September 28 massacre trial, Guineans look back

APA - Conakry (Guinea)

Guinea is about to experience a historic trial starting Wednesday, September 28, 13 years after the slaughter of more than 150 people in Conakry.

September 28 is often a memorable date for Guineans. In 1958, Sekou Toure voted “no” to the referendum establishing a Franco-African “community” proposed by General Charles de Gaulle. This refusal by the first Guinean president made Guinea the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to become independent from France.

On the same date, in 2009, the stadium in the capital, Conakry, named after the date of the independence referendum, was transformed into a scene of butchery. More than 150 people were killed, a hundred women raped and 1,400 wounded by soldiers of the then junta, according to the report of a United Nations commission of inquiry, published three months after the events.

The trial of this unprecedented massacre opens this Wednesday in Conakry. Moussa Dadis Camara, former head of the military junta from December 2008 to January 2010, is among the eleven people subpoenaed by the court. He returned Sunday from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, where he has been in exile since losing power, “to answer his summons related to the September 28 trial,” according to Pepe Antoine Lamah, one of his lawyers.

September 28, 2009, still brings back shivers and trauma for Fatoumata Drame, a 55-year-old Guinean woman who was sexually abused after being abducted from the Conakry stadium by soldiers. “Even mentioning the name of the 28 September stadium makes me dizzy,” said the mother of five on TV5 Monde. She said the police had kidnapped her on the outskirts of the stadium, which had been in chaos and panic for two hours. They took her away and kept her alone for two weeks, during which time four soldiers were raping her.

A political opportunity for Doumbouya?

“It was like a jungle. Children and young people were running around, jumping over the walls while the soldiers shot at them. The luckiest ones managed to escape, even if they were wounded, while others fell on the wrong side before being finished off,” recalls journalist Mouctar Bah, AFP and Rfi correspondent.

After the death of General Lansana Conte, who remained Guinea’s head of state for 24 years, a group of officers, led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, established a “transition” by force. After nine months in office, the head of the military junta is suspected by the opposition of wanting to remain in power. It denounced his possible candidacy for the presidential election in January 2010 and called for a “peaceful” rally on September 28, 2009, at the largest stadium in Conakry. Tens of thousands of people gathered at the stadium to show the strength of the opposition and dissuade Captain Moussa Dadis Camara from running for president.

Military authorities banned the demonstration and announced the closure of the stadium. But the crowd still converged and forced their way into the stadium. After a festive atmosphere until noon, according to witnesses, the soldiers began firing tear gas into the stadium from outside. They then blocked the access to the stadium before opening fire on the crowd. According to eyewitnesses, some people died jumping from the stands, while others were trampled in the stampede.

Although the investigation by Guinean magistrates has been closed since late 2017, the political will of the Alpha Conde regime (2010-2021) to sort out this court case was lacking. According to some observers, the former head of state that was ultimately overthrown on September 5, 2021, did not want to alienate a number of officers who had joined his service after his election. The coup against him therefore allowed the trial to open, providing a political opportunity for the head of the military junta, Mamadi Doumbouya, whose regime has nevertheless toughened its stance.


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