Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ethnic cleansing in Guinea?

I received this from a contact of mine who's married to a Guinean. The account is reprinted with her permission. The name of her husband has been omitted for his safety.

Earlier this evening [last week], I spoke with my [husband] in Guinea. A week ago today, the Guinean armed forces opened fire on a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration, killing at least 157, injuring over 1200 more, and reportedly raping over 150 women, in addition to using tear gas and stabbing people with bayonets. Although the UN, the EU, the AU, France, the US, and many others have issued strong statements of condemnation against the violence, no one has yet been willing to commit to a more active course of intervention. There has been minimal news coverage, especially as compared to the recent crisis in Iran, for example. Reporters have been threatened, detained, and had their equipment smashed; there has been some additional coverage of events via Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Doctors Without Borders.

Moussa Dadis Camara, the current dictator, has denied all responsibility for the shootings, citing 'out of control elements' in the military. Because one of the most outspoken opposition leaders is from the Peule ethnic group, there has been a great deal of open hostility toward this specific group. They are one of the three dominant ethnic groups in the country.

[Husband] lives in a predominantly Peule neighborhood, and he told me that for the past two nights especially, there has been increased gunfire and violence as the militia have been going through the neighborhood, randomly arresting people and taking them away. Last night, his next-door neighbors from BOTH SIDES were taken, but they left [husband] alone... He said to me that he knew it was the protection and energy work (being done by myself and my colleagues) that kept him safe, and to please continue as things are looking pretty unstable at the moment!

A couple of days ago, the military shot & killed a 10-year old boy from just down the street, and there have been numerous other shootings, lootings and rapes in the past week. I haven't seen any media reports on any of these additional crimes, and the coup government continues to maintain there were only 56 fatalities, and that most of those were from being 'crushed or asphyxiated in the crowds'. Text messaging has been suspended, the media has been throttled, and public gatherings have been banned.

At the memorial services held last Friday, THOUSANDS of people turned out looking for missing friends & relatives. This makes me question whether the military in fact started 'disappearing' people some time ago. Given what [husband] has been through in the past few months, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if this turns out to be the case.

Meanwhile, in the past couple of months, the military has inducted over 2000 new militia from the Guerze ethnic group in a targeted recruitment. The Guerze are a minority group in southern Guinea who also inhabit both Liberia and Sierra Leone. The reigning dictator, Moussa Dadis Camara, is also Guerze - this is the first time a member of this group has held power (over) in Guinea, and apparently he is unwilling to let go of it. The Guerze people were reportedly heavily involved in both the recent conflicts in the neighboring countries.

[Husband] spent today in the garage, working on getting the car ready to drive across country to Mali - about a 20-hour drive if road conditions are good. He will have to find & bribe someone in the military to get him past the checkpoints, but once he is out of Conakry, he should be OK. (I hope)

The majority of the military & police forces have succumbed to brutality and violence, and continue to carry out atrocities daily, with seeming impunity. My husband is terrified that he will not live to see me again. Because of the recurrent gunfire at night, he has been unable to sleep properly for several days now; his health has taken some pretty big hits this year, and he's very aware of being pushed to his physical limits. There have also been rumors that the water supply had been deliberately contaminated, which could set up conditions for a pandemic. Business has mostly remained closed since last week, and food supplies are becoming scarce.

If Guinea destabilizes into an ethnic war, both Sierra Leone and Liberia are likely to be drawn into the conflict. Both of those countries have only very recently recovered from their own civil wars (if you haven't seen the film Blood Diamond, it gives a relatively accurate depiction of how bad it could get).

Personally I'm praying for divine intervention - perhaps in the form of international peacekeeping forces conducting an aggressive investigation into accountability and command structure of the military forces in Guinea. Whatever it takes. One wonders if this is merely going to be the latest in a long string of tragedies that could have been averted if only the international community could find the political will and sanity to mount an intervention free of any regional agenda. Rwanda, Darfur, Somalia... how many Africans have to be killed before the world cares?

Also: NPR had a pair of stories this week (here and here) on the reported widespread sexual violence against women by the forces of disorder.

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