Guinea’s opposition has called for a re-run of the weekend’s first-round of the presidential vote, condemning that the ballot was fraudulent even before the results and have been released, and pledging to take to the streets in protest.
Speaking at a press, which was attended by the six other candidates challenging incumbent President Alpha Conde, opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo stated, “we cannot accept this ballot, we request it be annulled. We will not accept the results of this vote…We will not give in, we have the right to demonstrate, we will demonstrate.” While the other six candidates have questioned the vote, none have called for a protest. The single woman running for election, Marie Madeleine Dioubate, urged her supports to “stay calm, stay off the streets.”
Despite clashes between Conde and Diallo supporters in the final days of the campaign, which left a dozen people dead, voting was peaceful though the opposition complained about logistical problems. Sources have disclosed that some polling stations opened late, while others were short of envelopes. Some voters turned up without voter ID cards while others failed to be listed on the registers. Some registers were neither in alphabetical nor numerical order. Voters however appeared to have turned out in massive numbers for Sunday’s polls. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the peaceful vote and has urged all sides to refrain from any action that could lead to violence ahead of the release of the official results, which are expected Tuesday at the earliest.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has released an arrest warrant for Ivorian ex-minister Charles Ble Goude pertaining to charges over war crime allegations. According to the ICC, he is wanted for alleged crimes against humanity which occurred during the violence that erupted following the 2010 disputed elections in the Ivory Coast. Meanwhile in Guinea, the country’s President has called on the opposition to accept the results of Saturday’s vote. While the provisional results have yet to be announced by the country’s electoral commission, security in the capital city has increased as the atmosphere has been tense.
ICC Makes 2011 Arrest Warrant Public
While the Ivory Coast’s Charles Ble Goude, 40, has denied leading pro-Laurent Gbagbo militias in the violent attacks that occurred shortly after the 2010 elections, the ICC has indicated that Mr. Ble Goude, who is currently detained in the Ivory Coast, is suspected of murder, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts that were committed between December 2010 and April 2011. During that time, some 3,000 people lost their lives in the crisis after ex-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat. Judges in The Hague have stated that forces loyal to former President Gbagbo targeted civilians who backed his opponent, the Ivory Coasts current President Alassane Ouattara. Although the arrest warrant for Mr. Ble Goude was issued in December 2011, it has only now been made public and it describes the Ivorian ex-minister as a member of Mr. Gbagbo’s “inner circle.”
Following the post election violence, Mr. Ble Goude spent more than eighteen months in hiding. He was arrested in January 2013 in Ghana and extradited to the Ivory Coast, where he also faces war crimes charges. He has previously stated that as head of the Young Patriots group, he had only organised rallies and meetings and that he never ran a militia. Mr. Ble Goude, who was placed under United Nations sanctions in 2006 for allegedly inciting attacks against UN personnel, has indicated that he is prepared to go in front of the ICC in order to clear his name.
Ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, 67, was arrested in 2011 and is currently awaiting trial, on four charges of crimes against humanity relating to the election violence, at The Hague. The former president’s wife, Simone Gbagbo, has also been indicted by the ICC however the Ivory Coast’s ministers have voted to dismiss the ICC warrant and have instead indicated that they will try her in the country’s own courts.
Tensions Increase as Guineas Await Election Results
On Wednesday, in the midst of security being increased throughout the capital city amid fears of violence, Guinean President Alpha Conde urged party leaders to accept the results of the September 28 legislative polls. While the results have not yet been confirmed, the President has praised the vote, calling it the dawn of democracy in the West African state which has been chronically hit with instability. During Conde’s speech, which marked the 55th anniversary of Guinea’s independence from France, the President stated “I would like to say how proud I am…of your amazing mobilization to make these legislative polls a real success.” The 75-year-old added that the election “has allowed us to take another step on the path to democracy.” However while the president has urged for calm as the election results begin to trickle in, the country’s main opposition parties have already stated that the elections were rigged. On Tuesday, Guinea’s electoral commission released some partial and provisional results. Although full provisional results had been due to be released on Wednesday, officials indicated late on Tuesday that tally sheets were still being transported from polling stations.
