A Guinean youth militia group largely recruited on ethnic basis is, reportedly, being assembled ahead of January national elections. The government of South Africa has deployed an investigation panel to the West African country following rumors that South African soldiers were training the ethnic-based militia. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, William Fitzgerald, has said his country is concerned by the development.
“The allegation is that there is a group of South Africans, mercenaries who are training an ethnic-based militia,” Ayanda Ntsaluba, South Africa’s director general of International Relations, was quoted as saying.
A senior US official told reporters that mercenaries had been seen at a camp south of the Guinean capital, Conakry. According to the director general of International relations, South Africa has strict laws forbidding mercenary activities. “We are taking the allegations seriously because of the elections due in Guinea next year. The information that we seemed to point to a strong South African connection,” Ntsaluba added.
This tension comes as Guinean military leader Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara remains adamant on running for presidential elections in January 2010. Analysts say the main fear of the junta is not unrest among the public, but a split within the military. To shore up support, Dadis has begun recruiting militia units from among his own Forestier ethnic group in the east of the country. He has promoted fellow Forestiers to senior positions in preference to those from other tribes.
Rumors however suggest that the military junta has an agenda ahead of January elections. If the reports of an assembling ethnic-based youth militia are anything to go with, then Guinea’s state civility and democracy stands to be threatened.
Experts fear that further conflict in Guinea could again spill over into neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone, which have only recently emerged from years of violent conflict. There are also unconfirmed reports of former Liberian combatants joining the Guinean junta’s militias.
On November 2, the military junta was reported to have imported millions of dollars worth of weapons, despite international sanctions imposed on the country. A report which appeared in the Guardian claimed that the weapons were bought in Ukraine by the defense minister, Sekouba Konate, during a recent private visit, and their arrival was supervised by a specially hired group of South African security advisers.
According to Corinne Dufka, of Human Rights Watch,”The army is deeply divided. Members of other tribal groupings within the military feel marginalized and many soldiers have personally told me they are horrified by the massacre, which they say was the work of a small minority.”
One of the leading opposition leaders in guinea has called on the foreign powers to rescue the country from Capt. Camara. “We are asking the international community to help us to dismantle his ethnic militias,” he is quoted. “The people of Guinea are in danger. We have the right and a duty to demand a humanitarian intervention.”
The leader seized power in December 2008 as a little-known army captain, promised democracy, but now has since shown increasingly erratic behavior and public humiliation of officials. He was criticized for a deadly crackdown on opposition supporters during a demonstration in September.
The demonstration was called in protest at rumors that Capt Moussa Dadis Camara planned to run for president next year despite a promise that he will not do so. However, Capt Camara allegedly deployed his army to open fire on the protesters. Human rights Watch say more than 150 people were killed when troops and many women were systematically raped by the soldiers in the process.
In response, West African states imposed an arms embargo on Guinea over the mass shooting of opposition supporters, the EU has called for Capt Camara to be tried for crimes against humanity, while the African Union has called for him to step down. Former colonial power France has already said it will stop weapon sales to the military government.