"Repression and Violence Are a Danger to the Whole Region"

 Richard Moncrieff in The Independent

The Independent

The tragic events of Monday were born

of a confrontation between sheer desperation

and brute force.

Guineans suffered appallingly under

President Lansana Conté, who, like

his successor, Moussa Dadis Camara,

came to power in a military coup.

Conté installed a dictatorship that lasted

from 1984 to 2008; when I talked to

youth leaders in Conakry 10 days ago, i

t was clear they were anxious to stop

that from happening again.

With political dialogue stalling, and it b

ecoming increasingly obvious that

Dadis Camara intends to run for president,

they saw the street as their

only means of pressure.

On Monday evening, shortly after

the rally, Dadis Camara sounded shaken

as he spoke on French radio and all but

admitted that he was losing control

of the army.

Given the killings, that may be the only

position he can take.

But his stance is indeed highly fragile

in an army whose growing indiscipline

he has at least tolerated over recent months.

This indiscipline can be traced back

to the bloody repression of protests

in February 2007, when over 100 people

were killed in a crackdown

very similar to this week's.

Such repression, along with

guaranteed immunity for

the military's abuses against civilians,

kept the ailing Conté in power.

The regional implications are disturbing.

Five years after the terrible conflicts

in Liberia and Sierra Leone, Monday's protests

demonstrate that underlying problems

are far from solved.

Throughout the region, high levels

of unemployment and poor governance

continue to cause extreme frustration.

In Guinea, the weakness of

countervailing powers – political parties,

parliaments, media – has opened

space for the military, with the disastrous

consequences we now see.

More worrying, the border area with

Liberia, which suffered a spillover from

the Liberian civil war in 2001,

is the site of increasing ethnic tension.

Dadis Camara has not officially declared

his intention to run for presidential office,

and this may provide an opportunity for

a combination of domestic and

international pressure to get him

to back down.

But, after Monday's protests, the mood

on the street is that

he should leave now.

Unless he can be persuaded that

further repression will lead

to sanctions and legal measures,

the crisis in Guinea may be

far from over.

Richard Moncrieff is West Africa project

director of the International Crisis Group

The Independent

Link here

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