Guinea certifies presidential candidates

2010-05-25 08:22

Conakry - Guinea's supreme court certified the candidacy of two dozen presidential hopefuls Monday, including close allies of the coup leader - an apparent violation of an accord aimed at bringing democratic rule to the country.

Capt Moussa "Dadis" Camara seized power in December 2008, hours after the previous leader died. Though he was initially popular, it soon became clear he did not intend to step down.

But Guinea was given a second chance at democracy after a renegade soldier shot Camara, forcing him to seek medical treatment abroad.

The erratic leader intended to return, but international pressure and a deal pushed through by Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore persuaded Camara to stay abroad. A transitional government, made up of civilian and military leaders, now runs the country and is seen as Guinea's best hope for its first free elections.

Monday's announcement of the candidates, however, raises questions about the fairness of the polls in a country where the military wields tremendous power and autocratic rulers have reigned since independence from France in 1958.

Among those who will run are two former ministers in Camara's junta government: Boubacar Barry, who is the candidate for the party Camara founded, and Papa Kolie Kouroumah. A third ally of Camara's, Bouna Keita, was also listed.

The court said only that it certified all the candidates whose applications were in order, rejecting only those who failed to pay the registration fee.

Guinea spiraled out of control in the months following the coup, and when opposition groups rallied in September to insist Camara relinquish power, security forces responded with tremendous force, massacring at least 156 people and raping countless women.

None of Camara's allies is among the favourites, all of whom are members of the opposition and were certified by the court. They are former prime ministers Sidya Toure and Cellou Dalein Diallo as well as Alpha Conde, neither of whom was implicated in the massacre.

A UN commission investigating the deaths has said the killings and rapes may constitute crimes against humanity and may have been ordered by officials. An International Criminal Court official said last week that the country's own investigation was making progress on bringing the perpetrators to justice.