Friday, November 02, 2007

Guinea memoir on prison 'horrors

A former Guinean minister has launched a book about his ordeal in the country's most infamous prison.

Guinea's former President Ahmed Sekou Toure (Picture from: US Department of Defense - www.dodmedia.osd.mil)
During his rule, Toure suppressed opposition and free expression

Alseny Rene Gomes' book, Camp Boiro: Talk or Perish, describes his eight years in the jail in the 1970s.

"Rats got better treatment than humans. Those that saw death coming would write on the walls of their cells in blood or faeces," the Camp Boiro survivor said.

Tens of thousands of people were allegedly tortured and killed there on the orders of Guinea's first leader.

From the country's independence in 1958 until his death 26 years later, former President Ahmed Sekou Toure suppressed opposition and free expression with little regard for human rights.

The BBC's Alhasssan Sillah in the capital, Conakry, says four decades on from their imprisonment, many former inmates and their families are still seeking justice, but others feel that reconciliation is more important for national unity.


At the book launch in Conakry, Mr Gomes described his incarceration from 1971 to 1979 to the packed audience.

Like many other political opponents he was imprisoned by order of former President Toure.

Since his release, Mr Gomes, who is now 70, has twice served as a minister under Toure's successor, Lansana Conte, who seized power in 1984.

Our correspondent says his book is being hailed by literary critics as the most well documented of nine books on the notorious prison.

The head of the Organisation of Victims of Camp Boiro - a group largely composed of the sons and daughters of opponents of former President Toure - was also at the launch on Tuesday evening.

He described how Toure's rule and the many false imprisonments still have a bearing today.

"In the first 26 years of independence, Guinea became the greatest manufacturer of fake coup plots," Mamoud Conde told the BBC.

"The end product of which was the dehumanisation of its own citizens."

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