Progress in Guinea: Baby Steps

Posted: December 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

Human Rights Watch released a statement this week regarding the progress made by President Alpha Conde of Guinea after one year in office. “President Conde has made some progress in confronting the serious governance and human rights problems he inherited, but there is much work left to be done,” said Corrinne Dufka of Human Rights Watch.

According to the statement, the positive strides made by the country include efforts to rein in the country’s notoriously abusive security forces, greater respect for due process, and the creation of a committee to reconcile ethnic tensions. The statement unfortunately also mentions multiple areas where progress has been slow such as the timing of legislative elections. The greatest stain mentioned in the report however regards the lack of accountability for the massacre of September 28th, 2009.

Guinea is a miniscule West African country that is barely ever mentioned in western news media, let alone in the headlines. The country did make the news a little over two years ago for something no country should ever be known for. In late September members of an elite section of the armed forces known as the Presidential Guard entered an opposition rally at a packed stadium and opened fire on thousands of unarmed civilians.

150 people were killed and over 100 women were raped. Many unconscionable acts better left unwritten were committed in a seemingly premeditated effort to intimidate the country’s opposition. A UN led inquiry concluded that the atrocities most likely amounted to crimes against humanity.

In 2010 the government swore it would bring those responsible to justice. At the end of 2011, not a single indictment has been issued. The government has presented no evidence that the investigation has progressed and has allegedly made no efforts to locate bodies disposed of by the security forces after the incident. Adding insult to injury, President Conde has appointed two men implicated in the massacre to high-level positions.

None of this lack of progress is making the news the way the killings did over two years ago. Guinea’s “Bloody Monday” presents the quintessential forgotten story. Gruesome stories make the news, but not many bother to see how things turn out afterward.

While any progress towards justice, rule of law, democracy, and human rights should be applauded, by not bringing those responsible for the killing of September 2009 to justice, the government of Guinea is sending the message that its people cannot protest without fear of being maimed, assaulted, and killed.

Baby steps towards good governance just aren’t good enough.

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