UN, African nations urge Guinea to end blockade of opposition chief

Conakry (AFP) –


International envoys mediating the crisis following last week's disputed election in Guinea urged the government on Tuesday to lift a blockade of the home of opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo.

Police barricaded the politician inside his home in the capital Conakry last week, after he self-proclaimed victory in October 18 poll, triggering clashes which killed 21 people nationwide.

Representatives from the United Nations, African Union and the 15-nation West African bloc ECOWAS said they had noted "security measures" around Diallo's home, and "urge the Guinean authorities to lift (them) in the spirit of inclusive dialogue".

President Alpha Conde, 82, won the hotly-contested election according to official results announced Saturday, setting the stage for a controversial third term.

But his main opponent Diallo, 68, disputes the results. He claimed victory after the vote, citing data his activists gathered at individual polling stations.

His self-proclaimed win led to unrest across the nation of some 13 million people.

The government put the number of dead at 21, but the political opposition says 27 people died. AFP was unable to independently confirm the number of deaths.

The international envoys -- who include ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou and the UN special representative to West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas -- landed in Guinea on Sunday to mediate.

In a statement on Tuesday, the representatives said they had come to "lower sociopolitical tensions" after the election.

They added that they "regretted the loss of human life," urged Guinea to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice, and called on all parties to engage in dialogue.

- Contested third term -

Much of the turbulence centres on a third term for Alpha Conde, whom opponents accuse of drifting into authoritarianism.

He pushed through a new constitution in March which he argued would modernise the country.

But it also allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidents, arguing that the counter had been reset to zero.

Opposition to that outcome had provoked mass protests from October 2019, in which security forces killed dozens of people.

Conde, who spent decades in exile as an opposition activist, became the former French colony's first democratically-elected leader in 2010, and won re-election in 2015.

Critics accuse him of veering into authoritarianism, however, and of stubbornly refusing to investigate killings committed by his forces.

Diallo was formerly a prime minister under authoritarian leader Lansana Conte, and has unsuccessfully challenged Conde in each election the president has contested.

Guinea's politics are mainly drawn along ethnic lines: the president's base is among the ethnic Malinke community while Diallo has strong backing among the Fulani people, also known as Peul.