Guinea Marks First Anniversary of Military Coup
All demonstrations banned with defense minister in charge and army captain still in Moroccan military hospital
Last updated on: February 24, 2010 8:14 AM
Guinea is quietly marking the first anniversary of a military government the United Nations says has committed crimes against humanity. All demonstrations are banned.
In the hours after President Lansana Conte's death one year ago, Guinea's military moved quickly to suspend the constitution.
Seizing power, Army Captain Moussa Dadis Camara said he asked God to take him far from injustice, corruption, impunity, and tribalism to prevent bloody violence. The 44-year-old head of army fuel supplies said the military was protecting Guinea from a dysfunctional constitution.
Captain Camara said it is not the ambition of the military to keep power, but rather to avoid war because, he asked, what would happen in a power struggle between political parties, the national assembly, and the Conte government?
There was no power struggle as civilian politicians surrendered.
Vowing to fight corruption and promising not to run in elections, Captain Camara initially enjoyed some popular support.
But daylight banditry by uniformed soldiers and the ruling council's decision that soldiers can stand as political candidates led to increasingly vocal opposition.
Thousands of people demonstrated September 28 against Captain Camara's expected presidential candidacy. At least 157 people were killed when soldiers opened fire. As many as 100 women were raped and sexually assaulted.
A U.N. inquiry says the violence amounts to a crime against humanity that is directly attributable to the military government, including Captain Camara. He blamed political opponents and "uncontrollable elements" of the military.
The former head of the presidential guard says Captain Camara tried to blame him for the violence, so he shot the captain in the head three weeks ago and escaped with a small group of soldiers.
In the political instability that has followed, international mediators have called for an outside protection force. Tierno Madjou Sow is president of Guinea's Human Rights Organization.
Sow says the Guinean people have no protection from an army that injures them, kills them and loots their possessions. Normally, he says, an army exists to serve the people not to serve individual interests or politics.
With Captain Camara recovering in a Moroccan military hospital, Defense Minister Sekouba Konate has taken charge, calling for discipline.
General Konate has toured military barracks in the capital, saying soldiers must now reassure the Guinean people.
He says that among young people in the army, there are some who are very bad and they must be humbled because what happened before should not happen again. The general says the army must recognize that inside its own forces there are some people who have sown discord. And, he says, we know who they are.
Aliou Barry heads Guinea's national observer mission on human rights.
Barry says Guineans are living with insecurity. He says he likes General Konate's call for order, but fears the level of dissonance within the ruling military council.
That council says the deployment of any outside military force would be an act of war. It rejects international mediators' demands that soldiers not be allowed to run in elections.
There is no official word on when Captain Camara might return to Guinea. And that uncertainty is overshadowing talks on a possible power sharing agreement.
In a national radio program marking the anniversary of the coup, military spokesman Colonel Moussa Keita said Captain Camara is "doing very well" and "will be back to Conakry soon."
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told lawmakers in Paris this week that he hopes Captain Camara does not return to Guinea, as he says that could trigger civil war.