Guinea’s presidential campaign kicks off
Article published the Wednesday 19 May 2010 – Latest update : Wednesday 19 May 2010
By Laura Angela Bagnetto
Guinea’s presidential campaign has kicked into high gear, as the numerous candidates take the next month to meet with voters in the hopes of becoming the country’s next leader.Supporters have begun to put up posters of posters throughout Conakry, the capital, as leaders have called for campaigning in a “restrained” and calm atmosphere.
The hottest topics on the presidential agenda focus primarily on quality of life issues, says Karim Kamara, RFI’s correspondent in Conakry. “People want to know about access to the water supply, to electricity, and they want price controls on the cost of food, such as rice, which is a staple of the diet here,” he adds.
Comara says that candidates, who began campaigning on Monday, have been stressing that their private partners abroad would be poised to help rebuild the country’s infrastructure.
The fight against corruption and reorganising the Guinean army in order to protect the people and the sovereignty of Guinea are secondary, but still important issues. Making sure the army does not break into militias but retains its shape as a united whole has been a primary concern of General Sekouba Konaté, the current head of the junta, says Tara O’Connor, head of Africa Risk Consulting in London.
Some 4,224,272 people are registered to vote, Guinea’s National Independent Election Commission (CENI) announced in a final tally on Monday. Those out of the 11,000,000 million population have pushed to have their votes count in what is being called the first free and fair election since Guinea’s independence in 1958.
This is also an issue for the presidential candidates, who are already contending that they have the majority of votes, says RFI’s Kamara, even though the candidates are not sure if their supporters have been registered.
“Ethnicity is the primary political driver in Guinea,” says O’Connor. “Whoever emerges as the main residential candidates will be driven by the countries’ main ethnic groups, who are the Mandingos, the Pulaar, and the SouSou. Whoever ends up as president will be the result of some horse-trading over ethnicity,” she adds.
Guinea is divided into four main regions, including Upper Guinea, Lower Guinea, the Forest region, and the Fouta region, which also constitutes for the most part what ethnicity its population belongs to. However, the numerous candidates for president ensure that none will win based only on their regional support.
Alpha Condé is head of the Rally of Guinean People (RPG), and is from Upper Guinea. A member of the Mandingo ethnicity, he is considered a heavyweight in the elections, considering he has opposed the the last three leaders of the country.
Lansana Kouyaté, a former prime minister from Upper Guinea, has declared his candidacy under the Hope for National Development party (PEDN).
Other candidates from the same region include Mamadi Diawarra and another former prime minister, François Fall.
In Lower Guinea, Sidia Toure, leader of the Union of Republican Forces (UFR), is the candidate with a lot of cross-ethnic support. He is from the Diahanke ethnic minority, which makes up less than one per cent of the Guinean population, but remains a popular candidate among many voters of the Sou Sou ethnicity.
Abe Sylla, Mamadou Sylla and Aboubakar Somparé make up the other candidates coming from Lower Guinea.
Cellou Dalein Diallo, of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), is a Foulani from the Fouta region and maintains strong support among the Foulani community in Conakry, the capital. He is also one of three former prime ministers in the running for the presidency.
What is unknown is who residents of Forest region will vote for, considering that there is no strong candidate coming from the region. Moussa Dadis Camara, the former junta leader, came from the region. He is currently recouperating after being shot by one of his own men.
Guinean authorities and international orgnaisations have called for restraint during the month-long campaigning.
Guinea’s acting president, General Sekouba Konate issued a decree late Tuesday, announcing the creation of a special task force unit to oversee both the campaign and the election period. The special task force unit will equally protect ballot boxes and guard polling and presiding officials during voting and counting periods.
After the 27 June polls, voters will return for a second round slated for 18 July.
Guinea has been led by a military junta since December 2008, after the death of president Lansana Conté.