On the eve of their Independence Day Guineans are uneasy as tensions threaten a political transition many had hoped would end decades of repressive rule.
Concern over delays to a second-round presidential election merged this week with pain and anger stoked by the anniversary of the 28 September 2009 military crackdown on demonstrators in the capital Conakry, in which hundreds were killed, wounded or raped.
Victims of the massacre of pro-democracy supporters in a Conakry stadium have been appealing to Guineans to say no to impunity, and to guard against the transition degenerating into political violence.
“Impunity is poisoning this country,” said Abdoul Karim Barry, who was injured in the crackdown, “but we youth will fight [against impunity] to the end. We are determined.”
Victims associations are calling for perpetrators to be brought to justice, victims compensated and social stability restored. “Nothing justifies government violence against the people… Guineans’ blood must never again be shed,” the groups said in a declaration on the anniversary.
The groups used the occasion to appeal to political leaders and all citizens to safeguard social stability in the election process. Several people died in recent clashes between supporters of the two second-round candidates, Alpha Condé and Cellou Dalein Diallo.
With Conakry being decorated for Independence Day and all eyes on Guinea’s political transition, victims group member El Hadj Boussiriou Diallo said survivors were determined to keep the spotlight on the 28 September event and ensure fellow Guineans did not die in vain.
The anniversary “aroused renewed anger”, he told IRIN. “So much remains to be done to eliminate impunity… We cannot continue to have Guineans massacred [with no consequences].”
A 25-year-old woman told IRIN she is still in pain from the day, a year ago, when soldiers forced a pistol into her vagina. She joined scores of other women on 28 September to commemorate the victims. “To this day I am in pain… and reproached by everyone around me. I just want out of this country.”
Photo: Nancy Palus/IRIN
|People waiting to vote in Conakry's Hamdallaye neighbourhood. Guineans were cautiously optimistic the first round of voting 27 June 2010, but now uncertainty reigns|
Guineans and human rights experts say some steps have been encouraging, namely the appointment of judges to hear testimonies about the crackdown. But they say the event merits more attention by the government and international community, as it remains to be seen how far the domestic legal process will go.
The International Criminal Court examined the stadium massacre and has said it could open an investigation if national authorities do not do enough.
“For now we give the Guinean judges the benefit of the doubt until we know more about their work,” Mamadi Kaba, Guinea head of the pan-African human rights organization RADDHO, told IRIN.
Kaba said the new president must make justice in the 28 September case a top priority.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a communiqué laments that none of those responsible for the killings have been brought to trial.
“The lack of accountability for all categories of crime is chronic in Guinea,” Corinne Dufka, HRW senior West Africa researcher, told IRIN. “This creates an ambiance where potential perpetrators are emboldened.”
She said the 28 September 2009 events should be higher on the international and Guinean agenda. “Everyone has been focused on the elections. While that process is also critical to the rights of Guineans, we must remember that a continued lack of accountability not only hits Guineans’ human rights, but also undermines the country’s development, depriving people of health and education.”