Guinea’s military junta said it will launch an investigation into the deaths on Monday of 157 democracy protesters.
Anger and international criticism have simmered since soldiers opened fire on 50,000 demonstrators who gathered to protest military rule. The African Union, the European Union, and the United Nations have condemned the violence, while the United States harshly criticized what it called the government’s ”brazen” use of force.
The government has since apologized for the deaths, saying they were an accident. But it has also banned any further “subversive” activities and threatened the opposition with punishment.
Monday’s protests were a long-simmering backlash against Guinea’s military government, explains the Christian Science Monitor:
The military junta of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara was originally welcomed by the public when it came to power in a bloodless coup on Dec. 23. 2008, following the death of then-president Lansana Conte.
But Mr. Camara's junta has faced increasing pressure from within the country – and from Western donor nations and from the African Union – as it has refused to step down. Just last week, the AU threatened possible sanctions against Guinea.
The opposition was galvanized after rumors surfaced last month that, instead of stepping down, Camara would run in presidential elections scheduled for January. Camara has said that he's not decided yet if he will run, reports the BBC.
Since the incident, human rights groups have continued to report more casualties and crimes, saying that as many as 1,000 people were wounded and dozens of women raped. On Tuesday, soldiers were said to have continued targeting members of the opposition, killing many, according to The New York Times.
With tensions running high, Camara appeared on state television last night, promising to open an official inquiry into the violence. He earlier told Radio France Internationale, "Frankly it saddens me immensely. Frankly, it is very regrettable,” according to the BBC, but he also tried to deflect responsibility, saying, “We’re talking here about an uncontrolled movement. Even the chief of state can’t control this movement,” quotes the New York Times.
Despite his conciliatory tone, Camara also had stiff words for any would-be protesters, saying they would be punished. He also accused protesters of looting a police station in the capital Conakry, according to Reuters.
“We want free and democratic elections, but considering what happened yesterday, we now want the government to go and for it to be replaced by a national government that can organise elections."