote took place more than a decade ago, and new polls were first slated to be held in 2007. However, repeated delays have left the country without a functioning legislature and issues surrounding the vote have fueled violent protests.

 

Late Sunday, residents of Bambeto and nearby neighborhoods reported that police and gendarmes were using tear gas to disperse demonstrators who were breaking into vehicles and burning tires.

 

Dore Morifing, a ruling party supporter, said the security forces were also resorting to more forceful means in some places.

 

"The gendarmes are going after the demonstrators with batons and belts. I saw five who were injured in the head," he said.

 

Security forces set up roadblocks in several places, restricting access to the neighborhoods.

 

A presidential statement read out on state television Sunday night said the campaign period would continue until midnight on Thursday.

 

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Guinea's legislative election postponed to Sept. 28 - UN mediator

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The opposition has complained that the voter list is riddled with errors

Guinea's legislative election postponed to Sept. 28 - UN mediator

 

Guinea's long-delayed legislative election scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed by four days to Sept. 28 following talks between the opposition and government on Saturday in Conakry, a United Nations mediator said.

 

The UN facilitator for dialogue in Guinea, Said Djinnit said that after widespread consultations an "exceptional delay of four days for final adjustments before the elections" was decided

upon.

 

Djinnit made the announcement at a press conference attended by leaders of the opposition Cellou Dalein Diallo and Sidya Toure, as well as the presidential majority.

 

Toure said Saturday that it was "impossible" for the vote to be held on Tuesday.

 

"We are working towards it, but as far as the opposition is concerned, it is impossible for the elections to be held (Tuesday) in these conditions," Toure, a former prime minister, told reporters.

 

The delay is the latest postponements of the legislative poll, initially due to have been held within six months of the swearing-in of President Alpha Conde in December 2010.

 

Disagreements between opposing factions on how the elections should be organised has sparked nationwide protests that have left more than 50 dead since 2011.

 

The west African nation's main opposition leader, Diallo, has accused the president's camp and the electoral commission of conniving to rig the vote.

The last parliamentary elections in Guinea took place in June 2002 during the dictatorship of General Lansana Conte, who died in December 2008 after 24 years in power.

 

The four-day delay had been agreed following "consultations" between politicians and representatives of the international community, including the UN, Djinnit said.

 

"On behalf of the international community, I am pleased to announce to all Guineans that all stakeholders in the electoral process have subscribed to this commitment.

 

"We are convinced that with this agreement, nothing will hinder the holding of free, transparent legislative elections on Saturday September 28, 2013, in Guinea," said Djinnit.

 

Voice of Russia, AFP

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Guinea opposition mulls new protests

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Guinea opposition

Friday, Sept. 13, 2013 | 12:17 a.m.

 

By BOUBACAR DIALLO and RUKMINI CALLIMACHI Associated Press

 

Guinea's opposition said they were considering new street protests following the expiry on Thursday of the 72-hour ultimatum they gave the government to fix the flaws they had identified in the roll of registered voters.

Opposition spokesman Aboubacar Sylla said the country's election commission had given them the electoral list on a thumb drive — but that is not what they sought. He said his coalition had demanded that the body publish the electoral list nationwide, so that voters could check if their names appear in their respective polling stations ahead of the Sept. 24 legislative election.

 

Sylla said the electronic list they were given bears more than 5 million names, making it virtually impossible for them to check its veracity.

 

"It's over 250,000 pages," he said of the electronic list. "How are we supposed to check this? It's not in Conakry at our headquarters that we can check if the names are right. It needs to be published in each locality so that people can go and see if their photo matches their name."

 

Moustapha Naite, campaign spokesman for the ruling party, said the opposition's claims were unfounded and amounted to a delay tactic.

 

"Today at 10 or 12 days before the legislative election, I find it very curious that they have found another pretext for delaying it," said Naite. "They have realized that the ruling party is making gains in the field. We are winning everywhere, including in their stronghold, and that is what has caused this panic (on their end)."

 

Guinea held its first democratic election in its 55-year history in 2010. Although the vote was deemed mostly transparent by international observers, the campaign that preceded it and the post-electoral violence that followed it, divided the country along ethnic lines, pitting the nation's two largest ethnic groups against each other.

 

The legislative election, which was supposed to complete the West African nation's transition to constitutional rule, was due to take place a few months after the 2010 ballot but has been repeatedly pushed back.

 

The opposition — who are predominantly from the Peul ethnic group —have repeatedly taken to the streets. It's led to violent clashes with the mostly-Malinke security force, which supports the president, an ethnic Malinke who is accused of stacking the government with members of his ethnic group.

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Guinea Travel Alert

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Guinea Map

The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Guinea to the upcoming legislative elections scheduled for September 24, 2013. This Travel Alert expires on October 24, 2013.

 
Washington, D.C. - infoZine - Currently, there is broad-based agreement among the political parties on the elections. Prior to the current agreement, there were marches and demonstrations, some of which turned violent. The possibility of spontaneous protests during this and any election cycle remains.

U.S. citizens in Guinea are strongly urged to avoid voter polling places, demonstrations, political rallies, or large crowds of any kind during the election period. Even gatherings intended to be peaceful can turn violent with little or no warning.

The U.S. Embassy in Conakry is closely monitoring election activity throughout Guinea and will provide updates as the situation warrants on the Embassy website and via Twitter link. U.S. citizens should monitor these sites, as well as local media. U.S. citizens are advised to be aware of their surroundings and exercise good judgment in the coming weeks. General information on preparing for emergencies is available on U.S. Embassy Conakry's website link athttp://conakry.usembassy.gov/ link.

image: map of Guinea

U.S. citizens in Guinea are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program link (STEP). By enrolling, U.S. citizens gain access to vital security information and enable the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Internet website at travel.state.gov, where the Worldwide Caution link, Travel Warnings link, and Travel Alerts link can be found. An archive of messages for U.S. citizens in Guinea can be found on the Embassy website link. Download our free Smart Traveler app available through iTunes link and theGoogle Play Store link, for travel information at your fingertips.

Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The U.S. Embassy in Conakry is located on the Transversale No. 2, Centre Administratif de Koloma, opposite the RTG building in Ratoma. If you have questions or concerns about safety or related issues, you are encouraged to contact the consular section at the Embassy by sending an email toconconakry@state.gov or calling 657-104-444. The Embassy's main telephone number is 655-104-000. For after–hours emergencies, please call Tel: 657-104-311 and ask to speak to the duty officer.

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Guinea: Halting fight against impunity (analysis)

Survivors of the 2009 stadium massacre wonder when justice will be done
Survivors of the 2009 stadium massacre wonder when justice will be done

Guinea has seen a string of judicial firsts that sparked hope the country could finally chip away at impunity, including military officials long seen as untouchable being called before a court of law. But they have retained their posts; Col Claude Pivi remains head of presidential security; Lt Col Moussa Tiégboro Camara continues in his role as director of the national anti-drug-trafficking agency; and Sékou Resco Camara is still the Conakry governor.

 

“Every time there’s news of another indictment, [someone on the outside] might think, ‘Ah, things are progressing well

there’, but that’s not the case,” said Thierno Madjou Sow, long-time human rights activist and head of the Guinean Human Rights Organisation. “Things get started then just stop. Look at Tiégboro, Pivi, and Resco - all still in their government positions.”

 

Pivi and Tiégboro Camara are among eight people indicted to date over the 28 September 2009 stadium attack, in which, according to an international inquiry, soldiers killed, raped, or injured hundreds of people. One gendarme has been arrested and detained on charges of rape in that case. Resco Camara has been indicted for alleged involvement in the torture of civilians by gendarmes in 2010.

 

Sow and other human rights advocates are quick to say the indictments themselves are significant considering the history of impunity among Guinea’s leadership. But the process must continue, they say.

 

“These indictments do carry some weight. People see that a top military official can be called before a judge - that reassures them,” said Hamidou Barry, a Guinean lawyer and the coordinator of the judges investigating stadium attack. “The problem is everything stops there. Guinea’s judges are not free and independent.”

 

Doubts about judiciary

The stadium case - the latest but perhaps the most spectacular in a string of military abuses against civilians - is in preliminary examination at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which says the prosecutor has a responsibility to intervene if it becomes clear that national authorities are “unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out the proceedings”.

 

But given what they see as a stalled process, survivors say they wonder what it would take for the ICC to find the Guinean authorities unwilling.

 

“The international community must understand once and for all that Guinea’s judiciary is not ready to carry this out,” said Asmaou Diallo, head of the Association of Victims, Relatives and Friends of 28 September (AVIPA), which assists survivors of the attack and other human rights abuses.

 

“The victims are here, the assailants are here,” she said. “It’s possible to hold trials. But the authorities can’t. They don’t dare. And I don’t know at what level things are blocked. Meanwhile as long as impunity reigns in Guinea, the country cannot move forward.”

 

Survivors and human rights activists in Guinea say coming out more forcefully against impunity exposes them to threats and intimidation by the accused and their supporters. But many say it is worth it.

 

“Sure, there is a risk. But I think it’s time Guinea’s human rights community assume that risk,” said Mamady Mansare, a journalist who was injured during the stadium attack. “Survivors must denounce the authorities’ unwillingness to arrest suspects and proceed with this.”

 

Tamar Thiam, who was injured in the stadium attack and fled Guinea after she was threatened for speaking out, said Guineans must push for more pressure to be brought on the government. 

 

“We must raise our voices to show the international community that the authorities lack either the means or the will to bring perpetrators to justice,” she told IRIN. “If this drags on for too long, the witnesses will be dead, the assailants will be dead. What good would a trial do then?”

 

“This case is in the judges' hands,” said government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara. 

 

“The government has never obstructed their work. To date, several high-level officers have been indicted, and the procedure is following its course with absolutely no interference from the government.”

 

Cautious optimism

International justice experts say, while things are moving slowly in Guinea, there has been progress. The ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) says the indictment of officials in the stadium massacre “is a serious indication that they will be brought to account” and the office expects a trial will take place.

 

“The competent national authorities have initiated proceedings, as it is their primary responsibility to do,” the OTP told IRIN. “The OTP will continue to encourage their efforts as long as we assess they go in the right direction.”

 

"The international community must understand once and for all that Guinea’s judiciary is not ready to carry this out."


Florent Geel, Africa desk director with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), says these cases must not be allowed to drag on for decades, but that considering Guinea’s past, the indictment of top military officials within a few years of the alleged crimes is remarkable.

 

“Guinea’s history is 40 to 50 years of impunity, so it’s difficult from one day to the next make the justice system function normally,” Geel told IRIN. “It’s not easy. It’s slow. It’s complicated, but little by little there are positive moves.”

 

Rights expert Sow said since independence in 1958, Guinea’s judiciary has been side-lined by the executive. Geel said he is confident there will be trials in the stadium attack and the 2010 torture case by the end of 2014.

 

FIDH has called for the suspension of indicted officials, particularly the head of presidential security. “Clearly the accused are innocent until proven guilty. We must respect this principle,” Geel said. “But given Pivi’s position and the seriousness of the indictment, we think it is reasonable to demand his suspension pending further judicial proceedings.”

 

The ICC prosecutor’s office acknowledges that seeing those charged remain in power is a blow to survivors. “The fact that two indicted officials [in the 28 September case] have retained their post in government is undoubtedly shocking and frustrating for the victims,” the OTP said. “It is, however, insufficient for the office to determine that the proceedings are not being conducted with the intent to bring to justice the persons bearing responsibility for the crimes committed.”

 

So far in Guinea, “complementarity is working”, the prosecutor’s office told IRIN, referring to the principle that sees the ICC stepping in only as a last resort, when national jurisdictions fail to address crimes.

 

FIDH’s Geel said it would be best if Guinea’s judiciary were to work. “The goal of international justice is to push the national judiciary to prosecute. Otherwise what would ever be changed in the fight against impunity in the country?”

 

For the four-year commemoration of the stadium massacre, survivors and families of victims hope to hold a rally at the venue of the attack. The past three Septembers, the government denied authorization to do so, said AVIPA’s Diallo, whose son was killed in the crackdown.

 

“We hope this year we can at least go to the stadium and place flowers for our dead and missing.”

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Death toll from ethnic clashes in Guinea hits 98

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Guinea violence continues

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Three days of ethnic violence in Guinea last week left 98 people dead, nearly double the previous death toll, the government said on Wednesday.

