Guinea Counts Votes with Relief After Peaceful Poll
By Malick Rokhy Ba (AFP) – 2 hours ago
CONAKRY — Guinea awoke relieved a day after its first peaceful democratic election since independence, which commentators praised for its lack of violence as votes were counted on Monday.
While the crucial phase is yet to come with preliminary results expected Wednesday, the first step in shaking off half a century of civilian and military despotism was hailed as “a renaissance”.
Turnout was reported to be massive from an eligible 4.2 million voters choosing their president from among 24 civilian candidates.
Guinean journalist Souleymane Diallo told AFP that the country’s first free vote since independence from France in 1958 was “a renaissance, an important step in the liberation of Guinea.”
“Up until now there had never been a proper election in Guinea. This is the first time it was impossible to know the name of the future president the day before the vote,” added the editor of satirical newspaper The Lynx.
The key question remains what will happen once the outcome is announced, with provisional results expected on Wednesday.
However, the mere fact that Guineans could peacefully choose a leader nine months after 157 opponents of the ruling junta were massacred in a stadium in the capital, led to a collective sigh of relief.
“The relief is that everyone expected violence. But that did not take place. It is satisfying for everyone. Guineans were eager to vote,” president of the National Human Rights Observatory (ONDH) Mamadou Aliou Barry told AFP.
He however added that the “days and hours to come will be the most difficult.”
Guinean historian Boubacar Barry said: “This election is a relief for all the people of Guinea who can finally see the application of democratic principles.”
Foreign observers including the European Union, African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and US NGO the Carter Centre lauded “the commitment of numerous Guinean voters who went to the polls to determine the future of their country in peace and serenity.”
In a joint statement, they called on “all the candidates and their supporters to wait for the final results in the same atmosphere of calm and tolerance that prevailed during the election campaign.”
The poll comes after 50 years of dictatorship which started at independence in 1958 with president-for-life Ahmed Sekou Toure who ruled for 25 years.
His death lead to a coup by General Lansana Conte who kept an iron grip on the country for 24 years until his death in 2008.
This was followed by a year of disastrous mismanagement by a junta of young officers led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, including the stadium massacre of protestors against his regime.
Camara was wounded in an assassination attempt and junta number three General Sekouba Konate took charge to ensure the transition.
On Monday, many Guineans openly thanked Konate, who was the architect of the 2008 coup, for leading the country towards an election and fulfilling his promise that no soldier would be allowed to stand in the poll.
The Independent national Electoral Commission (CENI) was satisfied with the voting process.
“There were no reported incidents around polling stations or in the polling stations. This is extremely important for such an important election,” elections director Pathe Dieng said Sunday night.
The first results from Conakry and the surrounding area started coming in on Monday.
“It is very slow because polling stations closed late last night, because of long queues of voters,” said Dieng.
Definitive results are not expected before Sunday with a second round of voting planned for July 18 should no candidate achieve a clear majority.