The interview below is the testimony of a Guinean soldier who took part in the repression of the opposition demonstration in Conakry, in Guinea, on September 28, 2009. The interview has been recorded over the phone and broadcast by French journalist Olivier Rogez on Radio France Internationale on October the 1st, 2009, two days after the Conakry massacre, and published in French on the RFI website.
This soldier testified under condition of anonymity, but his identity and occupation is known and vouched for by the RFI network of correspondents in West Africa. Since then, the magnitude of the repression and the mass rapes have been confirmed by multiple sources and testimonies. However, this testimony still contains first hand information about the state of the Guinean army, the presence of foreign soldiers within its ranks, and also forecasted the unrest and fight for power within the Guinean Army that has very recently surfaced on October 7 [fr].
Radio France Internationale agreed for Global Voices to translate and publish this copyrighted interview for human rights documentation purposes and will publish the English translation on its website.
Olivier Rogez (Radio France Internationale): Sir, you are a soldier, you belong to BATA, the Autonomous batallion of [Guinea] paratroopers, and you were amongst the soldiers who suppressed the demonstration on September 28th.
Soldier : Indeed, I took part in the bloody repression around the 28 September Stadium; yes!
RFI : I'd like to ask you first if, according to the information broadcast during the past days, you saw with your own eyes real bullets being shot at the population and the women being raped as described in all the testimonies? Did your colleagues from BATA take part in these actions?
I confirm that there have been rapes and shooting with real bullets.
On the morning of that day [Sept. 28], when you were sent to stop the opposition demonstration at the stadium, did you have precise orders?
The gendarmerie [police] were involved at first but since the police did not agree with the demonstrators, we received orders to curb this opposition, called “unruly” by our chiefs. We went there. I was among the soldiers. We could not disobey orders, that is to say, to go and curb the demonstrators, to make them understand that there is only one authority in Guinea, and to teach them a lesson. There were so many deaths, it was not even possible to count them. I felt faint, honestly, I felt faint. There were 160, 180 deads… I cannot even tell you how many corpses. And I know that during the night, on Monday [Sept. 28], they told us to retrieve the bodies. We retrieved 47, that have been buried, but I cannot tell you where exactly.
Did you personally take part in the retrieval of the bodies in the morgues?
I am a fonctionnaire [civil servant].
You were forced to go and retrieve the bodies?
We cannot say no. If you say no, you are dead.
If you say no, you are dead?
So, you were given weapons and ammunition?
We had weapons and ammunition and for nearly a week beforehand, we were on standby.
For a week, you were on standby?
When you were told to curb and to give a lesson to the opposition, were you ordered to kill opponents, political leaders?
No, not ordered to kill the opponents. But a lesson had to be taught. When I say “to teach a lesson”, in military language, you know what that means!
Could you be more specific?
It means punish them, usually, without killing them, but to show them that the country is under control. That's what we were told.
Many testimonies we have gathered mention mass and collective rapes, exactions, like raping women with weapons. Were you able to identify the soldiers - or the units they belong to - who took part in these exactions?
They were people from the presidential guard, since the police were a little behind. There were not only weapons, there were sticks of wood too. We used all sorts of things. We even kicked with our feet!
You said you could not refuse to go and curb the opposition. How do you feel today [Oct. 1st]?
Since Monday, I cannot sleep. I cannot go to sleep. I only see again those horrible images, those living people, those people killed by real bullets at point blank… at the level… I cannot sleep. I have nightmares. I cannot sleep. (sighs).
There were orders, sir : to kill or to be killed.
Yourself, were you forced to kill?
(silence) It is very difficult for me to answer this question. I told you. Either you killed or were killed.
So the orders came from the higher up?
Honestly, there is no hierarchy right now in the army. You can receive orders from everyone. Everybody gives orders here, everybody gives orders. There is not one hierarchy in the Guinean army. It's a mess. It looks like organized militias. It's been a while since we have been in the army and now, honestly, it's a mess. The International community must come to the rescue, otherwise, I am really afraid for this country.
There has been lots of talk about the mess in the army. Could you tell us about this mess? How is the BATA functioning, nowadays, where you are? Have there been recruitments lately? Are there militias within the BATA?
Yes, I confirm that there are militias within the BATA. People have arrived. There are even militiamen who came from Liberia, who are currently incorporated within the Guinean army, in the BATA, with no military education, no training whatsoever. They are really murderers who are currently being recruited. Honestly, I am a soldier, but I am afraid for this country. It was not in this spirit that we seized power. We seized power to guarantee the integrity of our country, to really make our country into a great democracy. But that is not what is happening now in the Guinean army. It is truly sickening, we are scared, honestly. Even us, the military, we are scared. Currently, there are more than 600 persons incorporated in the army, elements who came out of the forest, elements who came from Liberia. We even fear retribution.
Since when are you in the military?
And since you joined in the army, since you have belonged to BATA, have you seen the situation worsen?
The situation is worsening from day to day.
Are the new recruits equipped with weapons? Did you get new weapons? Are there many weapons delivered nowadays in the army barracks?
Every day, weapons circulate in our barracks. Those who are recruited and incorporated today have weapons. They are given everything: grenades, weapons, ammunition. No importance is given to the date of integration (in the army). All that is needed is to train people and show them the way to the fighting, that's all. There are young volunteers that have been recruited, and honestly, they are here solely to maintain the power in place. She does not want to give up the power. Those people are like President Conté. Now we see, even us, the true face of this leader. Even us, we are marginalized in the army. We are scared, we cannot talk. I am telling you, currently, in the army, it's total anarchy, total anarchy, total anarchy! We do not know who is who in the army today. Nobody knows today who is a captain or a corporal. They beat up General Toto, the people from the presidential guard. Corporals. There is no discipline in the Guinean army. In this army, if no intervention forces come in, I can assure you that Guinea will sink very soon into anarchy, and it will come from the very same Alpha Yaya camp (Captain Camara's barrack). All the ingredients are there for a clash, very soon, in the midst of camp Alpha Yaya. Honestly, I am afraid for this country.
Copyright : Interview by Olivier Rogez, Radio France Internationale