Why Guinea’s Election Crisis Matters by Peter Pham

The Guinean opposition has always enjoyed the support of the overwhelming majority of Guineans, as evidenced in this 2013 video.

The following article appeared in the April 23, 2015 issue of the US News and World Report. You will not find a better assessment of the dire political situation in Guinea today.  The author, Peter Pham, is to be commended for his research and for parsing out the truth often masked by government disinformation campaigns.

Why Guinea’s Election Crisis Matters
The country is key to maintaining peace and stability in West Africa.

Guinea security forces and protesters on Monday, April 13, 2015.
By J. Peter Pham April 23, 2015 | 11:00 a.m. EDT + More

The international community breathed a collective sigh of relief following the recent presidential, parliamentary and gubernatorial elections in Nigeria. Although the competition was the fiercest Nigerians have ever seen and the polls were marred by some irregularities and a few regrettable episodes of violence, the graceful concession of the defeated incumbent president and the magnanimity of his challenger pave the way for next month’s historic peaceful, democratic handover of power in Africa’s most populous country. It is a significant milestone, not only for Nigeria, but for Africa as a whole.
But imagine what would have happened if President Goodluck Jonathan had rigged the election process or simply refused to accept President-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s win at the ballot box? That’s what President Alpha Conde is trying to do in nearby Guinea, a geopolitically sensitive nation in the same West African subregion, where the political upheaval and ethnic conflict being risked could easily spill over into neighboring countries, including Mali, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, all of which are just themselves emerging from prolonged periods of civil strife. Consequently, there is an urgent need for the international community to engage more robustly in Guinea. The good news from Nigeria should not be an excuse for complacency about the prospects for democracy and stability elsewhere in the region.
Moreover, we should not view Guinea merely through the prism of Ebola, despite the efforts of the incumbent president to blame everything on the epidemic of which his country has been the unfortunate epicenter, as he shamelessly did this past week in Washington. Even before the outbreak of deadly disease wreaked havoc with the economy, both urban and rural poverty were increasing during the president’s tenure according to his own finance ministry’s report to the International Monetary Fund. Unable to run on his weak record, Conde, in office since a disputed election in 2010, is using every trick in the book to remain in power. Recently, the regime has been increasingly blatant in rigging the electoral process to ensure that it “wins” the elections scheduled for less than six months from now.
The political opposition realizes that it is being railroaded by the government, which controls the so-called Independent National Electoral Commission. That body has rejiggered the electoral calendar to give an insurmountable advantage to the incumbent president, who has refused to engage in a political dialogue with the opposition for almost a year.
Frustrated by both the government’s intransigence and the international community’s lack of attention, the coalition representing the major opposition parties has taken to the streets to demand free, fair and transparent elections. The peaceful demonstrations, including a massive one planned for this Thursday, have continued despite the regime’s attempts to violently repress them. On Monday, for example, several protesters, including a 15-year-old boy, were wounded when live rounds were fired at them by police.
As a result of these demonstrations, Conde’s government has finally offered to renew dialogue with the opposition. However, Cellou Dalein Diallo, a free-market economist and former prime minister, and other leaders of the opposition coalition have declined to participate in talks with the government until two conditions are met: the pro-government electoral commission must cease to function and be revamped; and the timetable for elections which the commission unilaterally announced must be dropped in favor of one which represents the consensus of all stakeholders. Speaking from Paris on Wednesday, Conde rejected any change to the election timetable.
The preconditions are necessary because opposition leaders do not trust Conde and think that the offer of negotiations is little more than a clever trap, just fruitless dialogue designed to waste time as the electoral clock continues to tick.
The opposition is confident that it has the support of the masses. Of course, it will have to prove that assertion at the polls. But for that to occur, the entire electoral process must be free, fair and transparent. And the process has to begin long before the Oct. 11 date chosen for the presidential vote. The opposition is demanding, quite reasonably, that local elections that Conde has postponed on one pretext or another for more than four years be held before the presidential poll, in accordance with Guinea’s laws as well as the repeated promises of the president himself.
Why is this so important? First, there is no basis in the Guinean constitution for the repeated postponements of these elections and, as a result of them, as both opposition politicians and civil society leaders have pointed out, none of those occupying local government offices – mayors, local council members, ward chiefs, etc. – has a legal mandate. Second, as many observers have noted, the criteria under which these officials have been retained without the consent of their constituents has been their allegiance to the president. Third, these same unelected local officials, dependent as they are upon the incumbent for their livelihood, will be the very people who, at the grassroots level, will not only be determining who can register to vote ahead of the polls and who casts ballots on election day, but will themselves be counting ballots and tabulating results.
Opposition candidates and pro-democracy advocates alike fear, justifiably, based on their experience in the controversial 2010 presidential election from which many reports emerged of fraud, that the process will be corrupted. Thus, these activists have called on the international community, especially the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the European Union, France and the United States, to engage more energetically in Guinea to ensure a level playing field for the upcoming local and presidential elections. Deploying foreign observers to monitor polling sites on election day would be too little too late.
Why does Guinea matter? Why should the international community, with so many crises demanding attention, even care? Guinea matters because it constitutes a case of arrested development, a country which has never realized its ambitions despite extraordinary human and natural resources – among other things, it holds two-thirds of the world’s largest reserve of bauxite, and prodigious amounts of gold, diamonds, iron ore, graphite, manganese and other mineral resources – that could make Guinea potentially one of the richest nations in Africa. Alas, since independence in 1958, the country has been run by a series of authoritarian leaders who have ruled from the top down for the benefit of the fortunate few, not for the entire nation. Moreover, without credible elections, Guinea risks plunging into a profound political crisis and, indeed, outright conflict. Ethnic tensions are already being stoked and, in a region whose borders were very recently shown by the rapid spread of the Ebola virus to be all-too-porous, such conflicts will be impossible to contain.
To head off this very real threat, the international community needs to engage now to ensure free, fair and transparent elections yielding credible results acceptable to all Guineans. It not only matters for the people of Guinea, but is critical to maintaining peace, stability, and democratic gains of the entire region.
J. Peter Pham is director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.


