La Guinée nouvelle

Supporters of Guinea election rivals clash in streets




CONAKRY, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Dozens of supporters of Guinea's presidential hopefuls clashed in the streets of the capital on Sunday, witnesses said, underscoring rising tensions ahead of a planned Sept. 19 run-off vote.



Witnesses said police used tear gas to disperse crowds, a day after clashes between backers of favourite and ex-prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo and his rival Alpha Conde wounded a number of people in the top bauxite producing country.


The clashes come amid criticism of a court decision last week to jail two senior officials from the election commission, known as CENI, who were accused of meddling with the results of the first round of voting on June 27.



"The (court) decision is aimed at provoking the implosion of CENI and therefore delay the election process so that the second round does not take place on Sept. 19," said Soulaymane Bah, a spokesman for Diallo's UFDG party.



Ben Sekou Sylla, president of the CENI election commission, and his head of planning El Hadj Boubacar Diallo, were accused of illegally withdrawing some results sheets in the first round of voting, and were jailed for a year each. Conde's RPG had brought forward the charges against the pair.


Citing unnamed officials, Liberte FM, a private radio station, said the election body was determined to hold the poll on time.


But prior to the jailing of the election officials, some results from the first round had been cancelled and doubts have emerged over poll preparations, raising fears that the run-off could be challenged, and trigger violence.



Witnesses said the clashes on Sunday were over by midday, but a number of arrests were made and some injured were taken to the city's Ratoma health clinic. Diallo's UFDG said 24 people were injured in Saturday's clashes.


Guinea is seeking to return to civilian rule after a coup ushered in a military government following the December 2008 death of long-time leader Lansana Conte.



Having won 43.69 percent of the vote in the first round, compared to Conde's 18.25 percent, Diallo will go into the run-off as the favourite.



Diallo and Conde are from the large Peul and Malinke ethnic groups respectively and there are fears of clashes between the two communities if the run-off outcome is disputed. (Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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