Thursday, January 25, 2007

[PC Guinea news] Peace Corps evacuates Guinea volunteers

The Associated Press is reporting that the Peace Corps started evacuating about 100 volunteers from Guinea to nearby Mali on Wednesday, said Michael Simsik, the program's assistant country director in Mali. He said the organization was concerned that the strike could limit access to food or fuel supplies in the countryside.


Anonymous said...

On my last day as a PCV in Guinea there was civil unrest in Conakry. As I was being driven to the airport, by the NGO I had worked with, we drove near a group of rioting youths. They started to stone our car and a large rock hit me in the head. I have a large scar to memorialise the event. I found it suprising that the Peace Corps said no PCVs had ever been targeted, or harmed, in civil unrest in Guinea. It sure hurt my head when blood was pouring all over my clothing. The event, back in late 1998, had to do with Lansana's election, that year and the discontent with his victory. I am glad Peace Corps is evacuating and thinking of the safety of the volunteers.

Communications Director said...

Anon, I think you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It doesn't sound to me like you were specifically targeted because you were a PCV, which is what the PC statement implied to me. But I think it's precisely the "wrong place, wrong time" fear that pushed PC to evacuate the volunteers. -Brian Farenell

Thomas Walters said...

I agree, I was unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I agree that if the rioters knew I was a peace corps volunteer it would be unlikely that I would have been targetted. However, I was lucky to not have been more seriously injured. A few inches futher back and the stone could have killed me, a few inches further forward and I would have lost an eye. All I was trying to do was get home at my COS... It makes sense to protect volunteers in times of civil strife, because it greatly increases the number of wrong places to be at, and wrong times to be in them.

John said...

It's unfortunately true that the government, including the Peace Corps, will change history to suit their needs. Brian, not so sure that they only meant "Targeted". They would want to mimimalize any suggestion that being a PCV might be dangerous.

I am glad that they took the step. Evacuation from Bamako to Dakar via train is far more feasible than trying to get out via the airport in Conakry during civil unrest. Hopefully they'll wait a few weeks, make sure that LC does allow a PM for the people, before bringing them back in. Should violence begin again, it may not be so easy to get them out a 2nd time.

Curiousity question: What did they do about visas for Mali? They cost $100 USD +/-, as I recall. While one CAN pay a minimal fee at the border and gain it in Bamako, I can just imagine that Chief at the border's face upon seeing a slew of PCVs showing up.;) Then there's the whole money change thing. Mali isn't fond of the Guinean franc. :(

Communications Director said...

I think we're getting into dangerous territory if we're trying to divine the motives of PC Guinea officials. If someone has evidence that PCVs have been consciously targeted because they were PCVs, then they should by all means present it. But I am uncomfortable with anyone implying that the PC is lying about this without backing up their statement.

While it may not be inconceivable, whether they are lying and whether they might lie are two entirely different questions. At this point, I have no reason to doubt the statement that PCVs haven't been targeted as such.

That said, I think most would agree that withdrawing the PCVs at least temporarily was a wise move. Even though PCVs weren't apparently targeted per se, there was too much risk of them being in the wrong place at the wrong time.