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Guinea’s Konate Committed to Holding an Election: Will Meet with Diallo and Conde Today and Give Televised Speech Tonight

September 15, 2010

Guinea military ruler Konate ‘committed’ to election
Guinea’s military ruler Gen Sekouba Konate has said he is committed to holding an election following calls for Sunday’s run-off to be postponed.

Gen Konate is to meet the two candidates in the presidential vote later.

He is then expected to announce whether the poll will go ahead as planned.

The preparations have been thrown into doubt by violence, sparked by the fraud conviction of two senior election officials.

The first round was seen as Guinea’s first democratic vote since independence in 1958, raising hopes of an end to military and authoritarian rule in the mineral-rich country.

The BBC’s Alhassan Sillah, who is in the capital, Conakry, says it is difficult to see how the elections can be held on Sunday, as a lot of logistical work still has to be done, such as transporting election materials to remote areas.
The head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni), Ben Sekou Sylla – who was one of those sentenced to a year in jail – died on Tuesday after an unspecified long illness.

Our reporter says Gen Konate is expected to make a broadcast to the nation on Wednesday night.

He has not spoken in public since the weekend violence, in which at least one person died.

But on Tuesday night, the minister for presidential affairs said Gen Konate remained committed to handing power to an elected, civilian government.

All campaigning has been suspended following the clashes.

Interim Prime Minister Jean Marie Dore said on Monday that public order was more important than holding the elections as planned.

Those remarks led to accusations by the party of one of the candidates – former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo – that Mr Dore was biased.

Mr Diallo’s Union of Democratic Forces in Guinea (UDFG) has called on Mr Dore to resign “in the interests of a trouble-free election”.

Mr Diallo is seen as the favourite after gaining 44% of first-round votes, but his rival, veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde, says he was defrauded of some 600,000 votes in that poll.

His complaint led to the conviction of Mr Sylla and one of his senior officials.

Mr Sylla died in France, where he had been undergoing medical treatment for several months. He went back to Guinea for the first round of voting before continuing his treatment in Paris.

Ahead of the run-off poll, tension is reported to be growing between ethnic Peul and Malinke – the two largest communities in the country.

Mr Diallo, a Peul, gained 44% of the first round votes, compared with 18% for Mr Conde, a Malinke.

A member of the Peul ethnic group has never been president and many feel it is their turn after previous elections were rigged.

The Malinke are heavily represented in the ruling military junta, which seized power after the death in 2008 of autocratic President Lansana Conte, who had ruled the country for 24 years.

Guinea is the world’s largest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite and also has important deposits of iron ore.

But despite its mineral wealth, most of its people languish in poverty.

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