Guinean Students Want Civilian Rule Soon

Guinea: Students want civillian rule soon

Laurence Boutreux

Conakry – Under an immense acacia tree outside the medical faculty, Guinean students of different ethnicity and politics share a coffee and a common view: a civilian president must be elected, and fast.

Some wanted to vote this coming Sunday, some wanted to vote next Sunday – the same disagreement between candidates Alpha Conde and Cellou Dalein Diallo whose presidential face-off was delayed for the second time… last Sunday.

The government late on Wednesday announced that the poll will take place on November 7, in a decree by the interim president, General Sekouba Konate, after long hours of talks involving the two candidates and the electoral commission.

The west African country has waited 52 years for a democratic vote, and a tense four-month wait for the second round has frayed nerves and heightened ethnic tensions. Like many, student Kabine Kamara, has had enough.

“I was born at the death of president Ahmed Sekou Toure (1958-1984) and I have never known anything but military rule,” said the 26-year-old of Malinke ethnicity.

He badly wants portraits of Konate unhooked from their spots in public places. Konate became president of the transition to replace coup leader Moussa Dadis Camara, who was shot and badly wounded by an aide in December 2009, a year after a coup.

Konate in January pledged elected civilian rule.

Peace of heart

“A civilian must be elected fast, fast, fast. To have peace of heart!”, said another student Arsene Bangoura, who is the same age.

“That would do away with the fuss of all this political and ethnic tension,” said the young man from the minority Baga.

“Before, we would never say in Conakry ‘he is Fula’ or ‘he is Malinke’, but the tension appeared since the final candidates were chosen” from the two ethnic majorities.

“If you are Malinke, you are immediately labelled as belonging to (Conde’s) Rally of the Guinean People (RPG). They have come three times to throw rocks at my home,” said Kabine, refusing to say who he would vote for in this “apolitical university”.

Leaving campus for a lunch of fish and cassava couscous, Aissatou Diallo, 30, says that while on university benches all ethnicities are equal, she is concerned about violence which targeted her ethnic group, the Fulani, over the weekend.

“We want the election soon, but when everything is really clear and calm,” she said.

New leaders

“My sister in Kissidougou (east), told me that there it is not calm. Malinkes smashed Fulani houses. People have left places where they were registered to vote. We must wait until they return before organising the vote.”

Like her candidate and poll favourite, Diallo, she hoped for a November 7 election.

In the same neighbourhood, Dixinn, near a small fishing port, men pile up mangrove wood brought from the villages. On a muddy road, a child of around five years goes to draw water with big plastic jugs.

As election build-up waxes and wanes, and tensions strain, the poverty-stricken country longs for a government to deal with youth problems, water, electricity and food shortages.

“We want new leaders quickly, so our situation can improve,” says Mamadou Sylla, 25.



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