Guinea: at the trial of the massacre of September 28, 2009, Moussa Dadis Camara confronted by his lieutenants

Twenty months after the opening of the largest criminal hearing in its history, Guinean justice is preparing to begin the final phase of the trial of the alleged perpetrators of the massacre of September 28, 2009

Guinea: at the trial of the massacre of September 28, 2009, Moussa Dadis Camara confronted by his lieutenants

Twenty months after the opening of the largest criminal hearing in its history, Guinean justice is preparing to begin the final phase of the trial of the alleged perpetrators of the massacre of September 28, 2009. Monday, May 13, before the court of first instance of Dixinn, in Conakry, must begin the sequence of pleadings by the lawyers of the civil parties, followed by the requisitions of the public prosecutor, before the defense counsel intervenes one last time.

Broadcast live on state media and social networks, the trial, opened symbolically on September 28, 2022 – thirteen years after the events and after seven years of proceedings – could ultimately have the ambition of achieving a national catharsis and even to serve as a safeguard for the soldiers who still mark political life in Guinea.

The immediate task is to determine the responsibilities among the eleven accused, including a former head of state, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara – who seized power after the death of President Lansana Conté in 2008 – and executives of the junta in power between 2008 and 2010. All are accused of murder, sexual violence, acts of torture and kidnapping. They face life imprisonment.

On September 28, 2009, and in the days that followed, at least 157 people were shot or stabbed by thugs of the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), according to the report of a commission of UN investigation. The main scene of the crimes was the Conakry stadium, where the main opposition leaders and their activists had planned to meet in order to denounce the desire of the whimsical “Dadis” to run in the future election. Instead of the rally, there was carnage. At least 109 women raped, some held captive for several days. Dozens of missing.

A ball in the head

Since the opening of the hearings, no defendant has admitted the crimes attributed to him, preferring to place the blame on his former comrades. The accusations, however, narrowed around a quartet: the former head of the junta, Moussa Dadis Camara; his aide-de-camp, Aboubacar Sidiki Diakité known as “Toumba”; Marcel Guilavogui, nephew and former member of Dadis Camara’s close guard; and Gendarme Moussa Tiégboro Camara, former Secretary of State in charge of special services, the fight against drugs and organized crime.

“Who commanded the regiment? », questioned Judge Ibrahima Sory II Tounkara on April 15, in reference to the elements of the Kaléah camp accused of having been participants in the massacre. Moussa Dadis Camara, formerly more verbose, responds calmly: “It’s Toumba. » He also designates his former aide-de-camp as the head of the presidential guard – the red berets –, also incriminated in the killing. “He did all the planning [and managed] the personnel, it was he who coordinated,” he accused, justifying this combination of functions by “the trust” he had placed in him, “sufficient for him give full powers.”

Between the two men, the friendship came to an abrupt end in November 2009, when Toumba shot his superior in the head, who had just incriminated him before investigators at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Since then, Guinean justice has regained control of the trial.

If, when he was in power, Dadis was known for his angry and unpredictable shows, at the helm it is Toumba who has been in the spotlight since the beginning of the hearings, playing with his humor and his comeback. “I was named aide-de-camp, that is to say confidant and direct advisor to the president. My authority was limited to the living room. The president chose his men at his discretion. If he appointed people to positions whose responsibilities he was unaware of, he only has himself to blame,” he tried to explain.

In his defense, Toumba, who was both one of the officers present in the stadium and the protector of brutalized opposition leaders, also received unexpected support from Marcel Guilavogui. After defending his uncle for a while, he finally blamed Captain Dadis Camara.

Spectacular escape

Fatoumata Barry, an opposition activist, was one of those who, through their story, enlightened the judges and the public on the brutality at work on September 28, 2009, and the after-effects that remain. Taking time for silence, she spoke openly, in March 2023, about the festive atmosphere at the start, when she and her cousin arrived at the stadium, then the repression that began, the fear that invaded her when the soldiers closing the doors of the enclosure, the insults, the blows and finally the gang rape which will leave her seriously injured. “Mr. President, I have been seeing these images when I go to bed for thirteen years,” she explained to the audience.

Contacted by Le Monde, she says she “lost everything” since that day: “My family abandoned me. That’s why I had to speak, to be seen. Rapes continue in Guinea. If we hide and denounce them, who will believe us? » The other survivors who testified at the trial did so behind closed doors.

Like other victims who have filed a civil suit, Fatoumata Barry fears for her safety. A refugee in Senegal, this medical delegate only returned to Guinea during the trial. The spectacular escape, on November 4, 2023, of four accused – including that, very briefly, of Moussa Dadis Camara – rekindled the fear of reprisals. One of the accused, Claude Pivi, former minister of presidential security, has since remained untraceable.

For associations defending victims of September 28, witness protection remains more urgent than ever. Although the military regime of General Mamadi Doumbouya accelerated the holding of the trial and the passing of a law along these lines, it has still not been promulgated. “If the accused are convicted or get away with it, who will keep us safe? », worries Fatoumata Barry.

For the lawyers of the civil parties, a final battle begins. That of the reclassification of the facts as crimes against humanity. This characterization would make it possible to declare the hierarchical superior responsible for crimes committed by the men under his authority. The court will rule on this point at the time of the verdict, which is not expected for several months.