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Guinea: Military Rule Must End

17 October 2009 at 01:53 | 347 views


The killing of at least 160 participants in a peaceful demonstration, the rape of many women protestors, and the arrest of political leaders by security forces in Conakry on 28 September 2009 showed starkly the dangers that continued military rule poses to Guinea’s stability and to a region where three fragile countries are only just recovering from civil wars.

The military junta, the National Council for Democracy and Development (Conseil national pour la démocratie et le développement, CNDD), is denying its evident responsibility and playing for time by offering what it calls a “national union government” to opposition parties. But with the mood on the streets hardening against the junta, worse trouble is likely unless combined domestic and international pressure is applied to force the sol-diers from power.

The international community swiftly condemned the killings and demanded an immediate investigation. On 2 October, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) named President Blaise Compaoré of Bur¬kina Faso to mediate the crisis. The killings came only ten days after the African Union (AU) had stated its intention to place sanctions on the junta if its leader, Dadis Camara, did not confirm in writing by 17 October that neither he nor any member of the CNDD will stand in presidential elections that are now scheduled for 31 January 2010.

The violence came amid rising tensions connected to Dadis Camara’s apparent determination to seek the presidency and followed a breakdown in dialogue over the democratic transition process. The junta had blocked creation of a National Transitional Council (Conseil national de transition, CNT), the large consultative body that was to be a key element in the transition process as agreed in March, and temporarily banned political discussions on state media. Political party and civil society leaders had become targets of military intimidation and harassment. The breakdown in dialogue reinforced a belief that the streets were the only available space for the people to express views on the transition process.

Since taking control in December 2008 within hours of the death of Guinea’s long-time autocrat, Lansana Conté, the army has steadily tightened its grip on power. It has militarised the public administration, used state resources to establish CNDD support groups across the country and formed ethnic militias. It has fuelled tensions most notably in the highly volatile southern region, Guinée Forestière, where it has gathered thousands of ex-combatants and former volunteers with combat experience. While the army has a collective interest in staying in power, the militia recruitment attests to the mistrust between junta leaders and other sections of the military. This is of great concern, since any violent breakdown within the military could mean civil war for Guinea and destabilise its neighbours via refugee flows into Mali, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, arms flow into Côte d’Ivoire, and cross-border movements of ex-combatants and refugee communities along the Liberian and Sierra Leone frontiers.

The tragic events of 28 September underline the necessity of crafting an exit strategy for the junta, so as to rescue the democratic transition and establish the conditions necessary for free and fair elections. The next steps are:

-  The junta should take into account that the large majority of citizens will not accept another military regime, and its attempt to remain in power is likely to plunge the country into civil war or anarchy. It should stand aside now and make way for a civilian transitional government that includes a large representation from the Forces Vives – the umbrella group of opposition parties and civil society – and accept the ECOWAS offer to mediate negotiation of a digni-fied exit for itself.

-  Members of the junta should explicitly and irrevocably drop any plans to stand for elections in any form and accept the terms of a comprehensive security sector reform process. This involves in the first place returning to barracks and taking measures to enforce discipline and address impunity among the troops. This could pave the way for more comprehensive security sector reform, including professionalising the army and creating a more capable civilian police force.

-  President Compaoré’s mediation on behalf of ECOWAS should focus on obtaining acceptance by the CNDD of the AU election ultimatum and designing the terms for top officers’ departure from power.

-  ECOWAS should consider sending a military mission to Guinea, possibly at chief of staff level, to assess the requirements for stabilising the country, disarming all militias, providing security for the elections and launching a comprehensive program of security sector reform. This mission could also include a civilian political monitoring component.

-  The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial kill-ings should consider conducting an urgent mission to Guinea with a view to beginning forensic investigations into the 28 September events, and other international partners should provide financial and political support to national human rights organisations that are collecting information on the ground about the crimes com-mitted.

-  If the junta digs in, the international community should isolate the junta regime, starting by imposing tough targeted sanctions on CNDD members and their key supporters. The AU and concerned partners such as France, the U.S. and the European Union (EU) should simultaneously offer help to neighbouring countries for implementation of the sanctions and start con-tingency planning with ECOWAS forces for a rapid regional military intervention should Guinea slide into further violence.



