When Guinea Oye! reports on the repressive measures of Alpha Conde’s regime, it is difficult not to reflect on how the international community responded when Conde was declared “winner” of the 2010 presidential election. It seemed to echo, forever: “democratically-elected,” “democratically-elected,” “democratically-elected.” Of course, Conde was not elected democratically, rather, he, the CENI’s Louceny Camara, interim president Sekouba Konate, interim Prime MinisterJean-Marie Dore, Francois Fall, Bernard Kouchner and the Organization of the International Francophonie, ALL collaborated in stealing the election.
In 2009-10, the international community, in a panic about the military junta that seized control of Guinea in 2008, upon the death of President Lansana Conte, made a pact with the devil. Knowing a military junta would negatively impact investor confidence in Guinea and recognizing the potential of the 50,000 soldier military to keep the country in a state of perpetual coups, the international community pressed for a presidential election in 2010, come hell or high water. The sooner Guinea had a civilian president in place, the sooner investors could be reassured.
Out of necessity, the international community set the bar very low for what would constitute a successful election. As long as there were two rounds which yielded a “winner” blessed by the Supreme Court, little else mattered. HOW the election was run was of little consequence. Nothing would, and nothing did, get in the way of Guinea holding the election – not the relentless state-sponsored violence directed at supporters of Conde’s opponents, not extra-judicial killings, not illegal incarcerations, not torture, not rape, not disenfranchisement and not massive electoral fraud. Evidently, the ethnic violence against Peuls would not stop the show either.
The international community kept its silence about the state-supported violence, Conde stole the election and today, the people of Guinea are in the cross hairs of a president who metes out repression trying to hold on to a job that was never his in the first place.
Now, the international community is pressing Guinea to organize legislative elections to “finalize Guinea’s transition to democracy.” This might be a good time for the international community to take a look, two years on, at the devil with whom it dealt.
Conde Government Denies Opposition Leaders Freedom of Movement
Fria is an industrial city about 160k north of Conakry. In Fria, bauxite is extracted and processed into alumina, from which aluminum is made. Recently, Russian mining company, RUSAL, operator of the processing plant, closed down the plant after worker strikes and other problems. The economic impact was immediate. In addition to job losses and unpaid back wages, the town lost water and electricity, previously supplied by RUSAL. Residents of Fria called on national authorities for help, but the plea fell on deaf ears for a while.
Opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, travelled to Fria recently bringing 100 bags of rice. Conde, concerned that Diallo was getting ahead of him in political points, sent 50 bags and promised large monthly shipments of both rice and fuel. Whether this assistance materializes, remains to be seen.
Last Friday, former presidential candidate and opposition leader, Lansana Kouyate, headed for Fria to donate food and assistance as well. He got within 30 kilometers and was stopped in the town of Tormelin by gendarmes and military soldiers. They informed Kouyate that he could not proceed further.
When contacted by the Kouyate delegation, the Fria prefect, Mohammed Conte, said it was not a good time to go to Fria because of ongoing “worker-RUSAL talks.” Conte invited Kouyate to return at another time. As a result, Kouyate’s entourage returned to Conakry.
Kouyate planned on returning to Fria this week and hoped to have the support of an opposition delegation as he makes another attempt to deliver goods and assistance. No further word as of this posting.
This is not the first time an opposition leader has been prevented free movement in Guinea. In fact, there is a more bizarre example and it concerns Cellou Dalein Diallo.
Back in late July, Cellou Diallo, returning to Guinea after a visit in Sierra Leone, was stopped at the border of Sierra Leone and the Guinean prefecture of Forecariah, by the prefect, Mme. Leno. She said that Diallo’s entourage should proceed quickly through her prefecture and should not stop to eat nor hold “meetings.” After issuing these instructions, Mme. Leno turned to Ibrahima Sory Toure, a member of Diallo’s entourage, and told him he did not belong in Forecariah, this in spite of the fact that he is a Forecariah native. Mr. Toure told Mme. Leno that Diallo should not be allowed into Forecariah unless he dined with him at his home. After some negotiations, Mme. Leon finally allowed members of the Diallo entourage to enter their own country as Mme. Leno and security forces following closely. Before long, she received a call from Guinea’s Interior Minister, Alhassane Conde. After the call, security appeared to relax and Mme. Leon stopped trailing the entourage, but not before shouting to security as she left, “NO MEETINGS.”
