Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Guinea update: More tension and the waiting game

Hello all,

Sitting here typing in the sweltering heat of a sticky Malian evening is all the reminder I need that I am NOT in Guinea anymore.

Many of you have asked about the continuing situation in Guinea and what exactly all of us Peace Corps Volunteers are doing now that the program has been evacuated.

For the moment, we are playing the waiting game. Peace Corps Guinea-- 93 Volunteers and dozens of Guinean support staff-- left the country last week in a "consolidation" movement that went smoothly. As I wrote in my last email, I was in Ghana at the time, taking the LSATs and spending time with my fiançée, René. After some wrestling with what exactly to do with us, Peace Corps bought us plane tickets to Mali and flew us here last Friday. I, unfortunately, had to say goodbye to René and cut short our previously-planned trip to Guinea to visit my village and see what my life was like there. Huge bummer.

For the moment, all 93 of us are hanging out here at the PC/Mali training compound outside of Bamako. We are being spoiled-- free meals, toilet paper, running water, and a daily per diem have all been very welcome. Our official stance now is to wait and see how the political situation plays out in Guinea to see whether or not it will be possible for us to return to the country. As many of you may know, the country has been run by an interim military government following a bloodless coup d'etat last December. While initially hopeful for some real political change and an end to the rampant corruption killing the country, the Guinean people have become more and more disillusioned with the interim president, Moussa Dadis Camara.

This came to a head on Sept. 28th, when participants in an opposition rally in the national stadium in Conakry were gunned down by the military and women were raped and abused in broad daylight. These despicable, evil acts have been roundly condemned by the US, the UN, the EU, and ECOWAS, yet Dadis and his entourage have failed to take full responsibility for the actions of the military that they, in theory, command. This is extremely troubling.

Even more troubling is the news that came yesterday that China, despite calls for sanctions and political pressure from the international community, has gone ahead and signed a 7 billion dollar mineral and oil contract in a bid for Guinea's vast untapped natural resources. If indeed Dadis turns out to want to hold on to power and continues his current behavior-- reneging on his promise not to run as a candidate in the upcoming presidential election, continuing to consolidate government power in the hands of a military elite, ranting on national television about the dishonesty of former Guinean leaders and the need for the West to treat him more "respectfully"--this fat Chinese check will give him all the capital he needs to hold on to power regardless of what the international community thinks.

Does China give two figs about human rights or blatantly supporting regimes that commit horrible atrocities? Clearly not. All the hard work and advocacy regarding the tragic situation in Darfur these past few years has been repeatedly foiled by China, who refuses to acknowledge that the Sudanese government is committing systemic genocide and cheerfully continues buying billions of dollars worth of oil from a regime that is one of the worst human rights abusers on earth. 157 people dead in a stadium in Conakry is certainly nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands killed in Darfur over the past four years.

So this is the situation that we are watching. I've called friends from my village, who have assured me that everyone and everything is just fine there. Frustratingly, this is the situation all across Guinea: life continues normally. Conakry certainly is tense yet up country there has been no violence or even major protests. As for us, we are in Bamako for a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of a month before they decide to either suspend the PC/G program or send us back in.

I will keep you posted with future details.

In the meantime, we're all fine-- I'm tying up some loose ends work-wise, honing my resumé in anticipation of a future job search, and getting some much needed work on my Scrabble game. Thanks to everyone who's written or dropped a facebook message with their concerns. You could keep Guinea in your prayers.

Thanks again!
Much love,

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