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Guinea (Conakry): More than an Inquiry?

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Oct 23, 2009 (091023)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Three weeks after over 150 people were killed in a military crackdown on demonstrators in the capital Conakry, with women and girls raped, Guineans are coping with the aftermath, some still searching for disappeared relatives' bodies. Uncertainty and tension reign." - UN IRIN News, Oct. 21, 2009

With ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the lead, the African Union and the United Nations have joined to condemn the military junta in Guinea (Conakry), supporting a commission of inquiry into the latest violence and calling for an arms embargo. But few observers credit the pledge to cooperate with the inquiry by Guinea's military ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara ( Nor should one anticipate quick implementation of the ECOWAS demand to establish "a new transitional authority to ensure a short and peaceful transition to constitutional order through credible, free and fair elections."

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a brief update on the humanitarian situation, from IRIN; reports of actions by the United Nations and ECOWAS, and an interview by with Dr. Herschelle Challenor, former dean of the Graduate School of International Affairs at Clark University, who served as the team leader for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Guinea from 2004 to 2006.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletin's on Guinea (Conakry), see

For a summary background article, see "Guinea's depressingly familiar strongman," by Corinne Dufka, in The Guardian

The Chinese government is trying to distance itself from a reported $7 billion business deal with Guinea, noting that the Hong-Kongbased company involved, China International Fund, is a private company. But analysts note that Chinese government agencies do have a stake in the company. For more see

"Africa: Deal With Guinea Raises Questions About Chinese Role,"
Matthew Berger, Inter Press Service 16 October 2009

"Guinea: Blood and Money in the Streets: China's Business Ties to the Loathed Camara Junta Could Quickly Backfire," Africa-Asia Confidential, 20 October 2009

"What is China doing in Guinea?"
Guardian, 19 October, 2009

For a selection of books on Guinea, see

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Guinea: Aid Groups Mobilize to Help Wounded

21 October 2009

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

Dakar - Aid agencies are mobilizing funds and relief supplies to help more than 1,000 Guineans injured in 28 September violence, as well as to brace for further unrest as the country remains "very volatile", according to the UN.

UN agencies, donors and NGOs in the capital Conakry are providing meals for hospital patients, giving medical supplies to health centres and ordering in new supplies to ensure adequate emergency stocks, aid workers in Guinea told IRIN.

Three weeks after over 150 people were killed in a military crackdown on demonstrators in the capital Conakry, with women and girls raped, Guineans are coping with the aftermath, some still searching for disappeared relatives' bodies. Uncertainty and tension reign.

"The situation is very volatile and it is feared that protests may continue with even more casualties in the next days or weeks," said a World Health Organization (WHO) document on the situation in Guinea.

The number of wounded seeking treatment is rising as more people injured on 28 September visit health centres; aid workers and human rights activists say many people needing medical care have stayed home for fear of repression.

Immediately following the violence the Guinean Red Cross deployed scores of volunteers to assist the wounded, and other aid agencies including Médecins Sans Frontières provided emergency assistance to the health sector.

The UN on 14 October allocated US$417,205 from its Central Emergency Response Fund, CERF, for a WHO project to support health facilities in Conakry.

The funds will go toward medicines, trauma kits, rape treatment kits and blood transfusion supplies, as well as preparing health personnel to deal with trauma patients, according to the document.

More than 200 people are known to be in "a very serious" condition and need lengthy treatment, the document says.

Current emergency stocks of relief supplies are insufficient to deal with repeated shocks, according to the UN in Guinea.

"The main issue now is to determine the gaps in medical and relief supplies," said Philippe Verstraeten, head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Guinea. "We are working on defining those needs so we can mobilize for further funding."

The NGO Terre des hommes (Tdh) is providing meals to patients in Donka Hospital, one of Conakry's main public hospitals, according to Tdh's Marie-Jeanne Hautbois. The Health Ministry's crisis committee requested this assistance, as the ministry has said victims would receive free treatment including food, she said. The food is provided by the ministry, private donations and Tdh.

Guinea's health system has long been in a dismal condition, with frequent ruptures in medicines and medical supplies. Since the junta took power in December 2008 government ministries, including the Health Ministry, have had no budget, according to a ministry official. In July the Health Ministry chaired an emergency meeting about a shortage of equipment for blood transfusions.

