Sept. 28 was a day of chaos and carnage in Guinea. Just 32 days ago, more than 150 Guineans were massacred, and dozens of women were raped in public in a systematic manner by the country’s military. Those meant to protect Guinea trampled on the trust and the rights of its citizens. The bloodshed on that Monday in Guinea was senseless; it was a crime against humanity, freedom of speech and basic democratic principles.

Despite the fact that such a demonstration of violence against the population had not reached such heights in Guinea for years, the media has paid very little attention to this massacre. What happened in Guinea did not reach the magnitude of conflicts like the ongoing crisis in Darfur, but it was nonetheless a horrible crime committed against unarmed civilians. That fact should be enough to compel us to ensure the perpetrators of that crime do not go unpunished. This includes talking about it and giving it the media coverage it deserves.

Guinea is a small Francophone country located in West Africa. It gained its independence from France in 1958; from then on, it was subject to the ruthless dictatorship of former President Sékou Touré. Following Touré’s death in 1984, a military coup brought Gen. Lansana Conté to power. What seemed to be the beginning of a new era soon turned into 24 years of tight-fisted rule polluted by high levels of corruption and a general failure to harness the potential of the country.

Then, in December 2008, history repeated itself in Guinea. On Dec. 23, the death of Conté was broadcast and a coup followed soon afterward. A military junta seized the government, and Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara proclaimed himself president.

By and large, the population welcomed the new military regime, hoping that the years spent under Conté would become nothing but a distant memory. The new military junta promised that its rule would only be temporary, that it had the welfare of the Guinean people at heart, and that presidential elections would soon be held. Camara even went so far as to proclaim that he had no intention of being a presidential candidate in the next elections.

Guineans welcomed the coup, even though it was condemned by the Economic Community of West African States and the European Union; they assumed nothing could be worse than the half-century they had already spent under ruthless and incompetent regimes. The truth is, at the time of the coup, no one really knew what to expect. The new regime could have either set the stage for improvement in Guinea, or take another step backward.

The events of Sept. 28 put an end to any speculation. The new military regime of Camara was not a promise of better days to come in Guinea. The Guineans that were killed and raped suffered these atrocities because they dared to protest against Camara’s possible presidential candidacy. Their civil and human rights were trampled because they dared to make their voice heard and stand up for democracy. After the carnage, the only thing that Camara could utter was “désolé” (“sorry”), and that he had no control over the army. The junta’s reaction seems to counter this claim. It has downplayed the amplitude of the carnage by stating that only 50 or so people were killed; more horrifying, they denied at first that any women had been raped.

Reports from organizations like Human Rights Watch found that there is increasing evidence that the massacre was premeditated. The violence seems to have been ethnically targeted as well, for the vast majority of the victims were Fulani, one of the three major ethnic groups found in Guinea.

When such atrocities are committed against the civilian population, it must be made clear that they cannot go unpunished. Thankfully, the international community for once did not remain idle in the midst of chaos. The massacre was condemned by the European Union, the United States, ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations. The case has even been brought to the attention of the International Criminal Court, and the United Nations is planning on investigating what happened. Nevertheless, what happened in Guinea on that Monday went almost unnoticed in the media and did not reach the majority of the population in the United States and the rest of the Western world. This must be remedied. Ultimately, condemnation of the massacre will not be enough. The international community must actively urge for a regime change in Guinea.

ore should be said about the chaos in Guinea. We can no longer be oblivious to the plight and trauma of the Guinean people. A small way we can help is to sign a petition put forth by the international civic organization Avaaz. Its goal is to push the AU and the EU to issue sanctions upon the ruling elite in Guinea, and ultimately, to bring the junta’s resignation. The petition can be found on their Web site, www.avaaz.org. As members of the Georgetown community, signing it is the least we can do.

Hadiatou Barry is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.

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