Guinea: A country blighted by its 'sick army'
Brutal, indisciplined and divided, the Guinean army that turned a peaceful demonstration into a bloodbath on Monday is still powerful and difficult to reform while it holds power, analysts say.
Since the massacre, one of the worst in Guinea in a quarter of a century, the head of the junta, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, has tried to disclaim responsibility, blaming “uncontrolled elements” of the army that brought him to power in a coup on December 23 2008.
“Either he’s telling the truth, he didn’t order the massacre and then it’s worrying because he is still the head of the junta,” said the West Africa projects director of the International Crisis Group (ICG), Richard Moncrieff.
“Or, it was ordered. According to witnesses in the stadium, there were men close to Dadis.
It’s well known,” Moncrieff said.
But uncertainty surrounds the chain of command concerning the massacre in the stadium.
Amnesty International cites witnesses who said that “the attacks were organised by army officers” and that “several members of the presidential guard were present and supervising the repression”.
The putschist captain has insisted on the need to reform the army. But “you don’t reform an army that has all the power. You have to reflect how to get the military out of power,” Moncrieff said.
“The essential question is the return of a civilian government,” he added. But in spite of initial pledges and under pressure from the international community, Camara envisages standing for election next January.
With between 12 000 and 17 000 men, Guinea’s army has been the mainstay of successive regimes in the African country since its independence from France in 1958.
“Guinea’s big problem is its army,” says Alioune Tine, an official of the African Encounter for the Defence of Human Rights, based in Dakar. “It’s a sick army, which has been used by successive dictators to repress with violence. They are never bothered.”
But for several years, it has been split by deep divisions made worse by a generalised corruption. There is a generation gap between the generals and the underpaid troops, while there are also ethnic splits.
Tine said that the ethnic split links troops from the deep forest region with former rebels from neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Moncrieff confirmed the ethnic dimension, stating that “we have made investigations in the Guinea forests and in training camps near Conakry. There has been recruiting of militia for some months.”
The recruits were being made in the forest zones “to defend Dadis, who also comes from there”, the ICG official said, adding that the army had taken on “at least 2 000 men, though it could be considerably more”.
According to witnesses, the method of recruitment is not that of a regular army and training is taking place in a former refugee camp near Forecariah, about 110km south of Conakry.—AFP