Twelve people have been killed and at least 89 injured in the West African nation of Guinea over the past week, as waves of violence grip the country ahead of legislative elections scheduled for late June. More than 50 people have died since February in clashes between government forces and the opposition. Opposition members, who come primarily from the Peuhl ethnic group, blame the deaths on government security forces which are dominated by the Malinke ethnic group. The opposition says the past week’s fatalities are the result of security forces violently repressing legal protests. In a statement released on Monday, the government confirmed that twelve people had died in violent confrontations since May 21. More than half of the fatalities were the result of gunshot wounds, according to the statement, although the “origin of the shots remains unknown”. Altercations between opponents of President Alpha Condé’s administration and security forces have been an almost weekly occurrence in the capital, Conakry, for the past several months.
The opposition says that the government has not met their demands for transparency in the upcoming legislative elections. Voters are scheduled to elect new members of the National Assembly, which has not met since a military coup rocked the country in 2008.
Guinea, a mineral rich country with a little more than 10 million citizens, is no stranger to ethnic and political violence. The two primary ethnic groups, the Peuhls (who represent around 40 percent of the population) and the Malinke (around 30 percent) are often at political odds, experts say, with political candidates shoring up support from within their own communities.
In 2009, tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters, a large proportion of them ethnic Peuhls, gathered at a stadium in Conakry. Security forces entered the stadium, slaughtering at least 150 people and committing mass rapes, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Many survivors said the security forces used racial slurs against Peuhls during the attacks.