The violence erupted on July 14 after a man accused of being a thief was lynched. It took place during tense preparations for long-delayed elections meant to restore civilian rule after a 2008 military coup.

"We are today at around 100 dead - 76 victims in (Guinea's second largest city) Nzerekore and 22 others in Koule," government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said.

The government said on July 18 that 58 people had died in the clashes in the southeast of the country between the mainly Christian or animist Guerze community, which is dominant in the region, and the northern Konianke, who are mainly Muslim and have settled there.

At least 160 more were injured, it said at the time.

The fighting began shortly after rival political parties agreed to hold legislative elections on September 24 after months of deadlock and street protests which often degenerated into ethnic clashes.

The government deployed troops to the region to quell the violence, and at least 131 people suspected of having taken part in the killings have been arrested, Camara said.

"We're now doing a triage to find out who did what. Some were arrested with machetes or clubs but others had (hunting rifles) and military weapons," he said.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Guinea counts dead, arrests suspects as calm returns to southeast

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Soldiers restrain civilians

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Authorities in Guinea on Thursday identified bodies of people hacked and burned to death and rounded up dozens of suspects after days of ethnic clashes that killed 58 people and injured at least 160 more, officials said.

 

Residents said that towns in southeastern Guinea where the military has moved in to restore order were mostly calm after days of violence between rival communities.

The violence erupted after a man accused of being a thief was lynched on Sunday. It took place against a background of preparations for long-delayed legislative elections that are meant to end years of transition back to civilian rule after a 2008 military coup.

 

"We have identified 58 dead up until now but calm has returned," government spokesman Damantan Albert Camara said.

 

"The number of arrests has doubled," he added. "The security forces have detained about 100 people. Some of them were armed with machetes when they were arrested." A local radio journalist, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said identifying the bodies had proved particularly challenging for authorities.

 

"Many were cut by machete and others were burned alive."

 

The clashes were between the mainly Christian or animist Guerze community, which is dominant in the southeast, and Konianke, who are mainly Muslim and come from further north but have settled in the region.

 

The two groups have clashed over the past decade, competing for influence in the fertile and mineral-rich region, which boasts iron ore, diamond and uranium deposits.

 

The area shares borders with Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone, all of whom endured conflicts that spilled over borders in recent decades.

 

The southeast forest region is home to former junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara and its capital Nzerekore, Guinea's second largest town, will likely play a decisive role in the elections.

 

Preparations for the vote have been marred by months of violent protests as the opposition accused President Alpha Conde, elected in a contested 2010 vote, of attempting to rig the poll.

 

The political rift has fuelled tensions between the majority Peul ethnic group, which backs the opposition, and the Malinke, which support Conde.

 

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by David Lewis and Elise Knutsen; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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Election campaigns kick off in war-torn Mali

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MALI - AFRICA

The ballot will be the first since a coup in March 2012 that ousted the democratically elected president, Amadou Toumani Touré, just months before he was to step down at the end of his final term in office.

 

The transitional government lifted a nearly six-month state of emergency on Saturday, marking what officials hope will be a gradual return to normality ahead of the nationwide vote.

But critics of the process argue that it is being rushed and could prove counter-productive by threatening to plunge Mali further into chaos. “The situation in Mali is of great concern,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in Geneva last week. “It is vital that these elections be credible and peaceful, with an outcome accepted by all Malians.”

 

The coup that toppled Touré created an opening that allowed groups allied to al Qaeda to seize northern Mali.

 

A UN peacekeeping mission that counts more than 6,000 West African soldiers is tasked with maintaining security during and after the elections, and will grow to included a total of 11,200 troops, plus 1,400 police, by the end of the year.

 

France plans to have just 1,000 troops on the ground by the end of the year and has been pushing – along with the US – for a quick election in the hopes of restoring order to the country, which has been overseen by an interim government since the coup.

 

That deployment allows France to start withdrawing most of the 4,500 troops it sent to Mali in January to stop the Islamists from advancing towards the capital, Bamako, from their northern strongholds.

 

‘A real mess’

But Mali's election commission has raised doubts over whether it will be ready to hold the election on July 28, as planned, since roughly 500,000 people remain displaced after the conflict and therefore could be unable to vote.

 

“It’s a real mess,” confided one member of the commission to RFI. “But what can you do? It’s absolutely necessary; the election must happen.” Many observers have similarly expressed concerns over the security challenges in the north.

 

Malian troops on Friday entered the last rebel stronghold, the key northern city of Kidal, which had been held by the Tuareg separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) since the Islamists were driven out.

 

The lack of government control in Kidal was seen as a significant obstacle to organising the election. “[But] peace is fragile in Kidal”, a military source based in the city told Reuters on Saturday.

 

Meanwhile, an EU mission consisting of 90 observers is currently in Mali to evaluate the credibility of the first-round election results. A second round of voting is slated to be held on August 11, if required.

 

Mali's constitutional court released a list of 26 candidates on Friday, four of whom are former prime ministers: Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Cheick Modibo Diarra, Modibo Sidibe and Soumana Sacko.

 

There is one female candidate: Haider Aichata Cisse, a legislator for a constituency near the northern city of Gao.

 

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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Guinea government, opposition agree to late-September election

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Guinea Elections

By Saliou Samb

 

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea's government and opposition parties reached a deal on Wednesday to hold long-delayed legislative elections at the end of September to complete the mineral-rich nation's transition to civilian rule.

 

Elections scheduled for June 30 were postponed after a wave of

protests, with the opposition accusing President Alpha Conde of planning to rig the poll. Conde won a 2010 election in Guinea's first democratic transition of power, but his victory was contested by the opposition.

 

"We have reached an agreement," Mouctar Diallo, one of the opposition's leaders, told Reuters. "I hope the international community will guarantee the implementation of this deal."

 

Political instability following a 2008 military coup deterred some investors from Guinea despite its large deposits of iron ore, bauxite, gold and other minerals.

The election, originally due to take place in 2011, is essential to unlock nearly 200 million euros of European Union funding.

Wednesday's agreement means elections should be held within 83 days. With Guinean electoral law specifying voting must take place on a Sunday, this would make the date of the election September 29, Diallo said.

 

The U.N.-mediated talks were aimed at securing the participation of the opposition after some 50 people were killed and about 300 wounded during protests in the past three months.

 

"This agreement allows progress towards projects in the interest of the country," U.N. special envoy Said Djinnit told delegates at the talks. "Despite your differences, you are in agreement on the essential."

 

Under the terms of the agreement, South African company Waymark, which the opposition had accused of favoring Conde, will keep its contract for compiling the voter register. Waymark has denied any bias.

 

Neither Waymark nor its local partner Sabari will compile the election results, which will be counted by hand, the deal specified. For the 2015 presidential election, a public tender will be launched to find a technical operator.

 

The government conceded to demands that Guineans overseas - a group regarded as largely favoring the opposition - should be allowed to vote.

 

A committee composed of representatives of the opposition and the government will be put in place to oversee the activities of the national electoral committee (CENI).

 

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Robin Pomeroy)

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Emirates to Link Conakry to its Dakar Service

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An Emirates A340 in flight

 

 

 
 

Emirates, one of the world’s fastest growing airlines, has announced a linked service to Conakry, the capital city of Guinea, from 27 October 2013. 

 

The linking of Conakry to the four times weekly Dubai to Dakar service will provide new opportunities for business and leisure travelers in Guinea to seamlessly connect to Emirates worldwide network through its Dubai hub, particularly destinations in China, the Middle East, India, Far East and Australia.  

 

Conakry is the largest city of Guinea in West Africa. It’s situated on the Atlantic Ocean and serves as the economic,

financial and cultural centre of the country with an estimated population of 1.5 million people.  

 

“The linking of Conakry takes the number of Emirates destinations in Africa to 24, which is a firm demonstration of our commitment to Africa and helping unlock its enormous potential as one of the fastest growing economic regions of the world,” said Hubert Frach, Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations West.

 

“Guinea is a developing economy and has a strong mining sector, and by linking Conakry to the Dakar route, it will help to support business, international trade and passenger travel to and from the country.” he added.

 

The Dubai to Dakar route was serviced by an A330-200 aircraft, but since 31 March 2013 a slightly larger A340-300 was introduced onto the route, ahead of the 27 October launch of the Conakry link.  The aircraft has 267 seats in a three–class configuration offering 12 luxurious First Class seats, 42 seats in Business Class and generous space for 213 passengers in Economy Class.  

 

All classes of the aircraft are equipped with Emirates’ award winning ice entertainment system with hundreds of channels of on-demand entertainment, and gourmet cuisine served by Emirates Cabin Crew from over 120 nationalities. 

 

In addition to passenger services, Emirates SkyCargo will offer about 13 tonnes of cargo capacity per flight, supporting Guinea’s key exports of perishables, such as fresh fish and pineapples, rock and oil samples and general cargo, and imports of textiles, mobile phones and electronics, mining equipment and machinery.  

 

Emirates flight EK795 leaves Dubai on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. It will depart at 07:20hrs arriving in Conakry at  14:00hrs. The flight will then depart Conakry at 15:25hrs arriving in Dakar at 17:05hrs, and then depart Dakar at 18:35hrs and arrive in Dubai at 07:40 the next day. 

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Guinea opposition withdraws from election talks

Guinea opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo
Guinea opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo

CONAKRY, June 21, 2013 (AFP) - Guinea's opposition has withdrawn from talks aimed at paving the way for elections in the restive west African nation after fresh violence which left several anti-government activists wounded.

 

The clashes broke out as police moved Wednesday to disperse supporters of former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, a key opposition leader, with three activists shot and nine others wounded, according to several sources.

Diallo had been in court, where he was facing defamation charges brought against him, and then withdrawn, by an ally of President Alpha Conde.

 

"We have decided... to suspended from today our participation in the ongoing political dialogue," said opposition spokesman Aboubacar Sylla, at a crisis meeting in the capital Conakry late Thursday.

 

The decision to withdraw from the UN-mediated dialogue, which applies to all opposition parties, was made to "protest against the brutal crackdown by the security forces on opposition activists", Sylla said.

 

The president's announcement in April of parliamentary elections was followed by a series of anti-government demonstrations in which dozens have been killed or wounded in Conakry.

 

The poll, postponed several times in the past two years, has become an explosive issue in Guinea as it tries to move on from decades of dictatorship, coups and political violence. An official from Guinea's election commission said Monday that the election set for June 30 was no longer on the cards following the violence.

 

The opposition has threatened to prevent it taking place unless it is delayed and has demanded that the South African company managing the electoral roll is replaced amid suspicions that it is colluding with the government to fix the result.

 

The last legislative elections were held in 2002 under then president Lansana Conte, who ruled the former French colony for 24 years until his death in December 2008, which prompted a disastrous coup marked by extreme police brutality.

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Guinea may postpone June 30 parliamentary election - president

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Guinea's President Alpha Conde addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters, in New York, September 23, 2011. REUTERS/Chip East

LONDON (Reuters) - Guinea could be forced to postpone a long-awaited parliamentary election scheduled for June 30 after opposition parties refused to register candidates, President Alpha Conde said.

 

The West African country's legislative election - the first in over a decade - is intended to complete a transition to civilian rule after a military coup in 2008 in the world's biggest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite.

 

But Conde's opponents accuse him of preparing to rig the election. More than 50 people have been killed during three months of protests.

 

Conde, speaking to Reuters in London ahead of meetings on the

fringes of a G8 gathering, said while there was no technical reason for a delay, the electoral commission could decide on a postponement given the political problems - and specifically the fact that opposition candidates had not registered.

 

Conde, who came to power in 2010 after half a century in opposition, said the electoral commission "needs to evaluate whether, in this new situation, June 30 works, or whether it needs to be pushed back".

 

Conde, 75, said the electoral commission could first ask the Supreme Court to extend the deadline for nominations, but could also ask for the date itself to be pushed back.

 

He gave no indication as to whether any delay could be a matter of days, weeks or months. Guinea's rainy season, which peaks in July and August, could make it harder to hold an election given the lack of good roads in one of the world's poorest countries.

 

The government and opposition are in United Nations-mediated talks and a new election date may only emerge if the two sides agree. The U.N. envoy said last week there had been a breakthrough in talks.