Guinea: UN Plan for Probe Into Bloody Crackdown Gets Green Light

21 October 2009

A proposed international probe into last month's deadly crackdown on unarmed demonstrators in Guinea has received the green light from local and regional stakeholders, with the army captain who seized power in a coup d'état pledging full cooperation, a senior United Nations official reported today.

"All fully support the establishment by the Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] of an international and independent commission of inquiry," Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios told reporters after briefing the Security Council on his return from the region, where he held wide-ranging talks on the crackdown in which at least 150 people were killed and many others raped.

He said Mr. Ban, who announced last week that he would set up the commission to investigate the crackdown by security forces on 28 September in Conakry, the capital, "with a view to determining the accountability of those involved," intended to deploy the it as soon as possible, adding that it should be able to complete its work within a month once it is in the field.

While in the region, Mr. Menkerios conferred with Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, head of the National Council for Democracy and Development (NCDD), which seized power in December after the death of then president Lansana Cont‚; African Union (AU) Chairman Jean Ping; Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission President Mohamed ibn Chambas; ECOWAS mediator President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso; and Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua.

"Both President Dadis Camara and his Government welcomed the establishment of the commission of enquiry and promised that they were going to cooperate with it fully, including facilitating its work," he said. "They expressed this in writing in a letter that they shall do so."

Mr. Compaoré believes "the very fact that it is deployed and the work that this commission will do will positively contribute to peace and longer-term reconciliation inside the country," he added, stressing the "tremendous expectation" by the victims, the opposition and the public in Guinea.

Asked about guarantees for the commission's safety, Mr. Menkerios said the "importance of security, not just for the commission, but most importantly for the population, for the victims, for witness that may come and present their testimonies" is highly appreciated by ECOWAS, the AU and the parties themselves.

Mr. Compaoré will make the question of minimum security guarantees for the population the first agenda item in the mediation effort, he added, noting that human rights organizations say they have information that they will share it with the commission.

He also noted that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is going to deploy as many humanitarian rights observers as possible.

If that doesn't work, "then the question of the deployment of military observers, security observers might be the next step," he said. "If this doesn't work, of course, the last might be the question of a form of intervention [which] then may be required. This remains to be decided in due process."

Mr. Ban has said he remains deeply concerned by the tense situation in Guinea and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called the crackdown a "blood bath."

ECOWAS Leaders Call for Suspension of Legislative Elections in Niger, Want New Transition Authority in Guinea

N : 111/2009 17 October 2009 [Abuja]

ECOWAS Heads of State have expressed strong support to President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso for his mediation efforts in the Guinean crisis and have urged him to speed up the dialogue among the Guinean political actors with the aim of:

  • establishing a new transitional authority to ensure a short and peaceful transition to constitutional order through credible, free and fair elections;
  • ensuring that the Chairman and members of the CNDD, the Prime Minister and those who hold high offices in the new transitional authority will not be candidates in the forthcoming presidential elections; as well as - setting up benchmarks in the transition chronogram already agreed and ensuring a timely achievement of the set benchmarks.

In a communiqu issued at their day-long extraordinary summit on 17th October 2009 in Abuja, the Heads of State, welcomed the decision of the Secretary General of the United Nations to establish the Commission of Enquiry to investigate the 28th September 2009 violence in Guinea, the Heads of State called on all concerned Guinean parties and other stakeholders to fully cooperate with the Commission.

They directed the President of the ECOWAS Commission to work with the UN Secretary General, the Chairperson of the AU to create a conducive and enabling environment, including the provision of a security cover, to allow the Commission of Enquiry to undertake its mission.

The President of the ECOWAS will also work with the AU on a regime of targeted sanctions against individuals who would pose a threat to the implementation of the transitional agenda.

According to the summit, he will also work with the new transitional authority and subsequently the new government at the end of the transition, in designing a programme for security sector reform, with the support of the AU, the UN and other partners.

They strongly condemned the brutal acts, rapes and the massacre perpetrated by armed troops under the authority of the against women and unarmed civilians during a gathering of members of the Forces Vives on 28th September 2009.