In the early hours of 28 September 2009, security forces opened fire on people gathered at the Conakry stadium. The demonstration had been organised by opposition parties to protest against the increasingly evident intention of Dadis Camara to stand for the presidency in the 31 January 2010 election. As party leaders were about to address the crowd of 50,000, armed men in uniform entered the stadium, closed all gates and started shooting. The killings occurred both inside the stadium and in the streets around it as people fled.

Human rights groups in Guinea have estimated the death toll at 160, with perhaps 1,700 injured. Government officials claimed the death toll was 57, only four from gun-shots, the others from a stampede. In light of numerous eyewitness accounts, their claim lacks any credibility. There are also numerous documented accounts of widespread sexual violence by members of the security forces against women, including beating, stripping and gang rape. Many party leaders were likewise severely beaten and had their homes pillaged. A senior journalist who covered the events claimed that party heads were specifically targeted. Abuses continued later on the 28th and the following day, as security forces looted some neighbourhoods in suburbs of the capital. On 2 October, security personnel prevented participation in the funeral ceremony at Conakry’s central mosque in honour of the dead, leading to further clashes with opposition supporters during which tear gas was used and Friday prayers were disrupted.

Key individuals close to Dadis Camara from the parachute regiment (Bataillon autonome des troupes aéroportées, BATA) were actively involved in the killings. There are also indications of involvement by irregular militia, most likely Liberian nationals. A civil society leader who was present told Crisis Group he heard armed, uniformed men give commands in Liberian Pidgin English. Other witnesses, including political party leaders, have reported that some of those involved were not regular soldiers.

The events of 28 September were the latest and worst in a series of violent crackdowns by the security forces over the last few years. In February 2007, similar events led to more than 100 deaths. While the 2007 violence was sparked by a general strike, the underlying causes, as well as the modus operandi of the security forces, were similar to recent events. The Guinean population, desperate for democratic change and an end to economic misery, is prepared to take to the streets in spite of the dangers, while the security forces are ready to use lethal force to terrify the population and maintain themselves in power.


The international community swiftly condemned the 28 September killings and called for an international investigation into the events and the immediate release of political party leaders. The UN Security Council reiterated its call for Dadis Camara and the CNDD to respect their prior commitment not to stand in the elections. The president of the ECOWAS Commission, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, called the incidents “unacceptable”, while the presidents of neighbouring Senegal, Liberia and Sierra Leone expressed serious concern.

The French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner referred to “outrageous” events and urged for an intervention force to protect citizens against the military. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed deep outrage and called for appropriate action to be taken against the junta. On 2 October ECOWAS designated President Compaoré of Burkina Faso to mediate the crisis.
The majority of Guineans expressed shock and dismay over the killings and sexual abuse. Domestic human rights organisations described the incidents as horrific. Although the military is notorious for atrocities against civilians, the latest affair has reinforced the call to address impunity within the armed forces. Opposition leaders viewed it as confirmation that the junta is prepared to use violence to keep power. They called for an interna-tional investigation into the killings and demanded an international force to provide security for citizens and the electoral process.

The junta’s reaction has been largely incoherent. In his first statement, Dadis Camara expressed sympathy for those killed. The CNDD subsequently issued a communiqué blaming the opposition parties and uncontrollable elements within the military and calling for the suspension of all subversive political gatherings. Appearing on national television and on international radio follow-ing the events, he appeared visibly shaken and claimed not to be in control of an army that had “taken him hostage”. The regime announced the establishment of a national commission comprising the government, political parties and civil society groups to investigate the killings. However, the Forces Vives refused to participate in what it called a farce. The involvement of persons close to the junta leadership in the 28 September events and the sheer scale of the abuses make the claim that they were the work of uncontrollable elements of the military hard to believe.

In a subsequent interview, Dadis Camara blamed party leaders, who, he said, went ahead with the demonstrations in defiance of authority and complained about lawlessness in the military and his inability to control the entire army.

