Guinea Poll Leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, Wants Talks on Mining Deals, Seeks Sidya Toure’s Backing
By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY (Reuters) – Guinea will re-negotiate minerals deals deemed unbeneficial to the West African state but not launch a wholesale sectoral review, the front-runner in the West African state’s presidential election told Reuters.
Former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo scored nearly 40 percent in the June 27 first round of a vote aimed at restoring democratic rule to Guinea after decades of repressive regimes.
He now goes head-to-head against veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde who scored 20 percent, in a run-off originally set for July 18 but now delayed by at least two weeks to allow rulings on legal challenges to the first-round result.
“The mining sector is vital to our country and if handled properly as the Guinean people expect, it could turn Guinea into an emerging country very quickly,” Diallo said in an interview at his home in the capital Conakry.
“We shall to try to modify them (the contracts) if necessary to ensure Guinea’s interests are taken into account. Only if talks break down would we take measures such as annulling them — we’ll annul nothing from the start.”
Diallo did not cite specific contracts signed in the country, which in recent months has seen a flurry of deal-making as top mining firms manoeuvre for control of resources including iron ore and bauxite, the aluminium ore.
But he noted that contracts signed under the junta that seized power after the December 2008 death of long-time leader Lansana Conte by definition lacked legitimacy because they have not been approved by an elected parliament.
“Inasmuch these contracts or conventions do not have the necessary legality … of course we will need to review those contracts to renegotiate them if we consider them basically sound but in need of adjusting the sharing of interests.”
TOURE THE KINGMAKER?
U.S.-listed Hyperdynamics Corp said on May 10 it won approval from Guinean authorities for an existing offshore oil production sharing contract (PSC) and a subsequent move to allot 23 percent of the PSC to Dana Petroleum.
Brazilian mining giant announced in April it paid $2.5 billion for a stake in miner BSG Resources to tap Guinean iron ore resources. UK-listed Bellzone Mining is finalising an accord with China Investment Fund (CIF) to finance the infrastructure needed for its Guinean iron ore project.
An adviser to Guinea’s Supreme Court announced on Sunday that final results of the first round would be announced on July 19 after numerous losing candidates complained of irregularities in a vote applauded by U.S. and European officials.
Such a timetable would mean the second round could not go ahead before early August to allow 14 days of campaigning by Diallo and Conde, who will now seek to secure endorsements from other candidates to widen their support bases.
The backing of third-placed Sidya Toure, a former prime minister who picked up some 15 percent of the first-round vote, could be decisive and Diallo made an overt appeal to him, hinting at a future role in government.
“I am seeking his backing for the second round because … I would have no problem working with him. We have lots of points in common in terms of our social plans, our visions,” he said.
But it is not clear whether Diallo, of the Peul ethnicity, can win over voters from the Toure’s Lower Guinea stronghold made up mainly of the soussous ethnicity.
Observers say it could take years to turn around an economy shattered by decades of mismanagement. But Diallo argued an improvement could come quickly with the restart of development aid frozen after the military coup, relief on foreign debt estimated at some $3 billion, and corruption-free leadership.
“That means that senior officials right up to the elected president must show their commitment to respecting rules and procedures,” he said.