I was a bit surprised today to read that Guinea’s military leader, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, has agreed not to return to Guinea (he’ll hang out in Burkina Faso with fellow dictator Blaise Compaore) and that a transitional government organize elections without him. Especially since only a few months ago it seems this guy won’t go away. But then I am not a West- or French-speaking-Africa specialist.
Camara took control in a coup in April 2008 while the life-president, Lansame Conte, lay dying. At first he said he did it to bring democracy after decades of one-party rule. So when he changed his mind Fall, thousands of people turned out to protest. At a peaceful rally at the national stadium, soldiers fired on the protesters killing 157 people. At the time a UN investigation that “… there are sufficient grounds for presuming direct criminal responsibility by Captain Camara for that killing.” Of course Camara and his soldiers acted like that did not matter and went on with their lives. So it appeared like that would be that and that the dictatorship would just get back to “normal” relations with France and the US governments and whatever multinational corporations or their agents operated there.
Then about a month ago the chief of Camara’s presidential guard shot him in the face. It emerged that the officer was mad at Camara for trying to get him (the officer) to take the fall for the September killings. At first the junta tried to lie about the extent of Camara’s injuries, but then Camara turned up in Morocco for treatment. It turned out he was injured so much that he could not continue governing.
Sadly this will mean the end of Camara’s famous live, multi-hour, TV performances (more rants) or what people in Guinea called “The Dadis Show.” (Hugo Chavez is the one other leader that uses TV like this; of course the practice of heads of states giving weekly TV or radio addresses are not unique to the third world–think the American President’s weekly radio, and now web, address–but it is tightly choreographed.)
Anyway, “The Dadis Show” was something to behold.
Allow me to rehash here blogger Third Rate in the Tropics‘ reports of The Dadis Show which he described thus: “… The Dadis show is unscripted, eerily brilliant and frightening in its madness, with derision, words flung around the room, in cataclysmic effect, hailing youth, deriding demagogery, putting on a show trial of televised populism to great effect.”
Here’s some examples as collected and translated by Third Rate in the Tropics:
Here after a lengthy diatribe in broken French with distorted microphones, the German ambassador, who says he is a friend of Dadis, and also has Guinean relatives, says he is concerned at indications Dadis may, surprise, surprise, run in presidential elections in 2010, after promising repeatedly, he would not. The Dadis show begins at 3:00. Excerpts … “I am Guinean. I am a president. Respect my authority. I’ve been to Germany. I respected German authorities (…) Don’t take me for your little boy. I am the president of Guinea. I want to save my people, and I am starting to understand it’s not your vision. You are speaking to a president. I am not a criminal. (…) I have sacrificed a lot for my people.”
A second example:
[H]e calls out several government officials live on public television, who dared to speak out against him, saying they will all be replaced by younger, less corrupt Guineans. Two of them are brought to the podium, and sheepishly answer they are just a few years from getting full retirement benefits, to which Camara decides on the spot … “early retirement, it is!” to a scatter of applause, some no doubt, incredulous. At 2:18: “Look at the portrait of Lansana Conte!” The two officials are forced to look, just a few seconds after having been forced to face the crowd. “Is he alive today? No one remains eternal on earth…”
There’s one more at Third Rate in the Tropics where Camara gives “… a dressing down … to a Ukrainian businessman who became very rich during Conte’s time, and had a hand in many business transactions.”