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Clashes precede Guinea parliamentary polls

At least one policeman killed and 51 others wounded in renewed violence in West African country.

Last Modified: 23 Sep 2013 19:53
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Protesters in the Guinean capital of Conakry have shot dead a trainee policemen, as renewed violence has broken out ahead of long-delayed elections in the former military dictatorship, the government says.

The clashes, in which 51 people were wounded, came after the United Nations said parliamentary polls scheduled for Tuesday would be put back four days amid concerns by opposition activists over the organisation of the vote.

The demonstrators opened fire on Monday as police broke through one of numerous barricades put up across the city, killing the trainee and wounding two officers, an administration spokesman said in a statement.

"Once again, the government calls on political parties to get their supporters to exercise restraint and urges them to refrain from any form of violence against peaceful citizens," the statement said.

Legislative polls were initially due to have been held within six months of the swearing-in of President Alpha Conde in December 2010 but have been repeatedly delayed.

Vehicles set alight

The West African nation's main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, has accused the president's camp and the electoral commission of conniving to rig the September 28 vote and has called for electoral lists to be published.

The government calls on political parties to get their supporters to exercise restraint and urges them to refrain from any form of violence against peaceful citizens

Government statement

The violence followed clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters across Conakry which left 24 wounded over the weekend.

Hundreds of teenage activists from the main opposition Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea barricaded roads, set vehicles alight and pelted police with rocks in the latest clashes, shouting "revenge", the AFP news agency reported.

Many of the youths said they were seeking vengeance after government supporters attacked a procession staged by Diallo's wife on Sunday.

Guinea, one of the poorest countries in the region despite vast potential for mineral exploitation, was run by a succession of autocratic rulers after gaining independence from France in 1958.

A military junta took control in December 2008 at the of death of President Lansana Conte, who seized power in a coup 24 years earlier, and a transitional administration oversaw the introduction of civilian rule at the end of 2010.

Fears of irregularities

The UN facilitator for dialogue in Guinea, Said Djinnit, announced on Saturday that after widespread consultations, an "exceptional delay of four days for final adjustments before the elections" was decided upon.

Diallo, who welcomed the delay, is among several opposition politicians who have voiced concerns over organisation of the polls that have sparked protests in which more than 50 people have died since 2011.

One of the main complaints this time around has been that 31 polling stations have more than 1,000 registered voters, while the law limits the number to 500, an early sign of the voting irregularities to come, according to the opposition.

But the election commission put up a defiant defence of its organisation of the first parliamentary elections since June 2002.

"We are trying our best to work to make the process credible. We need the political parties to trust the work we are doing to achieve greater transparency," Election Commission official Alpha Yero Conde said.

The commission has not published figures for the percentage of polling cards which have yet to reach voters.

"We do not guarantee that all discrepancies will be resolved but we are trying to reduce them to a minimum," Conde said.

"People are free to go and get their voter cards from the distribution centres."

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