Bittersweet Hope for Human Rights

For Guinea, a West African country historically plagued by dictatorship, poverty, and corruption, a new light has emerged on the horizon. On January 21, the military junta that runs the government appointed Jean-Marie Doré as head of a six-month transitional government. This has become Guinea’s new hope for democracy.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the “excessive use of force” demonstrated at the stadium, saying that he was “shocked by the loss of life, the high number of people injured and the destruction of property.” (Saudi Gazette, “Guinea troops accused of massacre, rape.”)

The road to this new hope has been characterized by violence and deception, particularly in the last year. On September 28, 2009, a political demonstration at a stadium in the capital, Conarky, turned into a massacre when members of the presidential guard opened fire on the demonstrators. The country’s leader, Captain Moussa “Dadis” Camara, denied responsibility for the attack, saying that it had been carried out by rogue members of the military who he had been unable to control. The demonstrators that day had been protesting Captain Camara’s decision to run for president in the presidential elections that had been slated for January 2010. Human rights groups reported that at least 157 had been killed—either shot or beaten—at the rally, with hundreds of others having been either wounded or raped.

When Captain Camara seized control of the country in 2008 after the president, Lansana Conté, died, the captain was hailed as a beacon of hope for the nation. People applauded him as he rode through the streets of the capital, while thousands of supporters shouted, “Welcome to this change! Welcome to this change!” (Joost Van Egmond, TIME magazine, September 29, 2009). However, by last September it was evident that corruption had seized. this new government as well, and after the massacre at the pro-democracy rally, Guinea was pained by a new round of governmental turmoil.

However, after swift international sanctions (like bans on travel and aid) combined with international denunciation of the tragedy in Conarky, members of the ruling junta have put into place a plan that will hopefully raise Guinea into the light of democracy. The new civilian leader, Doré, will oversee the government and implement presidential elections within the next six months.

The events that occurred in Guinea have been called no less than “crimes against humanity”, so much so that the International Criminal Court has set out to put those responsible for the tragedy on trial. Though the most recent governmental transition in Guinea can be seen as a hope for democracy, it is no less than a bittersweet hope, a hope derived from too many decades of dictatorship and too many incidences of violence and infractions of human rights.

Audrey Williams

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