In another interview, his aide de camp denied that he had led the military unit that orchestrated the killings and argued that he had orders to stop military personnel from disrupting the demonstration. Since coming to power, however, the junta leaders have tolerated if not encouraged growing impunity and indiscipline in the army, and they are in any case responsible for the behaviour of their troops.

It is highly unlikely that domestic political forces will back down on their demand that no one from the junta contest the presidential election. Opposition leaders dismissed the government’s 30 September proposal that a national unity government oversee the transition process, asserting that under current circumstances, dialogue with the CNDD is impossible, and such a government would not work. One party chief called the offer a diversionary tactic. On 5 October, the Forces Vives demanded dissolution of the CNDD and creation of a transitional arrangement to supervise establishment of a unity government. Similarly, the Forces Vives the next day made acceptance of their election demand a precondition to participation in the Ouagadougou talks proposed by President Compaoré.



In the initial stages of the transition from the Conté dictatorship, the Forces Vives and the international community accepted the good faith of the junta on the basis of an agreed framework, including the creation of a National Transitional Council (Conseil national de transition, CNT). This led to difficult but ongoing discussions. However, in the months leading up to the 28 September killings, these broke down due to the junta leaders’ obstructive attitude that included blocking the creation of the CNT, closing political space and intimidating political party and civil society leaders. This led the opposi-tion to break off talks and look to the streets as a way of demonstrating its popular support and putting pressure on the junta.

The first key element in the transition program as formulated in March 2009 was the junta’s declaration that no CNDD member would contest the elections. On 15 April 2009 in Kaloum, however, Dadis Camara publicly expressed his right to stand for president, the first sign of his reluctance to honour this pledge. The opposition considered distribution by the CNDD regime and its leader of government posts, rice, vehicles and business con-tracts to supporters and pro-junta youth groups as efforts to buy support for Dadis Camara’s eventual candidacy. Most political party leaders came to view the issue of that candidacy as the main obstacle in the transition process.

The second key element in that process was to be the CNT. Although its method of operation was initially agreed, its exact powers and, in particular, composition became a major source of disagreement. Dadis Camara tried to inflate the membership unilaterally from the 163 originally agreed with the Forces Vives, to 244. The proposed additional members had little independent base and were expected to be loyal to the junta. As a result, the CNT was never started, and the transition essentially stalled.

Preparations for the elections were well underway prior to the collapse of dialogue, with voter registration successfully completed by mid-April. But the ambitions of the junta leader overshadowed these developments. Opposition parties judged that free and fair elections were inconceivable if Dadis Camara was a candidate and the junta remained in power. The regime would be unlikely to accept adverse results, and any attempt to rig the process or the vote count could be expected to lead to his election and consequent chaos.
Intimidation and harassment of political party and civil society leaders caused further tension. For example, on 18 June the convoy of Cellou Dalein Diallo, head of the UFDG opposition party, was stopped, and his scheduled political meeting in Kérouane was cancelled by the governor of the region, on orders from Conakry. Several hours later, some 50 soldiers forced Diallo and his en-tourage out of Kankan. Prior to this, Dadis Camara had, on a number of occasions, threatened Diallo on the telephone. On one occasion, Diallo was taken to Camp Alpha Yaya, where he was interrogated by Dadis Camara. Other civil society and political party leaders have given similar accounts of intimidation, including how armed men have searched for them in their homes. On 14 September, political programs were suspended on state media.


Public administration has been militarised across the country. All but three of 33 prefects have been replaced by military officers. Of the 350 sub-prefects, 50 are also military, as are all eight regional governors. These junta appointees have been mobilising local support for Dadis Camara and the CNDD through the creation of pro-junta support groups and youth organisations that have emerged in almost all the provinces. A credible source told Crisis Group that the sub-prefects in Guinée Fores-tière (the forest region) were ordered to tolerate no political meetings except those in support of the junta leader.

Members of these support groups describe Dadis Camara as a liberation leader, along the lines of such West African soldier-politicians as Rawlings of Ghana and Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali. They have organised football tournaments in honour of the CNDD and receptions to host visiting junta figures. They have also been ferried to Conakry to provide visible support to the junta leaders and to help fill the national congress hall, for example dur-ing the International Contact Group meeting on 3 September.

