Tue, Sep 14, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Guinea cracks down on protests

ON THE PRECIPICEThe continued violence threatens to undermine the ‘protocol of understanding for a peaceful election in Guinea’ the two political rivals signed on Sept. 3

AFP, CONAKRY

Guinea’s interim government on Sunday halted campaigning and banned demonstrations after two days of clashes between supporters of rivals in the presidential run-off left one dead and 50 injured.

The ban, which was due to remain in place until at least yesterday, came after Interim Prime Minister Jean-Marie Dore held an emergency Cabinet meeting to discuss the crisis.

Stone-throwing supporters of former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo and veteran opposition figure Alpha Conde clashed on Sunday in the suburb of Hamdallaye where both candidates’ political parties are headquartered.

The gangs also targeted vehicles in the area and the violence ended only after police and paramilitary gendarmes moved in.

Supporters of Diallo’s Union of Democratic Forces in Guinea and Conde’s Rally for the People of Guinea (RPG) party had also clashed on Saturday in three separate districts of the city before security forces intervened.

Government spokesman Aboubacar Sylla later said the clashes left one person dead and 50 injured.

The electoral campaign was “provisionally suspended pending a meeting Monday between the government and the two candidates who have already given their agreement for this meeting,” the government said in a statement.

It added that anyone who violated the ban on demonstrating would be brought before the courts.

A government source had earlier said that the campaign would continue on national television and radio.

Diallo and Conde are due to face off in a presidential run-off on Sept. 19. Diallo won 43.69 percent and Conde took 18.25 percent in the first round vote in June.

That vote was Guinea’s first democratic poll since independence from France in 1958. The impoverished west African state has known decades of autocratic or military rule, and is currently led by a military junta headed by General Sekouba Konate.

Most political parties claimed voting irregularities and fraud in the first round and the Supreme Court threw out the votes of two districts in the capital Conakry and three cities.

The RPG blamed Diallo’s party for provoking Saturday’s clashes, which it said left 20 people injured, six of them in a serious condition. Conde’s home was also targeted during the violence, a party spokeswoman said.

The violence followed Friday’s announcement that the head of the National Independent Election Commission (CENI) and a top aide had been convicted of fraud.

Neither Ben Sekou Sylla nor his head of planning, Boubacar Diallo, was present at the trial and their lawyers said they would be appealing.

Other senior CENI members have denounced the convictions as an attempt to undermine their work and even get the run-off vote postponed.

Conde’s RPG party has accused Sylla and Diallo of having manipulated the first-round voting records, and an aide to Conde has called for the CENI leadership to be changed.

The weekend’s violence further undermined an agreement the two political rivals signed in Ouagadougou on Sept. 3, in the presence of mediator President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso.

In the six-page “protocol of understanding for a peaceful election in Guinea,” Conde and Diallo undertook to “lead a peaceful political campaign ... in order to preserve the cohesion and unity of the country.”

They also agreed to respect the outcome of the vote, declared their “respect for the independence” of the CENI and undertook to ensure that their supporters accepted the result of the vote.

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