Welcome to Franz Kafka’s Guinea: CENI Cooking Up Election Fraud, Opposition Politicians Banned from Prefectures, and Prosecutor Fernandez’ Hunting Down Peuls (Video)
This is one of Kafka’s best-known works. It tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor the reader. My goodness, has someone in Guinea been “channeling” Kafka over the last few weeks?
For the last few months, Guinea Oye! has featured little news about Guinea. Frankly,writing about Guinea has become a daunting task because of the abject lawlessness and absurdity with which the Conde government and his RPG loyalists operate. How do you explain to those who know little about the country that it is a mine field of injustice, violence and state-sponsored ethnic hatred? Those who fall on the opposite side of the fence from Conde, can easily end up in jail or worse. How do you describe to the uninitiated that it is de rigeur for Guinean security forces to fire on unarmed protesters participating in peaceful marches?
Franz Kafka, a German author during the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s, often wrote about people caught in inexplicable, shocking, and often inescapable situations. His stories featured:
“. . . people overpowered by bureaucracies, often in a surreal, nightmarish milieu which evokes feelings of senselessness, disorientation, and helplessness. Characters often lack a clear course of action to escape the situation.” As other writers mimicked Kafka’s style, their works became known as “Kafkaesque.” Yet, the term has transcended the literary realm to apply to real-life occurrences and situations that are “incomprehensibly complex, bizarre, or illogical.”
Sounds like Guinea! Guinea Oye! will attempt to bring readers up to date on the latest political issues and, along the way, “channel” Kafka to help us better understand.
Background on Ethnic Relations in Guinea
Before the update, a bit of history about ethnic relations in Guinea is in order.
By far, the largest ethnic group in Guinea is Peul, the second largest is Malinke and the third largest group is Soussou. In 1956, two years prior to becoming president of Guinea, Sekou Toure, a Malinke, mounted a campaign to become mayor of Conakry. As with most politicians, Toure assessed the number of his likely supporters as well as those who might vote against him. Unfortunately, Toure was a seriously flawed man who suffered from acute paranoia which led him to physically eliminate those he saw as a threat. Toure imagined Peuls were the ethnic core of the threat, but occasionally he cast his net a little wider and implicated individuals from other ethnic groups. Peuls were not a threat to Toure and would never express their discontent through violence. Peuls were subject to indefinite incarceration, torture, and summary executions. After he became president in 1958, the repression of Peuls increased exponentially as he used the might of his state security forces and the Guinean army to exterminate his imaginary enemies.
After almost 20 years as president, on August 9, 1976, Sekou Toure, took it up a notch when he made one of his most famous, but chilling speeches from the Palais du Peuple. For the first time, he publicly accused Peuls, as an ethnic group, of creating a “Complot Peul,” or Peul plot, to remove him from office and take over the country. While there was no such plot by Peuls, Toure unleashed a brutal and deadly pogrom against them which involved torture during incarceration, disappearances, and physical elimination which included starvation and public hangings. This deadly persecution was accompanied by systematic marginalization of the Peuls in areas of employment and education.
When Toure died in 1984, the vestiges of the pogrom against Peuls did not stop, although it was less so during the administration of Guinea’s second president, Lansana Conte, a Soussou. Unfortunately, the blood of Toure’s pogrom against Peuls seeped so deeply into the fabric of Guinean life that repression of Peuls is still acceptable today.
Many Peuls were forced to leave Guinea and go into exile to escape the brutality and threats to their lives. It is estimated that at least 50,000 people were killed under Toure’s 26 year regime.
Alpha Conde, a Malinke, while campaigning in the 2010 presidential election, announced to his RPG party supporters that there was a “Peul plot” to poison them. Celou Dalein Diallo, a Peul, who was a presidential candidate from the UFDG party (the largest political party in Guinea as well as the largest opposition party) categorically denied the accusation. Conde continued to repeat and embellish the story, inciting Malinkes to attack Peuls in Siguiri and Kourousso just days before the second round of the election. The attacks resulted in serious injuries, rape, and murder. With Conde’s promotion of violence and hatred against the Peul ethnic group, he stepped into Sekou Toure’s shoes and raised his mantle.
Conde stole the 2010 election from Diallo through massive voting fraud which the Guinean Supreme Court rubber-stamped as a “win, and the West played its part by turning a blind eye to the theft of the election by repeatedly calling Conde, “Guinea’s first democratically-elected president” in an effort sooth business investor concerns. Conde was inaugurated “president” in January 2011.
As Conde settled into Skoutoureya Palace he initiated the bureaucratic marginalization of Peuls by ”weeding out” Peuls from national and regional government positions and replacing them largely, with Malinkes.
