A madman at the helm

What’s surprising about Guinea’s new leader isn’t that he came to power in a military coup, and not even that his highest rank in said military was just Captain – it’s the detrimentally erratic way in which he rules the country that has its people angry and frustrated. On September 28 a political rally opposing the rule of the junta was held in the capital city of Conakry’s soccer stadium and quickly turned from a peaceful protest to a bloodbath. Soldiers monitoring the rally began shooting at point-blank range, raping and sexually assaulting women with their rifles, and brutally beating senior members of the opposition with fists and knives. Moussa Dadis Camara, the 45-year-old President of Guinea was nowhere to be found that day; he says he couldn’t go because the keys to his pickup were nowhere to be found.

The president, who was once hailed a “saviour” by students and a “hero” by many others at the beginning of his rule, is now seen as just another oppressor in a long line of such politically-inclined leaders. The “Monday Massacre” as it’s being toted is just another nail in the coffin of Camara’s reputation.
However, while Camara’s reputation was still among the living there was good reason for the people of Guinea to be supportive. Within weeks of his coup taking power he made a promise to clean up drug-trafficking in the country and then made good on that promise by initiating a set of nationally-broadcast interrogations called “The Dadis Show”. On the show, Captain Camara extracted confessions from high-profile government officials and even exposed the former President Conté’s son Ousmane as someone who aided in cocaine trafficking.

“He’s cleaning up the country like only a soldier can. I support him,” said an out-of-work carpenter in the nation’s capital of Conakry in March of 2009. “He should stay in power as long as it takes.”

However, for each Guinean that was unflinchingly supportive of Camara there was a foreigner regarding the Captain’s junta with an air of suspicion based on the country’s past experiences with military coups.

“The erstwhile exterminating angel who is setting everything right becomes the scourge of the nation,” said Mike McGovern, an expert on Guinea and an anthropologist from Yale University, last March. “That was (former president) Lansana Conté’s career, and it could be Dadis’ as well.”

Though Dadis may have inherited some aspects of the career of his former, what he certainly doesn’t emulate is the relative normality of Conté’s rule; although it was also a military dictatorship, at least he remained consistent. Dadis is known for his unfocused press conferences where over the span of a number of hours he will cover such topics as Machiavelli, the character of a “Republican” army, the best way of mounting a coup d’etat and any other information he may have in mind to share. Camara may touch on whatever the meeting was meant to cover, but with Captain Moussa Dadis Camara one can never know.

Once, as he was coming to the close of a particularly long news conference at around midnight, the president announced that any journalist who should so wish would be taken to a nightclub of their choosing, and treated with all the free food, drink, and entertainment they wanted “on my tab, as chief-of-state”, could do so. Then, for whatever reason, felt compelled to add that he was “incorruptible.”

Now, the same people who loved Camara and saw him as the long-awaited glimmer of hope in the political scene of Guinea have started singing a different tune.
“Nobody is happy now. We are all just tired,” says Mohammed Djoubate, the owner of a street stall in Conakry.

In an assumed last ditch to salvage some support in the Guinean population, Camara called for a government of “national unity,” but what the people want at this point may be something completely different.

Sidya Touré, the former prime minister and now leader of the unofficial opposition believes that “a dialogue (to move towards democracy) with these people would be useless, the ministries have disappeared.” The solution, Touré believes, is the intervention of an international force.

Camara’s government, which was once full of governing ministries and ministers to run them, has begun to fall apart and top positions in national finance and economics are being assigned to soldiers with little or no qualifying experience. On top of that the military and financial backing from France, the United States, and other countries partnered with Guinea, has dried up due to the many claims of human rights violations within that state. In short, Guinea is running out of money, the military is running rampant and at the head of it all is a man who can’t find his keys.

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