 

(Reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques and Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

 

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Zetes provides ABIS services to Republic of Guinea

drum connection
Voting in Guinea

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the Republic of Guinea has entrusted Zetes with the deduplication of voters’ data in legislative elections scheduled for this summer. The aim is to create a reliable electoral roll. The entire process is supported by the international community.

 

The project helps to achieve objectives of the People ID division for 2013. It includes centralised data consolidation, including back-up systems, and the verification of print and facial biometric data using an ABIS (Automated Biometric

Identification System). The biometric data include voters' fingerprints and photos.

 

Alain Wirtz, CEO of Zetes, states: "Biometry and the associated deduplication services are critical elements in establishing the electoral rolls when organising elections. Zetes has internationally recognised expertise in this field and we are delighted to use it in our collaboration with the Guinean authorities."

 

The Republic of Guinea is thus added to the list of Zetes references in West Africa. Projects have previously been carried out in Côte d'Ivoire, where the company has a subsidiary, as well as in Benin, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo.

 

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Talks on Guinea Polls Inch Forward

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Alpha Conde

DAKAR — The U.N. special representative to West Africa, Said Djinnit, says talks between Guinea's government and opposition about the upcoming legislative elections are making headway. The opposition says it will agree to the government’s choice of poll operator and call off its boycott if the government agrees to ten conditions. Political analysts are cautiously optimistic.

Guinea's government says it could be willing to meet certain opposition demands, such as allowing Guineans living abroad to vote in the upcoming legislative polls and resuming the revision of electoral registers.

In return, the opposition says it will go along with the government’s choice of South African company Waymark to handle the technical side of voter registration and vote counting.  

The dispute over the poll operator has sparked deadly opposition protests over the past year. The opposition announced in February that it would boycott the election.

Vincent Foucher, a senior analyst for West Africa at the International Crisis Group (ICG), said this latest round of talks is promising.

"Well, this is a big step actually.  The situation has been blocked for a long time and it does seem like there is beginning of advances on a number of key blocking points.  But I think working on Guinea, you get bipolar.  Things go up and down and up and down.  There have been previous episodes of optimism, followed by new blocks, and I think we should be very cautious," Foucher said.

Guinea has not had an elected National Assembly since before the death of longtime president Lansana Conté in December 2008.  Legislative elections were supposed to be held four months after President Alpha Condé came to power in December 2010, but disagreements over the organization of the polls have led to repeated delays.

An international mediator was brought in at the end of March to help things move forward, but talks stumbled after the government announced an election date of June 30th.

This led to several weeks of violent clashes between opposition supporters and government security forces at protests in the capital, Conakry.  More than 50 people were killed and hundreds more injured.
 
Foucher said the two sides just might be ready to reach an agreement this time.

"My guess now is that on both sides people are a bit scared of the violence and the consequences that are emerging from the demonstrations and the risks that each side is actually taking by being part of this violence.  So maybe this is what is making people sort of more happy to talk now," Foucher said.

Guinea country officer for the pro-democracy group Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Mathias Hounkpe, said it will take time to implement any decisions that come out of talks.

"If it was signed, that will mean, for instance, that at least in a few weeks from now, the process will get back on.  Now they will have to allow, for instance, for more people to get registered, because as you know, because of the crisis and the boycotts from the opposition side, we tend to believe that some of their voters may not have been registered," Hounkpe said.

June 30 is less than three weeks away, and analysts say a postponement of the elections is possible.

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Guinea's opposition may agree to election

drumconnection
Guinea elections very near

CONAKRY, Guinea — After weeks of violent clashes, Guinea's ruling party and opposition succeeded in drafting a framework which might allow the country to move forward with much-delayed legislative elections, according to the international mediator brought in to help bridge the chasm between the two sides.

 

Said Djinnit, the special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, explained on Sunday that the opposition has

agreed to rescind their boycott and will take part in the poll so long as 10 conditions are met. In return, the ruling party has agreed to delay the June date for the ballot. They have also agreed to allow Guineans living overseas to vote, a concession to the opposition since most expatriates have historically voted in favor of the opposition.

 

"The two sides were able to make significant advances," Djinnit said on Sunday. "Before the dialogue started, consultations were carried out which involved everyone in order to create an unconditional dialogue, without any taboos," he said.

 

Among the 10 conditions that the opposition has asked for is that the families of those who died in recent protests be compensated, and that an investigation is carried out into their deaths. Dozens of people, nearly all of them opposition supporters, have died in the violent demonstrations which have engulfed Guinea's seaside capital in recent months over the vote.

 

Other conditions include that the country's territorial administration remain neutral during the vote and that the government re-opens the electoral list for possible revisions. They are also asking that two independent experts be allowed to review the electoral list.

 

Guinea has spent nearly all of its 55 years since independence under strongman rule. Following the near-assassination of its last military leader in 2009, the country finally transitioned to civilian rule, holding its first democratic election ever in the fall of 2010. While deemed mostly transparent, the election tore the country apart along ethnic lines, after the vote came down to a Peul and a Malinke candidate, the nation's two largest ethnic groups, each accounting for between 30 and 40 percent of the population, according to experts.

 

Malinke politician Alpha Conde won the vote, and is accused of stacking the government with his ethnic kin.

 

The legislative election was due to be held soon after the 2010 presidential ballot, but it has been held-up ever since. The opposition is accusing Conde's party of trying to stack the electoral roll with citizens from areas of the country known to Malinke strongholds, while at the same time, instituting rules that would reduce votes from regions known to be predominantly Peul.

 

During the 2010 vote, expatriates voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Peul candidate and the opposition saw it as a political sleight-of-hand when the ruling party recently ruled that Guineans overseas would not be allowed to take part in the legislative vote. It's one of several issues that the two sides were able to agree on following the weekend-long mediation session.

 

Saliou Bela Diallo, a spokesman for the coalition allied with the ruling party, said that "(we) have accepted in principle that Guineans living overseas will be allowed to vote. We accepted this with the aim of restoring peace and in a spirit of compromise," he said.

___

Associated Press writer Rukmini Callimachi contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.

___

Rukmini Callimachi can be reached at www.twitter.com/rcallimachi

 

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U.N. mediator sees breakthrough in Guinea election talks

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CONAKRY (Reuters) - The Guinean government and opposition parties in the West African nation have made a breakthrough during talks on Sunday that could end a violent political impasse and pave the way for legislative elections, a United Nations envoy said.

President Alpha Conde's government and Guinea's opposition parties are locked in a United Nations-mediated talk over the organization of a long-delayed legislative election.

More than 50 people have been killed in three months of rallies by activists who accuse Conde of preparing to rig the poll, scheduled for June 30, in the world's largest bauxite exporter.

Said Djinnit, a U.N. envoy mediating the talks between government and opposition in the coastal capital of Conakry, said the parties have made significant progress over their demands and there were reasons for hope.

Djinnit said in return for some guarantees, Guinea's opposition parties have agreed to rejoin the electoral process, dropping a demand that South African company Waymark, charged with updating the voter register, be replaced.

The opposition accused the company of stuffing the electoral roll with the names of Conde's ethnic Malinke supporters, charges the company denied.

The opposition had also called for Guineans living overseas to be allowed to vote.

"Regarding the vote of Guineans abroad, the presidential camp, which had reservations on the issue, have lifted their opposition. It was agreed that Guineans living abroad could participate in elections," Djinnit said.

Decisions from the talks, if concluded, could affect the date of the election, he said.

Guinea's government was not immediately available for comment, but a spokesman for the opposition told Reuters that a minimum consensus had been reached and they were waiting for concrete actions from the government and Guinea's electoral commission.

"We have reasons to be cautiously optimistic," said opposition spokesman Aboubacar Sylla.

Political instability in Guinea following a military coup in December 2008 has deterred some investors, despite the country's large deposits of iron ore, bauxite, gold and other minerals.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb.; Writing by Bate Felix; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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Pink lemonade sale in Cobourg helps raise funds for Guinea school

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Raya Rickerby, 10, left, pours a cool glass of lemondae into a cup held by Jenna Ryan, 11, on June 1

Raya and Dylan's School of Hope. 

 

COBOURG --

 

Raya Rickerby, 10, left, pours a cool glass of lemondae into a cup held by Jenna Ryan, 11, on June 1 outside All Creature Great and Small on King Street in Cobourg.

 

The girls, along with other friends and family, raised $115.15 selling pink lemonade to support Raya and Dylan's School of Hope. As of December 2012, the campaign has raised $5,000 of their $10,000 goal. June 6, 2013.

Paul J. Rellinger / Northumberla

COBOURG -- One cup at a time, siblings Raya Rickerby, 10, and Dylan Rickerby, 7, are hoping to raise money to help build a school in Guinea. 

 

The sister-and-brother team is trying to raise $10,000 to build a school in the West African country of Guinea with Plan Canada. And on June 1, Raya and Dylan, along with friends and family, raised $115.15 selling pink lemonade outside All Creatures Great and Small on King Street in Cobourg, to support Raya and Dylan's School of Hope.

 

To date, the siblings have raised $5,000.

 

Working with Plan Canada, the Burnham Public School students say the funds will go towards building a school with washrooms for boys and girls, train teachers, build a playground and make sure the teachers and students have all the supplies and clean water they need. Once the Cobourg students have $10,000, UNICEF, a charitable organization for children, will donate $30,000 to complete the school project.

 

On June 8, the siblings will be selling lemonade once again in downtown Cobourg.

For more information or to donate, visit Raya and Dylan's web site at www.plancanada.ca/rayaanddylan.

 

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Guineans flee Conakry unrest, ethnic tension

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A pro-Condé rally in Guinea’s capital Conakry. Political unrest has intensified recently
DAKAR, 7 June 2013 (IRIN) - Guinea’s political violence is hitting residents of the capital Conakry increasingly hard, with some families forced to flee their homes and others relocating for fear of ethnically based attacks.

President Alpha Condé has ordered an investigation into the latest violence, which followed a 23 May opposition protest over upcoming legislative elections. The government says 12 people were killed and about 100 others injured.

"It’s difficult to swallow - that fellow Guineans would come and
ravage your home like this,” said a resident of Conakry’s Bambeto neighbourhood who requested anonymity.

He said that after the demonstration turned violent, men in gendarmes’ uniforms and civilian clothing ransacked his family’s house and two kiosks he rented out, stealing everything from cell phones to mattresses. They even ripped off parts of the roof.

“When I look at our roofless home, it gives me a stabbing pain. We Guineans don’t deserve this. We don’t deserve this.”

It is not clear how many people have been forced to flee their homes, but many residents told IRIN the latest violence has been alarming and voiced concerns about deepening inter-ethnic hostility. Many houses have been burned.

Government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said local authorities were assessing the impact of the unrest, but he could not give an overall figure of those affected.

“Indeed there are families who have left their homes, either to avoid violence or because they’ve already been targeted,” Camara told IRIN. “Some have relocated out of concern for their security.”

A UN humanitarian worker in Conakry said that, for now, the organization was not assessing the impact of the violence, as the home-burnings were isolated incidents and there was no mass displacement. He said the UN is providing assistance to hospitals treating those wounded in the unrest.

Ethnic and political tensions


Ethnic divisions have long been part of Guinea politics, but Conakry residents say tensions between the two main groups - Malinké and Peulh - have risen steadily since the 2010 election of Condé, a Malinké, who defeated Peulh opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo in a run-off.

Many Peulh to this day do not accept Condé’s victory. In the latest political stand-off, Diallo and other opposition leaders accuse Condé’s government of planning to rig legislative elections, which, after years of delays, are set for 30 June.

The government and the opposition are holding talks facilitated by UN Special Representative for West Africa Said Djinnit. The agenda includes the opposition’s grievances over the electoral process, mainly the right of Guineans living abroad to vote and misgivings about the firm drawing the voters’ roll.

The Bambeto resident said his son was beaten unconscious during the attack on their family home, and that he and his family are just grateful to be alive. President Condé has said the government would cover medical care for those injured in the violence.

The father of five said that, even before the incident, life was hard. His family, a household of some 20 members, would do petty trade to buy food each day.

“For now neighbours and family members are being very generous and helping us out, which is fine for the short term. But I don’t see when we’ll be able to establish our own source of revenue again… We’re living with some neighbours until we can repair our home. Once I come up with the money, I’m going to build a 3m wall around the house so at the very least if things heat up again we can hide out there.”