The multiplication of youth associations and support groups has caused alarm in civil society. In Boké, civil society leaders put out a press release urging members to desist from taking part in the activities of such entities. Crisis Group interviews have confirmed the widespread suspicion that these groups regularly receive financial largesse from the junta. That they can be a strongly destabilising influence was shown in Macenta in August, when disputes over the distribution of 100 million Guinean francs ($20,000) donated by the defence minister to youth groups resulted in a serious brawl and confrontations between youths and local au-thorities.

In Guinée Forestière, CNDD political mobilisation has led to an increase in tension between that southern province’s communities. Dadis Camara’s supporters have played on the sense of exclusion from power of his Forestier ethnic group. In some cases this has taken on highly inflammatory aspects, for example when Moussa Keita, the CNDD’s permanent secretary, in a visit to Nzéré¬koré in July 2009, framed the political debate as “Dadis ou la mort” (“Dadis or death”). This statement and its implicit reference to past inter-communal violence, was interpreted as an attempt to mobilise people on an ethnic basis. This is particularly worrying in ur-ban centres, where Forestier groups are mixed with large communities of Malinké and Fulani, many of whom are currently leading the campaign against the junta leader’s electoral ambition.

The ethnic volatility has an important historical dimension. The region has witnessed several periods of conflict, memories of which are still vivid in the minds of inhabitants. In the early 1990s, the late President Conté used a discourse of ethnic division to gather support in the new multiparty context. In 1991, during a visit just after municipal elections, he made the highly inflammatory argument that non-indigenous groups did not have a right to a leading role in the region’s politics and highlighted the alleged threat they posed. The Malinké felt particularly targeted, especially as Conté’s main opponent at the time was a Malinké, Alpha Condé. His remarks also ignited ethnic clashes between the Guerza and the Konianké that led to several deaths in the Nzérékoré region. While an NGO director working on conflict prevention in the region characterised the more recent ethnic clashes in 2004 and 2006 as less destructive, the pattern of intercommunal violence suggests the dangers of political mobilisation CNDD-style.

Following the attack of then Liberian President Charles Taylor’s forces in Guinée Forestière in 2000-2001, Conté recruited, trained and armed volunteers to fight beside the regular army. Most of these youths, who eventually numbered about 6,000, never went through a formal disarmament process. They have since constituted a major source of social unrest in the region. The rise in crime has been attributed to this incomplete disarmament and lack of legitimate opportunities for ex-volunteers.

The majority of those Conté recruited to fight against Charles Taylor were based in Macenta and eventually integrated into militias that were involved in the Liberian civil war – first ULIMO (United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy) and later LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy). Most of these ex-combatants, now widely referred to as “les enfants associés” (the associated children), are scattered across the region, with a large concentration in the suburbs of Horoya-Angola and Wessoa in Nzéré¬koré. Alongside a small number of Liberians, most of these ex-combatants are from the Manian ethnic group in Macenta. Some 600 were taken into the regular army, and 540 were selected for skills training financed by the EU at the Community Development University (Université pour le développement communautaire de Guinée) in Nzérékoré, but about 3,000 eligible candidates have been left out of the program.

CNDD support groups, in particular youth groups, are also springing up in other regions. Unlike Guinée Forestière, where CNDD support groups are driven by ethno-regional affiliations, they are promoted from above, usually by the prefect or the governor. For example, in places like Mamou, Faranah, Kankan, Siguiri and Boké, they are seen as a conduit to attract development financing and the junta’s goodwill. In Faranah, a public servant at the prefect’s office spoke of the speed with which money can be obtained to organise events in honour of the CNDD. In Mamou, a leading unionist told Crisis Group the prefect called a meeting urging civil society to be part of the local CNDD support group.

However, initial sympathy for the junta due to its stance against corruption and criminality has faded, particularly in light of Dadis Camara’s political ambitions. The support groups now face concerted opposition from regional chapters of Forces Vives, as well as from ordinary Guineans who dislike military rule.


