Guinea to decide when campaigns can resume after pre-election violence kills 1, wounds 54

By Rukmini Callimachi, AP
Monday, September 13, 2010

54 wounded in Guinea weekend political violence

CONAKRY, Guinea — Guinea’s interim government is to decide Monday when campaigns can resume after weekend violence between political rivals left one person dead and at least 54 wounded just days before the country’s historic presidential runoff vote.

Telecommunications Minister Talibe Diallo said the government and the two presidential candidates facing off in the vote scheduled for Sunday were to meet at the prime minister’s office.

“For now I see no reason why the election cannot go ahead (on Sunday),” the telecommunications minister said.

Many hope the vote will mark a turning point for the troubled, mineral-rich West African country, which has known only authoritarian rule since winning independence from France in 1958.

Supporters of leading presidential candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo had feared that the interim government would use the weekend’s clashes as an excuse for delaying the presidential runoff, which has been postponed multiple times since the first round in June. His supporters had vowed to descend into the streets in protest if authorities attempted to delay the vote again.

On Saturday, political rivals began hurling rocks at each other. The violence spread to multiple neighborhoods, including the street leading to the home of Alpha Conde, a longtime opposition leader who placed second in the first round of voting. The violence resumed again Sunday, the telecommunications minister said.

Tension between the two presidential candidates is rooted in Guinea’s ethnic divide.

Diallo is a Peul, the country’s largest ethnic group, which has never had one of its own in power. Last year, the Peul were explicitly targeted during an army-led massacre of opposition supporters inside the national soccer stadium last September that left more than 150 people dead.

Although Conde spent decades as an icon of the opposition, he is a Malinke — a group heavily represented in the army, as well as in the junta blamed for the massacre.

Guinea’s people are among the poorest in Africa, despite the fact the country hosts one of the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminum, and billions of dollars worth of iron ore, diamonds and gold.

Associated Press Writer Boubacar Diallo contributed to this report.

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