A Moment to Exhale
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Djenabou Bah was nine years old in 2009 when she attended a protest against former president Moussa Dadis Camara’s junta in a soccer stadium in the Guinean capital of Conakry.
Protesters were singing and dancing when, suddenly, security forces began firing into the crowd. Soldiers seized her, stabbed her with their bayonets and raped her. She was among 100 females who were similarly violated. More than 150 people were killed.
Now the former president who allegedly oversaw – and later attempted to cover up – the massacre and others who are suspected of perpetrating the violence are facing justice, the Washington Post reported. The protests, incidentally, arose when Camara sought the presidency after he took power in a coup.
Camara and his former underlings are facing charges of “sexual violence, kidnappings, arson, and looting,” wrote Africanews. The ex-president also has been accused of “personal criminal responsibility and command responsibility” in the incident. The International Criminal Court, the Netherlands-based institution that usually hears accusations of crimes against humanity, is closely monitoring the proceedings.
Victims say it’s hard to articulate how they felt when officials decided to jail Camara during the trial, rejecting his request for house arrest.
“The hardest thing for me was not being able to mourn my husband – his body disappeared and was never returned to us. It’s a situation that weighs on me,” rice seller Salimatou Bah told Al Jazeera. “All we want is justice. This trial must ensure that such things never happen again in this country.”
The trial should inspire politicians in the West African country to enact reforms to guarantee human rights, including lifting a prohibition against public assembly, repealing measures that squelch political opposition, and investigating other government abuses against civilians, Human Rights Watch wrote.
But it probably won’t.
Mamady Doumbouya, who has served as interim president since seizing power in a coup in 2021, will doubtfully find such reforms to his benefit. In fact, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional power broker, has imposed sanctions against Guinea for moving too slowly to adopt a democratic rule, according to Reuters.
Guinean officials, for example, have banned all political demonstrations from mid-May to when voting is expected to start – in 2025, noted Crisis 24, a consultancy. Political opposition leaders have vowed to move ahead with demonstrations anyway, perhaps betting that the court case will dissuade the government from enforcing its ban.
Many hope they are right.