More Announcements from Col. Thiam: “The Army Will Be at the Disposal of the Candidate Who Wins Election”

Guinea army vows to back poll winner

Guinea-Conakry’s army will support whoever wins next month’s presidential election and anyone trying to derail the vote will be crushed, the head of the West African country’s armed forces said.

News wires  26 May 2010 08:56 GMT

A transitional government overseen by a military leader is preparing for the 27 June election some fear could turn violent but which marks the country’s best chance at emerging from decades of harsh authoritarian rule.

“There should be no disruption, no violence. In the case of a problem, we will subdue it,” Reuters quoted Colonel Nouhou Thiam, chief of Guinea’s armed forces, saying at a meeting with political leaders. “The army will be at the disposal of the candidate who wins the elections.”

General Sekouba Konate, interim head of the military junta that seized power in a 2008 coup, has set up a special elections security unit made up of police and soldiers.

Soldiers from West African regional bloc ECOWAS will also be on the ground during the vote, according to the United Nations.

Konate took power in Guinea after former junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara was shot in the head by a would-be assassin in December and evacuated for treatment.

Known as “El Tigre” for his ferocity in tackling past rebellions on Guinea’s border with Liberia, Konate set up the transitional government charged with holding elections and has vowed not to let the 27 June date slip.

Prime Minister Jean-Marie Dore has said supporters of Camara, who is now convalescing in Burkina Faso, are secretly plotting his return. Observers are also concerned the election could be a trigger for simmering ethnic tensions.

“For now, the army has remained out of the political process,” a diplomat who follows Guinean politics told reuters.

“The key thing will be during campaigning, and making sure candidates don’t escalate regional and ethnic disputes that reverberate within the army.”

Camara drew widespread international condemnation before his injury after security forces killed more than 150 demonstrators protesting in September against his refusal to guarantee that he would not stand in elections.

About 20 candidates are now expected to stand in the election, according to a source close to the Supreme Court charged with registering candidates.

“During the entire process of the transition, including the election of 27 June, I guarantee the defence and security forces will remain neutral,” Thiam said.

The diplomat warned that a second round of voting was likely as the number of candidates meant a straight majority in the first round was improbable, and tension could escalate.

The military seized power in December 2008 after the death of strongman President Lansana Conte, who had ruled the country since 1984.

Published: 26 May 2010 08:56 GMT  | Last updated: 26 May 2010 08:57 GMT


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