On Wednesday, police and military reinforcements were visible on the streets of Conakry, with barricades being set up around the headquarters of the electoral commission. Despite the independence day bank holiday, an increased number of shops and market stalls remained shut as the atmosphere continued to be tense.
A gun battle between Malian soldiers and suspected separatist rebels has erupted in the northern town of Kidal, sparking concerns that the violence could escalate amidst already rising tensions. Meanwhile in Guinea, polling stations have begun to announce the preliminary results after Saturday’s elections.
Northern Mali Tense After Two Days of Clashes
On Sunday, the Malian army came under attack from gunmen in the northern rebel stronghold of Kidal. The regional governor has confirmed the attack, which appears to be a sign that violence is intensifying against the army after peace talks with Tuareg rebels broke down last week. According to a source in Adama Kamissoko’s office, “fighters from the MNLA came armed into the city centre, not far from a bank where there were Malian troops. They never wanted the army around. The army fired warning shots, and a firefight began.” The governor has indicated that the exchange ended after more than an hour with “some wounded,” however it was not immediately clear whether the casualties were soldiers or militants.
International troops and UN peacekeeping forces, who were already present in the city, were deployed after the attack in order to protect the town hall, where the governor lives and works. According to Kamissoko’s office, the gunmen were separatist rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which is the main Tuareg group that is involved in the peace talks. A statement released by the MNLA has accused Malian troops of “flagrant aggression” in Kidal, stating that three of its fighters had been injured in exchanges of fire.”
Since Tuareg rebels, who are claiming autonomy for northern Mali, pulled out of peace talks on Thursday, there have been two militant attacks that have been carried out on Malian soldiers in the northern regions of the country. On Saturday, four suicide bombers blew up their car at a military barracks in the city of Timbuktu. Two civilians were killed and six troops were wounded. This attack occurred less than twenty-four hours after militants threw grenades at the army in Kidal, wounding two soldiers. Although no Islamist militant group has claimed responsibility for the recent attacks, many have blamed them on militants belonging to the MNLA.
While the Malian government urged Malians to remain calm after Saturday’s attacks, stating that security was being enhanced across the country, the breakdown in peace talks, coupled with an increase in attacks, has dealt a blow to hopes that peace will last in the troubled West African nation. A statement released by the government indicated that “the multiplication of these attacks shows that the war against terrorism is not over and that the security situation remains fragile throughout the Sahel-Saharan region.”
In February of this year, the MNLA took control of Kidal after the French-led military operation ousted al-Qaeda-linked fighters who had taken advantage of the latest Tuareg rebellion to seize most of northern Mali. Although Malian authorities reclaimed the city after signing a ceasefire accord with the MNLA, the situation has remained tense. The June 18 Ouagadougou accord between the rebels and the government effectively enabled the Malian military to return to Kidal in order to prepare for the July presidential elections, which saw Ibrahim Boubacar Keita elected President. The agreement, which was signed in Burkina Faso, outlines that the government and rebels agreed to respect the country’s territorial integrity and that they will hold peace talks that will focus on the status of northern Mali, which the Tuaregs call Azawad. However on Thursday, the Tuareg rebels indicated that the government had not kept its commitments to start prisoner releases, and therefore they would pull out of any further discussions.
Elections in Guinea
Meanwhile in Guinea, the first polling stations across the country began to declare the results of Saturday’s elections. On Saturday, the country’s voters chose from more than 1,700 candidates vying for 114 seats in a national assembly that will replace the transitional body that has been running the country since military rule came to an end in 2010. Sources have indicated that there were no major incidents reported on Saturday. Guinea’s election commission has announced that it will publish “partial and provisional” results on Monday and Tuesday prior to releasing the preliminary results on Wednesday, which will show the full picture across the country. Under Guinea’s election law, the supreme court has to confirm the final results within ten days of polls closing.
While opposition activists, election observers and local media have reported that there were logistical problems in many polling stations, which prevented people from voting, including shortages of indelible ink, envelopes and delays in the provision of electoral lists, the observation mission of the Economic Community of West African States, which is made up of 100 observers who are led by former Togolese prime minister Edem Kodjo, has stated that the elections “were held in acceptable conditions of freedom and transparency.” The vote, which was originally due to be held within six months of the swearing-in of President Alpha Conde in 2010, had been delayed amidst disputes pertaining to its organization, resulting in violence between government and opposition activists.