Guinea’s New Prime Minister is … Wait for It …… Former Prime Minister Mohamed Said Fofana

PMFOFANAREAPPMOHAMED SAID FOFANA, former Prime Minister and New Prime Minister

(Photo Credit:  guineenews.org)

Around 9pm, in Conakry, a government spokesperson read a decree announcing that Mohamed Said Fofana would be re-instated in his post as Prime Minister.  Go figure.  Stay tuned.

Opposition Statement Provides More Details on Letter to Ban ki-moon, Monitoring Mission, Upcoming Elections,”Dead City” Day, and Whether to Seat Delegates at the National Assembly

Aboubacar Sylla, spokesperson of the opposition, read a statement this afternoon which provides more information on topics announced earlier in the day.  This is an excerpt.  If you wish to read this in French, please click on the link below.  Further below is the English version via Google and a bit of editing by Guinea Oye.
The Spokesperson of the Opposition: “ Our common position is to wait, some parties are not ready”
With respect to elections of September 28 we decided to enter the United Nations, inform the Secretary General of the United Nations in a letter which we reaffirm our refusal to accept the rigged elections, we reaffirm all fraud, all the imperfections, we remember everything that these elections have provided for us a real sham election and we attach to this letter provided sufficient documentation to attest to the truth of our accusations. This letter will also be sent to the African Union, ECOWAS and the European Union.

We also decided to send a letter to the authorities to take note of the end of the mission of the Monitoring Committee of the Agreement of 3 July 2013. We noted in effect that the cessation of its activities comes at a time when many provisions under the Agreement of 3 July have not been executed.

We want a permanent framework for dialogue to be established under the auspices of the international community to continue to place the provisions of the Agreement of July 3, including issues related to municipal and community elections to be held in principle before the end of the first quarter of 2014 and the presidential election in 2015 through change of technical operator, the recruitment of a new operator on the basis of international competition.

There are also many as you know obligations were subject to the authorities but not yet implemented, it is the neutrality of public administration, access to state media public service all currents of thought and opinion, compensation of those who were victims of the events that we have experienced in recent months in Guinea.

We also decided to organize a day ghost town next Monday, November 25. We therefore call on all people of Conakry to observe this day a day ghost town to protest against the resignation of the Supreme Court and the fact that this institution declares itself incompetent to judge electoral disputes, making our country the only country in the world where no recourse to electoral disputes can  be examined. 
We proposed to define our position with respect to our participation or not in the national assembly. As you know we had asked to see our respective bases for all political parties on the basis of consensus to consult with their different structures and arrive at a consensus decision. It is at the present day the work is not yet complete, it is a process of bringing ideas that sometimes takes time and some political parties have said they are not yet ready and cannot state their position on this important issue. So we postponed to the next day the decision on the participation or not of the Republican opposition to the next National Assembly. 