In view of the atrocities committed on 28th September 2009 and the steps taken by the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) authorities to acquire new weapons, the Heads of State imposed an arms embargo on Guinea under the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunitions and Related Materials, and directs the President of the ECOWAS Commission to take all necessary measures to obtain the support of the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations in the implementation and enforcement of the embargo.

They also directed the ECOWAS Commission to implement the relevant provisions of the Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, and recommended to the international community to impose total embargo on arms shipment for Guinea.

[statement continued on Niger - see original at]

Guinea: 'Another Strategy' Required to Deal with the Deteriorating Situation - Challenor

13 October 2009

Interview with Herschelle Challenor

An international observer group on Guinea has recommended setting up an international commission of inquiry into last month's crackdown that news reports say claimed more than 150 lives. Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) are expected to meet on Saturday to discuss the Guinea crisis. They have called on Guinea's ruler, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, to step aside and hold elections. He seized power last December.

Dr. Herschelle Challenor, former dean of the Graduate School of International Affairs at Clark University, served as the team leader for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Guinea from 2004 to 2006. She is also a former staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa. She spoke with AllAfrica's Cindy Shiner about recent developments and prospects for peace in the country.

Do you think African leaders, West African leaders in particular, have done enough to try to stem the crisis in Guinea?

The African Union and Ecowas were the first to condemn the military coup of December 23, 2008. They have been persistent. These two organizations co-chair what is called the International Contact Group on Guinea, which has met virtually every month since March. Right after [the crackdown last month] the peace and security council of the African Union approved additional sanctions on the president and the military government. That was to impose travel restrictions and to freeze bank accounts, but with the caveat that these would not go into effect for a month, hoping that would be an incentive for President Camara to say that neither he nor any members of the ruling [National Council for Democracy and Development] would be candidates in the forthcoming elections in 2010.

So they have done as much as they can except deploy a peacekeeping force, which Guinea's civil society has asked for. Ecowas has talked about that. I gather there has been some talk at the United Nations about a peacekeeping force. I don't think anything else will make a difference.

What do you think of the Ecowas appointment of Blaise Compaoré he leader of Burkina Faso, as mediator on Guinea?

Blaise Compaoréin my mind is not the best candidate. He led a military coup in his own country in 1987. He has remained in power. He has been the negotiator in Togo and Cote d'Ivoire. I don't think that his record for mediation has led to a democratic path either in Togo or in Cote d'Ivoire and I don't think he himself is in a neutral position. Other people might have been better. The Forces Vives [opposition coalition] have said they would prefer the former president of Mali and the first president of the African Union, Alpha Oumar Konare, who is an extraordinary human being and a democrat. I have thought about Nicephore Soglo, the former president of Benin, who in 1990 led the whole national conference movement that led to democracy in many French-speaking African countries.

Who are these groups who are opposed to Guinea's military rulers?

There are four main traditional opposition parties and there are a couple of new ones. The people Camara is most concerned about are Sidya Toure, who is a former prime minister under [former president Lansana] Conte; Cellou Dalein Diallo, a former prime minister; Alpha Conde, who ran against Conte and was imprisoned at least once; and a young man called Mouctar Diallo.

The Forces Vives is a coalition of opposition political parties and some of the rather independent political parties, the two labor unions that have led the four main strikes in Guinea, religious leaders, business leaders, non-governmental organizations, women, youths and human rights organizations. The anchor of the umbrella group is the National Council of Civil Society Organizations in Guinea. They have structures in the eight administrative regions of Guinea. It's probably the best-organized group, even better organized than most political parties.

And what about Camara and the rest of the country's military leaders?

When he came to power Moussa Dadis Camara said he would not stay in power forever, that he would respect human rights, that he wanted a civilian government. He broke all of those commitments and it just goes on: violence and stealing, multiple arrests, mainly by the presidential guard, the red berets and other military men. When you're arrested or detained they steal your money and your cell phone. People have to buy the release of any relative or friend that is under arrest.

This is a man who doesn't like opposition. He has been a professional soldier all his life and when he sees a threat to his perceived interests his response is to fight it. He always wears a red beret and he said the red beret is to signify blood. This is a man who has only known authoritarianism. He takes unilateral decisions and I don't think he knows anything else. You cannot get him to step down through dialogue.

