New trouble in GuineaDecember 22, 2009 at 8:20 pm | Posted in International | 1 Comment
I apologise for going all Geldof on you this Christmas, but I think it’s worth noting the anniversary of an event that’s led to some grim consequences in The Republic of Guinea.
Last year, Guinean President Lansana Conté died after a long illness. He’d held power since 1984, and whilst there wasn’t much of a democracy during that time, there was at least a procedure to ensure a succession and swift elections.
Moussa Dadis Camara had other ideas. Just hours after Conté’s death, army captain Camara went on state TV and announced a coup d’état. Fresh elections, he warned, would not be for at least two years, rather than the constitutionally-mandated 60 days.
On 28th September – the anniversary of the referendum which won Guinea its independence – supporters of the opposition filled a football stadium to demand Camara’s resignation. And all hell broke loose.
Security forces stormed into the stadium and fired on the crowd, leaving 157 dead and over a thousand injured. Now the UN’s report into the events seems to confirm many of the horror stories which were reported: Camara’s men went on the rampage, committing murder, rape and torture against people inside the stadium and nearby villages. The accounts [pdf] of these acts are heinous and gruesome, and the descriptions of sexual violence could turn even the strongest stomach.
The UN claims there is clear evidence of crimes against humanity, and has referred the case to the ICC. The report names three men as directly responsible for the violence: President Camara himself, his chief aide, Lt. Aboubacar Chérif Diakité, and a third officer who is in charge of the special services.
What complicated matters is that two of these suspects are rather indisposed: Camara is currently recovering from an assassination attempt after Diakité worried that he was being set up as the fall guy. All of this has led to yet more instability & violence, as observers warn that a power struggle between rival commanders could lead to a civil war which would destabilise the entire region. West African regional group ECOWAS – which suspended Guinea’s membership after Camara’s coup – is so concerned that it’s already called for foreign troops to prevent violence from escalating further.
Now, Guinea isn’t yet on the brink of civil war – it’s suffered instability even during President Conté’s reign and managed to recover – but the current power vacuum, the army’s rank indiscipline & the country’s parlous financial state all add up to the perfect conditions for conflict. Given this, the international community should be vigilant of the dangers in Guinea and take as many diplomatic steps as possible to encourage some measure of stability for its people.
They had also better move quickly – as last year’s events showed, they don’t stop to partake in much festive cheer.
Update: This video illustrates some of the violence that the UN went to investigate. I know that feminist blogs have a trigger warning when it comes to this sort of stuff, so I thought I’d better put that in there.