Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crisis in Guinea (updated)

After spending the last two weeks in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire--mostly in Monrovia and Abidjan but also a whirlwind afternoon in Bouake, the capital of the Forces Nouvelles in the north--I wanted to write about the ongoing crisis in Guinea.

The simple reason is this: Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, and of course Sierra Leone are very fragile countries. If things really deteriorate in Conakry, it could get really ugly. Just the refugees fleeing Guinea could threaten the shaky balance that the UN is trying to maintain in the region. I'll write more about Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire themselves, as well as about my two weeks in DRC a little later but really, you need to know about Guinea. It's sad, scary, and frankly outrageous.

After the death of Lansana Conte late last year, a young, likely illiterate "captain" named Dadis Camara took over in a coup. At first, people were hopeful because he announced presidential elections and promised not to run for election. Since then, he has been hedging (of course). At a protest at the Stadium in Conakry on 28 September, where people from the opposition gathered to encourage Camara not to run, over 150 were killed by security forces who entered the stadium. They simply started shooting people and gang-raping women.

This guy is a nut job: he gave France 24 (the French CNN basically) an interview defending himself. Take a look (you don't need to speak French to see why he's nuts): he's in bed in his PJs, talking to France 24. I saw another one where he was unable to string two sentences together and he was wearing Mugabe glasses...

So you can imagine that people I spoke with always brought up what would happen if things were to really go south in Guinea. In Liberia,they wondered how locals would deal with refugees flows. In Cote d'Ivoire, they wondered if the crisis would serve as yet another excuse for delaying the November presidential elections. They also asked why the US, France, and the EU had not done more to get rid of the crazy captain who has taken over in Conakry.

In the meantime, ECOWAS, the EU, and today the African Union, have imposed sanctions on Guinea and President Obama has called on Camara to step down. And just because you needed another reason to be outraged, Human Rights Watch reports that the massacre on 28 September was premidated. Still, I think we need to do a little more than that because I'm not sure that the UN can handle another operation in West Africa.


  1. I hear that many of the red berets who were involved the that massacre/mass rape were English speakers, too - in other words, Liberians recruited to yet another West African conflict.

  2. MK--you're right and it's another reason to be worried.