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Updated Jun 1, 2020
A policeman fires tear gas during clashes with protesters in the opposition stronghold of Wanindara, a northern suburb of Conakry, on February 27, 2020. Guinea is holding a referendum on March 1, 2020, on whether to change the constitution, which could allow the incumbent president to run for a third term this year. Guineans have demonstrated en masse against the possibility since mid-October, in protests where at least thirty protesters and one gendarme have been killed, according to an AFP tally. CELLOU BINANI / AFP
A policeman fires teargas during clashes with protesters in the opposition stronghold of Wanindara, a northern suburb of Conakry, on February 27, 2020. (Cellou Binani/AFP)

Guinean authorities released an official report on the violence that broke out in the city of Nzérékoré on March 22, when Guinea held a contested legislative election and constitutional referendum. On that day and the following days, several clashes broke out between security forces and political opposition, which boycotted the elections in protest of what they believed to be an attempt by President Alpha Condé to pave the way for him to run for a third term in 2022. This was despite the new Guinean constitution clearly stipulating a two-term limit.

 

“Abuses by the security forces are fueling an already deep-seated distrust of the authorities”

 

The attorney general of Kankan, a city 375 kilometers north of Nzérékoré, said on Tuesday, May 26, that thirty civilians were killed and sixty-seven were injured during the clashes in late March. He said tensions were fueled by local officials of the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), a coalition of opposition groups and civil society organizations that were at the forefront of the anti-referendum and anti-Condé protests.

The FNDC, on the other hand, has reported that at least sixty-six people were killed in Nzérékoré, and nearly twice as many across the country. They accuse the governing party and the security forces of these deaths.

Human Rights Watch interviewed victims of the violence, witnesses, doctors, and political leaders in April and May, and has said there was credible evidence that the security forces used excessive force during the street protests, but those implicated have not been held to account.

The FNDC and other members of the opposition have also accused the Condé administration of using the COVID-19 restrictions to target and arrest people. “Abuses by the security forces are fueling an already deep-seated distrust of the authorities, adding an obstacle to the fight against COVID-19,” says Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

 

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