Fractures within the junta, whether along ethnic lines or just between individuals and factions, and the instability they cause is another reason why the junta should not remain in power. The events of 28 September and the creation of ethnic militias offer further demonstrations. Ethnic militias, recruited to lend the CNDD support and with over 2,000 members, are being trained at a base at Kaliah, five kilometres from Forecariah and around 100km from Conakry. The recruits told Crisis Group they were being trained by white expatriates to maintain order during the elections.

The defence minister, Sekouba Konaté, a key figure in the current power structure, has important connections with rebel and militia groups from Guinea’s and Liberia’s recent past. He has built up substantial connections within the military and business community over the years and has reportedly gained considerable control over the award of government contracts. For example, the contract awarded to an American company SCS Hyperdynamics to share offshore oil exploration, was done with his support.

Konaté was appointed by Conté to oversee operations of the LURD rebels in Macenta due to his experience in the Liberian and Sierra Leone conflicts. He has strong ties with the LURD leadership and rank and file and is currently tightly linked to Aisha Damate Conneh, an important figure in that organisation to whose house in Conakry he provides protection. He has also helped secure jobs for ex-LURD combatants at the Cellcom phone company. These links may shed some light on the reported presence of Liberians among the armed men who attacked and killed protesters on 28 September. In addition, several credible sources claim that Konaté, or people acting for him, have been involved in recruiting young men from his Malinké ethnic group to join the contingent at the Kaliah military training centre.

Such details indicate that junta members are recruiting militias from their own ethnic groups, or from pools of young men who have previously been involved in militia activity. At one level, this appears to be a concerted action by the junta to develop loyal forces it can use in the streets of Conakry and other major towns. However the ethnic coloration, combined with the clear tensions within the junta, suggest that divisions inside the military over the spoils of power pose a serious risk to national stability. This is in the first instance fac-tional: current tensions in the military are not a purely ethnic phenomenon. But the ethnic aspect could potentially act as an instability multiplier in the event of further breakdown.

The risks are exacerbated by the arrests of military officers. Since the CNDD took power in December 2008, there have been systematic detentions of senior officers believed to have been close to Conté and who still enjoy some support within the army. Although members of the security forces are being paid on time, the CNDD distributes additional favours to its cronies, leading to a dangerous feeling of exclusion among others, of all ranks. For exam-ple, lower-ranking soldiers complained to Crisis Group of being posted to border checkpoints because the regime regards them as loyal to the former regime.
After 28 September, Dadis Camara’s position within the military looks more fragile. For the head of a junta to openly declare that he has lost control of an army that is “holding him hostage” points to a potential general breakdown in law and order. It is also indicative of the leadership’s lack of trust in its armed forces. Reports of a dispute the evening of 7 October between junta members at the Alpha Yaya military camp that was barely contained point to the persistence of tensions.


Continued violence has potential regional implications, given the interlinked history of conflict in the Mano River area. Guinea played a pivotal role in the Liberian and Sierra Leone conflicts, and particularly in the creation of the ULIMO and LURD insurgencies in Liberia. Some links forged then are re-emerging. The defence minister’s LURD ties have been detailed above. The recent visit of the spokesman of Forces Nouvelles, the former Ivorian insurgency, to Conakry and his pro-junta statements, indicated possible new regional alliances. These raise serious concerns, as Côte d’Ivoire prepares for difficult elections while its north is still largely under military control of Forces Nouvelles zone commanders, who have developed increasing autonomy from former rebel leader, now prime minister, Guillaume Soro.

Some play down the importance of these regional links from the “nomad wars” of the 1990s. For example, a former LURD spokesperson said the movement has been disbanded, with most senior members now in business and politics, and expressed doubt ex-members retain strong links with Guinean counterparts. But Guinée Forestière, once host to ULIMO and LURD, remains volatile, with its thousands of ex-combatants and former military volunteers. It also shares borders with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire, all just emerging from civil wars.

