"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

10.21.2009

did the peace corps overreact?

The Peace Corps has pulled its volunteers out of Guinea:
Peace Corps has suspended its volunteer program in Guinea due to ongoing safety and security concerns related to recent political instability. All 94 Peace Corps/Guinea volunteers are safe and accounted for and are currently participating in a conference in Mali.

...Both Peace Corps and the U.S. Embassy in Conakry will continue to monitor and assess the safety and security situation in Guinea in preparation for a return of Peace Corps Volunteers as soon as possible.
Peace Corps never risks much when it comes to protecting the safety of its volunteers, so this is not a terribly surprising decision. There's also the political consideration; pulling out Peace Corps Volunteers sends a strong signal to non-cooperative governments. But while I don't want to read too much into it, the Peace Corps' decision could be yet another sign that the situation in Guinea may get worse before it gets better.

The UN and the ICC have both announced that they will begin investigations into the September 28 killings of civilian protesters by military forces. The United Nations investigation is already underway, and diplomats are heavily pressuring Captain Camara to step aside. Camara, however, ignored Saturday's African Union-imposed deadline to declare his intentions regarding next year's elections.

What are we to make of all this? For one thing, it's increasingly clear that whatever happened on September 28 - and whatever is happening right now - involves regional security and economic dynamics as well as a domestic power struggle. Evidence that Liberians with ties to the old LURD movement were involved in the massacre is mounting. And there's no telling what the drug lords who use Guinea's unmonitored coast as a handy transit point between Latin American producers and the European market are up to in the midst of this mess.

On the other hand, it's refreshing to see a (relatively) quick international response to an incident that occurred just a few weeks ago. That the United Nations and the ICC have both managed to plan investigations in such a short time frame is a positive development in and of itself. It suggests that there's a stronger global commitment to preventing instability in West Africa in an area that's seen more than its fair share of conflict over the past few decades. It suggests that the ideas behind the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, neo-colonial though they may be, are being taken quite seriously in some quarters. One can only hope that the efforts of those who want to stabilize Guinea will not be in vain.

What do you think? Did the Peace Corps overreact by pulling its volunteers out of Guinea so quickly? Is the situation in Guinea likely to get better or worse in the weeks and months to come?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Andrew said...

Considering how long it took to pull PCVs out of Mauritania, I wonder if there was some internal push to move quickly?

As for Guinea, a lot of the Liberians I've talked to are very concerned. Not about spillover violence, but about "too many" Guineans crossing the border. This seems less motivated by any security or economic concerns and more about the 2011 national elections and internal jockeying for power.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 6:15:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was 1961 when Colombia was scheduled to have national elections. The two major parties had a history of violence (perhaps shared equally)until President Alberto Lleras Camargo declared a live-saving truce whereby one party would rule alternately with the other party, changing every four years. He invited John Kennedy and Sarge to send a group of PCVs, the very first. Two months after arriving in our rural villages we were hastily withdrawn to Santa Marta and Cartegena for conferences. Fortunately those were lasting peaceful elections, we had a blast playing in the Carribean Ocean at PC expense forty eight years ago.

Brad Whipple RPCV Colombia I 1961-63, 1963-65 Staff

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 1:41:00 PM

 
Blogger Penelope said...

I think the situation will get worse before it gets better, and that PC reacted appropriately. The big question at the moment is whether Dadis, the junta leader, will step down, install a transitional government and organize elections. Right now, he doesn't seem ready to do any of that, which is precisely what the international community, the Guinean opposition and pretty much anyone outside the junta has called for.
If Dadis organizes elections without the opposition (which will likely happen if he chooses to run), then the situation in Guinea will go from unstable to volatile. Guineans are tired of dictators, and with Dadis, their patience is going to run short. The man was hailed as "Obama Junior" for the promises of democracy he made the Guinean people, who have not known a single day of non-dictatorship since they gained independence from France in 1958.
I also think that for PC to remove its volunteers is part of a broader diplomatic stance adopted by the USG.
As for the quick international reaction... While I also applaud the UN and ICC for launching investigations quickly, that still doesn't bring any solace to the Guineans who have literally lost relatives in the massacre (100s of bodies have disappeared), and hopefully these investigations will actually lead to indictments. But I generally agree with you - surely, we've learned from the past not to let instability in West Africa degenerate....

Friday, October 23, 2009 6:33:00 PM

 

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