U.S. Strongly Supports U.N. Investigation of Guinea Massacre
(United States outraged, expects casualty figures to rise)
By Charles W. Corey
Washington — The United States government strongly supports a United Nations commission of inquiry to investigate the killings and sexual violence that took place September 28 in Guinea when security forces turned on and killed more than 150 pro-democracy demonstrators and raped countless others.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs William Fitzgerald made that point October 28 at the Washington-based U.S. Institute of Peace while speaking at a program examining the current situation in Guinea. Fitzgerald was joined on the program by Dane F. Smith Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Guinea 1990-1993, and Siba Grovogui, a Guinean who is a professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University outside of Washington.
Speaking to a capacity crowd of Guinea experts, diplomats and government officials and human rights advocates, Fitzgerald said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the American people remain “outraged” over the attacks.
“Somebody has to pay. It is this impunity that is completely unacceptable,” Fitzgerald said, referring to the September 28 massacre.
The United Nations Security Council approved a resolution October 16 condemning the massacre and supporting the creation of a commission of inquiry for Guinea. “We support that very much,” said Fitzgerald, a career diplomat whose present portfolio includes West Africa.
The State Department official said it is his understanding that the commission would likely not be “forensically oriented” (to perform duties such as exhuming bodies), but would be a fact-finding mission to interview victims and eyewitnesses. “That is very important and ideally should be happening soon,” he said.
Fitzgerald said he thought casualty figures could rise considerably, and he said the United States government was considering targeted visa sanctions against high-ranking officials of the Guinean government and others linked to violence.
On October 23, the United States imposed restrictions on travel to the United States by certain members of the military junta and the government, as well as other individuals who support policies or actions that undermine the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in Guinea.
“The citizens of Guinea deserve the right to choose their own leaders after decades of authoritarian rule,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in an October 29 statement on the travel restrictions. “The military junta in power has shown itself disrespectful of human rights and incapable of shepherding Guinea through a peaceful transition to democracy,” he said.
Fitzgerald said the international nongovernment organization Human Rights Watch believes “the killings … and especially the sexual violence were designed if not by [Moussa] Dadis Camara then by those around him as … perhaps the greatest form of intimidation we have seen in Guinea in a long time.” Camara is the leader of the military junta that controls Guinea.
Fitzgerald cited four recent killings that have also taken place in Guinea as another sign of yet more intimidation. “I worry about political space and I worry about the possibility of having an election under the current circumstances,” he said.
Fitzgerald told his audience he was sent to Guinea by the State Department shortly after the massacre to talk to Camara. Recalling that visit, he said he told Camara, “You are personally responsible for what happened in the stadium [where much of the violence occurred], whether you played a direct role or not.”
Fitzgerald said Camara insisted that he was in his office at the military base at the time of the incident, knew something was going to happen, and desperately tried to stop it.
Fitzgerald refuted that point, saying, “No, in fact he [Camara] was aware the night before of the opposition march, and while he may not have orchestrated the attacks and released his thugs — and it was sheer thuggery — I think he was aware it was going to happen and certainly did not stop it.”
Fitzgerald described Camara as “erratic” and said Camara told him, “After 50 years, two presidents, I have been on the job eight months. How do you expect me to control the military — a military that I have inherited that has had no training for years and years and years?” Fitzgerald said Camara then told him, “I can’t leave power because who will control the military if I leave power?”
“To me, that sort of sums up Dadis Camara,” Fitzgerald said.
Outlining U.S. policy toward Guinea, Fitzgerald said, “We are working multilaterally with a number of organizations, in particular the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and support the mediation of the Burkinabee president, Blaise Compaore.”
Fitzgerald praised the African Union (AU) for its response in the aftermath of the crisis and for “playing a very important role” by demanding that Camara tell the truth about his presidential ambitions — demands to which Camara has not yet responded. The AU is now seriously looking at additional sanctions against Camara, he said.
According to Fitzgerald, the United States is pleased the European Union also has placed targeted visa sanctions on certain individuals in Guinea. He said the United States is moving to similarly target the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), to which many of the coup leaders belong, and members of government — those in power and those who are continuing to prop up the Camara regime. He acknowledged that U.S. leverage with Guinea “frankly is not as great as we would like,” but he pledged that “nevertheless, we do have things we can do and plan to do them.”
Fitzgerald said the U.S. Department of State is also talking with the U.S. Department of Treasury “to identify those who are profiting, those who have bank accounts, those members of the government, members of the [CNDD] who have taken some of the wealth out of Guinea or who have it abroad, particularly in the United States.”
Fitzgerald said U.S. policy is focusing not only on the unlawful seizure of power but also on the threat it poses to the countries of the Mono River Group. “The international community has invested so much, and the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia have suffered so much, that to have this negative force, this negative country, this negative state so close, is a clear danger to the region as a whole and that is unacceptable.”
“It is a very dangerous time in Guinea, and we are watching it closely,” he said.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)