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GUINEA: Will the International Community Accept Conde’s “Cosmetic Changes” and Continue to Ignore Atrocities, Again?

September 13, 2012

Yesterday, Alhassane Conde, Guinea’s minister of the interior, called a broad cross-section of Guinean society together to set terms for holding political events and marches. On August 27, the opposition attempted to march, but state security had other plans for them (jail) including firing on a car carrying three opposition leaders. The near-assassination scared the bejeebers out of the international community. Cross-eyed over the possibility of Guinea falling into long-term instability that might lead to investor flight, the international community swooped into Conakry last week to inform Conde of changes he needs to make. Unfortunately, the changes are “cosmetic” and the real danger is that the international community will pass them off as fundamental signs of “growing democracy in Guinea.”

Invitees to Conde’s meeting were the Governor of Conakry, mayors of the five municipalities, opposition leaders, senior gendarme officials, representatives of the national police, religious groups, NGOs, and civil society. Opposition leaders who attended were befuddled as to why the meeting was called in the first place, given that, long ago, the National Transition Council included in the Guinean constitution specific guarantees for free speech and assembly and responsibility of the government to protect these rights. Like many laws on the books in Guinea, Conde’s regime has a propensity for ignoring them and creating decrees instead, to cover his tracks. Part of the reason that the international community will likely tout meetings like the one held yesterday as a sign that Conde is turning things around, is the inclusion of religious, NGO, and civil society representatives. This broad inclusivity is popular among the international crowd. Unfortunately, these groups are largely dominated by Conde loyalists who are used to outweigh the influence of other groups – namely opposition parties.

In another cosmetic move in response to international nudging, Conde is reining in his security forces. Earlier this week, General Balde, head of the gendarmerie, debuted a training program for gendames which is designed to improve professionalism within the ranks and focuses particularly on international human rights law. Guinea’s security forces have never operated within the law and they are not about to start now.

Given that Alpha Conde placed ethnic hatred at the core of his government policies and the fact that he stole the election, he must use the entire security and military apparatus to crush his increasing number of challengers. Security forces and military soldiers are brutal because their commander-in-chief wants them that way. If you want to see systematic brutality, keep an eye on Guinea for as long as Alpha Conde holds the “presidency.” This training program is a huge farce for international consumption.

During the 2010 election, the international community turned a blind eye to stunning brutality against Guineans at the hands of both the military and security services. In the future, it will not be so easy for it to ignore these atrocities and continue to use the word “democracy” in the same sentence with Alpha Conde’s name. The people of Guinea are watching closely. Just yesterday, the opposition sent a call to the international community not to sit by as the tyrannical regime of Alpha Conde becomes further entrenched.

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