Sudden death of election chief puts Guinea's historic vote in doubt

A landmark election that was meant to signal a new democratic trend in West Africa was in serious doubt last night as Guinea was gripped by a fresh political crisis.

The man meant to be overseeing the vote in a country struggling to emerge from decades of dictatorship and military rule has died in a Paris hospital, family friends confirmed yesterday.

Election chief Ben Sekou Sylla was accused of rigging the first round of voting on 27 June and convicted in his absence after returning to France for medical treatment. It was hoped that the poll would see an elected government take over from the military junta that has run the former French colony since the death of the dictator Lansana Conte two years ago.

With preparations for Sunday's presidential run-off in disarray, rival candidates were appealing for calm while supporters of the two main camps prepared for more unrest.

Street fighting between backers of the first-round leader Cellou Dalein Diallo and runner-up Alpha Conde over the weekend left more than 50 people injured and one dead. The caretaker Prime Minister, Jean-Marie Dore, warned on Monday that the run-off could be postponed: "We will not hold an election if this will end in a fist fight."

According to election commission officials in the capital, Conakry, it was now "highly improbable" that the election will take place as planned on Sunday. The new bout of uncertainty threatens to undo a period of remarkable optimism in the perennially cursed West African nation. Ruled over by a succession of brutal dictators it has failed to translate its vast mineral wealth – Guinea has the world's largest deposits of iron ore – into any real benefits for its impoverished inhabitants.

The end of the Conte era at the end of 2008 ushered in a violent and unpredictable junta led by a previously unknown army officer, Moussa Dadis Camara. His initial popularity disintegrated after he appeared to go back on his promise to hold an election and stay off the ballot. Public protests were viciously put down in September last year with 157 people killed at a sports stadium in the capital and dozens of women abducted and gang raped by soldiers in the aftermath.

When the junta leader was shot in the head and nearly killed in December by a rival in the military it opened the way for his replacement by General Sekouba Konate. The new leader pushed ahead with plans for an election and has taken steps to rein in Guinea's violent and chaotic military.

He also left the army out of the electoral process, raising hopes that the troubled country might be about to follow the democratic path taken by neighbouring Liberia.

A peaceful first round in June stoked that optimism but delays and accusations of fraud have soured the atmosphere and raised the prospect of ethnic clashes. The leading candidate Mr Diallo, who took 44 per cent of the first vote, is a member of the Peul ethnic group. No one from the Peul people has ruled Guinea since independence in 1958 and the Malinke, the country's second largest community, dominate the senior positions in the army.

Mr Conde, who came second in June with 18 per cent, accused electoral authorities of losing 600,000 votes cast for him and pushed for the election chief Sekou Sylla to be charged with fraud. Mr Diallo and his supporters say that Mr Conde is desperate to delay the vote because "he knows he will lose".

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn