A peaceful and democratic process in neighboring Republic of Guinea could bring stability within the Mano River Union (MRU) countries as well as several other benefits to Sierra Leone. With a free, fair and democratic transition in that country, trade is bound to flourish and bilateral ties strengthened. This would even create room for both governments to negotiate and resolve the long standing Yenga issue. But if the electoral process is marred by controversy as already feared, and if might end up that way, then Guinea will likely go into conflict with the possibility of a spill over effect that cannot be underestimated.
In June this year, Guinea conducted the first round of its first ever democratic presidential election in which one of the contestants, former Prime Minister Celleu Dalein Diallo clinched 44% of the votes cast, while his rival, a veteran opposition leader Mr. Alpha Conde tailed behind with 18%. This surely meant that the overall percentage required by a single candidate was not met, hence giving way to a run off to be conducted on the 24th October this year. Tension mounted during the first rounds that saw Guinea experiencing once again some political violence, this time emanating from mainly party supporters of the two rival candidates. This inevitably led to the postponement of the run-off elections by the Interim National Electoral Commission (CENI). If the runoff elections successfully hold on the new date with an acceptable outcome, it would be the country’s first democratic polls since independence in 1958 that ushers in a democratically elected government.
Critically examining the parameters under which peaceful, free and fair elections could be held in Guinea, one would not stand far from the truth by saying that tribalism, sectionalism and class distinctions are bound to make this election prone to debilitating consequences, if their excess are not controlled. This has caused the Interim National Electoral Commission (CENI) to be currently experiencing a power struggle and wrangling, especially following the conviction of its Commissioner, Ben Shekou Sylla of electoral fraud during the first round in June.
Now Haja Aminata Mame Camara is facing struggle with one CENI official Lonceni Camera who claims to be in charge of the commission. In the face of all this and with barely a couple of weeks to the presidential elections run-off, will CENI be able to put its house in order?
One can sense how desperate Mr. Conde is to achieve election victory following his legal appeal of electoral fraud during the first round; and considering how entrenched are his tribesmen within the military. Comparatively, if things are not put in order, Guinea will seemingly experience the Kenya situation where peaceful citizens were brutally killed by security forces for simply demonstrating against elections that were conducted in a fraudulent manner.
Again if one would go by what political analysts are proffering, Mr. Diallo who is yet maintaining a comfortable lead after the first round, and who is from the largest ethnic grouping in the country, Pheul (Fullah), has the support of Mr. Sedia Turay who trailed behind him and Conde for the third place in the first round. Meaning if voters remain committed to their party’s presidential aspirants during the first round then the much talked about merger will provide dividend for Mr. Diallo. All these factors have given Diallo additional strength to attain victory in the pending run-off elections.
The neutrality of CENI and the military genuinely keeping hands off the conduct of the elections by not influencing the outcome of results are other issues of great importance. This is a complex situation altogether because unlike CENI, the military in that part of the world still fancy being at the helm of things rather than protecting lives and properties. Therefore, as their intention of handing over power to a duly democratically elected government is being fettered with misunderstanding within the civil populace, it is bound to give them justification to retain power in the event of fracas where the results are unacceptable.
As it looks like the interim leader, General Sekouba Konate seems to have run out of ideas to manage the political temperature in that country, there is the prescribed need for the international community to timely bring sanity in that francophone West Africa’s relatively poor nation.
One of the conspicuous writings on the wall is that if the elections are conducted in a fraudulent manner and results not generally acceptable by Guineans as complemented by the international community; there is the likelihood of the country going into conflict along tribal lines. With the past experiences of Sierra Leone and Liberia, although the scenarios might differ, it warrants sub-regional, regional and continental security apparatus, if not Guinea’s colonial master, France to aptly flex muscles before situation goes out of hand.
What will make the successful outcome of the Guinea elections and a peaceful transition important for sister countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, the Gambia et al is that it will definitely halt the socio-economic stresses posed by the influx of Guinean refugees and political dissidents.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.