Guinea's Conde set for controversial third presidential term

Conakry (AFP) –


Guinea's Alpha Conde won the West African nation's highly contested presidential poll, the national electoral authority said Saturday, setting the stage for a controversial third term for the 82-year old.

Announcing provisional results, the president of the electoral authority Kabinet Cisse said that Conde had won 59.49 percent of the votes in the October 18 election.

His main opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo -- at the forefront of months protests against a Conde third term -- won 33.5 percent of the vote.

"Long live democracy, long live peace, may God bless Guinea," Cisse said during a ceremony in the capital Conakry, as Conde supporters leapt to their feet and cheered the president's victory.

The announcement follows days of post-election violence in which around 10 people were killed in clashes across the nation of some 13 million people.

Doubting the independence of the electoral authority, Diallo had on Monday declared himself victorious in the presidential election before the results were announced -- which triggered confrontations between his supporters and security forces.

Police were out in force in Conakry on Saturday, where in a suburb, an AFP journalist heard shots firing.

- Third term -

While Guinea's independent national electoral commission (CENI) declared the provisional tally, the constitutional court must still sign off on the result. It is expected to do in about one week.

With his win, 82-year-old Conde is set to govern for another six years, and could potentially also run for another fourth term after that.

Deep opposition to a third term by Conde triggered mass protests in the former French colony from October last year, in which security forces killed dozens of people.

In March, the president pushed through a new constitution which he argued would modernise the country.

But the move also allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidents, allowing him to run again on October 18.

Guinea is a poor country -- despite rich deposits of bauxite, gold and diamonds -- that has known little political stability since independence in 1958.

Conde, a former opposition activist who spent decades in exile, became the country's first democratically-elected president in 2010, and was re-elected in 2015.

But hopes of a new political dawn have soured, with rights groups accusing the president of veering towards authoritarianism.

Diallo was formerly a prime minister under authoritarian leader Lansana Conte. He unsuccessfully contested elections against Conde in both 2010 and 2015.

- 'Violence must stop' -

The 68-year-old leader's self-proclaimed victory on Monday plunged Guinea in a fresh round of violent clashes, in which around 10 people died, according to the government.

The opposition says that 27 people were killed, however. AFP was unable to independently confirm the death toll.

Five people were killed on the outskirts of Conakry on Friday, when a train carrying fuel was attacked after the rail tracks were sabotaged.

And in another confused incident, at least three gendarmes, a soldier and civilian were killed in a suburb of the capital on Friday, according to government official who declined to be named.

The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor warned Friday that rival parties in Guinea could be prosecuted after fighting erupted.

"We are... continuing to closely monitor developments on the ground. The violence must stop," Fatou Bensouda said in a tweet.

"I wish to repeat this important reminder: anyone who commits, orders, incites, encourages and contributes in any other way to crimes... is liable to prosecution either by the Guinean courts or the ICC," she said.

Before the vote, the election campaign was also fraught with tension. Conde was accused of stoking ethnic divisions for electoral ends, for example -- a charge he denies.

Guinea's politics are mainly drawn along ethnic lines: the president's base is mostly from the ethnic Malinke community and Diallo's from the Fulani people.