Police patrol Guinea capital after street battles
Mon Sep 13, 2010 1:21pm GMT
By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY (Reuters) – Police deployed extra forces around Guinea’s capital Conakry on Monday after street fighting between supporters of rivals for its presidential election left one dead and 50 injured over the weekend.
The violence prompted authorities to suspend all campaigning and rallies ahead of Sunday’s decisive second-round vote but so far there has been no move to delay the poll, aimed at restoring civilian rule to the world’s top bauxite exporter.
A police official said security forces were watching the large Conakry market of Madina where witnesses said stallholders had shut their shops and some had gathered stones for possible use if more fighting broke out.
“We have deployed men down there because tensions remain very high. For the moment we have no reports of any incident today, though,” said the official, who requested anonymity.
Madina market is seen as a potential flashpoint as it houses large groups of Guinea’s two main ethnicities — Peuls who largely backed former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo in the first round, and Malinke who mainly back his rival Alpha Conde.
Both Diallo and Conde were due to meet caretaker prime minister Jean-Marie Dore on Monday for a possible decision on restarting their campaigns.
“We do not want the situation to degenerate because we want the date for the run-off to be maintained,” said Ibrahima Diallo, a spokesman for Diallo’s UFDG party.
This weekend’s violence flared after a court last week jailed the head of the national election commission CENI and the body’s planning director for meddling with the results of the first round in June.
They were convicted after a complaint was filed by Conde’s RPG party, which argued Conde’s first-round score of 18 percent would have been much higher had it not been for such tampering. Diallo came out well ahead with 43 percent.
The RPG has called for an overhaul in arrangements to stage the run-off, including a greater role for the interior ministry, a demand which the UFDG sees as an attempt to stall the vote.
It is not clear who now controls the CENI or whether the election can go ahead until a new head is appointed.
Police used tear gas on Sunday to disperse crowds in several areas of Conakry. Conde’s RPG said one of its supporters had been killed by UFDG backers, but Diallo’s party denied any of its supporters had fired a weapon.
Guinea is seeking to return to civilian rule after a coup ushered in a military government following the death of long-time leader Lansana Conte in December 2008.