[I’m still at the African Studies Association conference, which has been exciting so far. I got some great questions from the audience after I presented my paper on Nigerian Islamist intellectuals, I met some people doing fascinating research on Nigeria and elsewhere, and I attended an informative panel on Sudan. The internet connection is good at my hotel, but posting will probably stay light through the weekend since there is so much to do here. – Alex]
The active participation of the military — beating, molesting and shooting defenceless civilians and destroying their property — has changed the dynamics of the violence. One observer in the northern town of Labe told Crisis Group that armed soldiers were patrolling neighbourhoods and openly threatening civilians. Also, there are reports of Red Beret soldiers, notorious for human rights abuses, roaming in Peul neighborhoods in Conakry and hunting down Peul businessmen. At least twelve people were reported to have been killed in Conakry, and shots were heard in several other cities.
If Guinea’s security and defence forces do not enforce greater discipline in their ranks, the country could quickly descend into further chaos. The possibility that the violence could feed into broader ethnic tensions within the army cannot be ruled out. Guinea’s interim president, General Sékouba Konaté, and the Prime Minister, Jean-Marie Doré, must recognise that a violent crackdown on defenceless Peuls would severely damage their credentials and likely lead to open ethnic conflict. Continued violence would ruin Guinea’s transition process and endanger the prospects of substantial investment that could help stabilise the country.
The ethnicization of the conflict is getting scary.