Conde, like Toure, uses his commander-in chief status to deploy his state security “storm troopers” against the civilian population to enforce his newly-created “neo-pogrom against the Peuls.” A large, vocal opposition coalition, many of whom are Peuls, are often denied the right to march and air grievances, even though the Guinean constitution protects this right. On numerous occasions large numbers of security forces have shot and killed peaceful, unarmed protesters without provocation.
Finally, a highly politicized trial regarding a July 19, 2011, “attack” on Conde’s home may become the centerpiece of Conde’s neo-pogrom against Peuls. This is discussed in detail further below.
UPDATE ON CURRENT EVENTS IN GUINEA
CENI: The Guinean electoral commission, in lockstep with the previous one
The CENI continues its exclusion of the opposition from some of the most important issues associated with legislative elections: setting date for the election, electoral census, and choice of election contractor.
Bakary Fofana, is the new president of the CENI and, from all appearances, he is walking quite nicely in the shoes of his predecessor, Louceny Camera. Fofana has committed himself, as did Camara, to dishing out to the opposition a maddening mix of ignoring their concerns and making unilateral decisions.
Fofana announced that May 12, 2013, would be the date for the election. He did this without consulting the opposition and, it appears, without consulting the CENI members as evidenced by their categorical denial that they had been consulted.
For a long time, Conde’s government has been hell bent on doing an electoral census, but the opposition has been opposed to it all the way. The opposition’s concern is that if the CENI supervises the census, it will use it to artificially “inflate” the number of Conde voters. Because Conde stole the election in 2010, he arrived in office without a majority mandate to govern. If his RPG party is to make up ground in order to win a majority in the national assembly, it can only happen if the census is skewed in its favor. If, and when, legislative elections are held, the fraud will not be done on the fly; to deliver Conde a majority in the assembly, a pre-meditated system of fraud must be ready to go, out of the box. And, this is where Waymark enters.
Another major controversy regarding the elections is the Guinean government’s choice to engage a South African company,Waymark, in a no-bid contract. In addition, there is significant evidence that Waymark has ample experience “fixing” elections — a primary reason Guinea selected it. The government and the CENI ignore opposition concerns about the contractor and are proceeding with the census. In addition, the Francophonie, which is “helping to supervise” Guinea’s election, had several misgivings about Waymark a few months ago which are contained in a report given to Conde which he refuses to release. It appears the Francophonie has had a change of mind and now appears to endorse its use. Meanwhile, the opposition continues to demand that the government boot Waymark back to South Africa and choose a contractor which all can trust and not in the pocket of the president or his cronies.
Finally, as if there were not enough RPG loyalists lurking in every nook and cranny of the government and the CENI, the CENI has decided to replicate itself by installing “satellite” CENIs in every prefecture and sub-prefecture. This serves to infuse more and more RPG loyalists into the electoral system, increasing exponentially the number of hands available to help steal the election. Conde’s government has spent the last two years laying the groundwork for the decentralization of the the CENI by replacing primarily Peul prefects with Malinkes from the RPG party. Initially, because of the nefarious nature of this decentralization proposal, the opposition refused to cooperate, but decided recently to submit the names of opposition members to fill these “satellite” CENI’s.
The opposition announced that it would march this Thursday, February 7, to protest the use of the Waymark contractor and the decision to conduct an electoral census.
Freedom of movement denied to opposition party leaders and members by Conde’s prefectural and sub-prefectural representatives
Increasingly, prefect leaders allied with Alpha Conde are denying opposition party leaders and their members entry into their prefectures or are banning them from entering particular areas within their prefectures.
Last year, opposition leaders, former prime ministers and former presidential candidates, Lansana Kouyate and Cellou Dalein Diallo, were prevented from going to Boke to provide aid to citizens who had run out of food. Also, last year, Diallo and other opposition members were stopped while trying to cross the border from Sierra Leone into Guinea. The prefect, a member of Conde’s party, detained the entourage. After protracted discussions, they were given permission to enter Guinea, but were followed closely by security agents as they traveled through the prefecture. Within the last few weeks there have been attempts by two prefects to prevent UFDG leader, Diallo, from campaigning. In the latest incident on January 15, a prefect sent thugs to attack Diallo supporters in Gongore who were waiting for Diallo’s arrival. There were several serious injuries.
The Trial of the July 19, 2011, fake attack on the home of Alpha Conde: A kangaroo court for the ages
(If you want to see the trial in session and experience a truly kafkaesque moment, check out this video (in French), one of several videos available on You Tube regarding the July 19, 2011 “attack.” The star of the show is William Fernandez, the Prosecutor who is questioning witnesses in his characteristically aggressive manner. The real hero is the witness, Almamy Aguibou Barry, who endures Fernandez’ badgering coolly and stands up for himself with dignity. To catch this exchange start the video at minute 29:00)
On July 19, 2011, reports about an attack on the home of Alpha Conde circulated like wildfire throughout Conakry. Initial reports were that the attack was an attempt to assassinate Conde. Further, the attackers were Guinean military soldiers loyal to former military junta leader, Dadis Camara, or former president, Lansana Conte, or both. Yet, for many people, this scenario did not ring true.
