Frightened by an assassination attempt that very nearly succeeded, Guinea’s president is taking reconciliation seriously by releasing political prisoners and appointing a TRC. It’s a start towards healing the bitter divisions within the troubled west African state. By SIMON ALLISON.
Perhaps Alpha Conde didn’t think he needed to bother with reconciliation. After all, Guinea’s first democratic elections last year went fairly smoothly. The opposition candidate, Cellou Diallo, lost narrowly, but eventually accepted defeat. He wasn’t happy about it, scuttling off to Europe for four months to lick his wounds, but he didn’t rally the troops, giving Conde a clear mandate and a free hand to run the country, which was recovering from a vicious two-year rule by a military junta and the equally vicious dictatorships which preceded it.
But in April, Diallo came back. The returning opposition leader was mobbed by supporters, leading to clashes with security forces which left several dead and scores injured as police opened fire. A number of opposition supporters were arrested for their roles in the disturbance – some sources say 17 were detained, while others claim the number was as high as 40. They were charged with vandalism and disobedience and sentenced to between two and four years in jail.
This was proof, if any was needed, that the deep political divisions in the country, cemented by half a century of autocratic governments, had yet to heal. But for President Conde, the real proof came two months later, when he was woken from his slumber by an all-out attack on his residence from disaffected soldiers. The firefight lasted hours and Conde’s bedroom (which he wasn’t sleeping in that night) was destroyed by a rocket. But eventually the attackers were defeated.
Frightened, Conde’s started to push for reconciliation in the west African country. On Tuesday, all the people detained in the April clashes were released, beneficiaries of a presidential pardon granted at the request of their families. He’s also announced the establishment of a reconciliation commission, chaired jointly by the chief bishop and the chief imam of Conakry, the capital. As a starting point, the commission will meet elders from all Guinea’s 32 prefectures.
Conde’s got a long way to go in forging a peaceful, stable country, but releasing political prisoners and getting the reconciliation commission rolling is a good start. DM
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- Guinea president pardons 40 opposition members on AFP;
- Guinea’s president pardons opposition activists arrested in April on VOA.