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UN Envoy Due in Guinea Thursday to Defuse Political Tensions Before Presidential Poll Run-Off

September 15, 2010

UN envoy heads to Guinea to defuse political tensions before presidential poll run-off

15 September 2010 –The top United Nations official in West Africa is heading to Guinea tomorrow for talks with the country’s presidential candidates, electoral authorities and other prominent politicians to try to resolve the tensions that have led to deadly clashes ahead of the run-off round in long-awaited presidential elections.

Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, told the UN News Centre that he hopes the dialogue will help ensure there is no repeat of the political violence that claimed at least one life last weekend in the capital, Conakry.

“I am very concerned about the situation,” he said. “We all deplore the violence and we will do everything we can to assist Guinea to try to defuse the tensions.”

His office, known as UNOWA, is consulting closely with the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The run-off round of the presidential election is due to be held this Sunday, but Mr. Djinnit said technical and logistical problems “made it almost impossible” for the ballot to be successfully staged then.

He said he had received reports indicating that the run-off round may be postponed for two weeks.

Cellou Dalein Diallo and Alpha Conde will contest that round after they scored the highest number of votes of 24 candidates who entered the first round in June.

Those polls were widely considered to be the first free elections in a country that has been plagued by misrule, dictatorships and coups since independence in 1958.

But tensions have risen since then because of delays in counting the votes and technical problems associated with staging the second round.

The head of Guinea’s electoral commission reportedly died overnight on Monday, a week after he was convicted of falsifying results in the first round of the presidential race.

Mr. Djinnit urged Guinea’s political players not to waste the opportunity to make progress, given it comes less than a year after members of the military shot more than 150 unarmed demonstrators who had been participating in a peaceful pro-democracy protest on the streets of Conakry. Countless others were sexually assaulted or otherwise physically attacked.

International condemnation, including from senior UN officials, followed and a Government of national unity was established in January as part of a transition to a more democratic order.

“They have made so much progress,” Mr. Djinnit noted. “They are so close to victory and success. It would be so sad if they missed it at this late hour.”

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