Guinea military massacre: “This is only the beginning”

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As announced, and despite a ban issued by the authorities Sunday, key political and civil society personalities were able to mobilize a large portion of the population at the national stadium in Conakry, on Monday 28 September. Their intention was to demonstrate against a decision taken by the head of the junta, Captain Dadis Moussa Camara to run for office as president in 2010. But barely after the crowd had pushed open the doors of the stadium, the security forces besieged the scene in a bloody attempt to disperse the demonstrators, leaving several dead and hundreds injured.

It all started Monday morning around 8 o’clock, when activists including political parties and trade unions, opposed to Captain Musa Camara Dadis’ presidential bid, peacefully rallied in small groups at a venue designated by the organisers of the protest. In the city, streets were deserted; shops, gas stations and markets were closed. In short, Conakry looked like a ghost town. Strategic locations, including major intersections in the capital, were surrounded by the police to prevent the demonstration.

But despite this very impressive plan enforced by security forces under the orders of the junta, the populations of Conakry overwhelmingly responded to the protest call from key political and civil society personalities. Their placards read ”the army must return to their barracks,” “Dadis must go,” “Down with the army in power,” “No to Dadis,” etc. At noon, when political leaders and activists had already made their entry into the stadium, security forces burst into the closed area with batons, rifles and tear gas in an extremely violent attempt to disperse the crowds. One protester, in her forties, said: ”I saw the soldiers shooting at people. I saw people falling to the ground as the bullets hit them. I saw the Guinean Red Cross evacuating the dead and wounded… I saw a lot because I got to the stadium as early as eight in the morning. I am ready to die for our children to free them …”

We also saw demonstrators and journalists alike drenched in blood. correspondent and his counterpart from Guineenews, initially caught in the violence that erupted around the stadium, were rescued by a group of youths in civilian clothes, armed with guns and batons.

Heavy human toll

Political leaders including Sidya Touré and Cellou Dalein Diallo, both former prime ministers, as well as Mouctar Diallo, Jean Marie Dore and Francois Fall, were all mercilessly beaten and taken to Camp Alpha Yaya Diallo, headquarters of the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), before being evacuated to a medical centre. Mr. Sidya Toure was badly injured in the head. Speaking secretly from the hospital’s toilet as the military was not allowing opposition members any contacts with the media. Sidya Toure said, “They just started to shoot people directly… They tried to kill us,” he told journalists.

“There are 87 bodies that were collected in and around the stadium after the military came through,” a police source was quoted as saying. The Guinean military is out in force mounting checkpoints on many roads, following the burning of vehicles and houses and police stations. There has been no independent confirmation of the casualty figures, and the Guinean authorities have not issued any public statement. 0ver 50 000 people are believed to have participated in the protests.

“This is only the beginning of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations we can expect in the next few months,” Guinea expert, Gilles Yabi told news reporters. The Guinean expert argued that if Capt. Camara stood for president, it would be a breach of the implicit agreement between military and civil forces that has kept him in power. And this would mark a continuation of the kind of rule that Guinea has seen for the past decade – which the military had promised to sweep away.

Capt. Camara promised not to run in the 2010 presidential elections set for January, when he took over power in a bloodless coup in December 2008. The coup was staged hours after the death of President Lansana Conte, who had ruled for more than two decades. The military takeover in the beginning had some popular support in Guinea, but in recent weeks there have been several anti-government protests.

Guinea’s former colonial power, France, has issued a statement strongly condemning the violent repression of opposition demonstrators. According to Guinean Human Rights Organization, the junta, known as the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), said it would not negotiate with forces challenging it.

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