Conde Planning Truth Commission on Violence: Shielding the Guilty and, Once Again, Robbing Guineans of Justice
Ethnic Peuls forced to flee parts of Guinea after the Conde campaign incited Malinke riots in which Peuls where killed, wounded and hundreds of businesses and house were destroyed. Because of the displacement of the Peuls following the violence, virtually none of them were in their home districts to vote on election day. With this, the Conde campaign achieved its goal of disenfranchising thousands of supporters of presidential candidate, Cellou Dalein Diallo.
Truth commissions are hollow places where governments retreat to avoid punishment as well as that of their proxy henchmen and where the aggrieved receive precious little satisfaction and no justice. For hundreds of years, the process has been the same: those who commit crimes are subject to a trial under the law and, if found guilty, are imprisoned. In cases like Rwanda and apartheid South Africa, where there were so many perpetrators and victims, establishing trials to determine the guilty were not always plausible. The goal of truth commissions generally is to produce a modicum of social harmony so that people can “get on with their lives.” But, does this happen? Not really, because it never completes the necessary process for the victims to heal — punishment of the perpetrators. Accounts from victims and/or their families in Rwanda have shown repeatedly that they wanted justice in a court of law, incarceration of the criminals so that they are prevented from committing similar crimes in the future, and the use of imprisonment as a deterrent to others considering similar crimes.
In the following article by Saliou Samb of Reuters Africa, who wrote most of Conde’s campaign propaganda for Western consumption, we get a glimpse of the script that Alpha Conde will use for his truth commission. By imposing a truth commission on Guineans, Conde does not intend to ease the pain of ethno-political violence as he claims, but to shield current military and national officials from indictment by the International Criminal Court. Their liability spans from the September 28, 2009, massacre to the Conde-/ state-orchestrated murder and pillaging in Siguri and Kouroussa in late October and through to the last Guinean shot by state security forces after provisional electoral results were announced on November 15. All of these atrocities were state-sponsored attacks in which the Peul ethnic group was targeted and none are the result of ethnic “clashes,” as Mr. Samb so often maintains.
Rather than explaining how a truth commission might work , Mr. Samb spends nearly half of the article treating us to a gruesome recitation of the state-sponsored crimes of Sekou Toure. He also refers briefly to transgressions by Lansana Conte and Dadis Camera’s responsibility for the September 28, 2009 massacre. But Toure and Conte are dead and unlikely to show up at the Truth Commission and we have known for a long time that Mr. Camara, will have to answer to the ICC. But, something strange is going on in that Mr. Samb does not mention any of the recent election-related crimes. Once again, rather than reporting, Mr. Samb is framing the truth commission discussion for us. By inundating us with the horrors of Guinea’s first three presidents and not a word about the atrocities of 2010, is he suggesting that the election-related crimes pale in comparison? Of course he is. If the 2010 atrocities are placed on the Truth Commission’s agenda, it will be the first step in implicating the primary perpetrators of those crimes: Konate, Dore and Conde himself.
-The bottom line on the Truth Commission is that the most recent crimes will not be addressed, Dadis Camara will be taken care of outside the Commission process at the ICC for September 28, 2009, (even though Sekouba Konate, as Defense Minister at the time, should be at the ICC with Camara because he must have known what was afoot) and Conde will select a few military men to publically express forgiveness to victims of September 28 and that will be it.
-Contrary to Samb’s statement that human rights groups will see Conde’s Truth Commmission as a positive step, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group and others have observed enough in Guinea to know that, before it even starts, the Truth Commission is a hoax.
-Keep an eye on Mr. Samb regarding future articles on this topic. Samb is very good at sewing together a public image for Conde and, as such, he only writes about what Mr. Conde wants you to know.
* Truth and reconciliation process modelled on South Africa
* New leader says forgiveness will be important step
By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY, Dec 4 (Reuters) – Guinea will form a truth and reconciliation commission aimed at healing the wounds of ethnic and political violence that has plagued the West African country for decades, President-elect Alpha Conde said on Saturday.
The move will be modelled on South Africa’s post-apartheid commission formed by Nelson Mandela and is likely to be well received by human rights groups which have condemned the country’s repeated spasms of violence.
This is “so that those who have made mistakes can ask forgiveness and that victims can accept this forgiveness”, Conde said on state television, days after Guinea’s Supreme Court validated his win in a hotly contested Nov. 7 poll in which voters largely followed ethnic lines.
“I know that forgiveness does not replace the dead or the arms that were chopped off, but it’s an important step.”
Conde, winner of Guinea’s first free election since independence from France in 1958, said reconciliation was critical to rebuilding the poor and unstable country.
Guinea, the world’s top exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite, has seen numerous bouts of violence over past decades. At least 10 people died in election clashes last month.
Among the most grim examples, former dictator and first post-independence leader Sekou Toure’s Camp Boiro still stands in the capital Conakry. Rights group Amnesty International says more that 50,000 political detainees died in horrendous conditions in the prison, now a military camp.
According to some witnesseses, Toure’s prisoners were locked into cells where they were given neither food nor water and their screams were ignored until they died — a slow form of execution the regime called the ‘dark diet”.
Conde himself was sentenced to death in absentia by Toure’s regime, after he was implicated in a coup plot.
Under Lansana Conte, Guinea’s second post-independence leader, at least 130 protesters were shot dead by soldiers in downtown Conakry. Nearly two years of military rule followed his death in 2008.
Last year, now-exiled junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara drew condemnation after his security forces killed more than 150 pro-democracy demonstrators and raped scores of women gathered in a stadium.
The violence is widely believed to have been driven in part by centuries-old tensions between the country’s two most populous ethnic groups, the Peul and the Malinke.
The United Nations’ top official in West Africa has urged Guinea’s next government to put reconciliation high on the agenda and end the perceived impunity of its notoriously indisciplined army. (Writing by Richard Valdmanis, editing by Mark Trevelyan)