When Conde publicly accused Bah Oury, a Peul and Vice-President of the UFDG, (the party of 2010 presidential candidate, Cellou Dalein Diallo) of being the “mastermind” of the attack, the next bit of information made things perfectly clear. Conde planned the attack so he could conduct a witch hunt against his political enemies. Bah Oury is a powerful opposition leader and is not one to cower from debate or conflict. He is definitely a thorn in Conde’s side, but certainly not an assassin. When Bah Oury received word that Conde sent military soldiers to his home to kill him, he left the country, barely escaping with his life. Conde issued an arrest warrant for his capture, should he return to Guinea, and even leaned on the German embassy to get Interpol involved as well. It has been 18 months since Bah Oury left Guinea, living in exile because his life remains in danger. `
Since the “attack,” the government has spent the last year cherry-picking suspects, notwithstanding the lack of evidence against them. The trial opened three weeks ago. Yet, each day, the prosecutor pulls in newly-accused individuals to testify before the court. Interestingly, they, unlike those arrested and indicted before the trial started, are largely civilian, Peul and many are of, or associated with, the opposition.
The center of what has become a three-ring circus is Guinea’s Chief Prosecutor, William Fernandez, who is arbitrary, menacing, theatrical and sly like a fox. He has managed to insult and irritate defense attorneys almost to the point of a slug-fest in the courtroom. Further, Fernandez constantly interrupts witnesses with stream-of-consciousness harangues. One might consider his performances entertaining were it not for the fact that he is there to do Conde’s bidding and possesses a Roman coliseum “thumbs up, thumbs down” kind of power to destroy the lives of all those who cross his path.
Fernandez made his most egregious move not long after the trial started. Just before the opening day, Fernandez visited Conde at Sekoutoureya Palace. Conde told Fernandez that a new motive for the attack needed to be introduced into the trial – a “Fulani (Peul) complot” or Peul plot designed to overthrow him and take over the country. Alpha Conde raises Sekou Toure from the dead!
Fernandez floated the Peul plot at the trial and the people in the courtroom cried foul. A few days later, Fernandez realized he needed to reel himself in a bit and tweaked the accusation to an “opposition plot.” No one is fooled by this change. Conde, as did Toure, has ethnic genocide in mind. But, after Rwanda, wise people know it is not a good idea to advocate it openly, especially in a courtroom.
Yet, it is not enough for Fernandez to introduce the “opposition plot,” into courtroom proceedings. It must be echoed in witness testimony. Over the last few weeks, some of the accused testified that Fernandez tried to coerce them into providing names of opposition leaders and members involved in the plot against Conde. Asking witnesses to perjure themselves is one of the many crimes Fernandez should have been charged with by now, that is, if Guinea had a judiciary free of executive influence. If you are looking for justice, you would be wise to overlook Guinean courts.
This trial is Conde’s equivalent of Toure’s 1976 speech about the “Peul plot” in that there is no longer ambiguity about who the target is (Peuls), who the “wronged” party is (Conde and the State), and that the objective is to convict as many Peuls as possible of treason so that they, and others in their ethnic group, can be labeled, as they were by Sekou Toure, “traitors of the state.” There is no doubt that this trial will heighten the persecution of Peuls and involve state security services and, since Conde demonstrated his ability to incite Malinke violence against Peuls during the 2010 campaign, his RPG party cadres as well. Conde’s theft of the 2010 presidential election clearly means he did not have the votes to win fair and square. He is need of a political bowling ball that will knock down the adversarial pins. With this trial and Fernandez’ zealous collusion, Conde wins the trifecta: persecution of Peuls, implication of opposition leaders in the “attack,” and rallying his Malinke forces.
One more concern: what if this trial morphs into a grand jury format where it stays in session for months, maybe years, as a standing tribunal, to weed out “traitors” against the Republic? If Conde and Fernandez are capable of assuring the West that the court, as a long-term grand jury, is operating under the constitution and within democratic principles, it could become a reality. With Conde’s propensity to “channel” Toure, no one should be surprised if his contribution is to replicate Toure’s techniques of hanging Peuls publicly and throwing them down wells.
Kafka’s most popular short story is titled,“The Metamorphosis,” and it involves a travelling salesman who awakes one morning to find that, overnight, he metamorphosed into an insect with wings and six legs. If you see Conde waving a white handkerchief, driving a car and chain-smoking, you will know his metamorphosis is complete.