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Guinea Opposition Boycotts Talks

  • Jennifer Lazuta

Anti-government protesters set fire during clashes with Guinea security forces in Conakry, Feb. 27, 2013.

Anti-government protesters set fire during clashes with Guinea security forces in Conakry, Feb. 27, 2013.

Guinea’s president has released the names of proposed mediators to facilitate talks over much-delayed legislative elections. While this act was expected to be an important step in resuming deadlocked political talks, opposition leaders say the government has not followed agreed on guidelines for making the selections and that they plan to boycott all future negotiations.

It has been more than four years since Guinea has had an elected National Assembly. Following a 2008 coup, which led to a tumultuous two-year transitional period, legislative elections were supposed to take place within four months of the inauguration of elected President Alpha Conde in December 2010.

Disagreements between the ruling party and opposition leaders over the organization of the polls, however, have led to repeated delays.

The opposition accuses the government of trying to rig the polls. The government says the opposition has been making unreasonable demands.

Continuing disagreement

Last week, the two sides appeared to be ready to overcome their differences when the government agreed to an opposition request to bring in an international mediator to facilitate negotiations and help advance the election preparations.

It was a decision that many Guineans saw as a sign of hope that the country finally could move forward and complete its transition to civilian rule.

Now, political dialogue over how to organize Guinea’s legislative elections, though, seems to have come to a halt once again.

Aboubacar Sylla, a spokesman for the opposition, said the two sides agreed to bring in three mediators: one would be on behalf of the government, one for the opposition and one to represent the international community. He said now, though, the government has unilaterally chosen four facilitators, two of which are representatives of the ruling party. He noted this was never talked about during preliminary negotiations.

Haggling over mediators

Sylla said the opposition will not participate in any more negotiations until the government honors the conditions that were agreed upon.

But government spokesperson Damantang Albert Camara denied the government has violated any terms for choosing the mediators.

The government has named a group consisting of four facilitators, he said, but a specific number of possible facilitators was never previously specified. He said the opposition’s concern over a co-facilitator is premature, because they have not yet finalized their decision. He said the opposition must return to the table to continue with the dialogue and move the elections forward.

Legislative elections were most recently scheduled to be held in May, but it appears unlikely the country will be ready by then.

Camara said no date has been set for finalizing the government’s choice of mediators, but that a decision cannot be made unless both sides are present.