Almost one year after a bloodless coup in December 2008 — during which Captain Moussa Dadis Camara took power several hours after the death of Guinea’s 24-year leader — violence has begun to rock the West African nation’s capital city of Conakry.
The regime’s forces stormed a political rally held on Monday at a football stadium and dispersed the crowd of some 50,000 using tear gas and gunshots. Human rights groups have called for security forces to halt its violent crackdown on political dissidents.
The authoritarian military ruler had pledged to restore civilian rule 60 days after seizing power, but elections have been delayed until 2010.
Protesters are demonstrating against Captain Camara’s presumed candidacy in the elections. A recent announcement proclaimed that the current ruling military council also intends to run.
Human Rights Watch quotes one witness describing the actions of security personnel:
I saw the Red Berets [an elite unit within the military] catch some of the women who were trying to flee, rip off their clothes, and stick their hands in their private parts. Others beat the women, including on their genitals. It was pathetic –- the women were crying out.
Blogger Konngol Afirik (translated here from the original French) also blames the elite Red Beret units for the violence:
Though the junta banned all demonstrations, the “Forces Vives” decided to have it anyway…The Red Berets are known for blind cruelty. Most of the dead and wounded fell at the hands of this elite unit better equipped and paid than the regular army…
Two of the main opposition leaders, Cellou Dalein Diallo and Sydia Toure, are among the wounded. Once again, the African Union and CEDEAO and their international partners are revealed as ineffective against this putsch leader, who is ready to walk on corpses to remain in power.
Worldfocus contributing blogger Ethan Zuckerman writes in his blog, My heart’s in Accra, that the African Union, which refuses to recognize military governments, should encourage Guinea to hold elections as soon as possible:
What’s been interesting for me, in the short term, is watching the few comments mentioning #Guinea on Twitter are focusing on media coverage. Nasser Weddady, outreach director for HAMSA [Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance], offered this tweet a couple of hours ago: “In plain English: screw #Polanski, I am more interested in what’s happening in #Guinea than that fugitive pervert.” It’s been retweeted several times, reflecting either a frustration at media coverage, or simply that lack of any other news out of Guinea at this point…
How Guinea could have emerged as a major power based on its (bauxite) mineral wealth is a sad, familiar, important and insufficiently understood story.
– Ben Piven