Guinea was the first French colony in Sub-Saharan Africa to achieve independence in 1958. From September 1958 until April 1984, a power that is described as revolutionary transformed the country into a huge open-air prison, arresting, torturing, imprisoning and killing innocent people. In 2010, Alpha Condé, a law professor, came to power following elections that were marred by violence from security forces and ethnic clashes.
A History of Impunity
Prof. Tierno Siradiou Bah, Guinean historian and executive director of the Camp Boiro Internet Memorial, wrote on his blog:
Arbitrary arrests, detention, torture, fake trials, and executions became a routine. Military barracks turned into detention centers and killing grounds. Thousands of political prisoners disappeared there. The country itself became a global prison. Everyone was a potential target of the ‘revolutionary’ secret police, including children and the elderly. The terror peaked in 1976. Then, in a series of provocative and self-destructive speeches, Sekou Touré incited to ethnic warfare and genocide against the main ethnic group: the Fulɓe [fr]. Located in the center of Conakry, the Camp Boiro National Guard Barracks was the epicenter of the Guinean Gulag. It is estimated that more than 50,000 political prisoners disappeared there. The purges targeted the country's brightest minds but also the entrepreneurs, the unions leaders, women…
From Sékou Touré to Today
Since his death, other dictators have ruled the country. They also subjected civilians to extrajudicial violence under different pretexts: union or student demonstrations, revolts by women against miserable conditions and living costs, etc.
In 2011, ACAT France [Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture] together with numerous militant Guinean human rights organisations carried out an investigation across the country and published a study on the torturer phenomenon in Guinea called “Torture: Force is Law”. Following this inquiry, ACAT France launched an online petition, “Guinea: Stop the Torture” [fr], addressed to President Alpha Condé, which comes to an end on December 31. It reads [fr]:
[…] la torture reste une pratique courante dans le pays, que ce soit à l’encontre de détenus de droit commun, à l’occasion de répressions de manifestations ou pour sanctionner les militaires suspectés de sédition. Dans un contexte politique qui reste tendu, les autorités feront-elles le choix de rétablir l’état de droit ou de laisser prévaloir l’impunité ?
[…] torture remains a common practice in the country, whether against common law prisoners, whilst controlling demonstrations or punishing soldiers suspected of sedition. In a political situation which remains tense, will the authorities choose to restore the rule of law or will they allow impunity to prevail?
The most notorious example of this violence, which has attracted international attention, are the massacres that took place on September 28, 2009, and the following days. Amnesty International details the facts [fr] on its website:
Le 28 septembre 2009, les forces de sécurité guinéennes avaient abattu plus de 150 manifestants non armés durant un rassemblement de l’opposition dans ce même stade. Plus de 40 femmes avaient été violées en public, au moins 1 500 personnes avaient été blessées et beaucoup d’autres avaient disparu.
On September 28, 2009, the Guinean security forces had killed more than 150 unarmed protesters during an opposition rally. More than 40 woman were raped in public, at least 1,500 people were injured, and many others disappeared.
Nathalie Zajde, a lecturer at the Université de Paris VIII and responsible for the psycho-social unit in the Mother and Baby Centre in Conakry, wrote [fr] on lemonde.fr, a French daily newspaper's website, on the second anniversary of the September 28 massacres:
Je ne sais si Mme Nafissatou Diallo a été ou non victime de violences sexuelles à l'hôtel Sofitel de New York en mai. En revanche, je sais, et nous sommes très nombreux à en avoir les preuves, que plus de 100 femmes guinéennes, dont une majorité de Peules, ont été le 28 septembre 2009 et les jours qui ont suivi, victimes de viols atroces et de tortures commis par des militaires, gendarmes et responsables politiques guinéens dont certains clairement identifiés, et qu'à ce jour, exactement deux ans après les terribles événements, aucun n'a été arrêté, ni même convoqué par des juges.
I do not know if Ms. Nafissatou Diallo [fr] was a victim of sexual violence in the hotel Sofitel New York [fr] in May. But I do know, and there are many of us who have proof, that more than 100 Guinean women, most of them Fulani, were, on September 28, 2009, and the following days, victims of rape and torture carried out by Guinean soldiers, policemen and politicians, some clearly identified, and that to this day, exactly two years after those awful events, not one person has been arrested or tried by judges.
Impunity still Rampant Today
The United Nations and the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) have each sent an inquiry mission to Guinea to evaluate the extent of the violence and draw up a list of those responsible.
In 2011, HRW wrote:
Personne n’a encore eu à rendre des comptes deux ans après que les forces de sécurité guinéennes eurent abattu des manifestants non armés lors d’un rassemblement de l’opposition à Conakry, la capitale, rappelle aujourd’hui Human Rights Watch. Le gouvernement guinéen doit faire davantage pour s’assurer que justice soit faite pour les victimes du massacre du 28 septembre 2009.
No one has been held to account two years after Guinean security forces gunned down unarmed protesters at an opposition rally in Conakry, the capital, Human Rights Watch said today. The Guinean government needs to do more to ensure justice for victims of the massacre on September 28, 2009.
However, according to the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Guinean Organisation for the Defence of Human Rights (OGDH), the UN's inquiry commission submitted its report to the Security Council in July, 2012, recognising that this was a crime against humanity and calling for referral to the International Criminal Court.
None of the people who controlled the security forces during this violence has been questioned. The OGDH notes [fr]:
Nous assistons impuissants à la promotion de certains présumés auteurs de la barbarie à de hautes fonctions civiles et militaires.
We remain powerless to the promotion of certain alleged perpetrators of this barbarity in high civil and military positions.
Among the soldiers who were in positions of power and were promoted by President Alpha Condé, is Lieutenant Colonel Tiégboro Camara, charged [fr] by the Guinean courts last February and promoted to the post of Secretary General solely in charge of special services, the fight against drugs and organised crime, with the rank of minister.
The last case of violence took place on November 9, 2012, when Ms. Aissatou Boiro was shot after finishing her work investigating a case of high-level corruption. She was going home when armed men blocked her car and shot her in broad daylight. An article on HRW's website says:
Les hommes ont surgi d’un autre véhicule qui s’était arrêté de manière à bloquer la voiture d’Aissatou Boiro et ont tiré deux fois sur leur victime. Les amis et la famille d’Aissatou Boiro ont rapporté qu’elle avait reçu des menaces de mort […]
The men got out of another car that had been positioned to block Aissatou Boiro's car and they shot their victim twice. Boiro's family and friends have confirmed that she had received death threats […]
Her colleagues told HRW that she was investigating a suspected embezzlement of more than 13 million Guinean francs of public money (1.8 million US dollars).