- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) - Guinea’s president faces an electoral rematch Sunday as ethnic clashes that marked the last presidential election threaten to resurface.

President Alpha Conde is running against seven candidates in the West African nation that has been hard hit this year by the Ebola crisis. The main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, is the same man he ultimately defeated in a 2010 election marked by clashes between their supporters along ethnic lines.

At least seven people were killed in 2010 election-related violence and some 50 people died in the run-up to Guinea’s 2013 legislative election, said Corinne Dufka, West Africa associate director for Human Rights Watch.

“The concerns about the prospects for violence remain. Guinea has a long history of political violence, specifically around elections,” she said.

This country is also still fighting Ebola. The virus has killed more than 2,500 people in Guinea alone and isolated parts of the country, which could mean lower voter turnout in those remote areas.



“What Ebola has made clear is many ordinary Guineans’ deep mistrust of government,” said Mike McGovern, a West Africa expert and associate professor of anthropology at University of Michigan.

On Thursday, at least one person died and 20 others were wounded when clashes broke out in the capital, Conakry. Vehicles and stores were set alight during the confrontations between opposition and ruling party supporters.

Primary school teacher Manga Womey is worried about the prospect of more violence. The 2010 election exposed divisions between the two major ethnic groups, the Malinke who favored Conde against the Peul who backed Diallo.

“Ethnic clashes could follow the election,” he said. “Social tensions are already palpable.”

“The only solution is to postpone elections,” he added, echoing some of Conde’s opponents who want the vote pushed back to Oct. 21, saying voter cards and other election materials were not properly distributed.

But national electoral group spokesman Salifou Kebe said there is “no evidence that warrants a postponement.”

Guinea endured decades of corrupt dictatorship after its independence from France. In 2008, after the longtime strongman died, a military coup led to tumultuous rule until the junta’s leader agreed to go into exile. Conde later won the country’s first-ever democratic election.

Many analysts believe the vote will eventually head to a second round that could see Conde face off against Diallo yet again.

Former junta leader Moussa “Dadis” Camara, indicted for a 2009 stadium massacre by soldiers in which more than 150 people were killed, wanted to enter the presidential race. His lawyer said he was blocked from returning to Guinea from exile in Burkina Faso.

___

Associated Press writer Boubacar Diallo in Conakry, Guinea contributed to this report.

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