You've got division in the army. He apparently cannot control the army. He is, after all, just a captain. One of the first things he did was to retire all of the generals. Then he arrested 11 or 12 of them. At least 10 of the cabinet ministers are military men and they hold the most strategic portfolios: defense, security, economy, finance, communications, commerce, mines and several others. In July he started hiring more of [former] president Conte's former henchmen to work closely with him. So I think all of these things are a factor of deep concern for a certain group of the military.

Why should the United States and other members of the international community be particularly concerned about the crisis in Guinea?

Since about 2006 there have been a plethora of military coups in francophone Africa. First you had Togo, then Mauritania, Guinea, Niger. And these leaders have stayed in power. [The United States] is concerned with the resumption of the military coup d'etat - a renewed trend toward military leadership.

The Americans used to always say Guinea was the island of stability during the civil wars in the region [in the 1990s]. What the United States and other countries do not want is for Guinea to become unstable because it could again destabilize that particular sub-region of West Africa. That is Liberia , Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau.

The second reason is out of basic humanitarian concerns. There's been a constant predatory relationship between each post-independence government in Guinea and its people. The predation is done not only by the government but by the military, security forces and police.

The third reason is that if there is a civil war in Guinea they recognize that they would have to mop it up and pay for humanitarian assistance. At the high point of the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, Guinea had over a million refugees. The United States and other donor countries have put a lot of money mainly through the United Nations - to support refugee camps. It's very costly.

So how best can the international community help?

First of all they should pay attention to the Forces Vives. They have said they will not participate in a coalition government that Camara called for after September 28. Their precondition to accept any negotiated settlement is that he has to step down. That is the first thing.

I think it is really time for the United Nations to look at the continuation of similar predatory acts of the government, the military and security forces against the Guinean people. Then decide on building a peacekeeping force to put the military back in their camps and hold them there while the civil society negotiates to set up a transitional government to prepare a new constitution and to hold presidential and legislative elections.

The second thing is there ought to be a U.N. civil administration. They had one in Namibia before independence but I think Guinea needs this. Changing the president is not going change the way in which Guinea functions. Most of your civil servants really don't know how to work because, first of all, they've had poor managers. But secondly they've been socialized - because of the tyrannical governments they've had - not to take any initiative.

I have gone into ministries and seen a minister with a clear desk with a television watching a soccer game. They really don't know how to work. You need to train an entirely new army - set a code of conduct, set standards. There are many in the existing military who would keep those. So take the [soldiers] who are willing to perform according to modern democratic standards. But you have to train them and it just can't be one-off training.

That's why I talk about a civil administration that has to last a minimum of two years. Work with Guineans. I'm not saying a lot of Americans, Canadians or French or Japanese need to run Guinea. But they need to have sign-off authority on decisions while you have Guinean leaders running it. And even though Guineans have always said - and it's a carryover from post-independence leader Sekou Toure - 'we don't need help, we have nothing to learn from anybody', I think there are many Guineans who recognize the need for this kind of training and would be very willing to work under a cooperative relationship.

There are people in Senegal or Benin who are well-trained civil servants who could assist with such training. They need not all be westerners. I think the African Union would want to participate and I think it's important that they do. Ecowas, since they are the closest neighbors, have a direct interest in stability and growth and development in Guinea.

The final thing is there needs to be a truth and reconciliation commission. Guineans have been traumatized [under years of authoritarian rule]. You need to have this to clear the air.

The Guineans have no recourse. There is no rule of law. There is nothing to protect them. I tried to get a rule of law program by USAID in Guinea in 2006. I was present at the continuation of a longstanding effort by USAID to help mobilize Guinean civil society. I feel that since we have encouraged civil society advocacy, I think it's unconscionable to get people to demonstrate and not do anything to protect them when they are brutally assaulted by their government. That's what I think is the U.S.'s special responsibility.

What do you think is next?

I think this meeting of the International Contact Group on Guinea in Abuja is critical. There have been condemnations and calls for dialogue and even threats for sanctions now for eight months and Camara has only become more bold. Maybe it's time to try another strategy. They say if you keep doing things the way you've been doing them you're going to get the same results.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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