African business, politics and lifestyle
Will Guinea accept Konate’s gift?
One of the first things you see when you arrive at the airport in Conakry is a poster of General Sekouba Konate, wearing fatigues, sunglasses and a red beret.
Drive into the city, and interspersed among the campaign billboards that cover the sides of major roadways, you’ll see more Konate posters – including one bearing the words “Sentinel de la Paix”, bringer of peace.
It seems appropriate to pay homage to the leader of Guinea’s military junta, who surprised many Guineans and much of the world for pushing hard to transfer his power to a civilian through free and fair elections – something the West African state has never experienced before.
“I don’t know of another soldier in Guinea who would have done that,” said General Ibrahim Balde, the head of Guinea’s national guard and election security forces during an interview last week. “What he has given the country is a real gift.”
Nearly five months after the first round of elections and more than a week after the run-off, Guinea’s electoral commission on Monday named veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde president-elect over rival Cellou Dalein Diallo, something the Supreme Court must now ratify.
But the process up to this point has been tortuous and turbulent, with clashes between rival political camps - including rioting in some neighbourhoods on Monday and overnight that security forces pushed back with live rounds.
Analysts are worried more trouble lies ahead.
The main problem is that the rivals come from Guinea’s two most populous ethnic groups – the Malinke and the Peul – and the presidential contest meant to pull Guinea out of a dark period has backfired by rekindling longstanding tensions between the two groups.
Even Konate – Sentinel de la Paix – is taking a hit.
“He did a great thing, but now he’s in the middle of the fight,” said Alpha Issiaga Bongoura, a musician.
The Peul believe he pressured the electoral commission to favour Conde, extending what they see as centuries of other ethnicities ganging up on them to keep them out of power. The Malinke believe the opposite given Konate has two Peul wives.
Will Guineans eventually take Konate’s gift, or will the tug-of-war between Peul and Malinke tear the country in two?
(Photo: General Sekouba Konate, the junta leader of Guinea’s interim government, votes in Conakry. REUTERS/Luc Gnago)