Veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde won 52.5 percent of the votes in a November 7 run-off in Guinea’s presidential election, according to provisional results issued by the electoral commission.
The result was announced hours after supporters of Conde’s rival, former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, who had already challenged early results from the poll, clashed with police in Guinea’s capital. Tension has been rising in the mineral-rich West African country — the world’s biggest exporter of aluminium ore bauxite — as voters awaited the results of the poll, which is meant to end nearly two years of military rule.
The streets of Conakry erupted with Conde supporters celebrating the declaration. “We won,” said a Conde supporter. “(Conde) has suffered too much but that is all over now.” Conde has been the chief critic of past Guinean leaders — Sekou Toure, Lansana Conte and former junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara — in a political career dating back to the late 1950s.
He has promised to reform the security sector and review mining contracts if elected. The results must now be confirmed by the Supreme Court. International observers said the poll appeared free and fair, but there has been concern that violence may break out if the loser does not accept the results.
After the results were announced, the United Nations Secretary General issued a statement calling “once again on all Guineans, in the national interest, to accept the results of the election and to resolve any differences through legal means”. Diallo pulled out of the vote-counting process on Sunday, citing evidence of fraud, and demanded that votes from a number of Conde strongholds be annulled.
The election commission rejected his demands, but has said appeals can be made to the Supreme Court. Security forces said earlier they had clashed with several hundred stone-throwing youths in the pro-Diallo districts of Bambeto and Koloma in the capital Conakry. “We managed to disperse the demonstration,” said one senior police official. Resident Souleymane Bah told Reuters he had heard two gunshots during the clashes but there was no official confirmation of that.
However, given previous heavy-handed tactics employed by Guinean security forces, there are concerns should demonstrations deteriorate. Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said she had received reports of one dead and at least 20 people injured in Monday’s violence, some with gunshot wounds. “The dangerous eruptions of inter-communal violence and excesses of the security forces in responding to them are an indication of how much Guinea is in need of the rule of law.”
The first round of the election was peaceful but was followed by weeks of rows over results and over the leadership of the election commission. There were street clashes between Diallo’s supporters, mainly from the Peul community, and Conde’s backers, predominantly from the Malinke community. Guinea has endured decades of authoritarian rule since independence from France in 1958 and has been under military rule since a coup that followed the 2008 death of Lansana Conte.
At first popular, Camara quickly fell out with many who initially supported his coup and progress towards restoring civilian rule was only made after a botched assassination attempt put him in hospital and his deputy in charge. 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.
A smooth election is also expected to encourage the whole region, which is eager to attract outside investors and put years of wars and unrest behind it.