Guinea Capital Ethnically Divided After Results

Published November 16, 2010

CONAKRY, Guinea – A day after results from a contentious presidential election were announced, Guinea's capital resembled a divided nation.

Neighborhoods dominated by supporters of the poll's winner, Alpha Conde, had residents dancing in the streets and hanging out of car windows, flashing the V for victory.

Conde, who is ethnically Malinke and who was backed in large numbers by members of his own ethnic group, toured parts of the capital that supported him with a jubilant impromptu parade.

But elsewhere in the capital, in areas dominated by members of the Peul ethnic group that supported politician Cellou Dalein Diallo of the same ethnicity, the streets were deserted and littered with bullet casings. Volleys of gunfire continued and security forces, who are mostly Malinke, brandished belts and leather ropes, using them to strike people.

In the emergency room of one of the main municipal hospitals, medical records showed that at least 62 people had been brought in with injuries on Monday in the hours after the country's National Independent Electoral Commission declared Conde the winner with 52.5 percent of the nearly 2.9 million ballots counted.

Patients continued to stream in on Tuesday, including 26-year-old Moussayero Bah, a Peul, whose abdomen was pierced by a bullet. Her husband said she had gone out to buy ingredients for a dish and was shot in the market.

Health inspector Abou Bakr Diakhite of the Ministry of Health walked between the mats on which moaning patients lay attached to serpentine drips. He confirmed a majority had been brought in with bullet wounds, including a man who died.

Diallo, who received 47.5 percent of the vote, appealed to his supporters to remain calm after the announcement of results. Many of his supporters crowded on the highways, blocking traffic and burning tires. They were quickly beaten back by the helmeted security force who parked their pickups on the highway and chased young men that tried to throw stones at them.

Diallo told reporters Tuesday that soldiers were using the cover of election-related rioting to settle scores and to rob Peul families. He said that his own sister-in-law and niece had been arrested outside his headquarters, yanked out of their car and detained at a police station for most of Monday.

He also said that in Peul-majority towns like Labe and Dalaba, where he had received over 90 percent of the vote, his supporters were being seized inside their homes and arbitrarily arrested.

"It's truly revolting that on the one hand, we call for calm and restraint. And on the other there is repression," he said. "I call on the authorities to ask their security forces to stop this."

In Labe, gunshots could be heard through most of the morning, and the town's prefect, Safiou Laye Diallo, said by telephone that one person had been killed by a stray bullet.

The election is considered Guinea's first democratic vote since winning independence in 1958, but it has been tainted by ethnic tensions pitting Diallo's Peul supporters against Conde's Malinke base. The country is scarred following an army-led massacre of civilians last year who had gathered to demand an end to military rule.

For 26 years, Guinea has been led by military strongman including the deeply divisive Capt. Moussa 'Dadis' Camara, who came to power in a 2008 coup and whose men encircled the national soccer stadium where protesters had gathered, sealing the doors before opening fire.

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Associated Press photographer Jerome Delay in Conakry, Guinea contributed to this report.

Written by RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, Associated Press

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