Richard Moncrieff in 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
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