Former civil servant Kadiatou Bah, whose home was also vandalized during the riots, said: “They took everything they could from our home and burned the rest.”

She said that men in gendarmes’ uniforms ransacked her family’s home. “I pleaded with them - I told them it was with my civil servant pay that I was able to build this house. They wouldn’t listen. They beat me in the feet with their rifles.”

The gendarme spokesman was unreachable for comment.

Peulh say gendarmes accompanied by pro-Condé youth are carrying out the attacks, specifically targeting Peulh homes. Meanwhile, some Malinké are fleeing their homes in communities dominated by Peulh.

“When there is the slightest unrest, I stay at a friend’s home in another district,” said an Ivoirian who speaks Malinké and lives in a mainly Peulh neighbourhood. He said he is regularly threatened and harassed by Peulh youth who associate him with the Malinké in Guinea.

Relocating to avoid violence is not a new phenomenon in Conakry. Some residents say they know families who moved in the aftermath of the September 2009 stadium massacre and then again during the 2010 election campaign. But such displacement has risen with the recent unrest.

Ethnic tensions determine people’s choice of residential areas, said Aboubacar Cissé. “When people are looking for a house or apartment in Conakry, they take into account whether the owner is Peulh or Malinké and whether the neighbourhood is predominantly one ethnicity or another.”

He added, “I know a lot of people who are relocating to parts of Conakry they see as safer because they would be surrounded by people of their own ethnic group.”

Fighting for peace


Cissé, who took part in a training by the NGO Search for Common Ground, is one of many Conakry residents working to keep the peace. There are community groups throughout the capital struggling to rein in the violence. Cissé is secretary of a local NGO in Conakry’s Dixinn District, where he and colleagues meet regularly with local youth, including those who have carried out attacks, to talk about how to restore peace.

“The solution is us, not the politicians,” Cissé said. “It must be us.”

President Condé, in a 28 May statement, said violence is “unacceptable, highly irresponsible and reprehensible.” He said he has asked the justice minister to set up a panel of judges to investigate the recent violence and “to do justice to all the victims”.

“In Guinea, nobody should be a victim because of his origins or opinions,” Condé said.

 np/ob/rz
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SG executive detained in Guinea taking case to regional court

DrumConnection
Guinea, West Africa

* Two employees of Israeli-owned mining firm held in Guinea

* BSG denies bribery , criticises government contract review

* U.S. authorities also investigating Simandou deal

 

CONAKRY, June 7 (Reuters) - An executive of Israeli mining firm BSG Resources (BSGR) will appeal to a West African regional court over his detention in Guinea where he is accused of corruption, his lawyers said on Friday.

 

The government alleges that BSGR bribed officials and the wife of a former president to win a licence in 2008 to develop a

vast iron ore deposit.

 

BSGR, the mining company owned by Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, denies the accusations and has criticised a government review of mining contracts which it says is designed to allow Guinea to renege on its obligations.

 

Ibrahima Sory Toure, a BSGR vice president in Guinea, was arrested on April 19 along with a company security official, Issaga Bangoura.

 

The Guinean government accuses BSGR of bribing officials and Mamadie Toure, the wife of former President Lansana Conte, to win access to the Simandou iron ore deposit. Ibrahima Sory Toure is the brother of Mamadie Toure, who lives in the United States.

 

Lawyers representing the two men said they would take their case to the court of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which has jurisdiction over human rights cases in member states.

 

"Our clients are being held in an arbitrary manner without any charges being presented. We have to denounce that," lawyer Dinah Sampil told a news conference.

 

A Guinean government committee set up to review the legality of mining licences is due, in the coming weeks, to report its findings on BSGR, which is in a partnership with Brazilian mining group Vale to develop the concession at the giant Simandou iron ore seam. U.S. authorities are also investigating the Simandou deal.

 

Earlier this month, FBI agents arrested BSGR representative Frederic Cilins in Florida, on charges of obstructing a criminal investigation, tampering with a witness and destruction of records.

 

Long-term instability in Guinea has deterred investment in its vast untapped reserves of gold, iron ore and diamonds.

 

President Alpha Conde's government has faced months of street protests by the opposition over the organisation of legislative elections, scheduled for June 30. U.N.-mediated talks are under way.

 

Guinea's Supreme Court overturned on Friday a ruling by the media regulator which had suspended an opposition-owned radio station, allowing it to return to the airwaves immediately. The regulator suspended Planete FM radio last week after a caller urged a revolt against President Alpha Conde. Planete FM, owned by opposition spokesman Aboubacar Sylla, cut the caller off and criticised his comments.

 

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

 

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Eradication/Elimination of Malaria from Sierra Leone

drumconnection
The Mosquito

Is this feasible?  YES.  

 

Malaysia eradicated it successfully after Independence.

 

How?  It cannot be done by Sierra Leoneans alone working exclusively within Sierra Leone because mosquitoes will fly in from Guinea and Liberia – particularly the deadliest Plasmodium Falciparum transmitted by the female Anopheles contributing to cerebral malaria, etc.

Sierra Leone Government has a 2009 to 2015 Strategic Plan for Malaria Control & Prevention; I am uncertain about its implementation and monitoring for effectiveness

All African countries between The Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn must be involved co-operatively under an AFRICAN UNION umbrella.

 

Successive governments had been trying without much success – from decades ago spraying of our open gutters and stagnant pools with DDT, long-lasting insecticidal(mosquito) nets, quinine then chloroquine and now artemisinin-based combination therapy, antibiotics, etc., to the smoking coils, indoor residual spray cans, etc., we have today – these efforts are what I regard as fairly good but only reactive.

The infection cycle continues.

 

Although I am not a medical doctor, pharmacologist or bio-medical professional, I must warn against using FANSIDAR, either as a prophylactic or as a cure without the benefit of a dedicated and highly experienced and knowledgeable medical practitioner competent enough to deal with any unpredictable repercussions


I suggest more aggression about adding the proactive and preventive which the present APC Government has resurrected(Lt. Col. Andrew Juxon-Smith had started similarly) – better public hygiene with cleaner streets, no stagnant pools including no clogging of gutters with glasses, cans, bottles, plastics, bricks, sand, and other insoluble causing effluent stagnation wherein mosquitoes lay their eggs.

 

This is where we the public must contribute – government must be expected to do everything for us!    How about developing apolitical Voluntary Sector Organisations in every political constituency to support Government about this?


Repairs of these gutters are essential with modifications to ensure positive unidirectional flows and better drainages or filling-in of stagnant pools on all estates – public and private, in order to arrest and counter proliferation of infection cycles, morbidity, and, mortality – are all essential.

 

Eradication/Elimination of malaria also contributes to increased economic output and better quality of life.

 

Seton During, UK

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Guinea government launches campaign for disputed June vote

drum connection
Voting in Guinea

CONAKRY | Thu May 30, 2013 1:15pm EDT

 

(Reuters) - Guinea's government on Thursday officially declared open campaigning for a disputed June 30 legislative election despite an unyielding stance by opposition parties that have demanded the date of the vote be annulled.

 

The government's decision to go ahead with the election is likely to set it on a collision course with the opposition and

escalate violent protests that have rocked the world's top bauxite producing nation since March.

 

Accusing President Alpha Conde of trying to push through a vote they believe his is trying to rig, Guinea's opposition leaders have held a series of protests that have killed 50 people and injured 350 more.

 

Campaigning for the election began at midnight and will end on June 28, according to a statement read on Guinea's state radio on Thursday.

 

But Guinea's opposition rejected the announcement saying the vote would not take place.

"The decree does not make sense. You can not start a campaign for an election that will not take place," said Sidya Toure, a former prime minister who is now one of the leaders of the opposition.

 

"This decree is totally inappropriate. Everyone knows that June 30 is technically impossible to stick to," Toure said, adding that the opposition would only accept to rejoin the electoral process if the June 30 date is annulled.

 

Streets around several neighbourhoods in the seaside capital were barricaded by groups of young opposition supporters, but there were no reports of violence.

 

The long-delayed legislative elections are intended to complete Guinea's transition to civilian rule following a military coup in 2008.

 

The opposition accuses the government of trying to rig the vote and regional diplomats have struggled to get both sides to take part in talks to reduce tensions.

 

Guinea's opposition says it was not consulted before the government announced the date for the election and says voter lists are being revised in favour of Conde's allies.

 

They are calling for the company contracted by the government to revise voter lists, South African firm Waymark, to be replaced and are demanding that Guineans abroad be allowed to vote.

 

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Alison Williams)

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At least five killed as Guinea protests escalate

drumconnection
Protests in Guinea

(Reuters) - At least five people were killed on Saturday when security forces in Guinea opened fire on protesters in opposition strongholds in the capital, medical sources and witnesses said.

 

The violence brings to 11 the number of people killed since Thursday in unrest that began over election preparations but has frequently degenerated into looting and clashes between

ethnic groups.

 

"According to our information, they (the five) all died after being shot," said Thierno Maadjou Sow, president of the OGDH human rights group. A doctor who runs a private medical clinic said there were many wounded, including two girls between the ages of six and eight who had been hit by gunfire.

 

Government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara confirmed the toll since Thursday had risen to 11 with Saturday's deaths. "Rest assured that we are in the process of taking steps to stop this escalation of violence," he said without giving details.

 

Legislative elections are intended to complete Guinea's transition to civilian rule following a military coup in 2008. The opposition accuses the government of trying to rig the vote, due on June 30, and regional diplomats have struggled to get both sides to take part in talks to reduce tensions.

 

The ruling party draws on the Malinke community for much of its support while the opposition is dominated by the Peul ethnic group.

 

Global miners like Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Brazil's Vale have slowed billions of dollars of investments in the west African nation, citing political uncertainty as one of the reasons.

 

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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Consultations between Government, opposition leaders Kicks off in Guinea

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Woman voting in the Hamdallaye area of Conakry, the capital of Guinea in June 2010. Photo: IRIN/Nancy Palus

22 May 2013 – A United Nations envoy today convened a consultative meeting in the Guinean capital, Conakry, between the Prime Minister and opposition leaders, pressing ahead with UN efforts to assist the parties in resolving differences over preparations for stalled legislative elections and other contentious issues through peaceful means.

 

Said Djinnit, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, initiated the meeting in his capacity as International Facilitator on Guinea, a UN spokesperson said.

The envoy congratulated the two parties for this “initial promising step” towards creating the conditions for the holding

of free, transparent and peaceful legislative elections in Guinea.

 

In March, protests in the West African nation related to the polls led to several deaths and hundreds of injuries. At that time, both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN human rights office appealed for calm amid the violence and urged political actors in Guinea to pursue dialogue to create conditions for peaceful elections.

 

“Mr. Djinnit continues to urge the Guinean stakeholders to address their differences over the electoral process through peaceful means and to act in accordance with the ‘anti-violence declaration’ signed by the Government and the political parties on 24 April,” said the spokesperson.

 

Further, the Special Representative hopes that the situation “will continue to remain calm in line with the spirit that prevailed during today’s consultative meeting.”

 

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UPDATE 1-One dead, around 10 injured in Guinea opposition protest

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Violence in Guinea

Thu May 23, 2013 8:10pm BST

 

* Protest against June election plans turns violent

* Opposition says president plans to rig the poll

* Election meant to complete transition to civilian rule

 

CONAKRY, May 23 (Reuters) - One person was killed and around 10 injured when security forces and supporters of Guinea's president clashed with protesters marching in the

capital on Thursday against planned legislative elections.

 

President Alpha Conde's opponents say he plans to rig the long-delayed polls due to take place on June 30. Conde took office in 2010 following the first democratic transfer of power in the mineral-rich nation since independence in 1958.

 

Police fired tear gas and water cannon at the demonstrators, who deviated from an approved route and marched on one of Conakry's main highways, a Reuters witness said.

The marchers burned tyres and clashed with Conde supporters. Later, witnesses heard gunfire in the Bambeto neighbourhood, an opposition stronghold, and one person was killed.

"He was hit in the right side by a bullet that exited near his heart. He died at the scene," said Talatou Barry, a relative of the victim, 28-year-old trader Abdoul Gadiri Diallo.

 

The government confirmed one person had been killed but said the circumstances remained unclear.

 

Witnesses saw numerous injured protesters carried away from the demonstration.

