September 12, 2010 / 8:23 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 2-Backers of Guinea election rivals clash in streets

* One dead as rivals clash on the streets of Conakry

* Diallo’s UFDG says convictions political, delaying tactic

* Government indefinitely suspends campaigning

(Adds government suspending campaigning)

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY, Sept 12 (Reuters) - One person was killed and dozens were wounded in clashes between supporters of rival candidates for Guinea’s presidential election in the capital on Sunday, witnesses said.

After the violence, the government said election campaigning had been suspended but there was no immediate threat of a delay to the planned Sept. 19 vote, which is meant to restore civilian rule to the world’s top bauxite exporting nation.

Police used tear gas to disperse crowds in several places. The unrest followed a day of violence on Saturday between backers of favourite and ex-prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo and his rival Alpha Conde ahead of a run-off vote.

“We have recorded at least one person shot dead by our rivals and have many injured. Our office in Hamdallaye (a Conakry neighbourhood) was ransacked,” said Moustaphe Naite, a spokesman for Conde’s RPG party.

Diallo’s party confirmed clashes took place but denied any of its supporters had fired a weapon and said they were attacked by Conde’s followers.

A Reuters reporter saw a pool of blood in the RPG office in Hamdallaye. Witnesses estimated the number of wounded over the weekend at about 50.

The clashes followed a court decision last week to jail two senior officials from the election commission, known as CENI, who were accused of meddling with the results of a first round of voting that took place in June.

“The decision is aimed at provoking the implosion of CENI and therefore delaying the election process so that the second round does not take place on Sept. 19,” said Soulaymane Bah, a spokesman for Diallo’s UFDG party.

Election commission president Ben Sekou Sylla and his head of planning El Hadj Boubacar Diallo were jailed for a year for illegally withdrawing some results sheets in the first round. Conde’s RPG had brought the charges against the pair.

“The government has suspended campaigning until further notice but we are not putting into question the date of Sept. 19,” government spokesman Aboubacar Sylla told Reuters.

FEARS OVER POLL

Even before the jailing of the election officials, some first round results had been cancelled and doubts emerged over poll preparations, raising concern that the run-off could be challenged and trigger violence. [ID:nLDE68112H]

Witnesses said the clashes on Sunday were over by midday, but a number of arrests were made. Diallo’s UFDG said 24 people were wounded in Saturday’s clashes.

Guinea is seeking to return to civilian rule after a coup ushered in a military government following the death of long-time leader Lansana Conte in December 2008.

Having won 43 percent of the vote in the first round, against Conde’s 18 percent, Diallo will go into the run-off as the favourite.

Diallo and Conde are from the large Peul and Malinke ethnic groups respectively and clashes between the two could break out if the outcome of the run-off is disputed. (Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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