Radio France Internationale (Paris)
Guinea: Hopes for Peace in Presidential Poll
27 June 2010
Polls have opened in Guinea with a warning from current leader General Sékouba Konaté that post-election violence will not be tolerated. The presidential poll is being hailed as the first democratic election in the country, which won independence from France in 1958.
After clashes between supporters during the last week of the campaign, interim leader General Sékouba Konaté summoned all 24 candidates to the presidential palace and told them to accept the result without violence.
“I will not stand by and watch a fratricidal war because of personal ambitions and designs,” the military chief warned. “Dear leaders, from now on, you have to decide what you want for Guinea: peace, freedom and democracy or disorder and instability.”
A total of 4.2 million people have the right to vote in the election. Provisional results of the first round are expected before Wednesday, with the official result to be announced in a week’s time.
The three frontrunners are former prime ministers Cellou Dalein Diallo and Sidya Touré, and a former opposition leader, Alpha Condé. There is only one woman candidate. Saran Daraba, who served as a minister from 1996 to 1998.
Konaté has kept a promise that no soldier or member of the transition government would run for president. But the question hanging over the poll is whether the military will bow out in favour of a civilian ruler, particularly if there is violence by supporters of one or more of the losers.
Independence leader turned president-for-life Ahmed Sekou Touré ruled repressively for 26 years and his sudden death in 1984 was followed by a coup which led to 24 years of military rule by General Lansana Conté.
Hopes for change sparked by Conté’s death in 2008 were disappointed when Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, backed by Konaté, led another military coup. He promised elections and a fight against corruption but his rule ended with a massacre and an assassination attempt.
Konaté has headed a transition government for the past six months.quickly led the country into disaster.
Ordinary Guineans want change, reports Laurent Correau, who is covering the election for RFI’s French service.
“Sékou Touré did nothing for us,” village elder Sidiki Traoré told him. “Lansana did nothing, nor did Dadis. “We farmers are tired. We hope the new president will help us improve agriculture so that we can eat properly. We don’t have houses, just shacks. We want change. If it comes, we will be happy.”