February 19th 2007
Earlier this month, the general strike in Guinea has led into a full scale uprising. Last week, the Guinean government has declared the state of emergency and announced a curfew that had covered 3/4 of the day. The government has decided to show it's iron fist. President Conte introduced his new propaganda that the Fula people are behind this so called attempt to overthrow the government, which of course is complete bullshit. This was an uprising lead by a youth that is sick of growing up without any sort of perspective, living under horrendous conditions while everyone connected to the government drives around in Hummer limousines and builds one villa after the other. Now the government has decided to give its people a scapegoat instead of a perspective. There never were any ethnic conflicts in Guinea before. This might change now.
Once the state of emergency was announced, the military started moving into one "quartier" of the city after the other Always beginning at dusk, the thunder of shots could be heard all over town. Theft, destruction of property, shooting injuries, beatings and rapes started being reported. There seems to be close to zero international press. The only two indepenent Radio Stations in Conakry were raided and destroyed.
The Americans have started evacuating last week. the French have a ship with 10 helicopters on hold and Saturday we received order from the German embassy to fly out of the country. There are still flights by Air France but the waiting list is long, the only other European Airline to fly out of Guinea, SN have suspended all flights. We would not have been able to take the dogs along because they would need a proof of vaccination and an implanted chip to enter Europe. We decided to not leave them behind and packed the car, fully aware that mowst people might find it completely nuts to drive through an African country under martial law just to bring our dogs into safety but everyone has his priorities, I guess.
I'm typing this from an internet cafe in Freetown.
We made it from Conakry over the border yesterday and it was probably the most adventurous day in my life. Scary, surreal and for sure something I don't want to
experience ever again. Lots of military road blocks, all in all 10 of them, or more, it is very much possible that I forgot one or two.
We had drugged our dogs with valium so they kept quiet and didn't puke all over the car while we were driving down bumpy dirt roads at high speed. I wore a fake uniform with a clipped on photoshopped fantasy "General Gossner" ID. Inbetween the front seats we had deposited bundles of cash to bribe our way through road blocks. My wife was as white as a wall for the entire trip. We barely spoke unless when we were stopped and my wife held a dead cellphone to her ear and made imaginary phone calls to the Guinean minister for foreign affairs, reporting that everything was going smooth. "What is she doing, there is no cellphone reception around here" the soldiers would remark. Of course there is no phone signal in the middle of the jungle... "This is a satelite phone, we have reception wherever we go." I responded with the most casual tone of voice I could muster.
They seem to have let a whole other breed of soldiers out of the caves for these road blocks, grim looking, large specimen with gold teeth, mirrored sunglasses and huge fucking guns,- forget about the usual AK47s, these were big, heavy MGs, the kind that come with tripods attached to the barrel. The most bizarre road block was in front of the last town before the Sierra Leone border. There is a wide river we had to cross over an old, damaged stone bridge. There were a couple of soldiers on our side of the bridge and they didn;t give us much of a problem but when we had halfway crossed the bridge, we noticed a helicopter on the opposite bench of the river with a larger group of soldiers next to the street. The apparent man in charge was wearing civil clothes and was sitting in a plastic chair under a large parasol. We were stopped and a soldier demanded our papers. He took them to his boss who studied them without comment and without even looking at us. I handed out some cash to the uniform closest to the car and tried to look as relaxed as possible. Luckily, we were let through without the vehicle being searched or any other hassle. Probably also due to my wife who again was acting like she was on the phone, speaking either to some diplomats or military official, reporting our location and mentioning that "the road blocks are no problem and everybody was treating us nicely".
We had left at 6:00 in the morning and crossed over into Sierra Leone at noon. One of the border guards had greeted us with the words "Welcome to Sierra Leone, this is a peaceful country".
A few hours later, we had arrived at Hamilton beach, just one hour out of Freetown. I was standing in the surf, in front of our rented beach hut, with an ice cold Star beer in my hand when out of a sudden, my knees started to tremble and wy eyes got a bit wet.
This morning, I already called up my record agents in Freetown...
Monday, February 19, 2007
February 19th 2007