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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Guinee -Violences à Labé : Des gendarmes font irruption à l’Hôpital et commettent des exactions…

Violences à Labé : Des gendarmes font irruption à l’Hôpital et commettent des exactions…

Violences en Guinée
Des manifestants à Labé
Des manifestants à Labé

LABE-La tension est restée vive dans la préfecture de Labé ce mardi encore! Les forces de maintien d’ordre auraient forcé  les portes  de l’hôpital régional  et commis  des exactions sur le personnel travaillant, a appris Africaguinee.com de source hospitalière.

‘’Ils étaient à la  poursuite des manifestants. Ils sont tombés sur le personnel médical et ont commis des exactions.  Huit agents de santé ont été molestés par les gendarmes. Au service des urgences et de médecine générale, ils ont cassé les vitres, ils ont détruit les dispositifs de lavage des mains. Parmi le personnel, il y en a qui disent avoir perdu des téléphone, de l’argent. Quand ils ont cassé les vitres, les éclats sont tombés sur les malades hospitalisés. C’est la deuxième fois que les forces de l’ordre rentrent dans l’enceinte du centre hospitalier pour commettre des exactions’’ a témoigné un médecin qui a requis l’anonymat.

Interrogé par nos soins, le responsable de communication de la gendarmerie, le Commandant Mamadou Alpha Barry nous a indiqué qu’il n’était pas au courant de la descente des forces de l’ordre à l’hôpital.  Egalement joint au téléphone, le Commandant de l’escadron mobile numéro 8 de Labé, n’a pas daigné se prêter à nos questions : ‘’je n’ai pas le temps, s’il vous plait, référez-vous à la hiérarchie’’, a-t-il dit avant de raccrocher.

Contacté, le Gouverneur de la région n’a pas souhaité s’exprimer. ‘’Veuillez accepter qu’on apaise d’abord, après on vous dira tout dans cette affaire’’, a déclaré en substance le  Gouverneur Sadou Keita.

L’union des forces démocratiques de Guinée, organisatrice de cette manifestation déplore la répression de sa marche. Elle dit   avoir enregistré 25 blessés dans ses rangs.

Diallo Boubacar 1

Pour Africaguinee.com

Tel: (00224) 655 31 11 12

Opposition’s “Ville Morte:” Cop Kills Youth in Bambeto and RPG Plan to Send Its Storm Troopers to “Police” Neighborhoods

Today, Afriguinee is reporting that Mamadou Bailo Barry, age 21, was shot and killed at point blank range by a police officer in Bambeto.
The ville morte continues with most shops closed and traffic circulating, fairly unhindered, except for a few opposition neighborhoods where tires are burned.  This preventive measure is reasonable given threats made by an RPG on Saturday against opposition supporters.
Saturday, Africaguinee reported that a member of the National Political Bureau of the RPG, Mbany Sangare, made an appeal to party supporters to defend Conakry during the opposition’s Dead City Day, by setting up “self defense brigades.”  He said he wants to stop trouble before it begins. On Sunday evening, he planned to place brigades strategically around the capital to make sure the opposition, or the “anti-Guinean” as he likes to call it, doesn’t cause problems.  Continuing with his “unpatriotic” theme, he claimed the opposition planned the “ville morte” for the same time as Alpha Conde’s donors’ conference in Abu Dhabi in an attempt to sabotage his efforts.  “We must block the way of the saboteurs, bar the way of the anti-Guineans.”  Further, Sangare instructed RPG loyalists on the best way to “subdue” opposition supporters — “tackle them and take them to the closest police station.”
Self defense brigades, eh?  In most countries which operate under some kind of law,  these “brigades” are vigilantes, who don’t usually announce ahead of time their plan to attack people. If they do, authorities detain them.
Faced with a “vigilantes gone wild,” scenario, government spokesman, Damantag Camara, needed to do some damage control.  In another Africaquinee article on Saturday, Camara gave the administraton’s position: “It is only the government that has the authority to ensure the law.  In a state of law, it is the police and the gendarmes which ensure the security of citizens and their property.”
Well, since Guinea does not operate under a state of law, Mr. Camara’s comments are disingenuous. Based on three years of attacks by the Conde administration against the opposition, the government uses vigilantes regularly.  The vigilantes include Malinke militias,  Donzos, and foreign mercenaries which often operate in tandem, and always supported by state security forces. Generally, the presence and intentions of these groups are not made public ahead of time, which gives the Guinean government a modicum of plausible deniability.
Rather than its “self defense brigades,” the RPG will have its Malinke militias on the streets today and the potential for danger is high.  Yet, the biggest danger is if the militias enter the neighborhoods and attack the families of opposition supporters.  Then, Donzos and foreign mercenaries are likely components.
While it might not benefit the citizens of Guinea now and, providing Alpha Conde hasn’t finagled changes in the Guinean constitution from Abu Dhabi, the Guinean constitution’s rights to free speech and assembly are still protected.  One day, these freedoms will be respected.
Let’s see how the remainder of the day goes.

