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Do Guinea’s dark days reveal junta’s colours?

September 29, 2009

In Guinea this week, at least 157 people were killed when security forces opened fire on a demonstration against military junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, according to a local rights group.

Much has changed since I visited the country in April and May this year. Then, the young Camara — or “Dadis” as most Guineans refer to him – did not look particularly dangerous despite his images staring out from walls, buildings and roundabouts all over Conakry, and cassettes of his speeches on sale in the markets.

“Long live peace” was the graffiti of choice, and if expectations of real improvements in living standards were low, at least soldiers were in the barracks rather than shooting in the streets.

What was clear then was that a certain degree of patience had been extended to Camara both domestically and internationally.

Relief that the power vacuum opened by the death of former President Lansana Conte had not collapsed into violence, and populist anti-corruption rhetoric carried most Guineans through the first uneasy months. At the same time the international community swallowed its distaste for a military regime with the sweetening promise of elections by the end of the year.

As long as peace and the election timetable held, and Camara himself wasn’t tempted into standing, Guineans and foreign partners would grit their teeth and give Camara and his National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) breathing space to
manage the transition.

That patience, which had shown signs of strain in recent months, has now run out. International condemnation has been swift and harsh for the deaths at the demonstration.

There could be two ways of reading Monday’s use of deadly force.

If Camara is to be taken at face value when he says it isn’t his fault, it might suggest a lack of control over security forces under his command – a potentially dangerous situation.

Otherwise, it would only feed the suspicions of those who see the junta as a gang of violent men whose interest extends no further than retaining power by any means.

Either way, Guineans and world bodies alike find themselves in a difficult situation.

Camara has shown little tolerance of criticism and for him to step aside voluntarily would appear almost inconceivable.

There may be little immediate leverage that organisations such as the United Nations, African Union or European Union could bring to bear.

Still, there is a sense that they are less willing to tolerate Camara than they are, for example, Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, whose route to power was also via a coup, but who has avoided bloodshed on the streets.

Even if Camara could be persuaded to go or were forced from power, however, what would replace him? Another strongman of the type who has ruled Guinea since independence in 1958? A ‘new beginning’ under the auspices of another man in camouflage gear and a red beret? Not many would envy Guineans their part in the cycle.

Comments

After reading this story made available by Reuters at10:30 p.m. EST, September 29, 2009, I expected to see this outrage against humanity covered in the Cleveland PlainDealer- front page. After picking up the morning editionat 3:15 a.m. September 30, I am sickened to read insteadabout the 507 carat white diamond discovered in a South African mine; also, a story about stress disease killing Australia’s koalas, and overweight women facing a shorter life expectancy. It is a shameful commentary which disgraces society when the city newspaper does notinform its citizens on situations which regard the people of the entire world.

Posted by K. M. Angelone | Report as abusive
 

What’s the problem? Why are there two factions? What are they debating with guns? Who gives them guns? Why doesn’t UN take away the guns or send the warriors (with a nice salary package) to better place for shooting like various places in world where Islamic Terrorism is spreading?

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive
 

man, there is no islamic terrorism anywhere in the world, i say you’ve been brainwashed by TV.

Posted by tomekd | Report as abusive
 

The international world must not make the same mistake as with Zimbabwe. And the criminal and murderer (Mugabe) of his own nation is still in power.Get these elements, and that include Camara of Guinea, out of society, so that the people who suffer under them, can get a better life for them and their families.

Posted by Johann de W | Report as abusive
 

This vile Guinean leadership is a well qualified candidate for the Hague court’s cells, this Camara and many other leaders in Africa are not fit for purpose.

Posted by Nduka Tolefe | Report as abusive
 

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