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Guinea tightens security as new vote date awaited

By on October 26, 2010

– Guinea deployed extra security in parts of its capital on Monday where political rallies were banned after a weekend of rioting fuelled by a new delay to its presidential run-off election.

However, authorities failed to come up with a new date for a poll meant to transfer power from a military junta to civilians in the West African former French colony and close the book on decades of authoritarian rule.

Extra forces were stationed in Conakry’s Madina Market neighbourhood, a flashpoint of recent ethnically driven clashes, and rival presidential candidates from the main ethnic groups urged supporters to keep calm.

“For the moment, all the stores are closed in Madina,” said technician Oumar Camara. “The banks are also closed, and security forces are sitting in front of them.”

Elsewhere in Conakry, a ramshackle seaside town in the world’s top bauxite-exporting country, residents went about their business and traffic jams again clogged the roads.

Conakry Governor Sekou Presko Camara announced on state television a ban on political rallies in the capital and barred soldiers from using their weapons “whatever the reason”.

Last week, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights reported at least one dead and 62 wounded by security forces in what it called excessive use of force in clashes with demonstrators.

The election was postponed on Friday, just two days before it was meant to be held, after the head of the electoral body told reporters voting preparations were “deplorable”.

It was the third delay to the run-off since the initial target date of September 19. A spokesman for the election commission said a new date could be discussed at a meeting on Monday but by late in the day no clear outcome had emerged.

The first-round election in June passed off relatively smoothly, although tension and political infighting began to rise after the result pitted candidates from the country’s two biggest ethnic groups against each other.

General Siaka Toumany Sangare, a Malian, took the top spot in the electoral commission last week after one of the candidates, former Prime Minister Cellou Dallein Diallo, accused his predecessor of bias.

Both Diallo and his rival, veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde, have said they support Sangare.

Guinea’s rich minerals deposits have attracted billions of dollars in planned investments from companies like Rio Tinto and Vale.

Reuters.

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