In Guinea, Fear and Hopelessness After the Massacre


In Guinea, Fear and Hopelessness After the Massacre

At the national stadium in the Guinean capital, Conakry, it’s oddly quiet
— the only sounds that can be heard are the muffled beats of a drum band
practicing nearby. The other strange thing in a dusty and garbage-strewn
city is how clean the stadium looks. Many of the walls and exit tunnels have
been freshly painted. That’s the only sign of what happened here on Sept. 28
when human rights groups say Guinea’s year-old military junta opened fire on
an opposition rally, killing 157 people. Locals say there was so much blood,
the stains soaked into the concrete. Hence the regime’s sudden need to
redecorate.

But memories cannot be painted over so easily. The day of the massacre,
Guinea’s broad-based opposition movement — called Forces Vives, literally
meaning Forces Alive, and made up of political parties, labor unions and
civil society groups — drew tens of thousands of supporters to a rally in
the stadium to protest what it called an increasing authoritarianism in the
country. The junta struck back with brutal force. According to witnesses and
human rights groups, the army first locked the protesters in behind metal
doors hastily electrified with lethal current, then opened fire. The wounded
were finished off with bayonets. Scores of women were raped in broad
daylight. Idrissa Cherif,
Camara’s spokesman, says the first batch of Chinese money has now arrived
and will be spent on “electricity, water, roads and the like.”

But the opposition is doubtful of the regime’s intentions. Oury Bah, head of
the opposition party Union of Democratic Forces , says the junta is in
dire need of cash to pay its supporters. “They need money to stay in power,”
he says. “They’re ready to sign anything.” For its part, the opposition is
refusing to take part in talks with the junta aimed at creating a national
unity government, saying that doing so would only legitimize Camara’s rule.
As Bah says: “There’s no reason to be optimistic.”

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