Polled stations attacked, electoral material burned, clashes between police and opponents: violence disrupted Sunday, March 22 in Guinea the constitutional referendum and legislative, boycotted by the opposition, which accuses the president, Alpha Condé, of pave the way for a third term.
Voting, scheduled from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Paris time), started at the time indicated in a school in downtown Conakry, near the presidential palace. But in Ratoma (a suburb of Conakry), opposition supporters attacked gendarmes outside polling stations in a school. Another school in the same area was attacked, and electoral materials ransacked, in the absence of voters, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist and witnesses.
Clashes have occurred in suburbs or neighborhoods of Conakry such as Cosa, Hamdallaye, Dar-es-salam and Lambanyi, where opposition youths attacked police and gendarmes to secure the vote. The police, in stones, chased these young people and threw tear gas grenades against them, shots were heard. A 28-year-old boy was killed and several people shot and wounded in Conakry on Sunday, according to relatives and the opposition.
Unrest also occurred in Mamou (center), Boké (west) and N’Zérékoré (southeast), witnesses said. Election materials were also destroyed in localities like Kobéla (south), Dinguiraye (north) and Konah (north), according to other witnesses. Joined Sunday by the AFP, officials of the territorial administration did not react.
Towards a third term?
“I hope that everything will happen in peace and tranquility and that the Guinean people, as in 1958, will show their maturity”, declared after having voted in Conakry, the president, Alpha Condé, in allusion to the no of Guinea, ex-French colony, in the referendum which paved the way for the independence of this West African country. He did not discuss the ongoing incidents.
The constitutional referendum and the legislative ones were postponed at the last minute three weeks ago in an atmosphere of great tensions. It is above all the Constitution that unleashes passions. Since mid-October, tens, even hundreds, of thousands of Guineans have taken to the streets against the intention attributed to Mr. Condé to try to succeed himself at the end of 2020. At least 31 civilians and a gendarme were killed. Dozens of opponents have been arrested and tried. Police brutality is constantly exposed.
Mr. Condé, 82, was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2015. The current Constitution limits the number of terms to two, the new one proposed by Mr. Condé as well. But, according to his opponents, it would allow him to reset his counter to zero.
Mr. Condé ensures that it is a question of endowing his country with a Constitution “Modern”. It would codify gender equality, prohibit female circumcision and marriage. It would ensure a fairer distribution of wealth in favor of the young and the poor. But Mr. Condé maintains the vagueness about his desire to seek a third term.
Credibility of the vote in question
International questioning of the credibility of the vote has succeeded, supported by the presence on the electoral lists of 2.5 million dubious names, or a third of the file.
Recommendations from international organizations on the roster have been “Fully taken into account”, President Condé said in a speech posted on Saturday on the Facebook page of the Guinean presidency, promising polls “Transparent”.
“There is no evidence that this (file cleaning) operation was performed”, the main opponent, Cellou Dalein Diallo, told AFP. The opposition had promised to boycott the vote and prevent it from being held. The continuing weeks of unrest have not dissuaded the government from holding the polls, not even the recent appearance of the coronavirus.
Two cases of coronavirus contamination
Guinea has declared two cases of contamination, one of which has been cured, according to the government. The presence of Covid-19 is drawing attention in a country where Ebola killed 2,500 people between 2013 and 2016.
“I have the impression that our country takes things lightly”, moved Amadou Oury Bah, banker and politician. “Instead of giving the children leave for a substantial period to limit the spread of this disease, the authorities are rather interested in their electoral campaign. “
The ruling party calls on the population to vote. “We insist on strict compliance with hygienic rules”, said one of its officials, Fodé Cissé.
West African heads of state canceled their good offices mission during the week in Guinea. Before the vote initially scheduled for 1er March, two large regional organizations either refrained from deploying or recalled their observers.