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Guinea Security Forces Fire Teargas to Disperse Protest by Women Accusing Konate of Preventing a Free Election

July 5, 2010

Guinean women, dressed in red, protest electoral fraud - Conakry, July 5, 2010

Guinea security forces b

reak march with tear gas

Mon Jul 5, 2010 7:18pm GMT

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY (Reuters) – Security forces in Guinea fired teargas to disperse a protest against alleged electoral fraud, called in defiance of a government ban on public demonstrations, a Reuters witness said on Monday.

Dozens of marchers, most of them women, had taken to the streets of the capital city Conakry to peacefully protest against what they said was fraud in the June 27 election.

Former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo won the poll with nearly 40 percent of the vote and will go forward into the July 18 run-off with second-placed Alpha Conde, according to provisional results released last week.

But losing parties in the poll, widely seen as the West African state’s best chance in half a century of securing democratic civilian rule, said they have evidence of rigging such as ballot-stuffing and falsified voters’ cards.

“I will not accept any public order disturbance by people contesting things for which they have no proof and while the Supreme Court has not pronounced its verdict,” caretaker prime minister Jean-Marie Dore told state television late on Sunday.

Candidates have eight days from Monday to lodge formal complaints with the Supreme Court, which will rule on the validity of the election within three days.

A Reuters witness said a peaceful group of several dozen protesters, mainly women dressed in red, crossed the centre of the capital city, holding placards accusing interim head of state Sekouba Konate of preventing a free election. Security forces were in close attendance.

The party of third-placed Sidya Toure, a former prime minister, is among those who called rallies in the central Kaloum district for Monday. Many of the demonstrators said they supported Toure’s Union of Republican Forces (UFR) party.

APPEAL FOR CALM

Conde, whose party, the Assembly of Guinean People (RPG), has complained of malpractice at some polling stations, said he was the victim of fraud in Conakry and elsewhere.

“There were many false voting cards … but I want peace in this country and I am asking the people to stay calm,” he told Reuters late on Sunday.

Election observers from the European Union and the Carter Centre said they were broadly satisfied with the vote, while noting irregularities caused by logistical problems.

Guinea is the world’s top exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite and a handful of mining firms are jockeying for position to exploit its iron ore resources.

A smooth poll would help draw a line under a turbulent 18 months of military rule since the death of President Lansana Conte in 2008 and open the door to further aid and investment.

Yet analysts point to decades of mismanagement in the civil administration and warn efforts to build the economy and a functioning political system could take years and require international help.

The Guinean army, with a reputation for poor discipline that was reinforced last September when security forces massacred pro-democracy marchers in Conakry, has maintained a discreet security presence during and since Sunday’s election.

Sekouba Konate, the soldier who took control of the country after former junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara was wounded in an assassination attempt late last year, has issued promotions to army officers for their part in securing the poll.

(Writing by Mark John; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

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