Liberia and Sierra Leone are relatively calm, with no reports of significant frontier movement. Although the reintegration of ex-combatants in Liberia has been a mixed success, the ex-fighters in border towns pose no immediate threat to either country’s security. In northern Liberia, for example, the Foundation for African Development Aid/Libyan African Investment Portfolio (ADA-LAP) agriculture project gives useful employment to over 500 youths in Foya district, mostly ex-combatants. However, security personnel at the Sierra Leone-Guinea border (Yenga) claimed there has been a heavy security presence on the Guinean side since the CNDD came to power. This points to a danger of military rule in Guinea – that the junta may ferment instability or the impression of it to justify retaining control. Its 12 July 2009 warning of an imminent attack by armed groups massing at the borders demonstrated the danger. Previous regimes have been able to use neigh¬bours’ instability and frequent invasions to bolster support. The junta is aware of the gains it might get from regional threats, real or imagined.

Although senior UN officers in Liberia see no immediate security threat, they are concerned over Guinea. Security officials said, “if there are tensions … there is going to be a spill-over”. For them, the transition poses a grave challenge, the critical element of which is Dadis Camara’s position. Though the Sierra Leone and Liberia presidents have expressed concern over Guinea, particularly following the 28 September events, they are reluctant to play a leading role in stabilising the country. A senior minister told Crisis Group they were nervous about the reaction of the junta if it is boxed into a corner by sanctions.



The 28 September events have underlined that the military’s departure from power must be the international community’s priority for Guinea. The junta will undoubtedly play for time, hoping the outrage will subside. But the AU ultimatum that Dadis Camara and other junta members must declare in writing by 17 October that they will not stand for election is a minimum to maintain. Their immediate departure in favour of a civilian transitional government would be preferable.

ECOWAS has mandated President Compaoré to negotiate a way out of the crisis. His mission should focus on an exit strategy for the junta and the terms of the January 2010 elections, which should be free from any military involvement.

A national or international enquiry into responsibility for the 28 September killings, while a laudable longer-term aim, is unlikely to make headway as long as the military is in power. In the meantime, however, the international community should give targeted support to the human rights groups that are doing the vital and dangerous work on the ground of documenting witness accounts. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings should begin forensic investigations and recommend how to prevent more killings, including prosecutions of culprits.

It needs to be made clear that if the junta resists, it can expect sanctions and isolation. Given the fragile position of the junta leadership and the chances of further violence, it is possible that some members may be persuaded to accept an exit strategy as in their best interests. The Forces Vives have made clear their refusal to negotiate anything with the junta but its exit from power. This is understandable: Compaoré’s mediation should focus on how, not whether, the military is to leave, and on the mechanisms to free the elections from military interference. He also needs to focus on concrete ways for returning the country’s regional administration to civilian rule and on halting militia recruitment.

The CNDD should accept leaving power now. How-ever, it may try to compromise by accepting the AU ultimatum but refusing to comply with the Forces Vives to leave power immediately. If so, the international community will have to engage substantially to secure the electoral process from military interference. To prevent efforts at indefinite delay, it should, led by the AU, set 31 January 2010 as the deadline for the junta to leave power regardless of whether elections are held on that date as scheduled.

ECOWAS should negotiate with the junta, possibly at chief of staff level, in order to send a military observer mission, the focus of which should be on putting a stop to the recruitment and training of militias and the presence of irregulars in the Guinean armed forces. The mission should also assess the security needs of the transition and make further recommendations to ECOWAS heads of state. Even if Dadis Camara and most junta members agree to step aside, there will remain the tasks of returning the military to barracks and instilling discipline in the army and order on the streets. A major international effort will be required to secure each stage of the transition process. An ECOWAS/AU/UN mission should also be sent to evaluate the requirements for the badly-needed security system reform and start necessary planning.

While the technical aspects of election preparations are relatively well advanced, making it possible for the vote to be held as scheduled if the military steps aside, the security aspects will still pose a huge challenge and may require a rethinking of the timetable. Equally, civilian candidates remain hampered by their associations with the former regime and by their too prominent ethnic coloration. While the return to civilian rule and the democratic learning curve have to start, and the sooner the better, the weakness of political parties needs to be addressed in the longer term to avoid any repetition of the events of December 2008.

