April 14, 2015 / 7:49 PM / in 2 years

Guinea opposition suspends protests after second day of clashes

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Opposition leaders in Guinea on Tuesday called for a suspension of protests after gunfire erupted in several neighbourhoods in the capital, Conakry, as hundreds of supporters clashed with security forces for a second day running.

Protests over the timing of elections would be suspended until next week, a spokesman for the opposition said.

Government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said one person died on Tuesday after falling into a ravine during violence. The government had earlier said about 10 people were injured, including one with bullet wounds.

At least six people were hit by bullets on Monday. The government has denied security forces shot at protesters and called for an investigation. Medical sources and rights group Amnesty International said one man was killed during Monday’s clashes.

Opposition parties have called for protests in order to pressure the government to hold local elections ahead of a presidential vote, as laid out in a 2013 agreement between Guinea’s rival political factions.

The government does not recognise the clause on the order of voting and has set the presidential election for Oct. 11, with the local election due early next year.

Analysts say that holding local elections ahead of the presidential vote would give President Alpha Conde’s rivals more influence in the organisation of the vote. The government denies that delaying local polls will have any impact on free and fair elections.

Rich in bauxite and iron ore, Guinea has seen its mining potential hamstrung by years of political instability.

Aboubacar Sylla, spokesman for the opposition, said the break in demonstrations would allow Conakry residents the time to “breathe”, but countrywide protests would begin next Monday.

The government called for talks to ease tensions, but opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo earlier ruled them out unless the government scraps the existing election timetable.

Witnesses and a security source said youths burning tyres and manning barricades clashed with security forces, paralysing main roads running through poorer neighbourhoods.

“The Guinean authorities must not bring back the old demons of violence. All those responsible for the excessive use of force must be clearly identified and brought to trial,” the group said.

Protests in Guinea regularly turn violent and the government has ordered soldiers to remain in barracks, while the police and gendarmes on the streets have been instructed not to use lethal force.

Residents in opposition strongholds such as Bambeto, Hamdallaye and Cosa have reported shooting, but it was not clear who was responsible.

“It hasn’t let up since yesterday,” resident Adiatou Bah said. “This morning I heard gunfire and I stayed at home.”

Dozens of people were killed in election-related violence during the 2010 presidential vote and the legislative election in 2013.

Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams and G Crosse

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