For most of the past week, Guinea has maintained a military-enforced curfew with people only allowed out between noon and 6pm. In Guinea’s capital, Conakry, soldiers drive around the city in their jeeps firing their weapons to warn people to stay in their homes. This is always described as “firing into the air”, but there are several reported incidents where “into the air” has proven to be a target beyond the marksmanship of the soldiers and their fire has hit people through the walls of their homes.
One such was seven-year-old Aicha Diallo who was hit in the head while lying in bed.
Aboubacar Diallo, Aicha’s uncle, gave the following statement to IRIN, the UN agency for humanitarian news:
“When the shooting stopped, her father took her in his arms and went out into the street. It was deserted. He walked about half a kilometre to the main road and waited a long time until a private car with two soldiers passed and took them to the Donka hospital.”
“By the time they got to the hospital she was almost dead. The doctors there tried to help but they had no blood and no medicines. The bleeding could not be stopped and she passed away not long after they got there.”
“Today her father is so devastated he can’t speak. We can’t stop her mother crying. She is crying and crying.”
“God gave us Aicha and it’s him who took her back.”
“She was buried this morning at 11 am in the cemetery close to her home. Hardly anyone came because of the curfew. It was done very fast, without any honour.”
IRIN has a second report which includes a similar incident which happened to a 30 year old woman. Also in this report:
At the Donka hospital, the mother of a young boy who was hit in the head with a rock thrown by soldiers on Wednesday says he has not eaten or spoken since the attack.
“The soldier was going to shoot him but his colleague stopped him, so he threw a rock instead and it cracked his head,” she said.
In its statement on Friday, HRW said at least three women living in Conakry’s suburbs have been raped by uniformed personnel, including soldiers and presidential guardsmen.
“At least one victim was reportedly gang-raped,” the statement said.
“People in the suburbs are terrified because they say the soldiers are going to come in and ‘kill and rape us and send red berets into our homes’,” said HRW researcher Dustin Sharp who was in Conakry until Thursday.
A soldier is quoted as saying, “The boss made reference to President Lansana Conte and gave us the order to shoot anyone provocative, so whoever provokes me, I will shoot him without any hesitation.” According to civilians in Conakry, such “provocations” can “include staring, wearing a desirable pair of shoes, or simply being in the wrong place when the jeeps of soldiers careering around the city start shooting their guns in the air”.
On Sunday the government reduced the curfew by six hours a day. “Taking account of the discipline observed … I have decided to reduce the curfew to 6pm to 6am starting from Monday, February 19th,” Kerfala Camara, the army chief of staff, said on state television.
Ben Sekou Sylla, president of the national council for civil society organisations, said: “Hundreds of people have been arrested at night over the last few days, generally by order of the ruling party’s leaders.”
Those picked up were being taken to military camps or police stations, he said. More than 120 people have been killed, almost all of them civilians, in protests since the start of the year.
Human-rights groups accuse security forces of firing on unarmed crowds, beating protestors, looting and raping civilians.
Food shortages have led to looting of UN World Food Program warehouses, which contained food for WFP’s programs for school meals, for young children and their mothers, and for AIDS/HIV patients. The article is frustrating as it only gives the WFP side of what happened. Some detail about who initiated the looting, what they thought they were doing, and how the food was distributed would make more sense of the situation. It’s certainly possible, even likely, that someone saw a chance to profit from the unrest, but it’s impossible to tell if that’s what is going on from the article. The UN has allocated $2.35 million in emergency aid for Guinea.
Talks between the unions and the government over ending the general strike have stalled. The unions are demanding an end to martial law before negotiations can begin.
I came across a site that has been posting articles about Guinea from the International Communist Party. The articles have titles like “Long Live the Struggles of the Workers of Guinea!” and tend to contain more details about (and criticism of) the unions in Guinea than other sources.