A number of Western governments have stepped up their condemnations of recent violence and brutality in Guinea.
An estimated 157 died last week as government troops shot demonstrators who were voicing their disapproval of military leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara’s decision to become a candidate in January’s elections.
The U.S. envoy met with Captain Camara for two hours, blaming him personally for the violence and instructing him not to run in the upcoming elections.
The French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, has urged international intervention and said that France would no longer work with the dictator.
But, for his part, Captain Camara defended the actions of his soldiers in an interview with a dozen foreign journalists yesterday night.
Senegalese French-language daily newspaper
Le Messager described Camara as having “responded to the reporters’ questions…with pleasure.” The article gives a detailed account of Camara blaming the opposition for the riots and subsequent deaths:
He placed responsibility for the killings on the political leaders who organized the demonstrations, despite the protest ban. [Camara] declared that the protesters “attacked police buildings…and burned cars. These are leaders who have told children to go take up arms.”
[Camara continued], “That was a plot against me. It failed. The opposition believed that their protest would provoke the security forces to crack down on the civilian population, and that afterward, I would be overthrown. It was premeditated.”
But the photo evidence may be stacked against Guinea’s leader. An article in Monday’s New York Times describes three cellphone snapshots of the sexual violence committed against women:
One photograph shows a naked woman lying on muddy ground, her legs up in the air, a man in military fatigues in front of her. In a second picture a soldier in a red beret is pulling the clothes off a distraught-looking woman half-lying, half-sitting on muddy ground. In a third a mostly nude woman lying on the ground is pulling on her trousers.
According to human rights groups, the rape toll was staggering, and Guinea’s women seem to have borne the brunt of the military’s repression.
Blogger Laura Sjoberg, a political scientist at the University of Florida, analyzes the riots from a female perspective:
There’s an obvious point for those who would see [international relations] through gendered lenses here: women’s rights. What happened to the women who were raped in Guinea is terrible, fraught with gender subordination, violent, and should never happen to anyone ever again.
It would be a mistake for gender analysis of this situation and the news stories portraying it to stop there, however.
Through gender lenses, I’m interested in the question of how it came to be that “rape is a fairly common tool of military repression” (the article adds “in Africa,” but most research on wartime rape shows that the prevalence of rape as a weapon of war is not geographically or culturally limited). What is it about rape that makes it an effective tool of repression and war-fighting?