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Guinea traders fear looting rampage after vote

04 October 2013, 10:35

Conakry - Along the cracked and muddy road that crosses Madina, the main market in Guinea's capital Conakry, shops are shut because of fear of violence after elections held last on Saturday.

"We haven't opened since September 27, but I come to keep an eye on my brother's shop," says Thierno Oumar Bah, whose family sells clothes and electrical goods.

"It's risky to open. Whenever there are incidents, some people take advantage to attack us. Everybody is afraid," he says.

In the neighbourhood, the doors of other stores are firmly shut, sometimes with up to three padlocks, and protected by iron bars.

Standing in front of his shop, partly hidden behind market stalls, Mohamed Diabate confirms that "for several days, many businesses have indeed been closed".

"Some open in the morning, but close early," he tells AFP over the racket of an electrical generator, which is an indispensable device in a capital prone to long daily power cuts.

Guinea's President Alpha Conde has stepped up security in the city amid fears of clashes after the legislative election on September 28 in this west African country prone to unrest.

Conde, 75, on Wednesday urged party leaders to accept the results of the polls, which have been trickling in, and has said the vote "has allowed us to take another step on the path to democracy".

However, traders in the Madina were frequently looted during the numerous political rallies held in Conakry since the start of the year. About 50 people have been killed in clashes between security forces and youthful opponents of Conde's regime.

Armed bandits

The shopkeepers say that looting is not just the work of unruly youth gangs. They also blame uniformed members of the security forces and "armed bandits".

Tensions ran high in the city before the elections, where one person was killed and 70 wounded in recent political clashes, according to the authorities, and the strain is still evident after the vote.

Opposition parties have warned the authorities against cheating with the ballot papers and many residents fear that further demonstrations will lead to violence and more pillage.

Another Madina trader, Aminata Barry, says she is "really afraid of break-ins", but that she will have to open shop after several days without work.

"I have a family to feed," she says, and business is bad. "I earned from 100 000 to 200 000 Guinean francs a day [$14 to $29], but my income dropped" with the vote.

'May the good Lord see that all goes well'

According to Cherif Mohamed Abdallah, president of the Organised Group of Businessmen (Goha) - an employers' organisation - the political and social violence that has shaken Conakry and other towns in Guinea since 2007 has cost traders "almost 80 million Guinean francs" (more than €8.3m).

Shopkeepers "cut back their activities because of the bandits who attack markets", he says.

But Lamine Conde, who sells a range of products in the Bonfi district, says that "all activities are taking place as normal".

"The elections have changed nothing," says Conde, a member of the ruling Rally of the Guinean People. He was among the few people interviewed to express that view.

Even in Kaloum, the heart of Conakry's administrative and business district, "very many" traders are closed, according to Koumasso Ibrahima Sorry, who sells shoes.

"When will all the election results be published?" he asks anxiously. "May the good Lord see that all goes well."

A market woman in Bonfi, who asks to be named as Madame Aboly, urges her fellow citizens "to remember what happened in Liberia and in Sierra Leone", two neighbouring countries that were ravaged by civil war throughout the 1990s and early into this century.

Madame Aboly says life in Conakry is already tough as it is. "We are tired, every day there are problems," she says.



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