Guinea: Women allege rape during Guinea massacre

05 October 2009

Women's bodies have literally become a battleground in Guinea. This article highlights how rape and sexual violence at gunpoint are not confined to conflict zones.

Women allege rape during Guinea massacre
By Laurence Boutreux (AFP)
5 October 2009

CONAKRY — Women caught up in a massacre of opposition protesters in Guinea alleged on Monday (28 September 2009) they had been raped by soldiers behind the bloodbath that the United Nations says left more than 150 people dead.

A week after the carnage at a stadium in the capital Conakry, human rights activists said they had collated testimony from around 30 women who said they had been raped.

Two of them came forward to detail the allegations first-hand to reporters as Blaise Compaore, the president of Burkina Faso, touched down in Guinea on a one-day mission to mediate between the ruling junta and the opposition.

Compaore, who was met by Guinea's junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, was asked by the Economic Community of West African States to hold talks with government leaders as well as opposition figures.

Camara has tried to distance himself from the September 28 crackdown, when troops opened fire on thousands of opposition activists protesting against the prospect of him standing in presidential elections set for January 31.

The junta says 56 civilians were killed but the United Nations has put the toll at more than 150, while the Guinean Human Rights Organisation alleges at least 157 died and 1,253 were wounded in the crackdown.

"I'm 57 and they stripped me naked!" said one woman, her face still swollen a week later, as she showed off her bruised arms and buttocks.

"I saw soldiers putting their rifles into womens' private parts while they were hitting me," she added.

Thierno Maadjou Sow, head of the Guinean Human Rights Organisation, said it was setting up an association for women who had been raped so they could take legal action.

"A soldier had a knife, he ripped all my clothes," added the woman, who is an opposition activist. "I told them, 'I'm your mother.' They jabbed me in the buttocks with a knife, they beat me terribly."

Beside her, a woman of 47 showed reporters the bruises and wounds scarring her back.

"A soldier hit me and stripped me, he hit me on the head with his gun. They knocked me to the ground," the mother of two said. "Someone came and put their hand.... they raped me. I got out of there naked."

Sow said the rapes were perpetrated in full view of all and constituted "a crime against humanity."

The junta's health minister Colonel Cherif Abdoulaye Diaby said he did not believe there had been any rapes.

"There have been no complaints at the hospitals. But I would like to invite all women who have been the victims of rape to report to the Donka hospital's emergency unit," he said.

Opposition activists have collected testimony from witnesses to build up a dossier of evidence against the presidential guards, who intervened under the command of officers close to the junta.

Former foreign minister Francois Lonseny-Fall, who was himself beaten up by troops, said the soldiers "set upon the women in particular.

"They weren't in control of themselves, some are saying they were on drugs."

Sow said one woman who had been raped and mutilated had died, while others had gone mad. "I can't explain the hatred that led to such cruelty."

Camara's arrival in power nine months ago in a bloodless coup followed the death of Guinea's longtime ruler Lansana Conte.

It was initially welcomed by Guineans, who believed his promises to tackle poverty, corruption and drug trafficking -- along with his pledge to hand over power to a civilian president.

Camara insists he bears no responsibility for the September 28 killings as he was in his office at the time, and that it was "dead wrong" to say he gave the order to fire.

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