All eyes on Guinea

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MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH Boston. Many eyes are on the West African nation of Guinea this weekend. Two weeks ago in the capital Conakry, soldiers attacked civilians at an opposition rally. People were shot and stabbed in broad daylight. Women were raped. Over 150 died. The United States and France are increasing pressure on the military government in Guinea. They want the head of that government, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, to step down. And the US and France have also advised its citizens to leave. And though the government has dropped a ban on public demonstrations, a rally this weekend in support of the government will take place. We're on the phone with Patrick Smith, editor of Africa Confidential in London. And Patrick I know you're not in Guinea but often Africa Confidential know more and hears more than even people on the ground. So what are you hearing today about the mood in Guinea?

PATRICK SMITH: Well certainly the government of Dadis Camara feels and it's acting like it's under very heavy international pressure. And there's an increasingly menacing mood on the streets between the soldiers and the people of Guinea and particularly foreign nationals at the moment.

WERMAN: So I would imagine that a rally tomorrow in support of Camara has got to be demoralizing for people in Conakry.

SMITH: Well it's going to be demoralizing. And I think also the way it must be that we could see more violence meted out by the soldiers loyal to Dadis Camara as well as that we have the prospect inter-army fighting between rival sections.

WERMAN: How has Captain Camara reacted to these calls from the US and Europe for him to step down? Has he said anything?

SMITH: He's absolutely rejected them. And he is saying that he personally bears no responsibility for the murders which is what they were essentially � street murders.

WERMAN: Now you've actually seen some of the amateur video footage that was shot of September 28th at the stadium. How did you come across this and what did you see?

SMITH: Well we got these films from our correspondents on the ground, many of whom had cell phones. It's horrific stuff. It really is absolutely appalling. And what comes across so clearly is that this is directed violence. It's not random violence. It's not in reaction to what was said or done against the soldiers. This is soldiers deciding to lock people in an area, surround them, and then kill them.

WERMAN: And I heard that they were asking civilians in the stadium do you support Camara? And if you said yes you were fine. If you said no or if you said nothing you were shot.

SMITH: That's right. That's why people are saying it's just impossible that Camara can deny some form of responsibility for this.

WERMAN: What else do we know about Captain Camara?

SMITH: He came to power through a military coup last December after the death of Lansana Conte. And initially at the time, he sort of had a good record. He wasn't linked with any of the examples of grand corruption or indeed into themselves a [INDISCERNIBLE] human rights abusive. And certainly when he came to power he said I'm here as a stop gap. We need to stabilize this country and we need to organize open elections. And then since then there's this sort of cult in top around him.

WERMAN: Nine months is a pretty short time for absolute power to corrupt so absolutely.

SMITH: It is strange.

WERMAN: West African leaders are scheduled to meet in the Nigerian capital tomorrow to take stock of the situation in Guinea. What impact might that have? What can they actually accomplish?

SMITH: If there's a really strong voice, I think that's going to make his situation very untenable within Guinea and I think it will encourage his opponents to put pressure on him and try and edge him out.

WERMAN: And there's some talk that some of these West African leaders are talking about potential sanctions on Guinea. I mean has that ever happened before? Or what impact could sanctions from other West African nations have?

SMITH: We've had sanctions in the West African region. We had sanctions of course on Charles Taylor's government. We had � .

WERMAN: In Liberia right.

SMITH: We had sanctions on the [PH] Hunta alliance in Sierra Leone. So it's not unprecedented.

WERMAN: Patrick Smith, editor of Africa Confidential in London. Thank you for your time.

SMITH: Thank you too Marco.