Africa

Ebola crisis: Guinea hunger strike at village occupation

Guinean health workers wearing protective suits at a hospital in Conakry - 14 September 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some villagers in Guinea have been scared by the appearance of health workers trying to combat Ebola

A hunger strike has been launched in Guinea in protest against the military's presence in a village where an Ebola awareness team was killed in September.

About 20 leaders from the southern Wome village are camping outside parliament since launching the strike.

The "military occupation" of Wome had forced some 6,000 people to flee their homes, an opposition leader said.

The government and military have not commented on the allegations.

In September, the government accused villagers of murdering eight people raising awareness about Ebola.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Guinea's military is accused of carrying out human rights abuses

Some of the bodies - of health workers, local officials and journalists - were found in a septic tank in Wome some 50km (30 miles) from the south-eastern city of Nzerekore.

The motive for the attack was not clear, but it came at a time when many communities either denied the existence of Ebola or accused health workers of spreading the virus.

Ebola was first identified in Guinea in March, before it spread to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.

It has killed about 5,000 people and the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

In other developments:

  • The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has said Morocco will not host the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, but has not announced another venue for the tournament, which Moroccan officials wanted to delay because of the Ebola epidemic
  • Sierra Leone's government has announced a $5,000 (£3,000) one-off payment for the family of any health worker who dies fighting Ebola
  • Google and its co-founder Larry Page's family foundation have pledged a $25m donation to tackle Ebola. Google also said that for every dollar the public donates through its site, it will give $2 "until together we raise an additional" $7.5m.

'Living in forest'

Guinea's opposition Liberal Party leader Faya Millimono told BBC Afrique that he had joined the hunger strike in solidarity with the villagers who were under "military occupation".

Soldiers had been accused of carrying out human rights abuses, forcing some 6,000 people, including about 500 children, to flee to a nearby forest, he said.

Thirteen people had died because of the appalling living conditions in the forest, Mr Millimono added.

According to the latest WHO figures, 1,054 people have so far been killed by Ebola in Guinea.

However, the BBC's Alhassan Sillah in the capital, Conakry, says public awareness about the illness has increased.

The government and medical staff are working hard to contain the virus, even though the rate of infections has risen, he adds.

About 20 community leaders had now embarked on a hunger strike outside parliament, our reporter says.

It is unclear what atrocities soldiers are alleged to have carried out since their deployment to Wome following the deaths of the Ebola awareness team, but their presence seems to have caused fear and anger among villagers, he adds.

Meanwhile in Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says four soldiers and their commanding officer will be punished after a boy was killed during protests against quarantine measures in Monrovia.

The boy was shot and others were injured in the incident in August.

A disciplinary board found the soldiers were "guilty of indiscretion and exhibited indiscipline".

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