“Preventive Diplomacy:” The International Community’s Betrayal of the People of Guinea
Kadiatou Barry, 22, holds a photograph of her missing husband Alpha Oumar Diallo in Conakry October 4, 2009. Barry says her husband has been missing since the September 28 crackdown on opposition protesters.
“PREVENTIVE DIPLOMACY:” The International Community’s Betrayal of the People of Guinea
In the following article, UN Secretary-General Ban ki-moon recommends “preventive diplomacy” be applied more widely throughout the world. Through early warning systems and skilled interventions, preventive diplomacy improves the probability that diplomats will be able to pre-empt conflicts that might erupt within countries. One of the many “successes” of preventive diplomacy cited in the article is the 2010 presidential election in Guinea. Guineans might say that if this is what “preventive diplomacy” gets you, no thanks.
Regardless of what you call it, the international community has been using this manner of diplomacy for a long time and the goal has always been the same – to establish or preserve an atmosphere of peace and calm for the purpose of attracting and maintaining business investments. In the case of Guinea, the international community was particularly panicked about the possibility of a military uprising and its potential to scare away investors. As we shall see, in its determination to hold the 2010 election come hell or high water and to maintain a peaceful appearance for business investment, the international community made tragic trade-offs which were not its to make and Guineans will have to live with the negative consequences for years to come.
Brutal regimes often use violent and deadly tactics to repress populations in order to maintain calm. While a thin veneer of peace is shown to the world, most of these countries sit on powder kegs. Often, the international community looks the other way as these regimes commit human rights abuses and hold fraudulent elections. Over the past two years, the people of Guinea have known both of these injustices.
The first of these is the tragedy of September 28, 2009, in which unarmed opposition protesters, mostly of Peuhl ethnicity, were the victims of a pre-meditated, state-sponsored massacre by the Guinean military and foreign mercenaries. Over 200 were murdered, 1,200 were injured, and at least 100 women were viciously raped. An investigation by the International Criminal Court was initiated swiftly, but as we shall see, duplicitous dealings by the international community shut the investigation down.
In 2010, Guineans, mostly Peuhl, were the target of election-related violence which left many dead, women raped, homes burned, and livelihoods destroyed. Both the state and supporters of presidential candidate Alpha Conde collaborated in this violent plot to intimidate and disenfranchise Peuhls in the presidential election.
The election itself, much heralded by the international community, was nothing short of a sham involving massive fraud orchestrated by an operative of Conde’s, Lounceny Camara, who sat on the country’s electoral commission. Camara tampered with the vote tally in order to deny Cellou Dalein Diallo a first round victory. He committed more fraud in the second round paving the way for an Alpha Conde “win.” In the first round, in which Diallo ran against several candidates, real figures show that Diallo garnered approximately 53% of the vote. In the end, millions of Guineans cast ballots that were never counted, resulting in wholesale disenfranchisement of the voting population. Conde may be the head of state, but he arrives at Sekoutoureya Palace without a mandate to govern. This election should have been nullified and the international community should have led the way.
The International Criminal Court Investigation of September 28
The news of the September 28 massacre and the photos of raped women went around the world instantly. International condemnation was immediate. And, to the shock of almost everyone, the International Criminal Court announced its intention to conduct an investigation. By the end of October, Guinea’s minister of foreign affairs had met with ICC Deputy Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, at the Hague. After postponing a scheduled trip to Guinea in January 2010, Ms. Bensouda arrived in Guinea in mid-February. Many Guineans, encouraged by the quick response from the ICC, hoped that, for once, they might get justice.
Ms. Bensouda travelled to Guinea repeatedly in the first half of 2010. She held press conferences stating that she found evidence of crimes against humanity. Further, Ms. Bensouda was in Conakry when the first waves of state-sponsored violence associated with the 2010 presidential election broke out. She stated publicly that she would expand her investigation to incorporate the election-related incidents. Head prosecutor of the ICC, Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, made a similar statement as well. Then, suddenly, the ICC investigation went silent. What happened? Had the ICC found a bigger fish to fry? Were investigators told to back off Guinea? Or, had the investigation already achieved its purpose?
