Guinea's neighbours call for internal political dialogue

Guinea's President Alpha Conde. He is under intense pressure from the opposition to guarantee the May 12 legislative elections will be free and transparent. PHOT | AFP 

Leaders of West Africa’s Mano River Union (MRU) have urged their Guinea colleague President Alpha Conde to dialogued with the opposition on easing their political standoff.

Presidents Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire spoke on Sunday at a hastily convened meeting in the Guinean capital, Conakry.

The call came amid escalating tensions over delayed legislative polls.

Nine people have reportedly died and scores, including eight police officers, injured in clashes between police and opposition supporters over the last 10 days.

The latest clashes happened Friday as opposition supporters protested over what they allege to be plans to rig the May 12 poll.

Whereas the official reason for Sunday’s heads of state talks was said to be part of “periodic consultations” among MRU leaders, the general feeling is that the meeting was in response to the urgency of the Guinean predicament.

It follows appeals by the opposition for international mediation.

A communiqué signed at the end of the day committed the leaders to maintaining regional peace and tranquility.

Notably, it urged President Conde to encourage dialogue “in order to preserve a climate of peace and confidence conducive to development.

“These discussions focused on issues of common interest, as well as the socio-political situation prevailing in the sub-region and Africa,” the leaders added.

One of the Guinean opposition’s demands are that the government revokes a contract with South African IT firm Waymark, which was awarded a contract for electronic voter registration kits.

They claimed the tender process wasn’t transparent, and that Waymark could be complicit in plans to skew the voter list in favour of Conde`s party.
Allegations of an inflated invoice of US$14M for the project appear to give credence to these claims.

The opposition is also concerned about the exclusion of diaspora Guineans, a majority of who support opposition leader Cellou Dalein Dallo.

The May 12 legislative elections should conclude the transition to civilian rule, which started with the 2010 disputed presidential election.

But there are still doubts of the poll taking place as scheduled given the threats of boycott by the opposition.

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