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.