The Forces Vives have demanded an international intervention force to protect Guinean civilians. In current circumstances a major contingent is neither feasible nor desirable. However, the events of 28 September, as well as the dangers inherent in the recruitment of militia across the country, call for an international response, as they clearly pose a grave threat not only to the security of Guinea, but also her neighbours.

ECOWAS and the UN Office in West Africa (UNOWA) should put at President Compaoré’s dis-posal experts on the Guinea situation to provide technical assistance. This would help accelerate the mediation process and avoid lapses usually associated with such mandates.


If concerted pressure fails to bring compliance with the AU election demand, a harder line will be needed. The junta should then be isolated and sanctioned. Those who have tried to work with it would need to accept that the approach could no longer be expected to lead to a credible transition. If Dadis Camara does stand for the presidency, for example, the international community should end support for the election – it cannot afford to finance a farce.
In that eventuality, travel bans and asset freezes should be imposed on CNDD members as well as associates – politicians and businessmen – with key supporting roles or involvement in such activities as militia recruitment. AU sanctions should be backed up by a UN Security Council resolution if possible, but at least be implemented also by the EU and U.S. Contingency planning should already be started by Western governments to help Senegal, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire control the smuggling of oil, diamonds, essential commodities and weapons in and out of Guinea; multinational corporations involved in bauxite extraction should be warned to stop all payments to the junta and all extraction activities or themselves face international sanctions.

Countries or international companies which have been considering investing in Guinea’s mining sector should take into account that military rule presents a serious risk to the country’s stability and therefore to that of their investments and staff. In addition, given the junta’s chaotic style of governing the country it is likely that their contracts will be reviewed in any case should new leadership come in, whether civilian or different military strongmen. They should desist from such investments until civilian rule is restored.

The international community should also support efforts of the Forces Vives to maintain pressure on the junta, with an eye on the eventual establishment of a civilian transitional government. As with the political parties, there remain many questions over whether the Forces Vives are a fully representative body, but they have shown courage and increasing coherence in standing up to the military in recent months and should be backed.

It is possible, though not at this stage inevitable, that the situation will deteriorate seriously if the military hangs on to power but begins to fragment. The international community also needs to make contingency plans for this, including how to help Guinea’s neighbours avoid destabilising effects. The over-the-horizon guarantees for Sierra Leone should be reviewed between the government in Freetown, ECOWAS and the UK. The UN Security Council should acknowledge that the situation in Guinea poses a considerable threat to its neighbours and factor this into its current plans to draw down the peacekeeping force in Liberia. Those responsible for deployments in that country should prepare for the eventuality of trouble spilling over the border and adjust the composition of their units accord-ingly.

Finally, the UN, AU and ECOWAS should start contingency planning for a possible rapid intervention in Guinea in the event the army breaks up, the country divides between warring ethnic factions and a battle begins for Conakry. Guinea must not be allowed to descend into the chaos that Sierra Leone and Liberia recently experienced. Not only would those countries face the risk of renewed destabilisation, but preventing the deaths of thousands of civilians at the hands of ethnic militias would justify a robust political and, if necessary, military response.


The 28 September killings in Conakry showed again the dangers that continued military rule pose to the stability of Guinea and the sub-region and thus underlined the urgent necessity to devise an exit strategy for the junta regime. Dadis Camara’s presidential ambitions – evident in his use of state resources to buy support and intimidate opposition leaders – are a grave risk for the transition process. The recruitment of ethnic and foreign militias and the increasing signals of his inability to control the army raise serious concerns over intra-military tensions.

Getting the junta leader to renounce politics and establish the conditions for free and fair elections is critical for the ECOWAS mediation. Engaging the military should not, however, overshadow the need to address the 28 September killings. The national investigation commission is unlikely to identify the culprits without international involvement. Likewise, the international community should start thinking about its options in the event the mediation collapses. Unless urgent and concerted efforts are made by both the Forces Vives and the international community to wrest the transition process away from the military, further violence threatens first Guinea, then a neighbourhood that is just beginning to recover from years of civil war.

Source: International Crisis Group, Dakar/Brussels, 16 October 2009.

Photo: Junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.