Guinean candidates urge calm

2010-11-06 20:32

Conakry - Calls for calm rose on the eve of Guinea's twice-delayed run-off presidential election on Sunday, with the two presidential candidates making a joint appeal for a peaceful vote.

Guineans will elect a civilian president in the country's first democratic vote in more than 50 years, in a run-off race that has pitted the two main ethnic groups against each other, resulting in mistrust and violent clashes.

Presidential hopefuls Cellou Dalein Diallo and Alpha Conde came together on Friday night to issue a joint statement calling for calm in the troubled west African nation.

Poll favourite Diallo, 58, a former prime minister of Fula ethnicity, expressed the candidates' "commitment to strive for a peaceful free and democratic election throughout the country.

"We urgently appeal to all citizens of our country to carry out their civic duty in peace, tranquility and serenity... and that they make election day on November 7 and the post-election period, a historic moment of rediscovered brotherhood."

Conde, 72, a Malinke and veteran opposition politician, said: "We call on the authorities to make every effort to ensure the safety of one and all across the country.

"We reiterate our commitment to putting the best interests of our nation above all."

The announcement followed a meeting with the International Crisis Group think-tank, which on Friday urged candidates to "refrain from fanning ethnic flames".

Hostility has mounted between the two camps since the first round of voting on June 27 left them facing off in the final race.

A rumour that Diallo's camp had poisoned water distributed at an election rally on October 22 which left scores of Conde's supporters in hospital led to clashes which caused at least one death.

According to humanitarian organisations, as many as 2 000 people fled their homes.

However on Saturday, African Union special envoy in Guinea Ibrahima Fall said he was "reasonably optimistic" that unrest could be avoided.

"You're never safe from a surprise but we are rather moving towards a peaceful election," said Fall, welcoming the joint statement from the rival candidates which he said could "lessen the tension in the regions and Conakry".

"We must avoid any inter-ethnic incident that will be taken to a national level, expanded, and cause reactions other than where it happened."

The representative of the United Nations secretary general in West Africa, Said Djinnit, said he was "rather confident" that the vote would take place "in relatively peaceful conditions".

President of the interim government, General Sekouba Konate, who has reiterated his haste to leave the presidential office, was expected to receive the two candidates on Saturday afternoon.

On Sunday, all of Guinea's borders will be closed and traffic forbidden between 06:00 and 00:00 to all but authorised persons.

Since January Guinea has been under the interim rule of a part military, part civilian government led by Konate, which took over from a junta that orchestrated a coup in December 2008 on the death of president Lansana Conte.