Thousands take to Guinea’s streets to demand local elections

Thousands of opposition activists took to the streets of Guinea's capital on Wednesday to demand local elections be held after a 12-year absence, pressuring President Alpha Conde to set a date.

Former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo led protesters who brandished signs reading “Alpha Conde, seven years of promises is enough” on a march from a Conakry suburb into the city.

“I call on you to mobilise to confront the serious attacks on democracy by President Alpha Conde and his refusal to respect the conclusions of political agreements signed in October 2016,” Diallo told the crowd.

“Guineans are suffering from unspeakable misery, the country is run on corruption and embezzlement of public funds in ignorance of the problems of the Guinean people,” the opposition leader added.

Diallo also accused Conde of electoral fraud and said he had “stolen” two presidential elections held in 2010 and 2015.

Opposition parties were angered when Conde was returned to power in 2015 but promised local polls did not go ahead.

All sides then agreed last October to hold the vote in February, but no date has yet been set with the deadline long passed. That agreement had also envisaged a revised electoral code and updated electoral roll.

One person died and three were badly injured in motorbike accidents during the protest, the government said in a statement.

Conde announced Monday that a working group was trying to implement the October agreement, but said in a statement that “certain difficulties have prevented us from carrying out these actions on the expected date.”

He tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) with taking measures “to organise local elections as soon as possible”, and requested a timeline of action from the institution, according to the statement.

Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010, taking over a nation run by a succession of strongmen following independence from France.

Political distrust is high in Guinea, a mineral-rich but deeply poor country where ethnic tensions often turn deadly around election time.

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