Women’s march representatives meet with World Bank official to present him with a “memorandum of justice” which details many years of violence and repression in Guinea, including a massacre in 2009 where 150 people were killed, hundreds injured and at least 80 women were raped. Not only does the current government of Alpha Conde refuse to pursue those responsible for the massacre, but it commits regularly acts of gross human rights abuse, including extra-judicial killings, torture and rape. The women are asking that the World Bank, and other international financial institutions, refrain from providing aid and assistance to Guinea as long as it maintains a deplorable record on human rights.
On Monday, hundreds of women gathered in Lafayette Park, next to the White House, to march against state-sponsored violence and repression in Guinea. Of particular importance is a massacre which took place on September 28, 2009. Opposition supporters, who had gathered in a stadium for a rally, were set upon by state security forces who seriously injured over a thousand people, conducted extra-judicial killings of 150 and viciously raped at least 80 women.
Monday’s march in Washington was sponsored by the Women’s Caucus of Pottal-Fii-Bhantal- Fouta Djallon, a group which monitors human rights abuses in Guinea and organizes Guineans to fight these abuses legally. At the rally before the march, the group condemned the current administration of Alpha Conde for not bringing to justice those responsible for the September 28, 2009 atrocities. Perhaps Conde’s most egregious act of impunity regarding the massacre is placing two of the primary perpetrators, Tiegboro Camara and Claude Pivi, in his cabinet!
The International Criminal Court initially investigated the massacre and found that gross human rights abuses had occurred as well as crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, international pressure influenced the ICC to put the investigation on the back burner fearing that it could destabilize the country just as Guinea’s presidential election was about to take place. Two years later, no one has been prosecuted for these crimes. The ICC will only take on a case for prosecution if a country is neither willing nor able to do so. The new head of the ICC and its investigator of the massacre, Fatou Bensouda, visited Guinea recently to encourage the government to proceed with an investigation and prosecution. How long the case will languish in the dark halls of Guinea’s justice system is not known.
World Bank representative with leaders of the Women’s Caucus of Fii-Pottal-Bhanfil Fouta Djallon, sponsors of the march
In an attempt to get some movement on the case and to draw attention to the human rights abuses taking place under the current president, Alpha Conde, marchers stopped at the offices of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the US State Department, all of which provide Guinea with aid and assistance. Their objective was to give a “memorandum of justice” to each institution which states that Alpha Conde’s deplorable human rights record must not be rewarded with continued aid. At the Bank, a representative met with march leaders to discuss the serious human rights situation in Guinea and they agreed to keep the dialogue open on the issues of concern. An IMF representative accepted a copy of the memorandum as well.
Unfortunately, the State Department’s new head at its Guinea desk seemed ill-equipped to handle, either diplomatically or substantively, a discussion with march representatives. Being new at his job, he may have received bad advice about the importance of the group and the issues it represents and, in the most undiplomatic manner, he refused to meet. Further, in phone conversations with march organizers prior to the march, he deigned to give advice on protest tactics, stressing repeatedly that “marching doesn’t accomplish anything.” It is not readily evident that he has the experience to provide such advice; more likely he is echoing more bad advice he was given..
As for “marching not accomplishing anything,” ask those who benefit from civil rights guarantees through the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., ask anti-Vietnam war protesters who brought down a war-mongering US president, and ask labor leaders around the world who, through marching, brought working conditions out of the Dark Ages.
Check out Guinea Oye! in the future for more updates on the work of Pottal-Fii-Bhantal-Fouta Djallon activities and yes, marches!