Guinea Opposition Postpones Decision on Whether to Seat Their Delegates Until Tomorrow, But Unveils Plans for a “Dead City” Day – 11-25, and Decides to Challenge UN in Letter to Sec-Gen Ban ki-moon

Africaguinee is reporting that the opposition asks supporters and sympathizers to observe a “ville morte” on November 25.  A “dead city day” is when shops are asked to close, people are asked to stay home and no traffic on the streets.  This is not a call for a demonstration, but might evolve into one.  Generally, over the last few years, dead city days have not been particularly successful.  The opposition best shows its strength and determination to persevere when several thousand supporters are in the streets.

In addition, the opposition has determined that it will challenge the UN, presumably for turning a blind eye to every lousy thing the government and the CENI did to steal the legislative election of September 28, and is formulating a letter to Secretary-General Ban ki-moon.
Still no decision on whether to seat its delegates or boycott the national assembly altogether.  The opposition says it needs more time to consider options, but hopes to have a decision by tomorrow.
Stay tuned . . .

Press Conf. on Prov. Election Results: Damantang Camara “Bogarts” Through Illogical Script

What can you say about today’s government press conference concerning the provisional results of the Guinean legislative elections?  One thing is for sure, Damantang Camara, the government’s spokesperson, is a sharp cookie and he was quick to make two things clear.

First, the government-CENI conglomerate would “Bogart” its way through the press conference without taking responsibility for much of anything on its plate.   Camara must have chuckled to himself when he dodged the gnarly issue of the government’s culpability in massive fraud by replacing it with a non-issue.  According to Camara, the RPG arc-en-ciel identified anomalies early on in the election, got to the complaint box well before the opposition and is now pursuing the irregularities.  While this is not particularly clear, it is bound to be less stressful than investigating your own fraud.

Second, the conglomerate would exploit the generous gift it got from the EU when the observer team said the “irregularities” were found in “eight out of a total of 38 constituencies.” It is not certain whether the opposition knew about the “8 out of 38” before the release of the EU statement.  If not, there may well have been an EU-conglomerate discussion about the need to “contain” the fraud.  Actually, the fraud is far more widespread than suggested in the EU statement and this is the reason the opposition is calling for the election to be annuled.

After Camara’s press conference, the opposition parties met.  According to africaguinee.com  Sidya Toure said they have not changed their minds – annul the election.

[Article translated into English – rough, but you’ll get the idea.]

Contested constituencies: the government decides on interim results

“Preliminary Results and annulment in the disputed constituencies” is the theme of a press briefing hosted by the Wednesday, October 9 Damantang Albert Camara, spokesman for the Government in the House of the Press Coleah located in the town of Matam , found on site Guineenews ©.

From the outset, before an audience of journalists, the spokesman of the government initially declined the outline of his briefing. He said the government acknowledges the recent comments made ​​by those who their (observers) accompany. Then he also said he came interact with media people on a number of points to raise ambiguities about the electoral process. And in the end, to enlighten the attention of journalists, the international community and all Guineans who are, according to him, hanging on the electoral process.

First, he stated that the government has noted with satisfaction that the international community continues to support them with advice, observations and recommendations in this process before we can hope that in the end they will be sure to have partners who will validate the electoral process.

Speaking of anomalies in some constituencies, the government spokesman said a number of observations should be made. “The first is that in general the defects and deficiencies have been identified by our partners in eight constituencies, which leads us to believe that in the thirty districts can legitimately consider that things are fairly and properly spent” s is it forbidden.

And adds: “The second finding is that the eight identified districts in which he seems to have had problems, defects, malfunctions and failures, these are terms that are used, you have two of the RPG-Arc Rainbow won the SMP, two UFDG, and four related UFR “Has he said before adding that regardless of these districts, there are others where abnormalities were found. But, he said, those who are the subject of debate are these eight districts.

As for accusations of fraud orchestrated in the election on 28 September, the spokesman of the government is clear, he argues that the movement was the first to assert: “The RPG Arc-en-ciel was the first to denounce anomalies even before the results begin to be published by the CENI. Immediately after the election the RPG Arc-en-ciel began denouncing a number of acts that were likely to undermine the credibility of the vote in some areas, “he said.

Regarding the electoral district of Nzerekore, the government spokesman lantern illuminates the saying: “A Nzerekore, we have about thirty thousand seventy thousand voters have spoken. But we also note that four hundred and some polling stations were canceled percent leads us to believe that this cancellation is to our detriment, “said he advised.

And he goes on these words: “Let us be very clear, these abnormalities affect us as well as everyone else. We are the first victims, and we also expect to exercise all remedies for normal is called “Has he promised.

