The former president of Guinea, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, has insisted that he will give his full support to a plan to have his country make a full transition to civilian government from military rule over which he presided. Despite the almost mythical regard in which he is held by many of his supporters, Camara remains in a state of self-imposed exile following an assassination attempt. He insisted that the country should put aside its ethnic differences and help to make a smooth transition to democracy, and ruled out running for reelection.
An agreement was reached on Friday in which it was decided that no member of the military would be allowed to challenge future presidential elections. However, the civilian opposition comprises a medley of trade unions and different political parties, hampering the selection of candidates for forthcoming elections. Many still insist they want the current military leader Gen. Sekouba Konate to have the final say.
The openSecurity Verdict: When Moussa Camara first seized power in December 2008 he gained near-universal popularity following vows to tackle the problem of drug-trafficking and restore democracy to Guinea after the 23-year rule of Lansana Conte. But in the course of a year his increasing intolerance to dissent both within and outside of his government caused widespread outrage.
The government's oppressive tendencies culminated in the massacre of a group of pro-democracy demonstrators by the military on 28 September 2009 in the capital of Conakry. Aside from gunning-down dissidents, the regime's crackdown saw the violent assault and rape of women in public. The UN has placed blame for the violence squarely on the government of Capt. Camara.
The massacre provoked increasing demands for an end to military rule in Guinea and for the military government to step aside in favour of a civilian provisional government.
Despite this most recent concession by the military, the Guineans who lost loved ones in the state-sanctioned violence have little prospect of justice or closure; many do not know where the bodies of their relatives are, and prosecutions of the soldiers who committed the crimes are unlikely to be brought forward. Yet the decision by Camara and the military government at large to step down is a decidedly positive, if delicate and tentative, move in the direction of the country’s recovery.
Ukrainian presidential election goes to second round
In early February, the leader of the Ukrainian opposition Victor Yanukovych will face Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in a run-off after the two emerged as the leading candidates in the first round of presidential elections. Both candidates have pledged to heal the country's ruptured relationship with the Kremlin, and ambitions to join the EU and Nato are likely to be scaled back significantly.
Turnout is reported to have been low, with less than 50% of the eligible population being thought to have voted. Disillusionment with the government has been high, with the 2004-5 ‘Orange Revolution’ that saw Tymoshenko and Victor Yushchenko brought to power being seen to have failed to address issues of government corruption. Yushchenko, installed as president following the inditement of his electoral rival Yanukovych for fraud in 2005, suffered disastrous approval ratings of late and was eliminated in the first round of voting.
‘Chemical Ali’ faces fourth death sentence
Ali Hassan al-Majid has been convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the gassing of Kurdish civilians under the reign of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. This is the fourth time judges have issued a death sentence after al-Majid, known as ‘Chemical Ali’ and the cousin of Saddam, was convicted for a series of violent abuses towards Kurdish and Shia civilians in the 1980s and '90s. Such incidents include massacres at Anfal and Halabja, both of which involved the killing of thousands of civilians from ethnic Kurdish group.
The earlier death sentences had not been implemented against al-Majid due to a stand-off involving former defence minister Sultan Hashim al Taie. The latter has been given a fifteen-year prison sentence along with several other Bathists involved in war crimes committed under Saddam.
Yemeni security forces capture armed militants
The government of Yemen has announced the capture of three militants from the extremist Islamist group Al Qaeda near the border of Saudi Arabia. The apparent success follows the gunning down of six Al Qaeda fighters on Friday after increasing American pressure on Yemeni officials to clamp down on militant activities within the country.
Rebels have also clashed with the Saudi government, which claims that it has killed hundreds in the vicinity of its border with Yemen. Yemen has caused increasing concern, being seen as haven for terrorists driven out of Saudi Arabia after the 11 September attacks in New York, since an attempted bombing of a plane headed for the US on Christmas Da, which Al Qaeda claims was backed by a Yemen-based arm of its own organisation.
Chavez strikes out at US ‘occupation’ of Haiti
The Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez claimed yesterday that earthquake-stricken Haiti needs ‘doctors, medicine, fuel’ and not the soldiers and military personnel that the USA is currently sending. He insists that America’s activities are akin to ‘occupying Haiti undercover.’ Chavez has maintained that he does wish to undermine the humanitarian efforts of the US government but insists that such a large supply of troops does not need to be sent. He has already sent planes containing doctors and stated that the government of Venezuela would supply as much fuel as Haiti requires. The USA has sent 3,000 troops to the country, along with significant naval forces, and a hospital ship is set to arrive later this week.