- West Africa
- Conflicts - Election
Guinea: Election results raise ethnic tensions
As soon as Alpha Conde was declared the first democratically elected president of Guinea, violence broke out in pockets of Guinea’s capital, Conakry. The second round presidential election has pitted the country’s largest ethnic groups, Peul and Malinke, against each other. And Conde’s victory has not failed to polarize the country along ethnic lines.
As reports spread that Alpha Condé, a Malinke, had been declared the winner of Guinea’s presidential elections with 53% of the vote, bands of Peul youth began attacking Malinke homes.
Condé’s rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo had pulled out of the electoral process, citing alleged irregularities in the counting process.
The tension comes despite an agreement between both Diallo and Condé, before the election, to accept the election results peacefully and to contest them, if necessary, in the west African country’s courts rather than on the streets.
The military which is said to be majority Malinke, and blamed for a horrific massacre last year of protesters who had gathered at the national stadium to demand an end to military rule, moved in to tackle Peul protesters.
According to reports, the red beret-wearing soldiers had vowed to stay in their barracks during the election to allow a specially trained, blue-uniformed security force, known as the Fossepel, to handle election-related violence.
But at the capital, Conakry, the Fossepel fought to keep control of tire burning protesters at intersections until a truck full of red-berets showed up.
Guinea’s security forces reportedly arrested demonstrators, dragging them down the street and shoving them into the backs of their blue pickups.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher Corinne Dufka, an expert on Guinea, said injured protesters had been taken to the hospital, including some with bullet wounds.
The Peul and the Malinke have a history of acrimony dating to the rule of Guinea’s first dictator Sekou Toure, a Malinke who reportedly executed an untold number of Peul intellectuals after claiming to have uncovered a Peul plot against him.
On Sunday, rival Cellou Dalein Diallo held a press conference where he declared he would not accept the results if the election commission refused to throw out ballots from two contested of Kouroussa and Siguiri provinces which were swept by anti-Peul riots in the days before the November 7 poll.
Diallo had said his supporters were too intimidated to show up to vote and that his party could not even find representatives to observe the counting of ballots.
However, Sangare, the president of the election commission, said his office is only able to throw out results from precincts if there is evidence of fraud, and he does not have the means to verify the claims of intimidation. He said it would be up to the country’s Supreme Court to evaluate the complaint.
After the final counts, Conde won with 1.4 million votes, or 52.5 percent, and Diallo got 1.3 million of the nearly 2.9 million ballots cast, around 47.5 percent, according to National Independent Electoral Commission President Siaka Sangare.
If the counties in Guinea’s far north were to have been annulled, Diallo would have won by a tiny margin of 50,000 votes, the results show.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Guineans in the national interest to accept the results of the election and to resolve any differences through legal means.
Meanwhile, Patrick Smith of ’Africa Confidential’ has remarked that he expects ECOWAS to send a delegation shortly out of concern to calm the situation and maintain stability in Guinea to avoid any sort of crisis that might resemble those in Liberia and Sierra Leone that led to war in those countries.
According to Mr. Smith, the situation in Guinea currently resembles those in the neighboring states before their civil wars: a long history of corrupt governance and mismanagement of the countries’ vast mineral wealth.
Guinea is the largest producer of bauxite and one of the largest producers of iron ore. There is a six billion dollar project for iron ore extraction in the eastern part of Guinea.