Guinea’s Conde set for controversial third presidential term

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Guinea president Alpha Conde greets his supporters at a campaign rally in Conakry on October 16, 2020. PHOTO/AFP

By AFP News

Guinea’s President Alpha Conde won a disputed national election, the country’s electoral authority said Saturday, setting the stage for a controversial third term.

The announcement followed days of violence in which around 10 people were killed in clashes over Conde’s re-election bid in the West African nation of some 13 million people. 

Electoral authority president Kabinet Cisse said provisional results showed that Conde, 82, had won 59.49 percent of the votes in the October 18 election. 

His main opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo, — at the forefront of protests against a third term for Conde —  was credited with 33.5 percent of the vote.

“Long live democracy, long live peace, may God bless Guinea,” Cisse said during a ceremony in Conakry, as Conde supporters leapt to their feet and cheered the president’s victory.

Criticising the independence of the electoral authority, Diallo, 68, had on Monday declared himself victorious before the results were announced — which triggered confrontations between his supporters and security forces.  

Protesters hit the streets of Conakry again Saturday, and residents of some suburbs said police officers were firing tear-gas cannisters to clear them away.

“We’re on the street until Cellou Dalein asks us to come home,” said one, who declined to be named, referring to the opposition leader. 

Diallo, who says police are blockading him inside his Conakry home, told AFP he would mount a legal challenge to the announced election results. 

“We are going to protest this electoral hold-up in the street,” he said. 

“But we are still going to refer the matter to the constitutional court, without having too many expectations.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement on Saturday urged Conde and Diallo to “prevail on their supporters to immediately end the violence and engage in meaningful dialogue to find a peaceful solution”.

Third term

While Guinea’s independent national electoral commission (CENI) declared the provisional tally, the constitutional court must still approve the result. It is expected to do so in about a week.

With his win, Conde is set to govern for another six years, and could potentially run for another fourth term after that.

Stiff opposition to a third term triggered mass protests from October 2019, during which security forces killed dozens of people. 

In March, the president pushed through a new constitution which he argued would modernise the country.

The move also allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidents.

Guinea is a poor country, despite rich deposits of bauxite, gold and diamonds, that has known little political stability since independence in 1958. 

Conde, a former opposition activist who spent decades in exile, became the country’s first democratically-elected president in 2010, and was re-elected in 2015. 

But hopes of a new political dawn have soured, with rights groups accusing him of veering towards authoritarianism.

Diallo was formerly a prime minister under authoritarian leader Lansana Conte. He ran against Conde in both 2010 and 2015. 

Violence must stop

Diallo’s self-proclaimed victory plunged Guinea into a fresh round of violence. 

The opposition says 27 people were killed, and AFP was unable to independently confirm the official death toll of 10.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor has warned that the rival parties could be prosecuted after fighting erupted.

“We are… continuing to closely monitor developments on the ground. The violence must stop,” Fatou Bensouda said in a tweet.

“I wish to repeat this important reminder: anyone who commits, orders, incites, encourages and contributes in any other way to crimes… is liable to prosecution either by the Guinean courts or the ICC,” she said.

The campaign was fraught with tension ahead of the vote. Conde was accused of stoking ethnic divisions for electoral ends, a charge he denies.

Guinea’s politics are mainly drawn along ethnic lines: the president’s base is among the ethnic Malinke community while Diallo has strong backing among the Fulani people.

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