Violence flares in Guinea as election rivals claim victory
Deadly violence flared in Guinea hours ahead of results of its first democratic presidential election since independence from France over 50 years ago, as both candidates claimed victory.
Veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde, 72, said he had "clearly" won the run-off, while former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, 58, said results "purged" of fraud showed him to be the winner.
At least one person was killed and dozens injured as security forces clashed with Diallo's supporters in the streets of Conakry, with soldiers firing on protesters who lobbed stones and other objects at them, police and witnesses said.
In Conakry journalists, government officials and representatives of the candidates gathered at the People's Palace, the country's former parliament, for the results to be announced.
The two candidates were neck and neck, according to partial results in the crucial vote which aims to end 52 years of dictatorship and military rule in the west African country.
Conde called a press conference earlier Monday to claim victory, calling for the announcement of the results go ahead. "I know I have won," he said.
"I have won four out of five districts in Conakry, all of the Lower Guinea prefectures except for Boke, all of the Forest prefectures and Upper Guinea. How could I not win?" he asked.
But Diallo later claimed he was the rightful winner and again threatened to reject the results if they were released Monday without examination of his side's allegations of widespread fraud.
"As we have not been heard by CENI (the electoral commission), we have taken it upon ourselves to clean up the figures ... we have purged them of blatant fraud and found ourselves the winners," he told journalists.
Tensions mounted ahead of the official announcement as youths threw stones and other objects at security forces, erecting barricades and burning tyres.
"Soldiers fired on a group of protesters" killing one of them in Ratoma, a suburb of Conakry, a police source said, adding that dozens were injured.
Pharmacist Oumar Diallo Sadio, 60, who reported hearing gunshots, said the clashes were "what we wanted to avoid."
"Cellou Dalein Diallo's voters are expressing their anger because they think there has been fraud and what will be announced is not the truth," he said, adding that rumours were rife in the suburbs.
Ratoma is the only Conakry district where Diallo came out on top, with 67 percent of the votes, partial results showed.
The November 7 election was hailed as peaceful but observers raised fears of violence after a campaign marred by ethnic clashes between supporters of Diallo, who is Fulani, and Conde, who is of the Malinke ethnic group.
Diallo said Sunday he would not accept the provisional results of the elections if they were announced immediately.
It was critical that the electoral commission fully examine what he described as "massive fraud at all levels", he said.
Commission chairman Siaka Sangare said Sunday all claims of fraud had been treated "with the maximum attention."
The country has been presided over by a transitional military-led government since a coup in December 2008 followed the death of president Lansana Conte, who held power for 24 years.
The interim president, General Sekouba Konate, led Guinea to its first ever democratic election, with a first round taking place on June 27 from which Diallo emerged with 43 percent of the vote while Conde garnered 18 percent.
Despite Diallo's apparent commanding lead, alliances and ethnic voting allowed Conde to gain ground.
The violence comes ahead of the Islamic Feast of Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, on Tuesday, celebrated by all ethnic groups who usually live together in harmony.
© 2010 AFP