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.

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CENI Announces Provisional Numbers for All Legislative Elections Held on September 28

Under heavy security at the Palais du Peuple (the National Assembly)
the President of the CENI, Bakary Fofana, delivered the full set of provisional numbers.  
Note that the opposition continues to demand for the election to be annulled.
 
Below are two links which will take you to the Africaguinee website which has posted the numbers. The site is in French.  When we get a good English version, we will post it on Guinea Oye.
 
Stay tuned.

International Community Reps Pressure Guinea Opposition Leaders and Get, Pretty Much, Nowhere

Said Djinit arrived in Conarky from Dakar on Friday night and spent much of the day on Saturday visiting with the primary opposition leaders at their homes:  Lansana Kouyate, Sidya Toure, and Cellou Dalein Diallo.  Djinnit was supposed to visit with representatives of Conde’s party, the government and the CENI, yet there is no news about whether this happened, or, if it did, what came out of it.  Djinnit spoke with Africaguinee to indicate what he thought the next steps should be.  He stressed the need for the opposition to stick with the CENI vote counting process to its conclusion. After this, he suggests that if the opposition has outstanding “irregularities” or issues of fraud, it should take its case to the Supreme Court, adding that the Court should review the case fairly!

Late last night, the opposition signaled its reaction to the visit of the international community representatives. Diallo met late yesterday with his party supporters at their UFDG headquarters in Hamdallaye.  He told them to be ready to hit the streets for a demonstration if the CENI proceeds to validate the election results, which the opposition claims are massively fraudulent.
 

Said Djinnit was accompanied in these visits by US ambassador, Alex Laskaris, French ambassador, Bertrand Cochery, and EU representative Philippe Van Damme. Ambassador Laskaris offered to examine the irregularities and fraud identified by the opposition and  determine whether or not they “affect” the overall election.  Given that the opposition says the fraud is massive and widespread, such a comment from Laskaris suggests that, at the outset, he is trying to discount opposition concerns.

The other two primary opposition leaders, Sidya Toure (UFR) and Lansana Kouyate (PEDN), also maintain their call for the CENI to annul the election and request their followers to be at the ready. 

Guinean Government Calls for Decent Run-Off Polls

Guinean government calls for decent run-off polls

Conakry, Guinea – The Guinean government has charged Cellou Dalein Diallo and Alpha Conde, the two contestants in the run-off of the presidential elections scheduled for 19 September to run ‘civilized campaigns,’ which began Sunday, PANA reported.

The Minister for Communications, Aboubacar Sylla urged both leaders to apply ‘wisdom and responsibility’ during the campaigns, urging them to ban invectives and other personal attacks but to, instead, offer voters ‘coherent society-oriented p rogrammes.’

Mr. Sylla said the campaigns will be held in ‘exceptional context’ and regretted the recent incidents by supporters of both contestants, indicating that the Guineans yearn for ‘a true democratic state’ after 52 years of independence.

‘Guinea is at the crossroads (…), I ask the two leaders to conform to the recent agreement on the code of good conduct they signed in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), under the auspices of the mediator, President Blaise Compaore.

Both candidates Friday signed in Ouagadougou, an agreement on ‘a code of good conduct’ and pledged to comply with it before, during and after the elections, to prevent ‘arousing conflicts in Guinea and the sub region.’

Both candidates, who have forged alliances for the second round, go door-to-door for several weeks within the neighbourhoods to sensitize voters.

The leader of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) Cellou Dalein Diallo, who came first in the first round of the ballots with 43 per cent of votes cast, signed an agreement with a section of the former ruling party, the Party of Unity and Progress (PUP), whose candidate, Alhaji Aboubacar Sompare, scored only 0.69 per cent of the votes cast.

Diallo also forged partnerships with another presidential candidate, Sidya Toure of the Union of Republican Forces (UFR), who came third, with 13 per cent of the votes and Ibrahima Sylla Abe of the New Generation for the Republic (NGR), who garnered three per cent of the votes cast.

The two agreements sparked debate, prompting some elements of the merged groups, as well as young supporters, to express discontent for not being consulted before hand on the issue.

Conakry – Pana 06/09/2010

UFDG Campaign Manager, Fofana, Concerned About Vote Rigging in Dixinn and Ratoma Municipalities in Conakry

Guinea-Elections-Politics  
 
Tension reins in Guinean party HQ before release of provisional results
 

APA-Conakry (Guinea) Tension is palpable at the headquarters of some political parties, especially that of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) of Cellou Dalein Diallo, whose campaign manager Dr Fode Oussou Fofana openly suspects the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of rigging the elections in Dixinn and Ratoma municipalities in Conakry.

This tension comes on the eve of the announcement on Tuesday afternoon by the INEC of the first trends of 27 June presidential poll results.

Fofana justified his accusations by “the slow vote-counting. This could have serious consequences,” he told reporters on Monday.

The same atmosphere of tension prevails at the Rally of the People of Guinea (RPG) of Alpha Conde and the Union of Republican Forces (UFR) of Sidya Toure.

To avoid surprises, these parties centralize all results in their respective headquarters.
 
MDB/od/ad/daj/APA
2010-06-29