Security forces stepped up crackdown on protests against President Condé’s alleged plan to run for third term, leaving at least six dead. Following calls by National Front for the Defence of the Constitution, coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups against constitutional change that could pave way for Condé’s re-election later this year, protesters gathered 6, 13, 21, 22, and 23 Jan in capital Conakry and other cities. Clashes with security forces left two civilians dead in Conakry 13 Jan, one in regional capital Labé (centre) same day, and three others in Labé 23 Jan. In strongholds of main opposition party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea in country’s centre, protesters 14 Jan vandalised govt buildings in Labé, Lélouma and Pita; 21 Jan reportedly ransacked police station and prison in Dalaba, freeing seventeen prisoners and looting guns; 22 Jan burnt down police station in Télimélé. Govt 24 Jan said constitutional referendum could take place in Feb. Ahead of legislative elections due 16 Feb, President Condé and ministers toured country and preparations continued. Notably, Condé visited Kindia (west) 6 Jan and PM Fofana visited Kankan (east) 14 Jan. Electoral commission 9 Jan said 40 parties had put forward candidates and released updated electoral roll adding over two million voters, prompting opposition to warn of alleged voter duplicates and irregular enlistment of minors in govt strongholds. Campaign launched 16 Jan. Constitutional Court 9 Jan heard seven members of electoral commission after they filed complaint to denounce commission president’s alleged mismanagement.
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