Calm returns to Guinea capital

2010-11-19 19:29

Conakry - Calm returned to Guinea's capital on Friday after days of street clashes sparked by the announcement that opposition leader Alpha Conde had won a presidential election in the top bauxite exporter.

Although there was still a heavy security presence in the capital Conakry, vehicles returned to streets that had been the scene of violence between rival supporters and the security forces.

There were no reports of violence from elsewhere.

A regional rights group has said at least ten people were killed and over 200 more injured in clashes that underscored deep ethnic divisions between Conde's largely Malinke backers and the Peul, who had supported his rival Cellou Dalien Diallo.

The government imposed a state of emergency due to the violence and a Reuters witness said the security forces were stopping even very small gatherings of people from forming.

But taxis were running and traffic jams clogged the seaside town in the morning. Banks were open for normal business.

"Things have calmed down. I did not hear any gunfire overnight," Souleymane Bah, a resident in Bambeto, said.

The elections were the former French colony's first free vote since independence in 1958 and are meant to bring to an end nearly two years of military rule since the 2008 coup.


A senior official at CBG, Alcoa and Rio Tinto's Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, said there had been violence around the company's operations at Sangaredi, about 350km to the west of Conakry, but disruption had been minimal.

"Now the situation is calm. Production at CBG wasn't affected," the official said, asking not to be named.

Guinea boasts around a third of all known bauxite reserves. CBG shipped a record 13.7 million tonnes in 2008 before political instability sparked by a 2008 coup dented output.

This week's violence erupted despite calls from both Conde and Diallo for calm.

Diallo is challenging the results, which gave Conde 52.5 percent of the Nov. 7 vote, in the Supreme Court, which must announce a final result by next Tuesday.

Tara O'Connor of Africa Risk Consulting doubted the court would reverse Conde's victory and warned another bout of violence was likely, but said much hinges on how far Conde goes in reaching out to Diallo's camp to reunify the country.

Ahead of the election run-off, and in an effort to ease tensions, the pair vowed to include whoever lost in any future run-off. Conde has repeated this offer publicly since winning but no details have emerged.

"His presidency will be doomed from the very start if it is just about pay-back," O'Connor said of the tendency in African politics for successful candidates to reward backers with cabinet posts or other positions of power.