In a damning report, human rights group Amnesty International has denounced a fundamental lack of accountability within Guinea’s security forces over the last year. A brutal repression of anti-government protests occurred between October 2019 and July 2020, as Guinean civilians took to the streets in opposition to Alpha Conde, the ruling President. During that period, at least 50 people were killed and a further 70 arrested.
The protests were sparked by Alpha Conde’s controversial decision to run for a third presidential term. When Conde was first appointed in 2010 there was a sense of optimism surrounding his political mandate; however, across the course of his second term he has displayed increasingly authoritarian tendencies. His decision therefore to push through a new constitution in March—which would allow him to replace the two-term presidential limit with a limitless number of terms—was met with civil unrest.
Amnesty International have now been able to report on the exact nature of the violence and repression suffered by these protesters and their families. Victims are described as being too fearful to seek justice for their abuses suffered, as Amnesty’s West and Central Africa Regional Director Samira Daoud announced: “We spoke to devastated families who described how their children lost their lives, shot in the back, chest, head or neck.” Furthermore, the report also acknowledges the use of the military in this crackdown on protests, which is in itself in contravention of national legislation. In one particular chilling section of the report, mortuaries are described as refusing to take in the bodies of civilians killed during the unrest in order to push down the official figures for those killed during demonstrations.
The report comes during a moment of heightened political significance in Guinea, with the presidential elections scheduled on 18th October 2020. Alongside Amnesty, the European Union has also expressed its worries regarding the conditions under which the election might take place. In a statement, they have call for “respect for civil liberties, in particular the right of every citizen to demonstrate peacefully and in a law-abiding way, without interference, and to express political opinions without being arrested or imprisoned.”
Alongside this rhetoric, perhaps more encouraging is the tripartite mission by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, and the United Nations to Conakry last week in a bid to try and reduce the state of tension in Guinea. This attempt at dialogue is welcome, however, more concerted action is needed to address this issue. Firstly, the European Union must combine its rhetorical condemnation with genuine investment into NGO’s and local organizations in Guinea who are supporting those affected by violence.
Then, on a political level, Alpha Conde must be leveraged to stand down from the upcoming Presidential elections. The extension of a term in office very rarely spells anything positive for the strength of a country’s democratic political institutions and Conde’s attempt to hegemonize power and control must be prevented. Regional actors such as ECOWAS and the African Union must be more wholehearted in their condemnation, whilst international actors such as the United Nations must also add their voice to the mix in order to pressure Conde into an untenable position. It must be made resoundingly clear that human rights abuses will not be tolerated by the international community.
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