CONAKRY — A plane carrying Guinea's exiled former junta chief Moussa Dadis Camara back home, where he hopes to run for president, was diverted to Ghana yesterday, his party said.
Camara is a former army captain who seized power in a 2008 coup after the death of long-time dictator Lansane Conte, a move that was initially welcomed but quickly turned sour as he oversaw a bloody crackdown on his opponents.
He has been living in exile in Burkina Faso since being shot in the head in an assassination attempt a year after taking power, and yesterday left Ouagadougou on a flight to Guinea with a planned layover in Ivory Coast.
But Maxime Manimou, a spokesman for his Patriotic Front for Democracy and Development (FPDD), said the plane was blocked from landing in Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan and was forced to land in Ghana.
Manimou said all passengers "were asked to get off the plane at the Accra airport," before being allowed to reboard, with the exception of Camara, his lawyer and bodyguard.
The spokesman accused Guinean authorities of blocking Camara's return to prevent him from taking part in presidential elections on October 11.
In a statement, Camara's lawyer Jean Baptiste Haba slammed the "illegal and disgraceful intervention of Ivory Coast."
He said he was planning to file charges against both Guinea and Abidjan for "violation of the rules of free movement" within the Economic Union of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as for "endangering" the lives of others.
He said the pilot had told passengers the plane did not have enough fuel to return to Burkina Faso and was forced to land in Ghana.
Guinea's government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara denied any involvement in blocking the plane from landing in Abidjan.
The situation angered scores of the former coup leader's supporters waiting for him in Conakry, who blocked access to the airport's parking and threw stones at police who fired tear gas to disperse them, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
Camara's rule is best remembered for a massacre in September 2009 when security forces opened fire on a crowd protesting against the junta, leaving 157 dead and sparking horrific scenes of sexual violence.
Camara – who also delivered televised diatribes on "The Dadis Show" in which he humiliated opponents and foreign diplomats – was last month charged by Guinean judges over the massacre.
'Prove his innocence'
As the west African nation prepares to hold its second democratic election, Camara has returned to the spotlight in an unlikely political alliance with opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo.
Diallo has said that if either of them made it into a second-round run-off against President Alpha Conde, the other would offer his backing.
A source close to Camara in Conakry said he wants to return to "turn himself over to the courts, prove his innocence and file his candidacy for the election" ahead of the September 1 deadline.
Conde became the country's first democratically-elected leader in a 2010 election that many hoped would put an end to years of dictatorships, coups and political violence fuelled by ethnic tensions.
But simmering tensions continue to erupt into violence in the mineral-rich but deeply poor nation where political mistrust remains high.
The ruling party and opposition last week sealed a deal on the organisation of the presidential vote – which had sparked deadly violence – raising hopes for a peaceful election. — AFP