Monday, June 28, 2010

Guinea Holds First Free Elections in West Africa

The first round of the Guinean Presidential elections took place yesterday, June 27th. The elections marked a turning point in Guinea's history, as it begins the process of leaving it's Junta-controlled past behind. Despite large deposits of minerals, the country ranks among the world's poorest nations, in part due to the military rule which has been in place for over 50 years.

Guinea's most recent democratic effort has had to overcome over 50 years of oppressive military rule. Guinea was freed from French colonial rule in 1958, but has since been ruled by a succession of military leaders through various hostile coups. The Captain Moussa 'Dadis' Camara government, which controlled Guinea from 2008-2009, garnered international attention in September 2010 when the military opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators in Conakry Stadium. Over 150 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured. In December later that year, Camara was shot by an aide and subsequently sent into exile. This allowed for Camara's Minister of Defense, General Sekouba Konate, to take over. Konate appointed an interim civilian prime minister and civilian led government that helped pave the way for the 2010 Presidential elections. Konate has promised that the military will remain in their barracks throughout the election and that they will back whoever wins.

There are long lines at the voting booths and no reports of violence so far. With an estimated 75-80% participation rate among eligible voters, the Guinean election appears to be a success so far. A second round of elections will be held on July 18th if no candidate from the June 27th election garners more than 50% of the popular vote.

-Matthew Thwaites

SOURCES: 'Guinea holds 1st free election'-Boston Globe, 'Guinea's first free election praised for transparency'- CNN