Early Warning Group Surprised By Guinea Violence
By Douglas Mpuga
30 September 2009
Guinea's military government has declared two days of national mourning in remembrance of those killed during a crackdown on an opposition rally.The authorities have also banned mass gatherings, warning that those disobeying the order will be severely punished.
Guinea’s military opened fire on unarmed and peaceful demonstrators, killing at least 157 and injuring more than 1,200. The people were protesting the expected candidacy of the country's military ruler,Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.
Melanie Kawano is a program manager for the Before Project. Its mission is to help prevent the devastation caused by violent conflict in fragile states.
The organization was surprised by this week’s events in Guinea, in particular, said Kawano, “because early this year during the summer we held a consolidation and peace workshop.”
The Before Project works on early warning information about conflict. “We had 51 local participants in the workshop, including representatives from the government,” she said. “Out of this workshop the local participants developed an action plan for the country.”
She said the plan included addressing how the military works, the general problems within the military, the judicial system, as well as the national assembly and returning the country to constitutional law.
There are several ways the international community can help resolve the situation in Guinea, said Kawano, for example by empowering local leaders.
“The international community, with our (its)good intentions, tends to put pressure on a situation that is already volatile,” she said. “I think the international community has done some great things, including the international contact group that gave suggestions about what needs to happen, and monetary support, but the focus has been on elections.”
Guinea’s problems go beyond just elections, said Kawano, citing how laws are made and implemented, whether people feel they have a voice in the running of their country. “Elections are a small part of that. We need to look at a larger picture of what is actually going on in the country.”
Kawano expressed doubt as to whether the military leader will abide by the date set for the elections or release the arrested politicians immediately, as demanded by some countries, including the United States. “It is one thing to run a military and quite another to run a government,” she said, referring tomilitary leader Captain Camara.
The government’s ban on mass gatherings may make sense in the military culture where you expect absolute obedience from the people over whom you have authority, she said.
“But from a perspective where there is civil society participation and democratic governance, that [the government’s action] borders on denying people rights such as freedom of speech and expression.”
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