Fears are growing in Washington that Guinea’s wounded junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara could return to Conakry and possibly trigger a civil war that could reignite west African conflicts.
Camara, reported recovering in Morocco after his aide de camp tried to kill him on Dec. 3, could return to Guinea and launch reprisals that could split the army into warring factions, former US diplomat John Campbell said.
In such a scenario, Camara might fall back on his ethnic militias who have ties to groups in Liberia and Sierra Leone, said Campbell, who is now an Africa analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations think tank.
Guinea’s neighbors Liberia and Sierra Leone were engulfed in civil wars in the 1990s.
“If he [Camara] could go off to a nice villa in the south of France, it would be better for all of us,” Campbell said.
One US administration official said on the condition of anonymity that Washington is “very much against him returning to Guinea” after hearing that Camara may be fit enough to leave Morocco next month.
The same official also suspects Camara last month received US$100 million from China that he has used to pay for weapons and for South African and Israeli instructors who are reportedly training his militias.
The official alleged the payment amounts to a “security deposit” from China as it seeks a stake in Guinea’s bauxite, gold, iron ore and aluminum mines.
Deputy US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs William Fitzgerald echoed fears about the risks of civil war, although he did not say he opposed Camara’s return and did not refer to China’s alleged financial role.
“We’re very concerned about these ethnic militias and the potential, if Dadis were to return, of a civil war that would spill over the borders and reinfect Sierre Leone and Liberia,” Fitzgerald said.
“Dadis’s return would complicate many of the steps that we’re trying to take to return to constitutional rule,” he said.
The US, along with international and African regional groupings, has been urging the junta to step down and make way for a transitional body since the army massacred dozens of opposition protesters on Sept. 28.
And in Camara’s absence, Fitzgerald said, Washington has begun “reaching out” to the interim leader, General Sekouba Konate, in a bid to encourage Guinea’s return to civilian rule, including having free and fair elections.
Fitzgerald said the US is also “impressed” with how Konate has tried to instill discipline in the military since Lieutenant Aboubakar Sidiki Diakite, who is now in hiding, shot Camara in the head on Dec. 3.
Diakite has been accused by some witnesses of being one of the leaders of the September massacre.
Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, the mediator in the Guinea crisis, should press the junta on civilian rule and an observer force as soon as possible, Fitzgerald said.