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Post-Election Mood? Kumbayah – Yes, but, Fraud Issues Are Beginning to Enter the Picture

November 8, 2010

Two articles follow.

Guinea urged to stay calm as votes are counted

By Laurence Boutreux (AFP) – 1 hour ago

CONAKRY — Guineans were urged to keep calm as vote counting got under way on Monday after a presidential run-off election praised as peaceful, a relief after a campaign marked by clashes between rival camps.

Despite fears of fresh ethnic violence no serious incident was noted as massive numbers of voters went to the polls to elect the mineral-rich country’s first civilian president since independence from France in 1958.

“The election went well, really, its a cause for satisfaction and we are waiting calmly for the proclamation of definitive results,” former prime minister Francois Lonseny Fall said on behalf of candidate Alpha Conde.

Candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo highlighted “the absence of violence” but accused his rival’s supporters of “attempted fraud in upper Guinea.”

The head of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI), Malian General Siaka Sangare, described the conduct of the vote as “peaceful, normal”, when meeting with journalists late on Sunday.

“Across the country Guineans voted in calm and serenity and above all with restraint,” he said.

In a joint statement the observer missions from the African Union, European Union and Carter Center hailed “the engagement of Guinean voters who turned out at the ballot box in great numbers to determine, in peace, the future of Guinea.”

They appealed to the “sense of responsibility of the two candidates and their supporters to maintain a climate of calm during the wait for the complete and definitive results…”

Provisional results are not expected before Wednesday and Guineans have been urged to keep focus in case of tensions arising around the counting of votes.

Speaking to AFP in Dakar, Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said it was difficult for Guineans to “override this long legacy of mistrust where the vote has been stolen from them”.

This election is hailed as the first trule democratic vote in the country, where the few elections held previously were widely rigged.

“The fear of violence remains high, the situation remains tense, both sides fear a winner take all scenario,” said Dufka.

“The Guinean people have to keep their eye on the ball, they have to focus on the big picture issues which are at stake here, which is the possibility for Guineans to live free of authoritarian regimes…”

A first-round vote on June 27 in which Diallo scored 43 percent of votes and Conde 18 percent, was followed by hostility between supporters of the two final candidates, who accused each other of planning to rig the vote.

The two final candidates were chosen from the country’s two biggest ethnic groups, the Fulani and the Malinke, and mounting mistrust and rumours of sabotage pitted the two groups against each other in a series of violent clashes.

Since independence Guinea has been ruled by “father of independence” turned paranoid dictator Ahmed Sekou Toure and later by General Lansane Conte, who took power in a coup in 1984 upon Toure’s death.

Guinea’s troubles deepened when Conte’s death led to another putsch.

In September 2009 security forces opened fire on a crowd protesting against the military junta, leading to the bloody massacre of 157 people which left the west African nation traumatised.

Despite enormous mineral wealth which has multinationals scrambling for their stake in massive bauxite and iron-ore stores, half the population lives under the poverty line, most without running water or electricity.

8 November 2010 Last updated at 05:22 ET
 Guinea election body seeks to ease run-off fraud fears

    * Can Guineans grab hold of democracy?
    * Did democracy activists give their lives in vain?
    * Country profile: Guinea

Guinea’s electoral commission has said it will publish the results from Sunday’s election run-off as soon as they come in, to assuage fears of rigging which could spark violence.

International observers have praised the peaceful nature of the presidential second round but warned the vote was just the start of the process.

The election is intended to end 52 years of strongman and military rule.

But campaigning was marred by clashes between rival supporters.

The candidates – former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo and veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde – come from Guinea’s two largest ethnic groups.

Election observers said the turnout had been high but no figures have been published.

African Union observer mission head Edem Kodjo urged the election commission to publish the results polling station by polling station to ensure transparency.

“It must be underlined that the electoral process is far from finished with just the close of voting,” he warned.
‘$64,000 question’
Continue reading the main story 
“Start Quote

    I’d like to think I’m voting for [Diallo] because of his ideas, but I’m mostly voting for him because the Malinke in my neighbourhood are constantly insulting us”

End Quote Mamadou Bah Peul tailor

Election commission head Siaka Toumany Sangare said the results would be published as soon as they came in.

But the National Independent Election Commission website has not yet published any second round results.

Bernard Kouchner, foreign minister of former colonial power France, called the vote a “historic achievement after 50 years of dictatorship”.

The BBC’s Alhassan Sillah in the capital, Conakry, says people are relieved that there was no trouble on Sunday but fearful that this could change.

He says the $64,000 question is: Will the loser accept the result?

The two candidates came together on Friday to issue a joint statement calling for calm during and after voting.

But on Sunday Mr Diallo said the campaign had seen “racial hatred – a hatred and a violence founded on ethnicity”, with members of his Peul community chased from their homes and his election agents too afraid to monitor the vote in one area.

Peul tailor Mamadou Bah told the AP news agency that he knew it was wrong to vote on ethnic lines.

“I’d like to think I’m voting for [Diallo] because of his ideas, but I’m mostly voting for him because the Malinke in my neighbourhood are constantly insulting us,” he said. “And we feel attacked.”

Members of Mr Conde’s Malinke community have also complained of being attacked by Mr Diallo’s supporters – even that they had been poisoned at a rally.

Guinea has been led since January by the interim government of Gen Sekouba Konate, who took over from the leaders of a 2008 coup.

The military seized power after the death of the autocratic President, Lansana Conte, who had ruled the mineral-rich state for 24 years.

Mr Diallo, a Peul, is seen as the favourite for the presidency after gaining 44% of the first round vote in June, compared to 18% for Mr Conde, a Malinke. The opposition leader later complained of fraud.

Despite being Guinea’s largest ethnic group, a Peul has never been president. The Malinke are heavily represented in the ruling military junta.

Guinea is the world’s largest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite. It also has important deposits of iron ore. But despite its mineral wealth, the country is one of the poorest in West Africa.

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