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Reuters’ Samb Shows Us How to Pave the Way for the Loser to Look Like the Winner in Guinea’s Presidential Election

November 5, 2010

Honestly, we here at Guinea Oye! do have better things to do than dissect the reporting  by Reuters’ Saliou Samb on the Guinean election.  Yet, we are compelled to do so because Reuters is one of the few international news agenices to report regularly in English about the presidential election.  We want our readers to have a fuller and more accurate picture of what’s happening in Guinea than the articles produced by Mr. Samb.

Samb’s reporting, which has been condemned consistently on this site, is characterized by pro-Conde propaganda replete with half-truths, unsubstantiated rumors, slash and burn comments concerning Diallo’s campaign and precious little context.  Below is the most recent article from Samb and here is a brief list of things wrong with it.

-Samb consistently uses quotes from people whose interest and/or relationship to Guinea is not identified.  In this article in the third paragraph below, Samb quotes Rolake Akinola at Eurasia Group. A quick query on the internet reveals that Akinola is the West African analyst for Eurasia Group which is a political risk consulting firm advising corporations about where on the planet to invest money safely —  their motto is “defining the business of politics.”  Samb has a responsibility to tell the reader the relationship between people quoted in his articles and the issues they address.  Samb often uses quotes about Guinean issues from lobbying/consulting firm employees with no other identification that the name of their company.  It would be refreshing, and less partisan, if Samb quoted an academic occasionally. 

-Under the section entitled “Calls for Restraint,” Samb says the UN has warned the two candidates recently that if anything goes wrong in the election, they are responsible.  The problem is that Samb omits another significant excerpt from the UN tongue-lashing press release, missing the opportunity to inform his readers that there is another major variable in the election which concerns the UN  — the transitional government.  The UN states that the transition government has a responsibility to protect all Guineans regardless of ethnic origin, religion, or political affiliation.  The state security forces are notorious for assisting the Conde campaign commit political and ethnic violence against Diallo’s campaign supporters, many of whom are Peul.  By not educating the reader about this, Samb fails to provide a clear picture of what may unfold on election day and what it might mean.  

– Samb mentions, for the second time in the last few months, that Diallo’s lead may be dropping.  He says Diallo is concerned that the ethnic violence which took place recently, causing thousands to flee their homes for other parts of the country, may make voting more complicated.  But Samb doesn’t mention that the CENI has committed to establish special voting stations for these Guineans in areas where they are located now.  If the voting stations are not in place by election day, Samb’s readers will never know that a commitment was made to do so and that not doing so will reflect the government’s decision to disenfranchise it’s citizens.  This has nothing to do with Diallo losing support — if the special voting stations are in place, Diallo will win handily.  Also, Samb is avoiding the 800 pound gorilla in the room.  The reason Malinkes committed violence against Puels, by threatening them physically and destroying their homes and businesses, was to make them leave their home areas so they could not vote on election day.  These attacks were all planned in Conakry to disenfranchise Diallo’s supporters and involved the Conde campaign’s poisoning ruse with the full collaboration of the transitional government.  

-After saying that Diallo’s lead may be dropping, Samb toots his horn for Conde and suggests that he is gaining on Diallo.  Mr. Samb, it is a long way from Conde’s 18% finish to Diallo’s 44% finish in the first round and you know that Conde cannot legitimately win this election.  But, if Conde is announced the winner, it’s guys like you that laid the groundwork for it.

After all the carnage, plots, electoral fraud, mock poisonings associated with Conde’s campaign, the Diallo campaign has remained incredibly restrained.  As reports flow in today of Malinke violence against Peuls, the international community should know that many Guineans are sitting ducks.  Forcing this election, knowing that the state security forces will not protect all the citizens, is a profound mistake that will be paid for in the blood of poor Guineans who once were exhilarated by the prospects for their country of a democratic election — what a cruel joke.

