By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Alpha Condé, Guinea’s 82-year-old head of state, will this Sunday ask his country’s 5.4 million voters for a third term, opening what promises to be a tense, high-stakes electoral season for West Africa, with contests soon following in Ivory Coast, Ghana and Niger.
Mr Condé’s accession to power in December 2010 was the first genuinely democratic handover in his country’s 52-year independent history – a saga of authoritarian and military rule pockmarked with episodes of severe repression and spectacular brutality, the most recent of which had been the 28 September 2009 massacre, when troops killed at least 160 opposition supporters, and raped 110 women, attending a rally at the national stadium.
Not only that but also the opposition figures such as Mr Diallo have suffered sporadic harassment, while political life is still scarred by periodic outbreaks of street violence between frustrated youthful demonstrators and security forces that, despite retraining, still frequently resort to lethal force to curb unrest.
Moreover, the long-promised trial of the military figures indicted for the 28 September massacre has still not taken place, despite a sustained campaign by the families of victims, foreign diplomatic pressure and hints that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will step in if the Guinean authorities fail to act.
At least one of the soldiers formally indicted has actually held government office under Mr Condé, while Moussa Dadis Camara – the military ruler whose troops carried out the massacre – has been questioned but, ultimately, left untroubled in exile in Burkina Faso.
In the 2015 election Mr Diallo even formed a bizarre electoral alliance with his camp, while a key ally of Capt Camara a senior minister in Mr Condé’s government.
Condé’s Third-term Controversy
This is the unsettled background contest for this year’s election, which has been rendered hugely contentious by Mr Condé’s determination to seek a third term – a move that has meant changing the constitution, through a referendum in March.
The new constitution does not scrap two-term limits but resets the counter, so previous terms served do not count.
Earlier this year, the regional body ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) identified 2.5 million names of apparently fictional electors on the voters’ register. The opposition decided to boycott the referendum, giving Mr Condé an easy mandate.
Although Mr Condé did not formally confirm that he would stand again, even earlier last year his ambition to do so was already common talk in Conakry – and a source of worry among other West African leaders, and European diplomats, fearing a renewed bout of instability in a country with such a long history of confrontational urban political violence.