Guinea arrests opposition leaders after disputed election

Vice president of Guinea’s leading opposition party, the UFDG, and others held as President Alpha Conde wins a controversial third term.

Guinean police have detained or tried 137 people in the capital Conakry alone [File: John Wessels/AFP]

Guinean police have launched a sweeping operation against opposition politicians and activists following deadly post-election violence in the West African country.

Officers on Wednesday arrested the vice president of Guinea’s leading opposition party, the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG). More than 100 other people – mainly activists – have also been caught in the police dragnet.

The operation came after President Alpha Conde, 82, won a controversial third term after topping an October 18 poll with 59.5 percent of the votes, according to official results released on Saturday.

Opposition leader Cellou Diallo from the UFDG party had declared himself victorious after the election and alleged voter fraud.

That move triggered nationwide clashes between his supporters and security forces in which the government said at least 21 people were killed. The UFDG party put the death toll at 46.

While observers from other African countries have backed the official results, France, the European Union and the United States have cast doubt.

As part of the recent sweep operation, Guinean police have detained or tried 137 people in the capital Conakry alone, state prosecutor Sidy Souleymane Ndiaye said in a statement on Tuesday.

Officers held some for participating in illegal demonstrations and others for the use of weapons or criminal association.

On Wednesday, “very threatening agents” also arrested UFDG party’s vice president Ibrahima Cherif Bah, the politician’s wife told AFP news agency.

Another opposition figure told AFP he is waiting for the officers to turn up.

Police are still seeking several opposition activists “who have made threats likely to disturb public safety”, according to the prosecutor.

‘No more disorder’

Diallo, 68, called the police operation an “electoral coup d’etat” in a statement on social media on Wednesday, and accused Conde of seeking to “decapitate” his party.

Political tension in Guinea centres on Conde’s third term, against which there have been rolling protests since October 2019.

The president pushed through a new constitution in March, arguing it would modernise the country. But it also allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidents.

“We are going to start putting things in order, there will be no more disorder in Guinea,” Conde said on Saturday.

A former opposition leader himself who suffered imprisonment and was even sentenced to death, Conde became Guinea’s first democratically-elected leader in 2010 and won re-election in 2015.

Hopes of a new political dawn in the former French colony have withered, however, and Conde has been accused of drifting into authoritarianism.

Source: AFP