Opposition Leader Urges U.S. Help for Guinea Polls


A Guinean opposition leader Thursday urged the international community to help monitor presidential elections due in the west African nation this year, voicing fears of possible fraud and violence.

Former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo accused Guinea's President Alpha Conde of using the country's ongoing fight against Ebola as a "pretext" for not setting a date for the presidential polls.

Diallo, leader of the Union of Democratic Forces in Guinea who was defeated by Conde in the last polls in 2010, said he would stand again in elections which are due before December when Conde's five-year mandate comes to an end.

No date has been set yet, and Diallo told AFP that Conde has so far been unwilling to hold talks with the opposition to lay out an electoral calendar.

"There is a huge risk of instability and violence if the elections are not transparent, because the people are not going to accept an electoral masquerade," Diallo told AFP during a visit to Washington to urge U.S. support for his nation.

"I am lobbying the international community to become engaged in the elections, because the president has said he does not want any 'foreign interference' as he calls it," he said.

Conde "has already refused international help, he has refused aid from the European Union to finance the elections... all that is aimed at one thing -- he wants to organize an electoral masquerade to declare himself re-elected.


- 'We won in 2010' - 

Diallo won 43 percent in the first round of the 2010 vote, Guinea's first democratic presidential poll which was marred by ethnic violence between rival ethnic groups. But Conde was declared the narrow winner of the second round.

"We won the elections in 2010," insisted Diallo, repeating allegations of widespread fraud five years ago.

But he maintained he stepped aside then in favor of Conde "to avoid Guinea plunging into a civil war" after more than 300 people were injured in post-election violence in the capital Conakry.

The International Crisis Group warned last month that "unless the government convenes a serious dialogue with the opposition it risks electoral violence and exacerbating ethnic divisions."

It recommended that Conde should "embrace the willingness of international partners such as the European Union, African Union and U.N. to provide... support."

Conde, the country's first democratically elected president, told AFP last week on the sidelines of economic talks in Davos that he did not want to discuss the elections as he was preoccupied with the fight against Ebola.

"That's only a pretext," said Diallo, adding "there are lots of other problems we need to confront."

The Ebola epidemic has killed 1,870 people in Guinea, and infected thousands of others, and has also ravaged its already shaky economy.

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