The Dadis Show turns nasty
And the captain is unrepentant
When an unknown army captain called Moussa Dadis Camara seized power at the head of a scrum of soldiers in Guinea at the end of last year, most Guineans and some foreigners rejoiced. No one likes coups; but surely Captain Camara could only be better than his shockingly corrupt and despotic predecessor, President Lansana Conte, whose death sparked the army uprising. Now it seems, Guineans have their answer, after government security forces-according to a respectable human-rights group-killed at least 157 and injured more than 1,200 people to quell protests in the capital, Conakry, on September 28th. Soldiers reportedly ran people through with bayonets; some raped women in the streets.
It had all seemed to start so well. Captain Camara said all the right thing and seemed to act on them too. He promised to root out the corruption that, under Mr Conte, had plagued the resource-rich country, which has the world’s biggest reserves of bauxite. He got the former president’s son to confess to his part in a drug smuggling ring. Former ministers and a prime minister agreed to hand back money pilfered in office. Moreover, the captain promised a swift return to civilian rule and elections in 2010. And he apparently wanted to end Guinea’s cycle of military rule-by accepting that he himself could not be a presidential candidate.
All this made him popular. But from the start he plainly had an elevated sense of his own importance. A half-admiring, half-nervous public quickly dubbed his swaggering and very personal style of government the Dadis Show, which was the name of a television programme in which the captain himself questioned and berated miscreants. He soon became intolerant of dissent and began to wrangle with opponents who suspected he had always wanted to run in next year’s election.
A protest by tens of thousands of people against Captain Camara’s candidacy for president, demanding that he step down immediately, provoked a clumsy and bloody response. Despite sharp criticism by the African Union, the United Nations and France, the former colonial power, the captain sounds unrepentant. He blamed the violence on troublemakers who would be “severely punished” and banned all meetings and gathering that could be “subversive” to public order. Under his definition, this would apply to any event he might object to. Guinea’s decades-long agony seems set to continue.
The Economist, Volume 393 Number 8651.
Octobrt 3rd-9th 2009