Clashes, rumours stoke Guinea tension, poll delay

* Clashes, looting after new poll delay announced

* Reports of poisoning of Conde supporters stoke tension

By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY, Oct 23 (BestGrowthStock) – Violence erupted overnight and
continued on Saturday morning in Guinea’s capital, Conakry,
witnesses said, after an election due this weekend in the
world’s biggest bauxite exporter was indefinitely delayed.

Residents said the security forces fired live rounds to try
to end clashes and some opportunistic looting. Tensions were
exacerbated by rumours that a group of supporters of one of the
candidates had been deliberately poisoned.

The West African state was due to hold a presidential
run-off on Oct. 24 between former prime minister Cellou Dalein
Diallo and rival Alpha Conde, but poll preparations have been
marred by rows in the election commission and street violence.

“The security forces have deployed and they have intervened.
We heard gunfire and people ran home,” a resident of Dixinn, a
Conakry neighbourhood, told Reuters on Saturday.

Clashes were also reported around the Madina market, which
is Conakry’s largest and a potential flashpoint.

The election commission, now headed by a Malian because of
doubts over the impartiality of the body’s former boss,
indefinitely delayed the poll on Friday evening. [ID:nLDE69L22H]

Shortly after the announcement, rumours that some of Conde’s
supporters had been deliberately poisoned at a rally spread
around a city already brimming with political tension.

“Clashes erupted everywhere after this information spread,”
said a senior police officer, who asked not to be named.

BEATEN BY RIOTERS

It was not possible to confirm the reports of the poisoning,
but an investigation has begun, the policeman said.

A Reuters witness saw about 60 people who were being treated
on Friday evening in the emergency ward at Ignace Deen hospital.

The same police source and a witness said a 15-year-old who
had drunk water at Conde’s meeting died after vomiting blood.

“Aside from this girl who died in hospital, many people were
injured in last night’s violence. People took advantage (of the
violence) to loot some shops,” the police officer said.

Ibrahima Sory Camara, a resident of Kaloum neighbourhood,
said shops had been looted and people beaten by angry rioters.

Sunday’s election was meant to complete the process of
restoring civilian rule to Guinea, nearly two years after a
coup. The polls would be the first free vote since independence
from France in 1958.

The new delay could give the electoral commission time to
solve problems which emerged after a relatively peaceful first
round of voting in June. New election commission head General
Siaka Sangare described voting conditions as “deplorable”.

Both Conde and Diallo have pledged to include each other in
any future government, whoever wins. [ID:nLDE69A24H]

But there are fears that the delay could raise the chances
of clashes between Conde’s Malinke and Diallo’s Peul ethnic
groups, or even a new military coup.

The United Nations called on Friday evening for a new
election date to be set quickly.
(Writing by David Lewis; editing by Tim Pearce)

Clashes, rumours stoke Guinea tension, poll delay