Clashes over fuel supply after Guinea depot blazeThu, 21 Dec 2023 22:40:05 GMT

Protesting youths and security forces clashed in Guinea’s capital Conakry on Thursday as demonstrators demanded petrol be restored at service stations whose supplies were suspended after a deadly explosion at the country’s main fuel depot.Sporadic clashes broke out in the afternoon between groups of youths throwing stones and the security forces who retaliated by firing tear gas, an AFP journalist observed.Hundreds of protesters, most of them hooded or masked, set up road blocks at several points leading into the centre of the capital, overturned dustbins and burned tyres.Many make a living running motorbike taxis and are calling for the reopening of service stations for all types of fuel.The government on Thursday said the powerful explosion and fire early on Monday at the state oil company’s main depot in the Kaloum district of Conakry, near the port, killed 23 people and injured 241, revising upwards a previous toll.Investigations are continuing to determine whether more victims remain missing, the government said.Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, the head of the ruling junta who seized power after a 2021 coup, has announced three days of national mourning from Thursday.The incident damaged buildings, blowing out windows, forcing residents to flee and bringing life in the centre to a standstill.Service stations were temporarily closed across the country.The government has announced the resumption of supplies of diesel fuel but the distribution of petrol remains suspended.”You can’t sell diesel and deprive us of petrol. Most Guineans only use petrol,” the protesters shouted.”We want to work so that we can eat and feed our families, just like the authorities. We don’t have anywhere to get money from,” one of them told AFP.”We just want the government to fulfil its obligations. If they don’t, they should get out.”Traffic was blocked for a while before security forces intervened.Taxi drivers had to turn around to avoid the protesters’ ire. “We can’t continue to move in these conditions. I’m going to park my vehicle (run on diesel) to avoid problems,” one driver, Diao Balde, told AFP.Rights groups have complained about restrictions imposed against some privately owned media and social media during the crisis.”Violations of the right to freedom of expression are now permanent, in addition to those of the right to peaceful assembly,” Samira Daoud, director of Amnesty International’s office for West and Central Africa, said in a press release.