In New York, Guineans Let the World Know They Demand Justice for Victims of Sept. 28, 2009 Massacre and Rapes
The pouring rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of protesters in New York this past Friday on the third anniversary of a military junta-sponsored massacre and rape of women in Conakry, Guinea. If anything, the bad weather seemed to energize the 400+ crowd, as they stood behind police barricades, across the street from the office of the Guinean mission to the UN, calling for justice for Sept. 28 victims and for Alpha Conde to leave office.
During the protest, an employee of the mission came out on the sidewalk to videotape the protesters. The crowd reacted angrily and the police moved in quickly to defuse the situation by asking him to stop videotaping. He did, temporarily, and then resumed. The crowd roared again and the police and event organizers figured it was a good time to start the march to the UN where a rally would be held.
The march was just as lively as the protest. Protesters continued the same chants which called for justice and an early retirement for Alpha Conde. The march proceeded along NY sidewalks at lunch hour. Huge cardboard pictures held aloft the heads of marchers showed the carnage of the Sept. 28 massacre. New Yorkers, normally unfazed by most things, stopped in their tracks, stunned by the horror depicted in the pictures. Several pulled out their cell phones and snapped pictures.
The march ended at Dag Hamerskjold Park, across from the UN, where marchers met up with a couple hundred more supporters.
Kadiatou Diallo kicked off the rally by reading a statement from her organization, Pottal-Fii-Bhantal Fouta Djallon, which organized the event. Ms. Diallo exhorted activists to continue the struggle for justice for victims of Sept. 28. She added that a large part of the work ahead will involve fighting the pervasive impunity within Alpha Conde’s administration which prevents indictments of Sept.28 massacre perpetrators from taking place.
Mouctar Diallo, a candidate in the Guinean 2010 presidential election, a former cabinet member, and presently the head of the New Democratic Forces opposition party, was in New York for a visit and spoke to the crowd. Mr. Diallo stated that the impunity of Alpha Conde’s government has made it impossible to achieve justice for victims and is the primary impediment to other civil and human rights problems in the country. He stressed the need for activists to remain vigilant and warned that the Conde administration is prepared for a long fight to ensure that the Sept. 28 case is not transferred to an international court. Diallo was present in the stadium on the day of the massacre along with the rest of the opposition leaders, with the exception of Lansana Kouyate and Alpha Conde, who were conspicuously absent and outside the country. Diallo witnessed both rapes and murders in the stadium. When he gave an interview to Agence France Presse a few days later to get the word out about the massacre, the ruling junta arrested and jailed him.
Shirley Pate, of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, stated that the international community has a major role to play in making sure victims get justice. She urged activists to lobby members of the international community to press for swift prosecutions in the Sept. 28 case and to place human rights and the general welfare of the people of Guinea at the forefront of foreign policy decisions. In addition, she affirmed her organization’s determination to work in solidarity with Pottal-Fii-Bhantal Fouta Djallon to achieve justice for the victims.
In a solemn moment, a partial list of one hundred names of victims of Sept.28 was read aloud. After each name, the victim’s fate was announced. Approximately, 60 people were listed as “disappeared” or “killed, corpse disappeared.” It is well known in Guinea that the ruling junta threw many bodies into the sea, from a helicopter, to avoid the discovery of mass graves.
Guineans and supporters, who gathered in New York this past Friday, were successful in opening the eyes of the world to the plight of victims of the Sept. 28 massacre in Conakry. In addition, their message about Alpha Conde came through loud and clear. He seems to be opposed to just about everything that progressive 21st century leaders stand for in the area of human rights. After all, it was Alpha Conde, during a trip to the US in July 2011 to visit President Obama, who, in an appearance at the National Democratic Institute, answered a question about human rights by saying he was not the “’head’ of human rights in Guinea.” Another panelist from a Washington think tank reprimanded him by saying, “human rights should be at the head of every leader’s list.”
[NOTE: Due to a technical problem, Guinea Oye is not able to include a video of the day’s events. When the problem is fixed, video will be posted.]