Guinea – Suspected Perpetrators of 2009 Massacre Go On Trial

Guineans hope the wait for justice will soon come to an end 13 years after a massacre that killed at least 157 people. Ex-junta leader Moussa Camara and his former lieutenants are expected to face the judge.

Saran Cisse, a survivor of the 2009 massacrein Conakry, still has nightmares about that day at the stadium when security forces began shooting into the crowd. A young man tried to help her jump over a wall to escape the violence.

“I was right on top of the wall,” the 38-year-old told DW. “When I turned my head to ask him to help me down, I saw him falling to the ground. He was shot down. It still makes me cry.”

On that day, tens of thousands of people had gathered at Conakry’s stadium to demonstrate the strength of the opposition and dissuade Moussa “Dadis” Camara — who had come to power through a military coup nine months earlier — from running for president in January 2010.

Soldiers, the police and militia members responded by opening fire in a two-hour rampage that killed at least 157 people.

The return of Moussa Camara

Thousands of people were injured, and at least 109 women were raped, according to a report by a UN-mandated international commission of inquiry, published shortly after the events. However, the real figures are thought to be higher.

Among the suspected perpetrators of the massacre, former junta leader Camara, and three of his once-powerful lieutenants, Moussa Tiegboro Camara, Claude Pivi and Cherif Daiby, are set to appear for interrogation.

Their lawyers have denounced the trial as a ploy to arrest their clients. Camara, who was living in in exile in Burkina Faso, returned to Guinea on Saturday evening to face the judge.

The other three accused remained free while holding key positions in the army in the 13 years since the massacre.

A culture of impunity

The trial of 11 suspects is scheduled to begin on the anniversary of the massacre of September 28, 2009, a few kilometers from the stadium where the violence unfolded.

According to the UN report, the delay was the direct result of a culture of impunity, which guaranteed that security forces were virtually “untouchable.”

Guineans around the country are hoping for a fair judicial process that will see the culprits punished.

“If this trial goes on normally, I think people will be happy. It must end now,” Mohamed Samake, a resident of Sogbe district, in the urban commune of Kankan, told DW.

Skepticism surrounds the trial

Guinea has been ruled for decades by authoritarian regimes. The head of the current junta is Mamady Doumbouya, who came to power in acoup in 2021, follwing eleven years of civilian rule.

Doumbouya surprised Guineans in July after requesting that the trial take place this year. But there are still fears that it will be postponed indefinitely after the first hearing.

lseny Sall, a lawyer in charge of communications at the Guinean Organization for the Defense of Human Rights and the Citizen (OGDH), is aware of the skepticism surrounding the trial. But he dismissed rumors that a deal has been struck between Camara and the current junta. He told DW that he will wait to see how events unfold before calling the country’s judicial system into doubt.

“It is not a victory,” Sall said. “It is a step in the procedure.”

“The procedure must be completed,” Sall said. “The trial must take place in the presence of all the accused, respecting the principle of the presumption of innocence.”

Sall said the victims must also have their say so that the judges can “state the law in all impartiality.”

‘The trial is a good thing’

Guinea’s current military junta is under increasing pressure after failing to establish a smooth schedule for a return to democracy.

Last week, the Economic Community of West African States froze the junta’s financial assets and barred its members from traveling in the region.

The bloc’s development bank said it would also suspend financing of Guinean projects.

Mohamed Camara, a civil society activist in Sogbe, told DW that the trial could improve Guinea’s tarnished image following multiple coups and human rights violations. The West African country is rich in natural resources likebauxite and gold, but remains one of the poorest countries in the world, a fact analysts attribute to its history of political instability.

“We have been waiting for this trial since 2010, and finally the Guinean authorities and justice system have decided to shed light on the case,” Camara said. “This is really a good thing.”

Eric Topona, Karim Kamara and Bangaly Conde contributed to this article

Edited by: Ineke Mules

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