"We've admitted around 10 wounded, including opposition leaders ... The situation for some of the injured is fairly serious," a doctor at a private clinic told Reuters.

 

The government said some of the marchers had been armed with knives and clubs. It confirmed that 10 people had been wounded, blaming the injuries on the demonstrators themselves.

 

"These over-excited demonstrators, desiring to reach at all costs the motorway in violation of the approved itinerary ... attacked their own political leaders," said government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara.

 

At least 19 people have been killed in clashes since March in Conakry and over 300 others have been wounded.

 

Opposition leaders temporarily suspended demonstrations earlier this month to allow U.N.-brokered talks with the government to take place but later called for renewed protests, accusing Conde of sabotaging the negotiations.

 

The opposition says Conde did not consult them before announcing the June poll date and says voter lists are being revised in favour of the president's political allies. They also demand that Guineans abroad be allowed to vote.

 

The election, first scheduled for 2011, is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule after a military coup in 2008 but has been postponed several times.

 

Despite vast deposits of gold, iron ore and diamonds, global miners Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Brazil's Vale have slowed billions of dollars of investments in the west African nation, citing political uncertainty as one of the reasons.

 

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Around 10 injured in Guinea opposition protest - hospital source

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Opposition Protest - Guinea

CONAKRY | Thu May 23, 2013 1:01pm EDT

 

May 23 (Reuters) - Ten people were injured when security forces and supporters of Guinea President Alpha Conde clashed with protesters marching in the capital against planned legislative elections on Thursday, a hospital source said.

 

The opposition accuses Conde of attempting to rig the long-delayed polls due to take place on June 30. Conde took office in 2010 following the first democratic transfer of power in the

mineral-rich nation since independence in 1958.

 

Police fired tear gas and water cannon at the demonstrators, who deviated from a route approved by the authorities and marched on one of Conakry's principal thoroughfares, a Reuters witness said.

 

The marchers burned tyres in the streets and clashed with Conde supporters. Later, witnesses heard gunshots in Conakry's Bambeto neighbourhood, a traditional opposition stronghold.

 

"We've admitted around ten wounded, including opposition leaders ... The situation for some of the injured is fairly serious," a doctor at a private clinic told Reuters. Witnesses saw numerous injured protesters carried away from the demonstration.

 

The government said in a statement that some of the marchers had been armed with knives and clubs and blamed the injuries on the demonstrators themselves.

 

"These over-excited demonstrators, desiring to reach at all costs the motorway in violation of the approved itinerary ... attacked their own political leaders," said government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara.

 

At least 18 people have been killed in violent clashes since March in Conakry and over 300 others have been wounded.

 

Opposition leaders temporarily suspended demonstrations earlier this month to allow U.N.-brokered talks with the government to take place but later called for renewed protests, accusing Conde of sabotaging the negotiations.

 

The opposition says Conde did not consult them before announcing the June poll date and accuse South African firm Waymark, which has a contract to revise the voter list, of making changes in favour of Conde's political allies.

 

They are also demanding that Guineans living abroad be allowed to vote in the polls.

The election, first scheduled for 2011, is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule after a military coup in 2008 but has been postponed several times as government and opposition parties remain at loggerheads.

 

Despite vast deposits of gold, iron ore and diamonds, global miners Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Brazil's Vale have slowed billions of dollars of investments in the west African nation, citing political uncertainty as one of the reasons.

 

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Q&A: Equatorial Guinea parliamentary election

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Guinea Elections

People in the West African nation of Equatorial Guinea will vote on 26 May in parliamentary and municipal elections.

 

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has held power since 1979, making him the world's longest-serving, non-royal head of state. His party currently holds 99 of the 100 seats in parliament.

 

Human rights groups are concerned about the credibility of

elections in the oil-rich country which has a history of corruption, politically motivated arrests and lack of freedom of speech.

 

What will people be voting for?

The lower house of parliament and local councillors. For the first time, they will also directly elect 55 members to a Senate, while Mr Obiang will hand-pick a further 15 members.

 

These elections follow the 2011 referendum when almost 98% of voters approved constitutional reforms establishing a Senate, capping presidential terms and creating the post of vice-president. Human rights groups said votes had been tampered with, opposition harassed and voters intimidated.

 

What state is the country in?

A former Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa's smallest countries. Despite striking oil in the 1990s and becoming one of sub-Saharan Africa's biggest crude oil producers, most of its 740,000 people live on less than $1 a day, infant mortality is among the highest in Africa and it ranks poorly in the UN human development index. In July 2012, the French government issued an arrest warrant for Mr Obiang's son, Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, on money-laundering charges and seized his Paris mansion as part of a corruption inquiry.

 

Who are the main parties?

The ruling coalition, led by the president'sPartido Democratico de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), which has won every election by 95% or more since Mr Obiang seized power in a coup. He says he has improved living standards and infrastructure and is working towards economic diversification under the 'Horizon 2020' plan. He denies allegations of nepotism and corruption - his family also hold the posts of deputy vice-president, energy minister and defence minister - saying that there is no poverty in the country, only "shortages".

 

The sole opposition MP, Placido Mico, leads the Convergencia Para la Democracia Social (CPDS). He says "the government wants dictatorship" and accuses it of having "retreated from democracy" by making lucrative oil deals with foreign companies and thereby covering up human rights abuses. Urging people to vote, Mr Mico says only the people can free themselves: "Hoping that the 'international community' will come to our rescue is irresponsible and illusionary".

 

The only other independent opposition party taking part is the Accion Popular de Guinea Ecuatorial.

 

Ten other officially recognized political parties have formed an alliance with the PDGE.

Will the elections be free and fair?

 

In the run-up to these elections, several activists trying to organize a peaceful demonstration were arrested, protesters were attacked by riot police with dogs and an opposition leader was arrested. The government said the protest was dispersed because illegal groups were taking part.

 

Access to Facebook and certain opposition websites including the CPDS was also blocked. The government has denied doing this deliberately, saying it was due to an "external virus".

Two days before the formal start of the campaign, Mr Mico said the PDGE had begun seeking votes and distributing its own election material while his party had had no airtime on radio or television nor had it received any promised electoral funding from the state.

 

The National Election Commission is controlled by the government.

 

What is the election procedure?

The number of polling stations and voters is unclear, but there were some 1,500 booths during the constitutional referendum held in 2011, with about 300,000 people eligible to vote.

 

Is there a free media?

President Obiang has denied reports that he imposed a news blackout on reports of the Arab Spring uprisings, saying that there is no ban on the media in his country. However, the authorities have tight control over the local media, with a virtual monopoly on funding and access to it. Reporters without Borders (RSF) ranks the country at 161 out of 179 in its press freedom index.

 

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Increased Pressure To Force The Hand of Guinea’s President

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Alpha Conde

The EU has come under increased pressure to force the hand of Guinea’s president Alpha Condé over stalled legislative elections. Martin Banks reports.

 

Alpha Condé was elected back in 2010 but free and transparent legislative elections and the establishment of a new national assembly have yet to take place. Some €40m in EU emergency support was immediately made available to Guinea in 2010 to assist its transition to democracy.

Guinea also stands to receive substantial financial support from European development funds (EDF) for basic social services but only once ‘free and transparent’ elections have taken place. These are now expected to be held on 30 June but the opposition says it will not take part because of concerns over election procedures.

 

The opposition leader in Guinea, Cellou Dalein Diallo, was invited by Belgian Liberal MEP and former EU commissioner Louis Michel to attend an ALDE group meeting during this month’s Strasbourg parliamentary plenary on 20-24 May. There is concern he may have to postpone the trip due to current unrest in the country. But, in an interview with Parliament Magazine, a leading member of the opposition explained their concerns about the upcoming elections.

 

Siradiou Diallo, national secretary for international relations of Union des Forces Démocratiques de Guinée (UFDG), said, “Alpha Condé has been president since November 2010. As his main challenger, our party leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, recognised his election, trusting his promises that he would organise legislative elections immediately. We did so to avoid tensions and violence.

 

“Since 2010, elections have been postponed several times and we still don’t have an elected parliament. This gives powers to Condé and his friends to run the country without any balance of power.” He added, “One could see the organisation of elections next month as a positive step in the normalisation of political life but this, in fact, is a smoke screen.”

 

He pointed out that the opposition has demanded South African firm Waymark be stripped of a contract to revise the voter list. They say Waymark was hired in between the two rounds of the 2010 presidential election when Condé’s vote climbed from just over 18 per cent to nearly 53 per cent to overhaul the main opposition challenger. The fear is that Condé will attempt to rig the 30 June vote by registering more of his supporters.

 

Diallo said, “We have made clear for months that we would never agree to participate in an election where the voter lists are established by this company which has been involved in many disputed elections on our continent and is no longer recognised as a trustworthy operator.” It is also claimed that Condé breached his pledge to allow Guineans living abroad the right to vote in the election. EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has recently voiced “concern” at an upsurge in violence in Guinea following “authorised opposition protests”. Ashton demanded a “calmer atmosphere in which sincere” political dialogue could take place.

 

But Diallo, whose party is affiliated to International Liberal, says that by choosing 30 June at “very short notice” Condé has “blocked all hope that the election will be fair and transparent”. He added, “In such a short space of time, no international election observers could be deployed, no voter list could be revised and no serious campaigning could take place.”

 

He said the opposition’s message to the president is, “We don’t fear competing against you. Our message to him is show to the Guineans and the international community that you are committed to run a democracy and not another kleptocracy.” 

 

Martin Banks is a journalist for The Parliament Magazine

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Orange aims to strengthen West African services with training program

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Orange

Orange plans to bolster its services in West Africa with a new facility in Dakar, Senegal, that will offer development programs for managers of the mobile service in the region.

Region leads revenue growth for Africa and Middle East

 

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Orange, the mobile arm of France Telecom, has a presence in 20 African countries. The inauguration of the Dara facility marks the growing importance of the West African region for the company. The site will offer development programs to about a thousand managers of the company's subsidiaries in Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal.

 

Orange has been expanding in Africa and the Middle East, with West Africa growing in importance. In its latest consolidated results for the first quarter, Orange reported that its services reached 82 million customers, up 8.2 percent year on year, for all of Africa and the Middle East. Revenue increased by 3.3 percent, led by Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea and Niger. Orange did not offer a breakdown of subscribers for West Africa, but according to a company annual report, Orange had more than 15 million combined subscribers in Mali, Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire by 2011.

 

France Telecom also played a major role in the initiative to construct the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable, which provided some African countries, especially interlocked countries like Niger and Mali, with the their first opportunity to connect to an international fiber-optic network.

 

The Dakar facility will offer more than 20 different development programs designed to help local managers take up their responsibilities quickly, mobilize and develop their teams, and reinforce best managerial practices.

 

Managers from other Orange subsidiaries in French-speaking Africa -- the Central African Republic, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- are also expected to benefit from the programs.


Read more: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/network-wifi/3447952/orange-aims-to-strengthen-west-african-services-with-training-program/#ixzz2TfCJ4cP6

 

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Guinea opposition to renew protests as U.N.-led talks founder

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Protests in Guinea

CONAKRY | Tue May 14, 2013 11:29am EDT(Reuters) - Guinean opposition leaders called on Tuesday for renewed protests next week, accusing President Alpha Conde of sabotaging U.N.- mediated talks aimed at ending the impasse over the organization of a parliamentary election.

 

The opposition, which accuses the president of attempting to rig the long-delayed election, due to take place on June 30, suspended protests last week to allow the talks to take place.

At least 20 people have been killed and more than 300 others wounded in clashes between opposition supporters, security forces and Conde's backers since March.

 

Aside from being the world's top producer of the aluminum ore bauxite, Guinea possesses vast untapped reserves of gold, iron ore and diamonds but the long-term political instability has deterred investment.

 

"We wanted to give dialogue a chance, but we saw that no hand was extended. There was no initiative aiming to calm the situation," opposition spokesman Aboubacar Sylla told journalists. He said demonstrations would resume on May 22 and would eventually extend across the West African nation.

 

The opposition says Conde's allies on the elections commission set the date of the poll without consulting them. They are also demanding that South African firm Waymark be stripped of a contract to revise the voter list and that the mostly opposition-aligned Guinean diaspora be allowed to vote.

 

The government has rejected the demands and had no immediate reaction to the opposition's call for more demonstrations.

