African News

Guineans elect new leader Sunday

By  | 25 June 2010 at 21:45 | 530 views

After a period of intermittent clashes and resultant chaos, the dust has finally settled in the Republic of Guinea, and one candidate who, pundits say, aims to solidify the cohesive foundation of the nation is Cellou Dalein Diallo (top photo), leader of the Union Force Democratique de la Guinee (UDFG).

It was the momentum that this year’s election had gathered that compelled me to travel to neighboring Guinea to see how democracy is gaining a foothold in a once politically chaotic country. Violence not long ago erupted there and over 150 people were shot in cold bold for resisting military rule after the death of President Lansana Conte.

On my arrival at the border, at Pamlap, the first Guinean border town, I met groups of people debating the forthcoming elections scheduled for Sunday June 27. Depending on who you talk to, the speculative analyses vary. Each and everyone were proffering chances of victory for their candidate.

For some, victory is for Sidya Turay, others say it will be Lansana Kuyateh and others say it will be Alpha Conde and for others victory is sure for Cellou Dalein Diallo. But I sensed a slogan akin to our politics in Sierra Leone: “One People! One Country!” , and this slogan was chanted by supporters of Cellou Dalein Diallo. His supporters say his election campaign is not a campaign for Fullahs only, the tribe which he hails from but a campaign for a unified Guinea because he aims to make Guinea one of the most prosperous nations in Africa through commerce and industry. So far as his supporters are convinced he is the path towards transforming Guinea into the Dubai or Antwerp of West Africa.

Alpha Conde

I arrived in Conakry, the capital and seat of government , and met the same heated debate . Infact it was more heated than in Pamlap. But there were large groups of youths chanting, “One people! One country! Cellou Dalein Diallo”.

Guinean politics had always been characterized by ethnicity and regionalism. Even within aribe there were bound to be divisions based on regionalism. But I sensed a difference this time because I detected that there were other tribes supporting Celluo Dalein Diallo. Arguably he has been stealing the show. May be its due to his ambitions for Guinea and campaign strategies. He is also referred to as a “cross- breed”, being from a Madingo mother and a Fullah father; and has been trying to woo the support of other tribes.

I asked Mamadou Cise, a Madingo youth, who is a college student, why the support this time round is not purely on regionalism or ethnicity. “Because, for the first time in our history, here is a candidate who does not preach divisive politics. He says ‘we are one people in one country’, and we cannot afford to progress as a divided nation, and Diallo’s promise of making Guinea one of the most prosperous in commerce and industry has raised our hopes. We are disillusioned. For too long Guinea has been a backward country due to our primitive loyalty in politics. I am supporting him though I am a Madingo," he said.

Mamadou is not the only one . Several Madingoes seem to be throwing in their support for Diallo and they have proffered similar explanations to that of Mamadou. Currently Guinea serves as a commercial haven for traders from Sierra Leone and other neighbouring countries. The country has been able to levy an appreciable tariff that has attracted many international traders. Consequently thousands of Sierra Leoneans every week cross the border to buy goods there and sell in Sierra Leone where the tariff has made it only possible for very big financial tycoons to be engaged in international trade.

While in Conakry I travelled to other areas like Bonfi, Dabondi, Amdallaye, Matam and traversed Boulbinet in Conakry One which is the administrative center of the city. Groups of youths and adults populated the streets. Slogans vary depending on who they support. But whenever I saw a large crowd, and enquired I found out that it was the supporters of Cellou Dalein Diallo, the man who says he wants a unified and strong Guinea.

On one occasion he took a provincial tour to Fouta, Dalaba and other big provincial towns and regions were he got a rousing welcome. The forest tribes, as those who inhabit the regions in central of Guinea and close to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone border are called, are now throwing in their support for Diallo’s UDFG.

Ibrahim Keita, a trader at Madina describes Diallo’s appearance on the political scene as a new beginning and turning point in the history of Guinea. “There is hope for us. The problem in the past was our divisive thinking. Now whether you are a Madingo, Gberesseh, Fullah or Kissi, we look forward to Cellou Dillao as our redeemer”, he said .

I left Guinea and returned to Sierra Leone amidst the speculations. Had it not been for other pressing commitments in Sierra Leone I would have waited to see the coming of Guinea’s new messiah. Stay tuned for a commentary on Sunday’s hitoric election in Guinea.