CONAKRY (Reuters) - President Alpha Conde has replaced his security minister with a career policeman, Guinea state television said, to tackle sustained unrest over the preparation of a legislative election the opposition fears will be rigged.
Opposition street protests began in March over the plan to proceed with the June 30 vote. Police have killed 12 protesters since Thursday and more than 50 overall in turmoil testing investor confidence in the world’s largest bauxite exporter.
A senior police source said Conde had dismissed Security Minister Mouramany Cisse in the face of worsening violence in opposition districts of Conakry, the coastal capital.
He will be replaced by Madifing Diane, a career policeman currently serving as Guinean ambassador to Senegal, state television said late on Monday.
Since protests resumed on Thursday, hundreds of policemen have been deployed to neighbourhoods in Conakry inhabited by the Peul ethnic group loyal to the opposition, without succeeding in restoring calm.
Residents reported witnessing clashes between gangs of Peuls and youths from the Malinke tribe loyal to Conde.
“Gangs came to attack people here, families, right before the eyes of the police, who didn’t do anything,” said Saikou Yaya Barry, president of a Peul ethnic association.
“We have seen the heads of families beaten, mothers stripped before their children.”
Other witnesses said opposition supporters blocked roads in some part of the capital and attacked passersby.
Diane previously served as security minister under president Lansana Conte, who ruled Guinea from 1984 to 2008.
Guinea’s opposition is calling for a South African firm contracted to revise voter lists, Waymark, to be replaced and for Guineans abroad to be allowed to vote.
The opposition accuses Waymark of packing the voter list with Malinke voters loyal to Conde, something which the company has strongly denied.
Opposition leaders temporarily suspended demonstrations this month to allow U.N.-brokered talks with the government to take place but later called for the protests to resume, accusing Conde of sabotaging the negotiations.
Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Mark Heinrich