Last Friday, the Guinean Supreme Court named long-time opposition campaigner, Alpha Conde president, after throwing out complaints by Conde’s rival in the November 7 presidential re-run, Cellou Dalein Diallo. Court President Mamadou Sylla told a news conference that “Mr. Alpha Cone, candidate of the RPG, having won a majority with 52.52 percent of votes cast, is elecyted president of the Republic of Guinea”. The Supreme Court sat through Thursday evening and announced its verdict in the early hours of Friday. Reuters very early dispatch from Conakry in the aftermath of the announcement said there were no immediate reactions from the candidates, it said that Diallo’s campaign manager Fode Oussou Fofana appeared resigned to defeat, telling reporters “in the end it will be Guinea that wins”, given the chaotic electoral process which was reaching a dramatic end. But by later on Friday, Cellou Dalein Diallo conceded defeat; Diallo said “our complaints were not taken into account”, at a news conference, “since the decision of the Supreme Court cannot be appealed…we have no choice but to conform to the decision made by the top legal institution in the republic”. Reports from Conakry after the validation of result, said the sprawling neighbourhoods that were scenes of deadly violence between supporters of the two protagonists were calm, with shops and banks open and traffic flowing as usual.
And no drama was greater than the victory of Alpha Conde who polled just 18percent of the votes in the first round of the elections in June, compared to Cellou Dalein Diallo, who won 44 percent. It was a “dramatic turnaround”, according to the Reuters dispatch, which underlines the deep-seated ethnic dimension to Guinean politics. Diallo belongs to the Fulbe ethnic group, which at 40 percent of the population, is the largest in Guinea; however, the result as confirmed, showed that he could not extend his share of the votes into other ethnic communities. The Fulbe are also the most economically dominant group in resource-rich, but very poor Guinea. From the time of the founding president, Ahmed Sekou Toure, the Fulbe had been at the receiving end of repression and vicious purges; they were shut out of the loop of power, and had felt that the first free and fair elections would give them the opportunity to assume power for the first time, through Cellou Diallo. It was not to be!
The ethnic tensions spilled over before and after the elections, and human rights groups say 10 people were killed and 215 others were injured since the announcement of provisional figures early in November. The confirmation of Alpha Conde by the Supreme Court is not likely to heal the deep wounds left along the deep divides in Guinea. Alpha Conde seemed to realize the situation by offering Diallo’s allies positions in a government of national unity, but if that can placate Diallo’s supporters amongst the Fulbe remains to be seen; neither is Diallo’s position on the offer clear at the moment. But I have made contacts with several people in Conakry who support Diallo and the bitterness about his loss, blamed on a conspiracy between the interim prime minister, Jean-Marie Dore and the military junta, as well as Alpha Conde.
Alpha Conde is a former assistant professor at the Sorbonne in France, and he prides himself in not having worked for any of thye succession of dictators that ruled Guinea from independence. He has faced serious difficulties in the past, for his role as chief critics of the various regimes: exile and death sentence under Ahmed Sekou Toure; inmprisonment under General Lansana Conte and insults under the last junta leader, Moussa Dadis Camara. This reporter was privileged to be the only person to interview the two politicians on the eve of the first election in June, and it had struck me even then that Alpha Conde was an excessively self-assured man, who was the quintessential political showman. Conde counts among his friends former French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, Muammar Ghadaffi, even Microsoft founder, Bill Gates! He assured me during the interview that he had discussed with his different friends and each was willing to come and invest in Guinea if he became president.
What has not been tested is Alpha Conde’s own ability to govern, and that will certainly come under scrutiny, given that Guinea truly needs to put its act together with a new president providing leadership for some urgent reforms: professionalizing an unruly army that is really not better than a bunch of thugs; rebuilding the economy long devastated by years of corruption and mismanagement and finding the trust of the entire people of the country after a very divisive electoral process. There has been decades of mismanagement of the civil administration while a functional political system could also take years to build, if there is international assistance. A priority project will have to be the reform of Guinea’s mining industry with Conde needing to follow up on his pledge to review existing mining contracts. Guinea is one of the resource-rich countries that nevertheless is also one of the poorest countries in the world. It is the world largest exporter of aluminium ore; bauxite of which it holds a third of the world’s known reserve as well as vast iron ore riches which attracted billions of dollars in investment from transnational companies like Vale and Rio Tinto.
The Guinean people had set great store by the democratic process as I saw during the first round of the polls in June; and although things degenerated into violence and the deepening of the ethnic divisions in the runoff, there can be no gainsaying the fact that Guinea deserves a new and democratic beginning, to be able to find the building blocks of good governance and democratic institution building. The young population will have to be put to work while the resources of the country must be put to the construction of the infrastructure that can help create a modern nation with a vibrant economic life. The new president, Alpha Conde told me that he has received the assurances of his friends from around the world to help in the reconstruction of Guinea. The time to cash-in on those promissory notes has now arrived.