Guinea’s President Alpha Conde called for calm on Wednesday as opposition protests over initial results from Sunday’s election, which showed him leading the field, turned deadly.
At least six people were killed, including two police officers, and many injured when supporters of Conde’s main rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo, set alight piles of old furniture and burned tires in some opposition neighbourhoods of the capital Conakry, Security Minister Damantang Albert Camara said.
There were also clashes in opposition strongholds outside the capital, he said. Two people died in Kissidougou, a city in the southeast of Guinea, about 700 kilometres from Conakry.
“I reiterate my appeal to all to calm and serenity pending the outcome of the electoral process under way in our country,” Conde said in a statement. “If victory is mine, I remain open to dialogue and available to work with all Guineans.”
At least 13 people are reported to have been killed in violence since the election, in which Diallo, 68, has claimed victory based on his campaign’s tallies.
On Tuesday, the electoral commission reported that Conde won three districts in Conakry, scoring over 50 per cent of the vote in two of the districts, and won Boffa district north of the capital with over 56 per cent of the vote, helping to give him an overall lead nationwide.
Kabinet Cissé, head of the electoral commission, said more preliminary results from the vote would be announced in the days ahead.
Ethnic tensions, term limit controversy
Conde was the first democratically elected president, but his push for a third term has sparked repeated protests over the past year, resulting in dozens of deaths. Conde, 82, said a constitutional referendum in March reset his two-term limit; his opponents say he is breaking the law by holding on to power.
Ethnic tensions exist in the country between those who, like Conde, are Malinke, and those of the Peul, or Fulani, group.
If victorious, Diallo would be the first Peul president.
Guinea’s hotly contested election comes amid growing concerns about the reversal of democratic progress in West Africa. In August, Mali’s government was overthrown by the army, while Ivory Coast, with an election on Oct. 31, has witnessed violent protests over President Alassane Ouattara’s bid for a third term.