Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Guinea’s ex-dictator, Moussa Dadis Camara, was recaptured and returned to prison on Saturday, hours after an apparent jailbreak led by a heavily armed commando, the army and his lawyer said.

At least two other former officials on trial alongside Camara over a 2009 massacre during his presidency were taken in the earlier operation that sparked heavy gunfire in the capital, Conakry, a minister and lawyers said.

“Captain Moussa Dadis Camara has been found safe and sound and taken back to prison,” an army spokesperson told AFP, without specifying the circumstances of the capture.

One of Camara’s lawyers, Jocamey Haba, told AFP his client was back behind bars. Justice Minister Alphonse Charles Wright said earlier that at around 0500 GMT “heavily armed men” burst into the prison and “managed to leave with four prisoners, notably Captain Moussa Dadis Camara”.

He said the borders had been closed.

It was unclear whether Camara had escaped of his own free will.

The army described the operation as an attempt to “sabotage” government reforms and swore its “unwavering commitment” to the current military-led authorities.

A judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the masked and heavily armed soldiers who arrived at Conakry’s central prison declared they “had come to free” Camara.

Inside, the group headed towards his cell, appearing to already know its location, the source said.

Haba told AFP he believed his client had been “kidnapped” and his life was “in danger”.

“He has confidence in the justice of his country, which is why he would never try to escape,” he added, referring to the ongoing trial against Camara.

Wright also said Colonel Moussa Tiegboro Camara — another of the men taken from prison — had since been “recaptured”.

Tiegboro Camara’s lawyer said he had escaped from what he described as his “captors”.

City is ‘sealed’                 

Several Guinean news sites quickly reported that Saturday’s events were not another putsch, but that a heavily armed commando had attacked the central prison.

The sound of gunfire could be heard before dawn in Kaloum — a central district that houses the presidency, several top government and administrative offices, the military headquarters and the main prison.

One witness, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there had been gunfire in the central district.

“The city centre has been sealed since dawn, we can neither enter, nor leave,” a shopkeeper added, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

“I wanted to go to the port area where I work but was prevented from leaving (Kaloum), where armoured vehicles have been deployed.”

An airport source said no flights had taken off from Conakry’s international airport on Saturday morning as air traffic staff could not get to the airport from Kaloum, where they often spend the night.

Guinea, a West African country of about 14 million people, has been led by a junta since Doumbouya stormed the presidential palace with soldiers and overthrew civilian president Alpha Conde in September 2021.

‘Compass’ of justice

Dadis Camara has been detained since going on trial in September 2022.

He and about 10 other former military and government officials are accused over a 2009 massacre carried out by security forces loyal to the then-junta leader.

The killing of 156 people and the rape of at least 109 women started at a political rally in a Conakry stadium on September 28, 2009 and continued in the days that followed, according to a UN-mandated inquiry.

Camara — who himself came to power in a coup in December 2008 — and his co-defendants are charged with murder, sexual violence, torture, abduction and kidnapping.

They face life in prison if convicted.

The trial is unprecedented in a country ruled for decades by authoritarian regimes, where people had become used to the impunity of the security forces, according to the international commission of inquiry into the massacre.

It opened in September last year at the urging of Doumbouya, who has promised to rebuild the Guinean state and make justice his “compass”.

Under international pressure, Doumbouya committed to handing over power to elected civilians within two years from January 2023.

The Forces Vives de Guinee, a collective of opposition parties and organisations, have since denounced unfulfilled commitments and an authoritarian drift, calling the junta an “emerging dictatorship”.

(AFP)

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