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Thursday, July 1, 2010

US Congratulates Guinea on Open Elections

The first-ever democratic elections since Guinea's independence in 1958 were organised on June 28, with no grave incidents reported from the large country. Congratulations reach Conakry from the entire world.

Twenty-four candidates took part in yesterday's election, with a run-off round scheduled for next month if no single candidate receives more than 50 percent of the overall votes.

Guinea has been dominated by autocratic and military regimes since it gained independence in 1958, and the country remains mired in poverty and under-development.

As long-time dictator Lansana Conté died last year and the armed forces staged a coup, many feared that Guinea would enter yet another period of military misrule. But General Sekouba Konaté instead proved eager to lead the country into democracy.

A thorough transition process was launched by the military junta, including opposition and civil society forces, to create a viable foundation for democracy and free and fair elections.

But the process was not without set-backs, as General Konaté was not always able to control all elements of the demoralised armed forces. In September last year, members of the military forces shot more than 150 unarmed demonstrators who had been participating in a peaceful pro-democracy protest on the streets of Conakry. Countless others were sexually assaulted or otherwise physically attacked.

International condemnation, including from the UN and African Union, followed and a government of national unity was established in January as part of a transition to a more democratic order.

While the September massacre still is being investigated, with promises of bringing the responsibles to court, the last half year has seen Guinea's democracy bursting into flower. The election process was agreed upon among all stakeholders and the electoral campaigns have been executed peacefully and orderly.

Now, congratulations are streaming in from around the world, hailing General Konaté for his success in leading the transition process and the Guinean people for its participation in the polls.

Philip Crowley, press spokesman of the US State Department, said the US "congratulates the people of Guinea for holding their first openly contested elections yesterday." The extraordinary effort on the part of the Guinean people and its government to hold this election "under significant time pressure and despite considerable logistical challenges is a testament to Guinea's enthusiastic and inspiring embrace of democracy."

Read it all here.

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