By mid-2010, the reasons for the “disappeared” ICC case became apparent. In late 2008, a military junta followed the death of longtime president, Lansana Conte. Capt. Dadis Camara was the head of the junta and it was during his watch that the September 28, 2009, attack took place. In December 2009, Camara was shot in the head by one of his own men and was transferred quickly to Morocco for medical treatment. After convalescing in Rabat, instead of returning him home to Conakry, he was taken to Burkina Faso against his will. The US State Department and others in the international community considered Camara to be the most dangerous person in Guinea and thought him capable of leading the military to disrupt the entire country.
The ICC investigation was initiated as a tool to threaten Camara with prosecution at the Hague in the hopes he would run away to another country. Under the watchful eye of President Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso, Camara was finally under wraps and the ICC investigation had accomplished its goal. Naturally, victims of the military attack would disagree saying that the ICC was leaving behind a lot of bad guys who had committed crimes against humanity and who needed to be brought to justice. Given that it was the military which committed the overwhelming majority of human rights abuses on September 28, 2009, and throughout the 2010 election, the international community viewed an ICC investigation of the numerous perpetrators as nothing short of a lighted match on a powder keg. And, it is for this very reason that the international community leaned on the ICC to shut down the investigation altogether.
The Selection Election of 2010
In mid-2010, Guinea waited nervously for the much-delayed second round of the presidential election. The word around Washington was that there was great trepidation within the international community about increasing instability in Guinea exacerbated by the nerve wracking delay in the second round of the election. A US State Department official got to the heart of the matter during a presentation on Guinea at a Washington think tank when he said he did not care who won the election, but he was very concerned about a military uprising and the instability that could come from it.
In addition to sabotaging the ICC case, some members of the international community weighed in on on the 2010 presidential election, albeit quietly. Not only fearful of a military uprising in the lead-up to the election, the international community wanted to make sure Guinea was peaceful and calm after. The only question that needed to be answered was which candidate would be most acceptable to the military. Of course, only Alpha Conde could fill this bill as he is of the same ethnic group as the overwhelming majority of the military – Malinke. Further, during the election period, Conde conducted a dangerous anti-Peuhl campaign and the Guinean military provided the muscle to enforce it. If Diallo, a Peuhl, was elected, the military would surely rise up. More than anything, this assessment of the future relationship between the candidates and the military caused the international community to deny the massive election fraud.
The international community thought its re-arrangement of the Guinean chessboard would bring peace, but what it got was quite different — a belligerent, arrogant and bigoted head of state; a population enraged by unaddressed injustice; a solid guarantee of an ethnic war led by the feared 50,000 strong military; uneasy investors; and a country more likely than ever to go up in flames.
The international community is heading back to Guinea now to apply pressure to Conde to schedule legislative elections before the end of 2011, but troubles abound: Conde’s repeated acts of impunity and his penchant for treating opposition politicians as enemies of the state do not bode well for harmonious elections; the same guy who stole the election for Conde, Lounceny Camara, was just elected head of the electoral commission and battles over the entire membership of the commission promise to go a full 15 rounds; and resolution of the question about revising the voter rolls is nothing short of dynamite. Yet, the international community will force an election under these conditions because it views the legislative race as the final chapter in Guinea’s transition to civilian rule.
The people of Guinea shall never forget September 28, the 2010 election-related violence, and Alpha Conde’s theft of the elections. It’s tough to know which is worse, the international community’s collaboration to betray Guineans in their pursuit of justice through the ICC or its collaboration to place the guy who came in second, Alpha Conde, in the presidential palace, and maintain the audacity to call him “Guinea’s first democratically-elected president.” The international community got their guy in office and the military appears to be quiet, for now. And the people of Guinea? They got an ethnic-baiting president who hurls slurs openly on the airwaves and who, in April 2011, ordered the military to attack a gathering of the largest opposition party in Guinea which resulted in the murder and maiming of unarmed citizens.
The people of Guinea will not be quiet anymore. The impunity is too much and the cruelty suffered is almost impossible to bear. If they don’t get justice, Guinea will know no peace. Perhaps, without “preventive diplomacy,” justice might be within reach.
Citing successes, Ban urges more preventive diplomacy to defuse conflicts
9 September 2011 –
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