 

Conde was elected in 2010 in the former French colony's first democratic transfer of power since 1958.The legislative election, originally due to take place in 2011, is meant to complete Guinea's transition back to civilian rule after the army seized power in 2008 upon the death of longtime leader Lansana Conte.

 

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Guinea Marine becomes US citizen

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Cpl. Mamadou Balde

CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan - Lance Cpl. Mamadou Balde’s father, Al, always hoped his son would earn his U.S. citizenship. Balde, a maintenance mechanic with General Support 2 Platoon, Retrograde Operations Company, Redeployment and Retrograde in Support of Reset and Reconstitution Operations Group, finally earned his citizenship in a ceremony at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, March 1.

Balde’s journey to citizenship took patience, strength, and sacrifice. Balde was born in Guinea, a war-torn country in West

Africa that has been in constant turmoil since gaining independence in 1958. For nearly 10 years, he and his two siblings lived with his grandmother and immediate relatives in Guinea until Al, who had immigrated to the U.S. in 1990, could build a better life for them. 

“My dad wanted to get us away from all the constant fighting,” said Balde. “I didn’t really get to know him until I was almost 10 years old.”

Balde’s childhood in Guinea wasn’t privileged. He walked 30 miles each day just to attend school and spent most of his free time playing soccer and card games that he, his cousins and friends made up.

In 1999, Balde and his siblings were finally able to join his father in Chicago. The move to the United States was a culture shock to Balde who only spoke Fula, a West African dialect, and a little bit of French. It would take Balde about a year and a half to learn English.

“No one outside of our house spoke [Fula], so I had to pick up English fast,” said Balde, who admitted he also watched ‘Days Of Our Lives’ to learn English. 

In school, Balde struggled to fit in at first but has since gained a very assertive view of himself.

“They made fun of me because I was so skinny and handsome,” added a not-so-modest Balde. “It was hard to deal with because there was nobody that could understand (me).”

After graduating high school in 2009, Balde enlisted in the Marine Corps. He is the first in his family to join the service.

“My dad brags about me all the time to our little community (back home),” said Balde. “But he always (stressed) to me how important it was to get my citizenship.”

When Balde, stationed out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., attached to R4OG upon arriving in Afghanistan he told his command about his aspiration to become a United States citizen.

Balde’s unit was very supportive of his decision to become a citizen. His squad leader, Cpl. Allen Nicholas, said the command decided to send Balde to Camp Leatherneck where he was able to talk to the right people about getting his citizenship. Nicholas said the entire unit helped quiz Balde on his knowledge for the test.

“I already knew a lot of it, but everyone would joke around and grill me with all these questions, so the test was pretty simple for me,” said Balde, who is on his second deployment. “My unit was very supportive to say the least. They helped me get it all done as soon as I told them about it. Once I got my citizenship, my dad was very proud and even more excited about it than me.”

Balde said his time in the Marine Corps is coming to an end as his enlistment ends in November. He plans on visiting Guinea for a couple of months before attending college to study history.

Balde said his experience in the Marine Corps has been rewarding, but admits it is time for him to move on.

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Guinea: Opposition Demonstrators Attacked, Killed and Journalists Threatened in Guinea Protests

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Guinean army fights back protestors

On 2 May 2013, supporters belonging to the Guinean Opposition Coalition were brutally attacked with live bullets and tear gas by police officers and gendarmes drawn from the Guinea Security Force.

 

The attack, which occurred on the Fidel Castro Highway in Conakry, left several demonstrators with serious wounds, while three people unfortunately lost their lives through gunshots. A police officer also got killed when he was stabbed with a sharp object.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent reported that the incident occurred when security officers clamped down on demonstrators who were demanding a free and credible parliamentary election, slated for June this year.

 

"The police and gendarmes prevented the march by firing live bullets, tear gas and hot water directly at the protestors," the correspondent reported.

 

In the course of the melee, three journalists who were covering the violence were nearly lynched by some angry protesters. According to MFWA's correspondent, Djamilatou Thi'anguel Bah and Mohammed Bangoura - from privately-owned Lynx FM - and Amadou Bah, a reporter with Radio Bonheur FM, were roughed up and had their equipment smashed by the protestors.

 

"You journalists, you talk too much. You are spies, we are going to tear you apart" said an unidentified demonstrator, according to Bangoura.

 

This latest attack follows a similar one on 18 April, when hundreds of opposition demonstrators were left wounded when police officers fired bullets and tear gas to disrupt their protest march in Conakry.

 

The political standoff between the government and the opposition continues to intensify, with the opposition accusing the ruling party of planning to rig the parliamentary elections.

 

Guinea's parliamentary election, originally scheduled for 2011, had been postponed about four times until President Alpha Conde recently decreed that the elections should be held on 30 June 2013.

 

The MFWA remains very concerned about the political unrest in the country and its effects on free expression. We reiterate our plea to the United Nations and its mediator for the Guinea crisis, Said Djinnit, to safeguard the safety of civilians and urge all concerned parties to show restraint and resort to peaceful dialogue.

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First rape charges over Guinea massacre

A GUINEAN paramilitary police officer has been slapped with the first rape charges over the 2009 Conakry Stadium massacre during which at least 157 protesters were killed, rights groups say.


The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomed the move as a strong signal that justice could finally be served to the more than 100 women raped during the tragedy.

The suspect was detained and charged on April 30 and appeared before the judges in the west African country's capital on Tuesday, the FIDH and its partner organisation in Guinea OGDH said.

 

"Our organisations welcomed this court decision, which is a major step forward in this matter since it is the first such legal move affecting a perpetrator of the mass sexual violence committed in Conakry stadium on 28 September 2009," they said.

 

According to a United Nations report, at least 109 women were raped inside or in the vicinity of the stadium that day.

 

The suspect who faces the court charges is accused of "having raped a women within the stadium compound, with the complicity of two other gendarmes", the joint statement said.

A special panel of judges has been set up to investigate the massacre. Six Guinean members of the military have so far been charged but no trial has yet begun.

 

Tens of thousands of people had gathered in Conakry stadium to protest against the junta led by Moussa Dadis Camara.

 

The security forces opened fire and mowed protesters down, killing at least 157. Hundreds were wounded and dozens are still missing.

 

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Violent demonstrations in Guinea over upcoming legislative elections leave 4 dead

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Violence in Guinea

CONAKRY, Guinea — Victims’ relatives and authorities in West African nation of Guinea say four people are dead following violent demonstrations against an upcoming legislative election.


A cousin said Friday that student Cherif Souleymane Diallo died after being shot by a police officer Friday. A second man, Mamady Camara, who was wounded Thursday by a thrown rock, also died.

A third unidentified man died from a gunshot wound, doctors said. The fourth victim of the protest-related violence was a police officer killed by demonstrators, according to authorities.


Long-delayed legislative elections have been set for June 30, though opposition to the poll date has prompted a series of demonstrations in Guinea’s capital.


Guinea went through decades of dictatorship and strongman rule before a landmark 2010 presidential election.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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Community-Based Program: More Women Refuse Female Genital Mutilation

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FGM in Guinea and West Africa

The founder of an international group that educates people about the dangers of female genital mutilation - also known as female genital cutting or FGM/C - says a growing number of women are refusing to undergo the practice.

 

Molly Melching, founder of the non-profit group, Tostan, says her community-based program of education and training has helped reduce the practice in more than 6,000 communities in eight African countries.

Molly Melching says Tostan has been successful in changing attitudes about female genital cutting in countries such as Somalia, Guinea Bissau and Senegal - where her program is based.

 

On VOA's Press Conference USA program, she said her group's success has stemmed from an approach that begins first, with asking people how they want to live in their communities, and then raising their awareness about issues that include health and hygiene.

 

“It’s this awareness-raising that is so critical, which is not about going in and telling people ‘This is horrible. How could you do this? This is barbaric,’ which is what some people’s first reaction is. But we felt like it was not the way to go about changing something that people think is good," said Melching.

 

Melching says female genital cutting is considered favorably in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia because it has an impact on a woman's status in society.  Many believe it helps women control their sexuality, but it is also widely considered a human rights issue involving the oppression of women.

 

In practicing communities, women who do not undergo the procedure are often ostracized.

 

The United Nations’ Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that at least 120 million women and girls have experienced cutting in the 29 African and Middle Eastern countries where the practice is concentrated.

 

UNICEF specialist Cody Donahue says Somalia, Guinea and Egypt are among countries with the highest rates of cutting, but he says there are signs of change.

 

"Even in countries that remain high-prevalence countries, we are seeing some encouraging trends. One is in Egypt, where we do see a modest decline in the practice," said Donahue.

 

Both Donahue and Melching say one factor that often slows down change is a belief that female genital cutting is tied to religion.

 

But Melching says religious leaders in some communities have begun to speak out against the practice.

 

“My experience has been that when the religious leaders hear the women talk, often for the first time, they are really shocked," she said. "And the thing I hear all the time is, ‘I didn’t know. I just didn’t know that this is what was involved. I had no idea.’”

 

Donahue says the perceived link between Islam and female genital mutilation appears to be growing weaker.

 

"Increasingly, you have very public and well founded, well documented religious arguments stating categorically that FGM/C is not a requirement of religious teachings, especially from Islam, you are hearing this very strongly now," said Donahue.

 

In addition to changes in religious views, a growing number of communities are now enacting laws that ban the practice of cutting.

 

Melching says laws are good but they will not change "deeply entrenched social norms."

 

“There has to be a law, yes," she said. "But the emphasis, we believe and what we have seen has led to mass abandonment, large-scale abandonment, has been this community education."

 

She says her community-based education process allows people to draw their own conclusions about ending female genital cutting.

 

Melching's work with Tostan on the issue is featured in a new book called However Long the Night.

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Guinea on brink of chaos over long-delayed poll

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Man gives us the interview

(Reuters) - Failure by Guinea's politicians to reach agreement for a long-delayed legislative poll is stirring up tribal violence, jeopardizing economic gains and raising fears that the military could once again step in.

 

The election, first scheduled for 2011, is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule after a military coup in 2008, but has been postponed several times as government and opposition parties remain at loggerheads over the organization of the vote.

At least 12 people have been killed and over 300 wounded between February and April during several days of violent clashes between opposition supporters, government loyalists and security forces in the seaside capital Conakry.

 

The government and its opponents have traded accusations of stirring hatred between the largely pro-opposition Peul, who account for around 40 percent of the population, and the smaller Malinke tribe loyal to President Alpha Conde.

 

"The risks for Guinea are enormous," said Christopher Fomunyoh, Africa regional director for Washington-based think tank National Democratic Institute (NDI).

 

"The ethnic undertones to the political debate in Guinea are growing increasingly polarizing."

 

For some, like 24-year-old car mechanic Abdoulaye Jibril Sow, the risks are already reality. In early March he arrived at his home in Bambeto, an opposition stronghold, when a bullet ricocheted off a wall, sliced through his neck and exited through his left shoulder blade.

 

Sow did not see who fired the shot, which paralyzed his arm, nor who shot dead a 16-year-old neighbor the same night during an attack on the poor Peul neighborhood by Malinke tribesmen.

 

"All I am asking for is that the opposition and those in power reach an agreement so that the youth of this country should not continue to pay the price of this violence," Sow said, wincing as he tried to sit up.

 

The international community is working hard to bring the parties to the negotiating table, worried that Guinea's collapse could suck in neighbors Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali, themselves struggling to recover after civil conflicts.

 

VOTE-RIGGING ALLEGATIONS

Hopes of a compromise waned when the government said this month it would press ahead with the elections on June 30, disregarding opposition objections.

 

The opposition has demanded South African firm Waymark be stripped of a contract to revise the voter list. They say Waymark, which was hired in between the two rounds of the 2010 presidential election, when Conde's vote climbed from just over 18 percent to nearly 53 percent to overhaul main opposition challenger Cellou Dalein Diallo, was helping Conde rig the vote by registering more of his supporters.

 

Waymark Managing Director Pikie Monaheng dismissed allegations that his company was favoring Conde: "This is business. We're just the technology provider."

 

Conde's government says there is not enough time to find a new firm before the ballot.

The opposition has also demanded the mostly pro-opposition diaspora be allowed to vote, but time is against that, too, says the government.