As for the request for invalidation of the election on September 28, Damantang Camara said to have focus. “We are in misunderstanding over the annulment of the opposition does not say to whom the letter is addressed, nor what form it should take. We remain confident in the whole process and we hope that very soon the report of the CENI will eventually allow the Supreme courts to decide that the vote of Guinea is also well respected in the substance and form, “Has he insisted.

Whereas the conference, the Minister Kiridi Bangoura, a member of the Technical Committee for monitoring the political agreement July 03 was the false good.

The government is the briefing at a time when the so-called Republican opposition threatens to descend into the streets, occupying public squares in case if its demands are not taken into account. However, psychosis among the population continues.

Accusé de complot, Cellou Dalein réplique : « Le pouvoir a peur ! »

jeu, 26 sept 2013, 09:20    Posté Par    Interviews, La Une, News 9 5107

Accusé de complot, Cellou Dalein réplique : « Le pouvoir a peur, mais il a le choix, perdre ou tricher. S’il triche, on protestera »

« Annoncer un coup d’État à la veille des élections est suspect. Soit, le gouvernement a peur d’annoncer la mascarade ou de perdre les élections. Mais il a le choix. Si elles sont transparentes, il les perdra. Si elles sont truquées, l’opposition réagira. L’UFDG ne se reproche de rien. S’il y a fraude massive, que cela soit clair. Nos militants protesteront. »
Tels sont les propos de Cellou Dalein Diallo, le leader de l’Union des forces démocratiques de Guinée (Ufdg) en conférence de presse mercredi soir à Kamsar.  
Guinéenews : Le gouvernement guinéen accuse nommément votre parti, l’UFDG, de fomenter un coup d’État. Mais quand passerez-vous à l’action ? 
Cellou Dalein Diallo : Je n’ai pas encore un commentaire à faire dans la mesure où je n’ai pas eu la possibilité d’écouter la déclaration du ministre de la République. J’ai appris seulement qu’un ministre a cité nommément l’Ufdg comme étant à l’origine de ce coup d’État. Je ne me reproche de rien. L’Ufdg est un parti républicain qui se bat par des moyens légaux à travers l’organisation des marches pacifiques après avoir prévenu les autorités communales. Je ne suis dans aucune entreprise de déstabilisation du pouvoir en place. Continue reading “Accusé de complot, Cellou Dalein réplique : « Le pouvoir a peur ! »”

(FILM CLIP) Award-Winning Documentary – “BLACKOUT:” Reveals Conde’s Guinea, Where Only One-Fifth of Population Has Electricity, Forcing Hundreds of Schoolchildren to Leave Home at Night to Find Lights to Study By, Premieres at Los Angeles Film Festival, June 15

On June 15, the award-winning documentary film, “Blackout,” will debut at the Los Angeles Film Festival.   In the U. S., there is no bigger nor prestigious film festival, which means “Blackout” is sure to be seen by thousands.  The film profiles the pilgrimage of Guinean schoolchildren who, lacking electricity in their homes, seek out lighted areas at night to study — airport, petrol stations, roundabouts.

Recall that there have been several demonstrations concerning the lack of electricity in the poorer suburbs of Conakry and throughout the country over the last few months. Many of the protesters have been children.  Guinea’s national exams are taking place now and the children’s need for light to study by grows exponentially.

With the debut of this film in Los Angeles in two weeks, Americans will know that in addition to all the  other injustices meted out by the Guinean government, the shame of children having to travel to lighted areas, far from home, to study can be added. And, all that mining revenue . . .

A trailer for the film appears further below after this introduction:

From the Indiewire blog:
 Described as a literal and metaphorical journey towards enlightenment, director Eva Weber’s award-winning documentary Black Out, will have its West Coast Premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in the International Showcase in mid-June.Synopsis reads: 

Every day during exam season, as the sun sets over Conakry, Guinea, hundreds of school children begin a nightly pilgrimage to the airport, petrol stations and wealthier parts of the city, searching for light. This evocative documentary tells how children reconcile their lives in one of the world’s poorest countries with their desire to learn, in the face of the country’s own struggle for change.

Only about a fifth of Guineans have access to electricity. With few families able to afford generators, children have discovered the international airport, petrol stations and traffic roundabouts as unlikely places to study for their exams. They are amongst the only places where they will always find light.

This film had its world premiere at IDFA in November and has since won prizes on the international festival circuit. It was developed in association with Chicken & Egg Pictures.

The film’s LAFF screenings are scheduled for SaturdayJune 15 at 5 PM and Friday, June 21 at 9:50 PM