Guinea votes in historic presidential run-off

The historic vote pits former PM Diallo against opposition politician Conde.

Updated: Nov 07, 2010, 16:17 PM IST

Conakry: Guineans began casting their votes on Sunday in a long-delayed presidential run-off to choose the country`s first democratically elected leader since independence from France in 1958.

The historic vote pits former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo against academic and veteran opposition politician Alpha Conde.

Diallo is the poll favourite, having won 43 percent of the vote in the first round, while Conde came in with 18 percent.

Polling stations opened shortly after 0700 GMT with voters in the capital Conakry waiting patiently in line.

"Everybody is in a hurry to finish with the old system, money being stolen to benefit a few, the waste," said retired doctor Saidou Cisse, 67 at a voting station at a seaside school.

Cisse said he arrived one hour before the start of voting on "this very special day”.

Under pressure from the international community the two candidates - who come from two ethnic majorities, the Fulani and Mandinke - made a joint call for calm on Friday after a campaign marked by violence between rival camps.

Since the June 27 election, widely hailed as peaceful, hostility has mounted between the two camps who have accused each other planning to manipulate the vote.

The run-off comes over four months later, after twice being delayed, most recently due to fears of violence.

A rumour that Diallo`s camp had poisoned water distributed at an election rally on October 22 which left scores of Conde`s supporters in hospital, led to a series of attacks on the Fulani and left at least one dead.

According to humanitarian organisations, as many as 2,000 people fled their homes.

On the eve of the highly anticipated vote, interim president General Sekouba Konate reaffirmed that the military would leave power at the end of the electoral process.

He called for a "break with a violent past" and human rights violations.

Guinea`s "father of independence" Ahmed Sekou Toure went from being the creator of Africa`s first Marxist state to a paranoid dictator, who died in office in 1984 after 26 years in power.

A coup upon Toure`s death led to 24 years of military rule by Lansana Conte.

Conte`s death in December 2008 lead to another coup, thrusting the country into crisis as disillusion quickly set in with a junta led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.

In September 2009 security forces opened fire on a crowd protesting Camara`s rule, leading to the bloody massacre of 157 people and horrific scenes of sexual violence which left the west African nation traumatised.

Guinea has been under the interim rule of a part military, part civilian government since January, led by General Sekouba Konate, mandated to lead the country to its first free vote.

The poor nation is blessed with enormous mineral wealth and multinationals are scrambling for their stake in massive bauxite and iron-ore stores.

However half the population lives under the poverty line, and the majority of homes have neither running water nor electricity.

All the country`s borders were closed on Sunday and general traffic is forbidden between 6 am and midnight.

Bureau Report