 

Opposition politicians are also calling for the release of supporters who have been arrested during protests, but the government insists that is a matter for the courts. In the meantime, observers say hardliners on both sides are gaining the upper hand.

 

FEARS OF MILITARY INTERVENTION

NDI's Fomunyoh warned that Guinean politicians risked giving the army an opportunity it has been quick to grasp in the past.

 

General Lansana Conte staged a coup in 1984 following the death of President Sekou Toure and ruled for 24 years. Hours after Conte's death, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power in 2008, ushering in two more years of military rule.

 

Many in the army are hostile to Conde after his sweeping reform of the military forced 4,000 soldiers to retire. The former armed forces chief is awaiting trial for a 2011 gun and rocket attack on Conde's home by soldiers.

 

"Some opposition politicians are creating this situation in the hope the military will intervene," said Territorial Administration Minister Alhassane Conde. "Some in the opposition do not want to go to the polls, fearing they will lose."

 

Former prime minister Sidya Toure, who emerged as an opposition leader after coming third in the 2010 presidential vote, said Conde's intransigence was radicalizing his opponents.

 

"Only the international community can force Conde to open a serious dialogue with the opposition," said Sidya, leader of the Union of Republican Forces (UFR). "If not, the pressure will come from the streets, and then anything is possible."

 

INVESTMENT ON HOLD

The tensions are putting at risk three years of economic gains that allowed Guinea to secure $2.1 billion in debt relief from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Despite vast deposits of gold, iron ore and diamonds, global miners Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Brazil's Vale have cited the political uncertainty as one of the reasons for slowing billions of dollars of investments.

 

A transitional council that sits in place of a parliament has ratified a revised mining code that cuts tax and royalty demands to attract resources development, but investors worry a new parliament could undo the council's decisions.

 

Though Conde has won plaudits for stabilizing the economy, cutting the budget deficit and halving inflation to 13 percent, many ordinary Guineans say conditions have not improved in the world's top exporter of bauxite, an aluminum ore. Half the country's 10 million people still live in poverty.

 

Guinea's economic growth, at 3.9 percent, missed forecasts by a full percentage point last year. The Finance Ministry warned this month that investors' caution was jeopardizing this year's 4.5 percent target, too.

 

Nowhere is the situation more fraught than in Fria, which houses the cavernous 640,000 metric ton (1.1023 tons)-a-year Friguia alumina refinery, operated by Russian aluminumgiant RUSAL.

 

RUSAL suspended operations a year ago after a strike over wages, leaving over 3,000 workers idle and depriving the town's nearly 150,000 inhabitants of most of the power, water and waste disposal services the refinery used to provide.

 

Children now play on mounting piles of rubbish on Fria's dusty red streets, while hundreds of workers loiter in the tropical heat, desperate for work.

 

"People have become so hungry and so desperate that they are losing their dignity, begging and scavenging for food," said Moriba Lamah, a 33-year-old electronic engineer who used to work at the plant.

 

"This cannot go on for long; there is risk of a violent explosion in this city. Without Friguia, Fria is lost."

 

The country's exports slumped 45 percent to 614 billion Guinea francs ($87 million) in January from a year earlier. Since January 2012, it has not exported any alumina, one of its main hard currency generators.

 

A senior official at an international agency said the slowdown on mining projects such as Rio Tinto's giant Simandou iron ore mine could slash three quarters off Guinea's economic growth, projected at about 19.9 percent between now and 2015.

($1 = 7,062 Guinea francs)

 

(Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Will Waterman)

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One dead, five wounded in Guinea anti-govt demo: hospital

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CONAKRY — Guinean police shot dead a teenager Thursday when it opened fire on protesters marching against a government decision to hold a long-delayed election in June, a hospital source said.

 

The 16-year-old was killed in front of his home in an opposition stronghold area of the capital Conakry as security forces

chased demonstrators returning from an opposition rally, the source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

 

"The crackdown led to five people receiving gunshot wounds who were cared for in various health centres and clinics throughout the city," the source added.

 

The death was confirmed by opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, who visited the morgue.

"This is proof of the barbarity of the police who chased the opposition activists towards their family homes to kill them," said Diallo, who had called the protest.

 

Thousands had gathered in the city's suburbs before beginning a March surrounded by police to protest against a "unilateral" government decision to hold legislative elections on June 30.

 

"We want free and fair elections, we want Guinea to be a truly democratic country where life is good," said former prime minister Sidya Toure.

 

The poll, postponed several times in the past two years, has become a hit button issue in the west African nation as it tries to move on from decades of dictatorship, coups and political violence.

 

The most recent date of May 12 was abandoned after violent opposition protests broke out in February, leaving nine dead and more than 240 injured, and 25 people were injured when security forces and protesters clashed again last week.

 

The last legislative elections in the country were held in 2002 under then president Lansana Conte who ruled the former French colony for 24 years until his death in December 2008, prompting a disastrous coup marked by extreme police brutality.

 

Government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara, informed of the death by AFP, described the shooting as "regrettable".

 

In a statement issued earlier he had reported "four injured, two protesters and two police officers".

 

"The government regrets and condemns the turn that the protest, announced as peaceful and authorised by the administration, has taken in Conakry, descending into violence that no one would want," the statement added.

 

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Teenage protester killed at Guinea demonstration

drum connection
Guinea protests

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Family members say a 16-year-old boy who took part in an opposition demonstration in Guinea has died from a gunshot wound.

 

Relatives identified the victim as Boubacar Diallo, a young mechanic, who was shot during Thursday’s demonstration in which dozens marched in the capital.

 

The boy’s father told The Associated Press it wasn’t known how his son was wounded, though he said security forces in the area were shooting into the air.

It is the latest unrest to roil the West African country, where tensions over upcoming legislative elections already have prompted several other demonstrations that erupted into violence.

 

Opposition supporters reject a June 30 date that has been set for long-awaited legislative elections, saying the president unilaterally chose it without input from all parties.

 

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Guinea arrests executives in mining licence probe

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Guinea Mining

LONDON — Guinea has arrested two executives of BSG Resources (BSGR), the mining company controlled by Israel’s richest citizen, Beny Steinmetz, as a US investigation into how it won rights to a "lucrative" iron-ore deposit widened.

 

Local police arrested BSGR vice-president and director of public relations Ibrahima Sory Toure as part of a probe into whether bribes were paid to win two licences covering the Simandou deposit, Mr Toure’s lawyer, Momo Sacko, said on Monday.

A security official for BSGR in Guinea, Issaga Bangoura, was also apprehended, according to a statement from the justice ministry. "Their arrest follows suspicious activities aimed at removing themselves from the ongoing process," the ministry said.

 

Mr Toure was preparing to leave Guinea and Mr Bangoura was wanted by his military unit for being absent without permission, according to a statement, which described the men as "key witnesses" in the probe.

 

Mr Sacko, who is also representing Mr Bangoura, dismissed claims against the official. "Investigators thought they could find documents to cross-check allegations of corruption but they do not find anything," Mr Sacko said in the capital, Conakry.

 

BSGR said the men had been illegally detained on unsubstantiated grounds. "This is a further example of an illegitimate government resorting to harassment of BSG Resources and its officials," the Guernsey-based company said.

 

BSGR acquired rights to part of the Simandou project, one of the world’s richest iron-ore deposits, in 2008 after Rio Tinto Group was ordered by the government to give up a section of its licence area. BSGR subsequently sold 51% of its Simandou stake to Brazil’s Vale in 2010 for $2.5bn. A $10bn mining operation was planned at the site.

 

Investigators seized computers and other documents in a raid of Mr Toure’s house on Friday, Mr Sacko said on Monday. The arrests are the latest in the probe first revealed by the US department of justice last week.

 

Frederic Cilins — described by Guinean Justice Minister Christian Sow as an agent of BSGR — was arrested in the US on April 14 and charged with plotting to destroy documents and induce a witness to give false testimony to a grand jury, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in New York. That witness is Mamadie Toure, wife of former Guinean president Lansana Conte, a person with knowledge of the probe said last week.

 

Guinea has accused BSGR of agreeing to pay her, and companies linked to her, $5m to help it win the Simandou permits in 2008, according to an October 30 letter to BSGR’s local joint venture and seen by Bloomberg.

 

From March to April 14, Mr Cilins allegedly offered to pay the witness, described in the complaint as the former wife of a now-deceased high-ranking Guinea government official, to deliver documents subpoenaed by the jury and documents requested by the FBI so he could destroy them, according to the complaint.

 

BSGR said in a statement last week that Mr Cilins is not one of the firm’s 6,000 employees and allegations of fraud in obtaining its mining rights are baseless.

 

Mamadie Toure was the fourth wife of former president Conte, who died in 2008. The witness is helping the US with its investigation in the hope of obtaining immunity for her own potential criminal conduct, the US complaint states.

 

The department of justice’s April 15 statement that it was investigating the possible payment of bribes to win "lucrative mining rights" followed the start of a probe by Guinea last year into how BSGR gained its permits. The company may have bribed Ms Toure to obtain licences, including for Blocks 1 and 2 at Simandou, Guinea officials alleged in the October 30 letter.

 

"The investigation takes place within the framework of a collaboration between both departments of justice of Guinea and the US," Guinea justice ministry spokesman Ibrahima Beavogui said by phone.

 

Mr Steinmetz is Israel’s richest person with a net worth of about $8.5b n, according to Bloomberg Billionaires analysis. His BSG Investments has interests in mining, real estate and capital markets, according to its website.

 

The federal grand jury investigation concerns transfers of money into the US from outside the country as part of a scheme to obtain mining concessions in Guinea including in the Simandou region, according to the complaint.

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One dead in Guinea election protests

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One Dead in Protests

CONAKRY (Reuters) - One man has died from wounds suffered during clashes in the Guinean capital of Conakry between security forces and demonstrators protesting against preparations for a long-delayed parliamentary election, a government spokesman said on Friday.

 

Damantang Albert Camara said more than 15 others were wounded, including four from gunshots, during Thursday's protests sparked by President Alpha Conde's decision last week to fix June 30 as the date for the ballot.

He did so without agreeing to opposition demands that the government allow the mostly pro-opposition diaspora to vote and strip South Africa's Waymark of its contract to manage the voter list.

 

Opposition parties accuse Conde, who took office in 2010 following the first democratic transfer of power since independence in 1958, of planning to rig the vote.

 

"The person died as a result of beating," Camara said of the fatality, without providing further details.

 

Youths throwing rocks barricaded roads and burned tires in opposition strongholds in the seaside capital on Thursday and police fired tear gas to disperse them, residents said.

In February and March, nine people were killed and 300 wounded during days of similar clashes between opposition protesters, security forces and government supporters.

 

The election, originally scheduled for 2011, is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule following a military coup in 2008, and could unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in European aid.

 

Guinea is the world's top bauxite exporter, but long-term instability has helped to deter investment in its vast untapped reserves of gold, iron ore and diamonds.

 

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Guinea Police Fire Tear Gas to Disperse Protesters

Guinea Protest
Conakry Guinea

By BOUBACAR DIALLO Associated Press

CONAKRY, Guinea April 18, 2013 (AP)

 

Security forces in Guinea clashed with opposition protesters on Thursday who are opposed to the June date set for legislative elections, leaving at least 15 people wounded, the government said.

 

Police also arrested the opposition's spokesman and another leader after the demonstration went ahead despite the

government's calls for protesters to take another route.

 

"The government is deeply concerned about the lack of respect for the security instructions and the call to violence," government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said. "It also strongly condemns the acts of violence that left people wounded and the stone-throwing attacks against security forces who had been deployed to ensure the civilian population's protection."

 

The government said four people were wounded by bullets "of an unknown origin," while others were hurt when protesters hurled stones.

 

At least one man was critically wounded, according to Mamadou Sire Tounkara at the emergency room at Donka hospital.

 

"He was shot in the stomach. He is bleeding but we don't have the means to treat him," Sire Tounkara said.

 

The long-awaited legislative vote has been a flashpoint for violent demonstrations over the last several months in this West African nation that long suffered under strongman rule.

The opposition is upset about the preparations being made for the June 30 date, saying the decision was made unilaterally by those in power. The arrests are sure to further heighten tensions surrounding the vote.

 

Guinean authorities deployed about 4,000 security forces before Thursday's rally.

 

Opposition supporters said police detained their spokesman, Aboubacar Sylla, along with leader Charles Pascal Tolno from the Guinea People's Party (PPG). The two men were released hours later.

