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Guinea headed for free election, analysts say 0

Former members of a government that took power after a 2008 coup will be allowed to run in next month’s landmark election, underlining the difficulty of staging the first free polls in Guinea since independence more than 50 years ago.

The military has long held near-absolute power in this West African nation. Still, analysts say the ex-junta candidates announced late Monday are only a minor setback and that they cannot stop the momentum for democracy after decades of dictatorship.

“The mood is optimistic. People are putting their faith in the fact that a relatively clean election will take place,” said Michael McGovern, an anthropologist at Yale University who studies Guinea and was recently in the country.

In the months following the coup, Guinea spiraled out of control. When thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators crammed a stadium in September, security forces fired at the crowd, killing 156 people. Countless women were raped in broad daylight.

Three close allies of then-leader Capt. Moussa “Dadis” Camara are among the presidential candidates certified by Guinea’s supreme court Monday night: Boubacar Barry, Papa Kolie Kouroumah and Bouna Keita.

While the three are subject to African Union and European sanctions that prohibit them from leaving Guinea, none have been implicated in the stadium massacre.

Richard Moncrieff of the International Crisis Group said the three junta candidates are fairly minor players and are not among the favourites to win. The front-runners include two former prime ministers – Sidya Toure and Cellou Dalein Diallo.

The June 27 election aimed at returning Guinea to civilian rule comes after Camara agreed under international pressure to go into voluntary exile in Burkina Faso after surviving an assassination attempt. Camara seized power after the death of the country’s long-time dictator, Lansana Conte.

The accord that sidelined Camara also bars members of his government from running. However, Corinne Dufka of Human Rights Watch said it’s not legally binding.

“The presentation of these candidates associated with a very abusive regime is in bad faith,” said Dufka, who is an expert on Guinea. But “there’s no legal instrument to prevent them from running.”

While Guineans called a local radio station in droves on Tuesday morning to complain about the supreme court’s announcement of the candidate list, Houleymatou Diallo seemed unconcerned about the inclusion of Camara allies.

“It’s no big deal about those close to Dadis because they won’t even get 2 percent in the election,” said Diallo, an unemployed former bureaucrat in Conakry.

The candidacy of Camara allies may be a disappointment, but Guineans seemed prepared to treat it as a minor one.

“In the end, the cat is out of the bag; you can’t put it back in. The important thing is to be vigilant from now on so the elections happen in the right conditions,” said Bangoura Fode, a teacher in Conakry.

McGovern said it would be almost impossible for someone to steal the vote. Ordinary Guineans are intimately familiar with the popularity and the reach of the candidates and have a good sense of how many votes they’re likely to garner.

“There’s going to be a very quick and violent reaction” to any hint of fraud, he said.

By Africa The Good News

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi