In Guinea, the trial of former dictator, Moussa Dadis Camara, and his co-defendants for their role in a massacre at a stadium in the capital, Conakry, continues at a special court in the city.
The proceedings are being broadcast live on television and are closely followed by the media and ordinary citizens who hope it will bring some clarity about the shocking events of 28 September 2009.
On that day, thousands of people had gathered at the stadium to protest against Camara’s possible candidacy in the presidential polls due to take place in January 2010.
He had seized power during a December 2008 coup, just hours after the death of the country’s first leader, Ahmed Sekou Toure.
But when Camara reneged on promises to step down, angry Guineans arranged the protests.
Responsibility for the attack
The former president is charged with ‘personal criminal and command responsibility’ for the attack, accused of being responsible for sending the police and soldiers into the venue where they cordoned off the exits and opened fire indiscriminately on the crowd.
Over 150 people died and more than 100 women were raped during the events, according to a UN-mandated report. The real figures are likely higher.
His co-accused, former military and government officials, face a litany of accusations from murder to sexual violence, kidnappings, arson, and looting.
Trial followed closely by citizens
‘This trial is educational for the population precisely because justice can take its course, and we can know the crimes that any citizen, including the Guinean state, are accused of,’ says journalist Talibé Barry, from FIM media that runs daily programmes about the case.
His view is echoed by ordinary citizens who sit glued to televisions in cafes across the capital every day, watching broadcasts from the courtroom.
‘Not only is it to enlighten the people, but it also establishes responsibility so that the innocent are not condemned. It also educates the current leaders, and lets them know that no-one is above the law,’ says Conakry resident, Seydouba Soumah.
Dozens of survivors and the families of the dead have waited 13 years for this trial to get underway. They hope it will put a stop to crimes they say the state has perpetrated against its citizens.
‘This is the first time we have seen such a trial in Conakry, and it will give credibility to our justice system. The others will get their act together so as not to hurt the people of Guinea anymore,’ says artist Talibé Bah who, like many others, has been following the case on television.
As the historic trial continues, under the spotlight of the media and the people of Guinea, there is hope that it will finally bring the truth to light, and give some peace to families of victims of the massacre.
And a new vision for the country, one in which impunity will no longer have a place.