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Guinea’s descent into chaos

Let me be honest: I’m pretty worried about Guinea. That’s a huge understatement. I’m terrified for Guinea. After years and years of muddling along, it looks unlikely to do so now. Here’s why:  By now, you likely know that the leader of Guinea’s military junta, Moussa Dadis Camara, was shot on Dec. 3 and sent ...

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Let me be honest: I’m pretty worried about Guinea. That’s a huge understatement. I’m terrified for Guinea. After years and years of muddling along, it looks unlikely to do so now. Here’s why: 

By now, you likely know that the leader of Guinea’s military junta, Moussa Dadis Camara, was shot on Dec. 3 and sent to a hospital in Morocco for treatment. It was a head injury and the prospects don’t look good. Today for the first time, the shooter, Lieutenant Aboubacar “Toumba” Sidiki Diakité, spoke out in a radio with France’s RFI radio. Camara, he claimed, was planning to pin responsibility for the September massacre of around 150 democracy protestors squarely on him. He shot to avoid that eventuality and is now in hiding. Even more alarming, he acknowledged what everyone already feared: “What happened on 28 September was planned. …Everything was planned and I was the one who had to take the blame for everything.”

In the aftermath of Camara’s shooting, the junta looks as paranoid as ever. The AP reported last week that the military was sweeping through the capital, scooping up civilians with any potential links to Diakité. Human Rights Watch is expected to release on Guinea tomorrow, and I imagine it will reach similarly dismal conclusions about the military’s violent over-reach.

Yet despite all this, as soon as Camara was gone, the United States, France, and even the opposition in Guinea started talking about working with the defense minister and new de facto junta leader, Sekouba Konate. Speaking with Reuters last week, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State William Fitzgerald said, “What we’ve always been looking for is a transition as quickly as possible to open and transparent elections. If Konate offers something like that, certainly it is something that we would consider very seriously[.]” France is rumored to have similar intentions of reaching out to the junta, despite being accused by the junta of being involved in the assasination attempt. Oh yes and meanwhile, a Chinese deal for mineral exploitation looks to be moving forward as $100 million was reported today to have been deposited in the country’s central bank. The junta can’t touch the money, but it’s a downpayment on mining rights.

Moving forward with the current junta leader, Konate, might not be half bad (I say with a lump in my throat) — given the alternative. He was a senior member of the junta, something of a high power potential rival to Camara, and J. Peter Pham told me late last week that the Guinean opposition seems willing to work with him. A Morroccan and French-trained soldier, many view him as more professional than Camara. And with any luck, this accidental “transition” could put an end to the rumored training of ethnic militias that Camara was said to have begun. In short, said Pham, “the international community has a chance to end a year of disaster.”

Maybe. I am still skeptical, and I’m not alone. The regional group of West African states ECOWAS met earlier this week and seemed to lay the preliminary groundwork for an intervention there, if need be. What everyone fears is the scepter of civil war breaking out in a region that was not too long ago overcome by just that.

Unfortunately, that fear is warranted.

Photo: SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images

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