Guinea president vows to hold vote, street clashes erupt

CONAKRY: Guinea's President Alpha Conde said on Thursday he had no plans to postpone this weekend's election, dismissing an opposition request, as supporters of rival parties clashed in the capital.

Conde's challengers have for months cried foul on election preparations and this week asked for the vote to be delayed, saying more time was needed to fix alleged irregularities.

Guinea has a history of electoral violence and analysts predict that controversy over preparations will reignite long-standing ethnic tensions between Conde's supporters and those of his main rival Cellou Dalein Diallo.

"If the CENI (Independent National Electoral Commission) says they are ready, there is no reason to delay them (elections)," Conde told reporters. CENI said on Wednesday there were no grounds for postponing Sunday's presidential vote.

On Thursday, supporters of the ruling Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) threw stones at supporters Diallo's Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) as the latter returned to the capital Conakry after a campaign tour around the country.

Clashes between backers of the rival parties later spread, killing one and injuring around 20 people, medical sources said. Residents reported gunshots and pillaging in the Medina neighbourhood nearby later on Thursday evening.

Last week clashes in the Forest Region between backers of the same two parties which draw support from the Malinke and Peuhl ethnic groups injured dozens.

Conde, whose election in 2010 ended two years of brutal military rule, is widely tipped to win a second mandate in the former French colony.

This is despite the country's prolonged battle with the Ebola epidemic and a slump in metal prices that has sapped revenue in the top African bauxite producer.

His campaign has championed large infrastructure projects to improve electricity and promised more to come.

Alexandre Breining, analyst with Africa Practice, said that further violence during the polls was all but certain.

"A Conde victory in the first round is the worst-case scenario for post-election violence, as the opposition is convinced that Conde cannot mathematically win in the first round," he told Reuters.