In the end all worked out well. Diallo dined at Toure’s home and attended a meeting where he spoke to citizens of Forecariah. Given Alhassane Conde’s primary role as Conde administration attack dog, it’s tough to know who was involved in the decision to “ease up” on Diallo’s entourage. Certainly, someone in Conakry understood that a ridiculous and embarrassing situation was about to unfold and that it should be defused. But, with the scene at the border, the damage was done already. Thankfully the UFDG party chronicled the encounter so that Guinea Oye! could share it with you.
Conde has a tight network of prefects throughout the country who have been instructed to prevent opposition leaders from entering their prefectures and, when that is impossible, to limit their movement severely. When you steal elections, as Conde did, you spend an inordinate amount of time preventing political leaders, who garnered more votes than you, from appearing in public surrounded by enthusiastic supporters. The government’s ban on marches is designed to achieve the same purpose.
The question for the international community is, can it justify supporting legislative elections when the government limits free speech and free movement of members of the opposition?
Forced Repatriations and Reports of Guinean Gov’t. Assassins Tracking Opponents in the Diaspora
The Conde administration has a fairly good handle on controlling dissent within the country, but outside, not so much. Those who oppose Conde outside Guinea are being targeted in two ways: forced repatriation of political asylum seekers and as potential victims of a Guinean government hit squad.
Recently, several Guinean websites reported that detectives from Guinea have been dispatched to Belgium, Germany, the U. S. and beyond to track down Guinean political asylum seekers to place them in a cue for repatriation. Staff of Guinean embassies facilitate the repatriation process through authorities of the host countries. This process seems to be lucrative as well. Because many asylum seekers are held in immigration prisons at great expense, EU countries find it cheaper to pay the Guinean government 3K euros for each person repatriated.
The choice about who gets repatriated appears to be tied to ethnicity and political affiliation. This should not be a surprise, as the core of Conde’s political machine is ethnically-based. As for the repatriated asylum seeker, he loses all progress made on his asylum claim. Even more disturbing is that the personal safety of repatriated Guineans, upon return to Guinea, is highly tenuous.
After two years, Conde’s rhetoric and repression are at fever pitch. But, voices of dissent in the diaspora have grown into a virtual chorus of condemnation. This is bad news for a president who has been met with significant protests in both the United States and France and who will face more of the same next month when he comes to New York to attend the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly.
Even more concerning are reports that government assassins are making the rounds in several countries targeting Conde’s political opponents. This is terrifying news, but not an unfamiliar practice to Guineans. Sekou Toure sent agents to various parts of the world to assassinate troublesome opponents.
The international community is once again about to shove another election down the throats of Guineans and, just like the presidential election in 2010, it will overlook the fraud and violence which are certain to accompany it.
Will the people of Guinea allow the same scenario in its legislative elections? Already, there has been substantial opposition to the Organization of the International Francophonie’s interference in the legislative elections process. Given that the OIF was complicit in the fraudulent 2010 presidential election, this opposition is completely warranted.
International human rights organizations should closely chronicle election fraud and monitor all state-supported violence, with special emphasis on ethnic targeting. Human rights groups should make it very clear that a population terrorized by its own government can never enjoy a free and fair election.
And, the international community, should take a moment to wrest the September 28, 2009 massacre case from Conde’s tight grip and that of his loyal jurists and get it transferred to an international tribunal where victims might get justice before they die. It should be noted, that in 2010, the September 28 massacre case was stopped dead in its tracks at the International Criminal Court by the international community because it worried that indictments of the military perpetrators would create havoc and jeopardize the holding of Guinea’s sham election.