PREVIEW-Guinea braced for ethnic contest with vote
Thu Nov 4, 2010 2:33pm GMT

* Ethnic violence complicates Guinea vote

* Street tensions will test security forces

* Smooth vote would bolster regional democracy

By Richard Valdmanis and Saliou Samb

DAKAR/CONAKRY, Nov 4 (Reuters) – Guinea’s presidential run-off on Sunday will be the toughest test of democracy to date in West Africa’s “coup belt”, pitting the country’s main ethnic groups against each other in a potentially explosive contest.

Outbursts of ethnic violence since the first round on June 27 have raised fears that Guinea’s only chance at free and fair elections since independence from France in 1958 could descend into chaos if the results are challenged.

The vote will come close on the heels of Ivory Coast’s Oct. 31 first round of presidential elections and a constitutional referendum in Niger, both of which passed off peacefully despite some fears of unrest. “In the West African sub-region, the momentum right now is fully behind smooth elections,” said Rolake Akinola of Eurasia Group. “But of all the countries now in the process of transition, Guinea is the most problematic.”

The stakes are high for the world’s top supplier of the aluminium ore bauxite, whose resource riches have attracted billions of dollars of planned investment from companies like Vale and Rio Tinto but where instability since a military coup in 2008 has hampered development.

Guineans eager to end decades of authoritarian rule voted peacefully during the first round but are worried the run-off — between former Prime Minister Cellou Dallein Diallo and veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde — could trigger unrest.

Supporters of the rival camps, representing Guinea’s two most populous ethnic groups the Peul and Malinke, have already clashed repeatedly as the run-off was delayed for logistical reasons, leaving at least two dead and dozens injured.

“Yes, I’m worried about violence,” said Alassana Camara, a supporter of Diallo in the capital Conakry. “I can say this because it has already started.”

Diallo, who took 43.69 percent in June’s first round, is Peul, a group making up about 40 percent of the population. Conde, who took 18.25 percent of the first round, is Malinke along with 35 percent of the country.

CALLS FOR RESTRAINT

Analysts said ethnic tensions pose some risk to neighbours Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast — all of which are still recovering from recent civil wars and which share Peul and Malinke populations.

The United Nations on Wednesday warned Guinea’s rival candidates against “exploiting ethnicity, religion, or any other divisive factor for political ends” and said anyone fomenting violence would be held accountable.

Analysts have said the tensions will also test Guinea’s security forces and military, which have a reputation for brutality bolstered by their massacre of more than 150 people protesting junta rule in a stadium in September 2009.

Analysts have said the Peul would be in no mood to accept defeat this time given Diallo’s position as vote-leader in the first round and their view that other ethnicities have ganged up to exclude them from power for decades.

But Diallo’s lead may not be as strong as it appears.

Diallo said last week that recent ethnic clashes in regions that favour Conde had displaced large numbers of his supporters from their constituencies, complicating their ability to vote.

Conde, meanwhile, has burnished his support with alliances with defeated first-round candidates Papa Koly Kourouma and Jean-Marc Telliano — both of whom did well in the large Guinea Forestiere region — and has strong support in Malinke stronghold Haute Guinea.

After complaints in the first round that some voters had to travel 20 miles (30 km) to vote, election officials have also been adding new voting stations in those regions — in theory making for a stronger turnout for Conde.

“I still think Diallo will win, but either way it will be necessary for the winner to include the loser in a broad-based government to keep tensions under control,” said Akinola. “And there will be a lot of pressure internationally for the loser to accept defeat gracefully.” (Writing by Richard Valdmanis; editing by Giles Elgood)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sbah permalink
    November 5, 2010 5:30 PM

    Dear magbana,
    I am writing to thank you for the impressive informative work your website is doing. I also would like to express my deep agreement with your analyses and warnings. Despite some difficulties in terms of connection, UFDG leaders have been exhorted to read your postings and ask mr Samb for who is working for?
    Many thanks for your hard work to move forward the case of guinean population.
    With regards,
    Sbah

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