Hundreds of French quit troubled Guinea

21st October 2009, Comments 0 comments

Hundreds of French nationals have left Guinea on the advice of the Paris government after the massacre of protestors against the military junta, an airport official said Tuesday.

"Last week, flights to Paris were full," said Diawara Sirima of Conakry airport's immigration services.

"Several hundred people, mostly women and children, have already left the country," adjutant Sirima added.

"I'm leaving for a while," said the head of the French school in Conakry, Rodolphe Ratorete, as he went through the last security cordon at the capital's airport to take a flight for Paris.

The French foreign ministry last week "recommended that French nationals present (in Guinea) should leave," warning of a potential risk to their security in the aftermath of the violence.

The ministry warned that "there is no prospect of an improvement in the short term." Its statement added that "the security situation has deteriorated in Conakry" and "bandit attacks have multiplied, particularly armed attacks."

But Commissioner Bangaly Kourouma of the airport security service said: "There is no massive departure of the French from Guinea.”

"We live in perfect understanding with our French friends in Guinea."

Kourouma added that the country was going through "a temporary crisis."

Several French nationals told AFP they were going to remain in Guinea, where the junta is under strong domestic and international pressure to back down and open the way for change.

"There was no evacuation order, we've decided to stay. My job is here," said Sophie, who had come to the airport with her partner to see off a friend.

Andre, the owner of a pastry shop, has lived in Guinea for more than 25 years, under the late Lansana Conte (1984-2008), then under the junta that seized power after his death. He was not prepared to leave his small business for an "adventure" in France.

"They forced me to leave," stormed Sylvie, an aid worker who said that there was no "xenophobic threat" against the French community.

In a more measured tone, Sister Brigitte Busch from Fringabe monastery, at Kindia in the north, said "we were advised to leave (...) I intend to come back, rest assured, we're not disgusted by Guinea."

The United Nations estimates that about 150 people were killed on September 28 when troops opened fire on demonstrators who had gathered in a Conakry stadium to urge junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara not to stand in elections the government had scheduled for January.

The junta says that 56 people were killed, while rights groups say that at least 157 people were massacred and more than 1,200 were injured, including women who were brutally raped by soldiers.


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