Guinea candidate says he will not accept results
Less than 24 hours before Guinea’s election commission was due to release results from a crucial presidential election, one of the candidates said he would not accept the outcome because two contested counties had been included in the total, setting the stage for a violent showdown.
Cellou Dalein Diallo, who is from the Peul ethnic group, held a press conference on Sunday to say he would refuse the results if the country’s election commission included the northern counties of Kouroussa and Siguiri in the final tally—counties the head of the commission has said he was not authorised to invalidate.
The two provinces were swept by ethnic riots targeting the Peul in the days before the November 7 ballot. Diallo claims his constituents were too intimidated to vote, and that in many polling stations, his party could not find anyone to represent them and were instead represented by their opponent.
Earlier in the day, the representative of Diallo’s party on the election commission walked out over the same issue.
National Independent Electoral Commission president Siaka Sangare told reporters soon after Diallo’s press conference that electoral law does not allow him to annul the provinces without proof of fraud, and he was not in a position to investigate Diallo’s claim of intimidation. Sangare said, however, that the commission is carefully examining cases where there is tangible evidence of malfeasance.
Partial results released so far indicate a tight race, with Diallo leading by a hair. Only 23,773 votes separate him from rival Alpha Conde after 1.9 million ballots had been counted, representing over half the electorate.
Diallo’s comments are bound to enflame the tension at the heart of the vote, which has been divided along ethnic lines. As he was holding a news conference on the third floor of his party’s office, his supporters began to congregate at the traffic circles of a major highway leading out of the capital. A rumor quickly spread that they were going to try to march on the headquarters of the election commission, located miles away.
Soon, the street leading to the commission was blocked by trucks full of security forces. The Governor of Conakry Sekou Camara arrived to inspect the building, and announced that anyone who tried to demonstrate would be punished.
“Their goal is to come and make trouble,” he said. “No one will be allowed to sow chaos in our country.”
Last weekend’s vote is considered the country’s first democratic election, marking the only time in Guinea’s 52 years since independence that the outcome has not been predetermined.
The nation of 10 million on Africa’s western coast was a one-party state until the 1990s and has been ruled by military strongmen for the past 26 years. The most recent leader of the military junta was forced into exile after his men carried out a horrific massacre last year, prompting his No. 2 to agree to hand over power to civilians.
International observers say the recent poll was credible overall, even though some irregularities were noted. Experts on Guinea say that the country is unaccustomed to transparency and that both sides are quick to assume foul play, as was frequently the case in past elections.
The poll has been especially tense because it is pitting candidates from the nation’s two largest ethnicities in a country where rulers have historically favored their own.
Riots between Malinke and Peul supporters of the two parties paralyzed the capital in the weeks before the vote and spread as far as 300 miles (480 kilometers) north, where Peul shops were looted in Kouroussa and Siguiri, and hundreds of people fled.—Sapa-AP