 

Guinea held its first democratic president election in 2010, though the country has failed to organize legislative polls and has no sitting legislature.

 

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Guinea opposition to relaunch protests over new election date

Drum Connection
Alpha Conde

(Reuters) - Guinea's opposition said it would stage protests this week against the president's decision to hold parliamentary elections in June, raising the risk of more bloodshed after violent demonstrations last month.

 

The vote is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule in the mineral-rich country after a 2008 military coup and could unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in European aid.

It was originally supposed to be held in 2011, but has been held up by wrangling over the makeup of the electoral commission

and opposition accusations that the government was planning to rig it.

 

Nine people were killed and more than 300 were wounded in clashes between security forces and opposition protesters during a wave of protests in late February and early March.

 

President Alpha Conde set the June 30 date for the polls in a decree read on state television on Saturday.

 

Opposition groups have alleged there were irregularities in awarding a contract to update the electoral register to the South African firm Waymark. They say Waymark is skewing the list to favour Conde's allies and demand the company be replaced.

 

The government has said there is not enough time to bring in a replacement and that the firm's system is secure against fraud.

 

"We have decided to relaunch our demonstrations with a peaceful march on Thursday. Friday will be a stay-at-home strike, and we will continue next week," opposition spokesman Aboubacar Sylla told Reuters late on Sunday.

 

"We understand that we can no longer trust this government ... We have decided not to stop our protests until our demands are entirely satisfied," Sylla said.

 

Guinea is the world's top exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite and has rich deposits of iron ore, gold and diamonds.

 

The political uncertainty has led to billions of dollars in mining investments being put on hold and hit Guinea's mining-dependent economy hard. It registered 3.9 percent growth last year, 1 percentage point lower than forecast.

 

The opposition, which also wants Guinea's largely pro-opposition diaspora to be allowed to vote, had agreed to reopen stalled negotiations with the government last week. But it said the talks broke down after the government decided to push ahead with election preparations.

 

Conde's office said on Monday that the United Nation's special representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, had been named by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to serve as mediator in the negotiations.

 

"We hope that this does not mean they are breaking off dialogue and that with the presence of the facilitator we will be able to address the questions that continue to worry (the opposition)," said government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara.

 

Behind Guinea's political feuding there is a deep-rooted rivalry between the Malinke and the Peul, its two largest ethnic groups. The Malinke broadly support Conde, while the opposition draws heavily from the Peul.

 

(Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Pravin Char)

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Guinea Opposition Pulls Out of Talks

Drums in Boston
Guinea Elections

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) - Aboubacar Sylla, a spokesman for Guinea's coalition of opposition parties, announced that the country's opposition is pulling out of talks with the ruling party, negotiations initiated by President Alpha Conde last month in an attempt to resolve the political feud that has consumed the West African nation since the 2010 presidential election.

Sylla called the dialogue with the ruling party "pure folklore" and said that Conde's party has failed to make good on a series of promises, including releasing political prisoners.
For weeks, Guinea's capital has repeatedly been immobilized by violent protests.

 

At issue are the upcoming legislative elections, which have been postponed for years. Conde was elected in a deeply divisive 2010 presidential election. Though deemed the country's first democratic election, the vote devolved into ethnic riots.

 

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Timbuktu's Desert Scrolls: Re-writing the History of Africa

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Ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu

You may have witnessed a moment, an event or a discovery that would change the future of a community. This event or discovery would have to be something exceptional and dramatic to write a new chapter in the books of history.

But imagine witnessing a moment or discovery that would re-write the history of an entire nation! That has got to be something spectacular to erase and replace the pages of history.

This is precisely what has happened in Timbuktu, Mali in the last five years. Over a million manuscripts have been re-discovered and about 20 million more in West Africa overall. These manuscripts date back to 12th to 16th century period. 

 

"Prior to the re-discovery of manuscripts, people thought Africa had no literacy and that it was a simple oral tradition,” says Okolo Rashid, Executive Director of International Museum of Muslim Cultures (IMMC) in Jackson, Mississippi.  

 

"As a team of 25 scholars and historians study this newly uncovered global legacy of literacy in Africa, they believe it's enough evidence to re-write the history of Africa,” Rashid continued. 

 

It is by far the most astounding revelation of its kind ever since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

 

Intellectual Legacy of Africa

The Timbuktu manuscripts are a symbolic representation of the impact and influence of the early schools and universities (12th-16th centuries) that existed in West Africa.

 

"The fact that the trade of books in Mali was considered the most profitable business at that time shows how much West Africans loved literacy and education,” said Emad Al-Turk, Chairman and co-founder of IMMC.

 

These manuscripts, incredibly rich in style and content, illustrate the depth of knowledge and intellect of students and scholars in this center of learning.

 

The variety of topics these manuscripts cover is phenomenal. Some of the religious topics include: jurisprudence (Fiqh), human and women's rights, and Quranic commentary (Tafseer). In science, they cover everything from astronomy and medicine to mathematics.

"Interestingly, about 85 percent of manuscripts were written in Arabic, which indicates that writers were well-versed in Arabic and Islam, even though they may be addressing non-religious topics,” added Al-Turk. Okolo Rashid described her trip to Timbuktu, Mali, in January 2004, as "indeed a moving and deeply spiritual journey.”

 

She said she marveled at these manuscripts "so beautifully bound in leather with calligraphy and illustrations painted on them.”

 

About one million manuscripts were hidden in Mali for over 500 years. As she explains, "it's God's Will that they survived, partly due to the arid environment.”

 

Opportunity to Tell the True Story

The rediscovery of ancient manuscripts offers an amazing opportunity to tell the true religious, political, social, and economic history of Africa to the world.

 

According to Al-Turk, this rediscovery is "extremely important for the educators in the American public school system because they need to teach students the correct story.”

It will also bring to light Muslim accomplishments in African history.

 

"For example, the concept of ‘global peace'. There is a large body of knowledge in the manuscripts developed around conflict resolution and mediation. This study will impact our global discourse on peace and justice. Through the writings of ‘scholars of peace' five centuries ago, we can learn from and adopt their unique model for local and global peace-keeping,” explained Rashid.

 

As we study these manuscripts, we realize that these people had developed a sophisticated socio-economic model for the publication industry. Africans in Timbuktu were at the forefront of the global Islamic knowledge industry at the time. They developed generations of local scholars who wrote books about everything. These books were then beautifully bound and exported.

 

Moreover, the manuscripts reveal that many Africans brought to America were very established and educated individuals. Some of them were judges, teachers, and merchants prior to the transatlantic slave trade. They were not brought over to be ‘civilized'.

"In fact Muslim Africans were the first cultural group to bring a revealed religion to America,” said Rashid. 

 

These manuscripts may also serve as a "missing link” between African-Americans and Islam. "It will allow African-Americans to look at Islam and Muslim not as strangers anymore. This is the link that has been missing from our Black and African studies in universities all this time,” added Rashid.

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Guinea: resource nationalism, or just getting things straight?

Boston Drums
Simandou

Resource nationalism is a growing threat for companies in many emerging markets. The challenge for investors lies in distinguishing between arbitrary or predatory interventions, and legitimate attempts to clean up a broken system.


In Guinea, a mining code reform, an unchecked executive and simmering political tensions have prompted some risk analysts and lawyers to raise alarm bells. Are they justified, or is this a case of the country getting things straight?


Risk consultancy Maplecroft put the west African state in the ‘extreme risk’ category in their 2013 Resource Nationalism

Index. Guinea ranked second bottom for investor protection in the World Economic Forum’s 2012-2013 Annual Competitiveness Index.


The mining code, announced in September 2011, mandates the state a 15 per cent stake in all new mining projects with the right to purchase a further 20 per cent. Mining companies are also subject to higher fees for concessions and increased import duties. 


“Despite the Conde regime’s apparent commitment to transparency throughout the mining review process, a lack of consultation with business and slow implementation of the mining code has prolonged rather than eliminated regulatory uncertainty,” says Sian Bradley, Africa analyst at Maplecroft. The recent dispute between Rio Tinto and the government highlights the confusion surrounding the state’s stake in extractive industries.


But some donors and commentators support the government’s approach. The IMF describes the new mining code as “a key achievement” in Guinea’s progress with structural reform, and argues that use of a windfall mining revenue in 2011 proved critical to restoring public infrastructure investment. 


Overall economic performance, meanwhile, has been good. Growth is improving, rising inflation has been halted, international reserves have increased and arrears with multilateral institutions have been cleared.


Paul Collier, economist at Oxford University, believes that President Conde and ‘distinguished’ finance minister Kerfalla Yansane are “struggling against an inheritance of systemic plunder” – specifically, they are trying to rectify the calamitous fire-sale of Guinea’s mining resources by the previous military rulers.


“This was a DRC-style scenario where people moving on from government [before elections in 2010] signed many mining deals in a hurried process and then when a new administration comes into power, invariably there will be dispute about whether some concessions have been properly given away or not,” says Ola Bello, head of the Africa resources programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs. 


Guinea is also reviewing around $2bn worth of questionable procurement contracts signed between 2009-2010, with support from the World Bank. Collier says: “Investors in Guinea should distinguish clearly between the reasonable concerns of a democratic government for legitimate process and accusations of aggressive nationalism.”


Patrick Heller, legal adviser at the Revenue Watch Institute, is optimistic about the reform agenda, which includes a government decision to publish all mining contracts online. “Everything the government has laid out so far in terms of process and the way it is going to be carried out is – in our view – going in the right direction. 


The government has announced clearly the terms of references, they have named a respected and politically neutral individual [Nava Toure] to head the technical committee that is responsible for the analysis of the contracts” he says. “They have technocrats leading the process”.


Heller believes the government is responding to companies’ concerns. It announced amendments to the 2011 law after a consultation with businesses, and most international companies do not seem to object to the reform. “I think we’ve seen an evolution of the views of large multinational mining companies to recognise that a fundamentally one-sided deal is not a stable deal in the long term. It is important to reach agreements with government that can hold up to public scrutiny,” he says.


The mining reform concerns raised by companies are therefore mostly procedural, rather than existential, says Heller. The government “needs to do this [reform] in a way that is systematic, that puts all players on an equal footing, that enables companies to understand what the rules are going to be,” says Heller. Bello believes there is room for improvement here. While Conde’s intentions are “certainly progressive”, deal reviews and new mining codes could be done in a “more deliberative process”.


But it is the political backdrop, and not just the mining code review, which concerns some, since a fragile institutional environment can be as bad for business as growing government involvement in projects. “You have a sitting president whose power is not checked by a sitting parliament,” says Bello. Legislative elections have been repeatedly delayed, with polls now set to take place on 12 May 2013, but opposition parties have rejected the new date over alleged electoral irregularities.

 

In this environment “investors feel it is not a safe environment to put their money in” he argues.

 

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Guinea president picks ally to replace army chief

Brigadier General Namory Traore
Brigadier General Namory Traore

CONAKRY: Guinea President Alpha Conde named Brigadier General Namory Traore as head of the West African state’s armed forces on Tuesday, replacing General Souleymane Kelefa Diallo who died in a plane crash with five other top army officials on Feb. 11. 


Traore is seen as a close ally of Conde’s who will carry on a UN-backed reform effort to rein in the notoriously undisciplined and bloated Guinea armed forces, blamed for killings and coups since 1958 independence.

“(Traore’s) nomination can be seen as a move for continuity as far as the army reform effort is concerned,” a high ranking army officer told Reuters on condition of anonymity, following the decree announced on state television. 

Diallo was appointed by Conde after the latter won elections in 2010 in the world’s top bauxite producer, and was an architect of the reform of Guinea’s powerful military under which some 4,000 soldiers were forced to retire. 

Traore had served as deputy head of the armed forces under Diallo. Authorities are investigating the cause of the plane crash, which occurred near neighbouring Liberia’s capital Monrovia during a security mission. 

Conde’s government has been trying to organise legislative elections for May, the final step in the transition back to civilian rule after a 2008 coup and a prerequisite to unlock millions of dollars of frozen foreign aid. 

But the opposition, alleging bias in the electoral authority, has withdrawn from poll preparations. 

Conde’s 2010 election in a vote hailed as the first free elections since the end of French rule was marred by deadly riots and opposition allegations of fraud.

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