CONAKRY, Guinea — Security forces took positions throughout the capital late yesterday as the head of Guinea’s electoral commission declared Alpha Condé the winner of a tight presidential election. Earlier in the day, supporters of his opponent had rioted, arguing that their victory had been stolen.
Volleys of gunfire rang out just after the results were announced in some of the same neighborhoods where rioting had occurred.
Condé, a 72-year-old Sorbonne university professor who has spent most of his adult life in France, won with 1.4 million votes, or 52.5 percent. His rival Cellou Dalein Diallo got 1.3 million of the nearly 2.9 million ballots cast, around 47.5 percent, according to National Independent Electoral Commission’s president, Siaka Sangaré.
It capped a day in which security forces arrested demonstrators and fired tear gas at Diallo supporters burning tires. A stretch of the national highway leading out of Conakry was blocked by police trucks for most of the afternoon as police chased bands of young men, who pelted them with rocks.
The election last week should have been a moment of pride for Guinea, marking the former French colony’s first democratic vote, but it has been overshadowed by ethnic tensions between supporters of Diallo, who like him are mostly Peul, and supporters of Condé, who are mostly Malinke like him.
The two groups are the country’s largest ethnic groups and have a history of bad blood dating to the rule of Guinea’s first dictator Sékou Touré, a Malinke. He executed an untold number of Peul intellectuals after contending he had uncovered a “complot Peul,’’ or Peul plot against him.
Human rights organizations worry that the street fights could degenerate and prompt the military, which has ruled Guinea for the past 26 years, to get involved.
Over the weekend, Diallo held a press conference and declared he would not accept the results if the election commission refused to throw out ballots from two contested provinces that were swept by anti-Peul riots in the days before the Nov. 7 poll.
Diallo said his supporters were too intimidated to show up to vote and his party could not even find representatives to observe the counting of ballots.