The extent of the violence that occurred on the 28th and continues to occur daily today in Guinea is still unknown, though the effects of these gross human rights infractions will be felt by the country in the years to come. A Human Rights Watch report has claimed that the stadium attacks were premeditated. They might also have possibly been fueled by ethnic tensions against the Peuhl people according to firsthand accounts. Soldiers were reported to have shouted, “You say you don’t want us, that you prefer Cellou [the leading Peuhl opposition candidate, Cellou Dalein Diallo]… we’re going to kill all of you. We will stay in power.”
The composition of the army and its link to Captain Camara remains unclear. It has been speculated that some soldiers were speaking English during the attacks, indicating that the Red Beret force might not solely be composed of Guineans, but have been gradually joined by soldiers from the surrounding nations of Liberia and Sierra Leone. In the weeks following the stadium attacks, probes into Captain Camara’s involvement orchestrating the terror at the stadium has brought the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Haile Menkerios, to Conakry. Though Captain Camara was not physically present at the protest, the head of his personal bodyguard, Lieutenant Abubakar “Toumba” Diakité, was. Mr. Menkerios and Mr. Ban Ki-Moon will be setting up trials to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice, supporting efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The assembled crowd at the stadium attempted to use nonviolent means to pressure Captain Camara to announce that he would not be running in scheduled fair and free elections next year. The violence experienced, particularly by the women, in response to nonviolence was shocking to survivors of the attacks. Rapes have started to be reported by victims and witnesses and their stories indicate a despicable level of brutality seen in the light of day. A report by NPR on October 20th cited Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher with Human Rights Watch, saying, "What was new about the sexual violence on Sept. 28 and in the days after has been the public nature of it — the stripping of women, raping them, putting the barrels of guns inside their vaginas. This type of thing has been extremely shocking to Guineans — a very, very conservative society that have simply never seen this type of thing before." Many women were captured by the Red Beret and gang raped over a period of several days before being released. With peace and stability still not restored in the country, there is no way of telling the extent to which HIV/AIDS has spread as a result of the rapes
This savage brutality came two days before Secretary Clinton’s signing of a UN resolution protecting women against sexual violence in conflict. The timing of the legislation seemed fortunate in focusing the world’s attention on the situation in Guinea. However, the call for humanitarian action was largely ignored by the international community and continues to be a second priority to securing political stability and launching judicial hearings to find those responsible. Though those imperatives are important for the healing of Guinean society, the immediate health of the population cannot be overlooked. More must be done for the victims of the massacre and for the victims of ongoing crime still perpetrated by the Red Berets daily in frequent car jacking and theft.
By Martine Randolph