Guinea’s long-delayed legislative elections, which were scheduled to occur on Tuesday, have been postponed by four days to September 28 after talks were held on Saturday in Conakry between the opposition and the government. The talks over the weekend come after Guinea’s main opposition leader threatened to call protests if officials went forwards with the elections without fully addressing the complaints pertaining to preparations. The opposition has complained that the voter list contains a number of errors, effectively meaning that many of its supporters have been left off the list while some people have been registered several times. It has also complained that polling stations in oppositions strongholds have been scattered far apart, meaning that voters would have to travel far and therefore would be less likely to vote. Following Saturday’s talks, Cellou Dalein Diallo, the main opposition leader, has stated that although he wants a longer delay in order to fix the issues, he is satisfied with the compromised date of September 28.
The elections are meant to complete the country’s transition back to civilian rule however they have been repeatedly delayed since current President Alpha Conde was elected three years ago. These delays have effectively created doubts about the political progress not only amongst Guineans, but investors and donor. The West African nation’s economic growth forecast has been cut to 2.9 percent for this year, down from 4.5 percent. This is a result of the protests and ongoing political issues.
Over the past several months, dozens of people have been killed in protests over the election preparations. Furthermore, while this delay will allow organizers to address some of the issues, it is likely that the fundamental lack of trust between between the two sides and the election commission will continue, meaning that tensions are likely to simmer.
A United Nations envoy has confirmed that Guinea’s government and opposition parties have made a breakthrough during talks that were held over the weekend, which could result in an end to the violent political demonstrations and pave the way for legislative elections to take place. More than fifty people have been killed in the past three months in protests which have been organized by activists who accuse President Alpha Conde of preparing to rig the polls which are scheduled to take place on 30 June 2013.
Over the past weekend, President Conde’s government along with Guinea’s opposition parties have been meeting at UN-mediated talks which have focused on the organization of the long-delayed legislative elections. Said Djinnit, a UN envoy who mediated the talks between the government and opposition parties in the coastal capital city of Conakry, indicated that the parties had made significant progress over their demands and that there was reason for hope. Djinnit further indicated that in return for some guarantees, Guinea’s opposition parties have agreed to rejoin the electoral process and have dropped their demands for South African company Waymark, which was charged with updating the voter register, being replaced. The opposition had initially accused the company of filling the electoral roll with the names of President Conde’s ethnic Malinke supporters. However the company has denied these charges. The opposition parties had also called for Guineans living overseas to be given the right to vote. Djinnit has indicated that “regarding the vote of Guineans abroad, the presidential camp, which had reservations on the issue, have lifted their opposition. It has agreed that Guineans living abroad could participate in elections.” He further stated that decisions stemming from the talks could affect the date of the election.
While a spokesman for Guinea’s government could not be immediately reached for comment, a spokesman for the opposition noted that a minimum consensus had been reached and that the parties were waiting for concrete actions from both the government and Guinea’s electoral commission. However Aboubacar Sylla, the opposition spokesman, did state that “we have reasons to be cautiously optimistic.”
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has indicated that the UN Chief was “encouraged” by the progress that was made during the multi-party political dialogue. In a statement that was released by the UN, his spokesperson stated that ‘the Secretary-General welcomes the constructive spirit in which Guinean parties have pursued the dialogue..” and that he “encourages the parties to build on this positive atmosphere in order to resolve outstanding issues and create the conditions for free, fair and peaceful legislative elections.” The United States’ State Department has also welcomed the agreement that was reached between the political parties.
Guinea has been without a functioning legislature for years while the country’s economy remains to be at a standstill. Following a military coup in December 2008, political instability in Guinea has deterred a number of investors, despite the country’s large deposits of iron ore, bauxite, gold and other minerals. Although Guinea is the world’s largest exporter of bauxite, a metal that is used to produce aluminium, the country remains to be amongst the world’s poorest nations. Investor confidence has been undermined by repeated clashes which have occurred since March of this year.