For a Real Time, Bird’s Eye View of Legislative Elections: Alliance Guinea

In the presidential election, Alliance Guinea used a fascinating program to receive real time reports of irregularities, allegations of fraud and violence.  It proved to be a revealing look into the election and, now, Alliance Guinea is using it again for legislative elections.

Go to Guinee Vote Temoin (Guinea Vote Witness) and check it out.

VIDEO: Is Guinea in Danger? Plus: Campaign Vehicle of Diallo’s Wife Attacked by RPG Youth and Set Afire, Fighting Among Youth in Conakry

2013-09-22 17:56:56

Nous venons de l’apprendre, le véhicule de campagne de Hadja Halimatou, épouse de Cellou Dalein a été attaqué et brûlé à Taouya par les partisans d’Alpha Condé réunis au coin appelé Kankan koura.

Le cortège de Hadja Halimatou qui partait en campagne à Taouya a été attaqué par deux groupes à deux niveaux différents. Ce qui laisse comprendre que l’action a été planifiée et qu’on l’a attendu pour l’agresser. En ce moment même, il y aurait des affrontements entre Malinkés et Peuls dans la zone.

Cela se produit au moment où des voix s’élèvent jusqu’en Europe pour mettre le monde en alerte face au danger que représente Alpha Condé pour la paix et la stabilité de toute la sous-région ouest-africaine (Suivre: La Guinée Conakry en danger). Dans cette émission on parle également du fait qu’Alpha Condé ne devrait même pas être président, n’ayant pas gagné dans les urnes malgré les fraudes organisées avec les ordinateurs volés de la Ceni (Lire).

GUINEA: Ethnic-Religious Violence in Nzerekore, Beyla

nzerekorebeylaNZEREKORE IS NEAR BORDER WITH LIBERIA AND BEYLA IS NEAR BORDER WITH COTE D’IVOIRE
Since an incident at a gas station on Sunday in Nzerekore, the administrative capitol of the Forest region, where a man of the Koniake (Malinke) ethnic group was shot by the station keeper, a man of the Guerze ethnic group, for stealing, the situation has escalated dangerously.  Aminata.com is reporting this morning that fighting continues in Beyla between the two ethnic groups and hospital quthorities say 40 people are dead, primarily by firearms and machetes.  Further, a least 100 people  have been wounded.  Health care facilities in the area are completely overcome.

 
Adding a religious edge to the conflict is the burning of churches (Guerze are Christian) and mosques (Koniake are Muslim).
 
And, a political twist.  Forest region natives Claude Pivi and Thiegboro Camara, members of Conde’s cabinet and long thought to be the primary perpetrators of the September 28, 2009, massacre in Conakry, have gone to the area of the fighting in the Forest region. 
 
Stay tuned . . . 

Opposition Leader Diallo: “They Said They Would Reduce My House to Dust”

with criminals (Conde et al., ed. note)
(Article translated into English via Google with editing by Guinea Oye)
At Saturday’s regular meeting of his UFDG party, Diallo said he was determined to continue the fight started for the
advent of a society of justice, peace and democracy in Guinea.  He also praised those who fought bravely to prevent
the police and young thugs who promised to reduce his house to dust, he said. “You saved my life,” he added.
Following, Diallo says his supporters have shown that they are upright and ready to defend their leader because,
he says, since these incidents, young volunteers sleep at his door, all night, all day. “They have not been paid.
They expose themselves to protect the president of the UFDG.”
“What is more shocking is the distortion of the facts. People came out to support me.  Along the way to the
courthouse, there were no incidents. We arrived at court and, after meeting with the prosecutor, we headed
back home. Along the way, the police came to disperse the activists with tear gas, they attacked us with hatred
and violence.”   In that moment, he said he descended from his car to ask the police to stop the violence against
citizens who had gone to attend a public hearing in court because no law forbids it. “The police started throwing tear
gas in front of me. Against this background, we arrived at the house. Afterwards, young thugs and police were
deployed to the sea to attack my home. They hurt a lot of young people. They said they would reduce my house
to dust and the youth resisted.” For Diallo, their struggle with against RPG militants is only beginning with Alpha
Conde. In his eyes, no policeman dares to attack his home without the tacit support of Alpha Condé. “For Alpha
Condé, my activists are not citizens of Guinea. While several of our members have been killed, Alpha Conde has
not lifted a finger to move them. Had he assumed his responsibilities, we would not have fifty supporters dead.
For Diallo, the solution is to get up to say” no.”
“What does Alpha Condé believe? He must know that Guinea belongs to all of us. There will be sacrifices, but the
truth will prevail. The truth is on our side. We are all Guineans and Alpha Condé should understand we will not
accept this. Remain upright.  We demand respect for our dignity. “
“You must understand that, if we do not fight, we have nothing with Alpha Condé. They are criminals  and we
have the right to live in Guinea.  If we continue the fight, God will soon… solve our problem. We need to join hands.
We have national and international solidarity. We have decided to suspend our participation in the dialogue. We wil
not sit down with criminals to discuss. All victims of violence should be compensated. “