Int’l. Contact Group Leans on Guinea’s Presidential Candidates to Sign Agreement Urging Peaceful Election
Two articles follow:
By Laurence Boutreux (AFP) – 1 hour ago
CONAKRY — Calls for calm rose on the eve of Guinea’s twice-delayed run-off presidential election on Sunday, with the two presidential candidates making a joint appeal for a peaceful vote.
Guineans will elect a civilian president in the country’s first democratic vote in more than 50 years, in a run-off race that has pitted the two main ethnic groups against each other, resulting in mistrust and violent clashes.
Presidential hopefuls Cellou Dalein Diallo and Alpha Conde came together on Friday night to issue a joint statement calling for calm in the troubled west African nation.
Poll favourite Diallo, 58, a former prime minister of Fula ethnicity, expressed the candidates’ “commitment to strive for a peaceful free and democratic election throughout the country.
“We urgently appeal to all citizens of our country to carry out their civic duty in peace, tranquility and serenity … and that they make election day on November 7 and the post-election period, a historic moment of rediscovered brotherhood.”
Conde, 72, a Malinke and veteran opposition politician, said: “We call on the authorities to make every effort to ensure the safety of one and all across the country. We reiterate our commitment to putting the best interests of our nation above all.”
The announcement followed a meeting with the International Crisis Group think-tank, which on Friday urged candidates to “refrain from fanning ethnic flames”.
Hostility has mounted between the two camps since the first round of voting on June 27 left them facing off in the final race.
A rumour that Diallo’s camp had poisoned water distributed at an election rally on October 22 which left scores of Conde’s supporters in hospital led to clashes which caused at least one death.
According to humanitarian organisations, as many as 2,000 people fled their homes.
However on Saturday, African Union special envoy in Guinea Ibrahima Fall said he was “reasonably optimistic” that unrest could be avoided.
“You’re never safe from a surprise but we are rather moving towards a peaceful election,” said Fall, welcoming the joint statement from the rival candidates which he said could “lessen the tension in the regions and Conakry”.
“We must avoid any inter-ethnic incident that will be taken to a national level, expanded, and cause reactions other than where it happened.”
The representative of the United Nations secretary general in West Africa, Said Djinnit, said he was “rather confident” that the vote would take place “in relatively peaceful conditions”.
President of the interim government, General Sekouba Konate, who has reiterated his haste to leave the presidential office, was expected to receive the two candidates on Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday, all of Guinea’s borders will be closed and traffic forbidden between 6:00 am and midnight to all but authorised persons.
Since January Guinea has been under the interim rule of a part military, part civilian government led by Konate, which took over from a junta that orchestrated a coup in December 2008 on the death of president Lansana Conte.
Guinea presidential candidates sign peace agreement
By Joe Penney, For CNN
November 6, 2010 — Updated 0741 GMT (1541 HKT)
Conakry, Guinea (CNN) — Both candidates in Guinea’s presidential runoff election signed an agreement Friday aimed at keeping the peace ahead of Sunday’s vote.
“We, Cellou Dalein Diallo and Alpha Conde … reiterate our commitment to hold a peaceful election,” said Diallo, who took nearly 44 percent of the first round poll held in June.
“We express our strong compassion toward all the victims of recent incidents,” Conde added. Conde won just over 18 percent in the first round.
The agreement was organized by the United Nations’ International Group of Contact on Guinea and under the presence of the U.N.’s top envoy for West Africa, the special envoy of the Economic Community Of West African States, and the Chinese, American, French, British, Spanish, German and European Union ambassadors.
Analysts are worried that the losing candidate might not accept the result of Sunday’s election, instead resorting to violence to have his message heard. Violent clashes and voter intimidation have marred the run-up to what would otherwise be Guinea’s most credible democratic presidential election in its 52-year history.
The Red Cross said Tuesday that 2,800 ethnic Peul supporters of Diallo were displaced over a two-day period last month, and many more commercial trucks and containers full of ethnic Peul have left the eastern towns of Siguiri and Kouroussa since then.
Those displaced said that they were threatened with death by the towns’ residents if they did not leave before the election.
Local officials for Diallo’s party claim the total number of displaced is between 15,000 to 20,000.
Many more people say they have not received their new alphanumeric voting cards, a major concern for the head of the electoral commission, retired Malian Gen. Siaka Toumani Sangare.
“People estimate the number (of people without voting cards) to be 70,000. That’s a lot, it’s true, and I recognize it. But what is very important and what people don’t say is that these voters are on both sides,” Sangare said to reporters after the meeting Friday.
Guinea has been ruled by a military junta since the death of longtime autocrat Lansana Conte in December 2008.
Many investors are waiting for peaceful, democratic elections to put their money into the coun