Guinea Presidential Candidate, Cellou Dalein Diallo, Says Mining Deals Must Be Reviewed
By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY (Reuters) – Guinea must review billions of dollars worth of mining deals signed since a coup in 2008 to make sure the West African state is getting its fair share of revenue, election front-runner Cellou Dallein Diallo said.
Contracts signed by multinationals such as Rio Tinto, Vale, and Chalco should be reviewed fairly, in a way that encourages foreign investment vital for the country’s development, he said.
“We will do things in a calm manner. And if we find Guinea has been taken advantage of we will open talks with our partners,” UFDG party head Diallo told Reuters late on Saturday.
“We must protect (investors) because we need them to create employment, to create wealth in the country. These investors should be encouraged, protected and reassured by a government that does not discriminate but which is transparent and fair.”
Guinea’s election is seen as its best chance at drawing a line under decades of authoritarian rule since independence from France in 1958, and could help cement fragile gains in stability in a region rocked by three civil wars in a decade.
Diallou, who took nearly 44 percent of the vote in first round elections held in June, will face second-place finisher Alpha Conde, head of the UFR party, in run-off elections expected later this month.
But Diallo said he expects an easy road to the presidency after negotiating a political alliance with third-place finisher Sidya Toure and sixth-placed Ibrahima Abe Sylla that would bring him another 13 percent of the vote.
“I am confident,” he said. “I am approaching the second round with a comfortable margin compared with my adversary. In political terms, it is good to join up, to demonstrate a spirit of governing with others instead of just with the core UFDG.”
Months before Guinea’s election process began Rio Tinto
and Vale surprised many by saying they would spend billions on iron ore projects there, betting that contracts would be upheld by the next government.
“The issue is to ensure the interests of Guinea are protected by the deals,” said Diallo. “That requires verification, an audit to ensure that Guinea is not taken advantage of in these deals, and we need to do that.”
Last week, Rio signed a $1.35 billion joint venture deal with Aluminum Corp of China Ltd, known as Chalco, for Guinea’s huge Simandou iron ore deposit.
Diallo said that, if he wins the presidency, he will push continued reforms needed in the military — notoriously rife with alcoholism and prone to random violence.
A faction within Guinea’s army took power in a coup in December 2008 after the death of strongman president Lansana Conte, and forces under coup leader Moussa Dadis Camara earned pariah status after killing 150 protestors in September 2009.
Camara was since shot in the head by one of his soldiers and evacuated for medical treatment. His deputy, General Sekouba Konate took control, stressing military discipline forming a transitional government charged with setting up elections.
“I think the general has already started the reform. It must continue,” said Diallo. “The state must try to provide this army with the conditions of a republican army, a good structure, good equipment, discipline. I think this reform is absolutely indespensible for the stability of the country.”