November 16, 2010 / 5:17 AM / in 8 years

Guinea poll winner Conde calls for calm, unity

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinean presidential poll-winner Alpha Conde and defeated rival Cellou Dalein Diallo urged calm on Tuesday after all-night celebrations by Conde supporters were tainted by sporadic gunfire in the streets of the capital.

Guinea's Alpha Conde addresses a campaign rally in Conakry, October 22, 2010. REUTERS/Joe Penney

After a tense wait for election results, Guinea’s election commission late on Monday named veteran opposition leader Conde winner of the November 7 election with 52.5 percent of the vote in the world’s top bauxite exporter.

The centre of the capital Conakry was calm on Tuesday, a Muslim holiday, after a night of dancing and blaring car horns. Conde later toured the town centre to cheers from supporters.

However residents in Diallo’s strongholds in the outskirts of Conakry reported security forces shooting to keep people indoors while groups of youths threw rocks at them. One human rights group accused security forces with a record of poor discipline of using excessive force.

The poll was the country’s first free vote since independence from France in 1958 and is meant to draw a line under almost two years of military rule.

In his first statement after the result, Conde said he wanted to be a president of reconciliation and hinted at some role for Diallo in a future government, though gave no details.

“Time has come to reach out in a spirit of brotherhood to tackle together and immediately, the numerous challenges the country faces,” Conde said on French radio RFI.

“That will only be possible in a calm atmosphere and with the cooperation of all Guineans.”

Ahead of the election, Diallo and Conde agreed to include whoever lost in any future government.

Diallo said he would mount a challenge in the Supreme Court but urged supporters to remain calm and disciplined. “We must, at all costs, maintain peace in this country,” he told French RFI radio. The Supreme Court has eight days to make its ruling.

FORCED INDOORS

There are fears that Diallo’s mainly Peul supporters might react violently to the result.

“Everybody has been urging calm and tranquillity and it has largely worked out so far,” Said Djinnit, the top U.N. official in West Africa told Reuters. “The leaders must do everything possible to maintain an atmosphere of calm.”

“I see defence forces doing their utmost to exercise restraint, but they don’t always succeed,” Djinnit added.

Residents in Cosa, Bambeto and Simbaya — all Diallo strongholds on the outskirts of Conakry — said there had been sporadic gunfire overnight and into Tuesday morning.

“The (presidential guard) is forcing us to stay inside. There is lots of shooting and the youth are fighting back by throwing stones,” said Souleymane Bah, a Bambeto resident.

Calm was restored later but several dozen people had been wounded and at least one person died during a security crackdown that began on Monday, according to Human Rights Watch.

“In the face of such high levels of communal tensions, the security forces need to act assertively, yet, use all means necessary before resorting to force, especially lethal force,” said Corinne Dufka, the group’s senior West Africa researcher.

“Chasing people inside their homes, beating them severely, and shooting them unnecessarily crosses this line,” she added.

Although the first round of voting was held in June without too many incidents, it was followed by weeks of wrangling between Conde and Diallo over the results, allegations of fraud and the leadership of the election commission.

Ahead of the run-off vote, the two rivals pledged to include whoever lost in a future government, but some fear ethnic-fuelled wrangling could lead to more trouble.

“Ethnic tensions could be a trigger for a military return to politics,” Eurasia group analyst Rolake Akinola warned.

Mining firms which have invested billions of dollars in the development of Guinea’s iron ore and bauxite reserves have said they look forward to working with an elected government.

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