Guinea: Nation Faces ‘Explosive’ Military Infighting, Says Rights Expert

Interview with Cindy Shiner, published on allAfrica, 11 December 2009.

Q.: … There are reportedly deep divisions in Guinea’s military. How do you see this playing out?

A.: The divisions could become extremely explosive. There are just so many x-factors now. If [Dadis] doesn’t come back, I think that there’s going to be some sort of battle for succession between [General] Sekouba Konate, who’s the minister of defense, and [Captain] Claude Pivi [minister for presidential security] and perhaps others who are pretty much in control of the military camps. There’s a lot of infighting between different groups that appear to have fallen [in] behind one military officer or the other. 

My impression was there was sort of a loose coalescence behind [Dadis], although there have always been a good number of the military who were not in favor of him being the president, the head of the army. There are lots of units within the army that appear to be loyal to a particular officer instead of the Ministry of Defense, much less the security needs of the nation.

This year we’ve documented numerous cases of criminal acts by members of the military that have gone completely uninvestigated and those responsible have not been held accountable. [These are] acts of criminality like carjackings, robberies, shaking down of business people and diplomats and so on and [perpetrators have] enjoyed total impunity. We understand the people responsible are working for one or the other of these bands. Claude Pivi is one, Toumba is another, and there are others within the military.

So I think Dadis has been trying to hold them together. He has used various tactics – paying them off, giving them promotions, trying to make them feel secure that the military will be favored if he runs for president and remains in power and so on.

But also I think the fact that he’s training some 2,000 men in a militia down in Forecariah, that’s primarily an ethnic-based militia, suggests that he lacks confidence in the military to support him, so therefore he has to shore up what he perceives to be a lack of power with these other men that are identified with his ethnic group or his region.

Q.: How about Guinea’s political opposition? Where does it stand?

A.: There’s very much a pro-democracy movement in Guinea. It’s taken a hit and they’re still in many ways licking their wounds. This is the second time in as many years where they’ve had very serious incidents in which over 100 people were gunned down. And repression sort of does work in many ways and they’re afraid, they’re frightened.

After Sékou Touré, Lansana Conté, they really have been waiting very patiently for civilians to be able to take over the government. That’s why there was so much enthusiasm at the beginning – they tolerated the military government, they supported it based on Dadis’s promise not to run for office.

When he changed his tune they were looking squarely in the face at the possibility of a third military authoritarian government and that’s why you saw the reaction that you did with so many tens of thousands of people coming out in the streets [in September].

They do have a prime minister but no one seems to be talking about having the prime minister direct the affairs of the government, so that really illuminates how very much this is a military government.

Q.: Since the shooting of Dadis, what has been happening in the capital, Conakry? … (full interview text).

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