President Condé postponed legislative elections and constitutional referendum until mid-March amid ongoing protests against his alleged intention to run for third term. Condé 4 Feb moved legislative elections scheduled for 16 Feb to 1 March, citing delay in issuing electoral cards, said constitutional referendum that could pave way for him to seek third term later this year would take place same day. Opposition parties Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea and Liberal Bloc 5 Feb said they would boycott referendum; National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups which oppose constitutional referendum, same day warned it would “go all the way” to prevent referendum. EU and U.S. 7 Feb expressed concern over electoral process, with EU calling for “inclusive dialogue” to ensure fairness of polls. Following calls by FNDC, protesters gathered 12, 13, 19, 20 and 27 Feb in capital Conakry and other cities. Clashes with security forces left one dead and many wounded in Conakry 13 Feb; European Parliament same day condemned violence against protesters, called on member states to stop funding and providing equipment to security forces. Electoral commission 13 Feb said it had removed over 500,000 voters from updated electoral roll released early Jan that added two million voters, but international criticism and rebuke from opposition continued notably about high number of voters in pro-Condé Kankan region. FNDC 24 Feb called on protesters to use all legal means to prevent “constitutional coup”; international association of French-speaking countries Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie same day withdrew its poll-monitoring mission, citing presence of 2.49 million “problematic” entries on electoral roll. Army chief of staff next day announced military patrols would be deployed throughout country 28 Feb-3 March; Condé 28 Feb postponed both polls by two weeks.
Guinea approaches the second free presidential election in its history under difficult circumstances. Unless the government convenes a serious dialogue with the opposition, it risks electoral violence and exacerbating ethnic divisions.
Overdue legislative elections in Guinea could rapidly degenerate into violence in the absence of consensus on electoral procedures.
Rising piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, which supplies around 40 per cent of Europe’s oil and 29 per cent of the U.S.’s, demands effective regional security cooperation and better economic governance to prevent the region becoming another Gulf of Aden. The full report is currently only available in French.
Unless Guinea’s main political actors agree on organising the pending legislative elections, there is a risk inter-communal tensions could spark violence that opens the army’s way back to power.
If the armed forces of Guinea are not reformed thoroughly, they will continue to pose a threat to democratic civilian rule and risk plunging the country and the region into chaos.
The killing of at least 160 participants in a peaceful demonstration, the rape of many women protestors, and the arrest of political leaders by security forces in Conakry on 28 September 2009 showed starkly the dangers that continued military rule poses to Guinea’s stability and to a region where three fragile countries are only just recovering from civil wars.
Originally published in Jeune Afrique
Originally published in The Guardian