DAKAR — Guinea's government and opposition leaders have agreed to bring in an international mediator to facilitate talks over the organization of much-delayed legislative elections. The move could be an important first step to loosening the political deadlock that has already delayed the polls by two years and led to repeated violent street protests.
Guinea has not had an elected National Assembly since before the death of longtime president Lansana Conté in December 2008. There was a military coup within days of Conte's death, followed by a tumultuous two-year transitional period, followed by a hotly contested and at-times violent presidential election in 2010.
Legislative elections were supposed to be held four months after President Alpha Condé took office in December 2010.
They have been pushed back multiple times due to disputes over the organization of the polls. The opposition accuses the government of trying to rig the elections in their favor. The government says the opposition is holding up the process.
But the two sides could be ready to work past their differences. The government has accepted an opposition request to hold talks in the presence of an international mediator to get the electoral process back on track.
Ruling party member Alhousseny Makanera Kake says this acceptance shows that they are open to anything that will allow the elections to move forward with little delay. He says the mediator is meant to help resolve the differences between their different points of view.
Both sides say they want a mediator from an independent international body, ideally West African regional bloc ECOWAS or the United Nations.
Moctar Diallo, a former government minister and a member of the main opposition coalition, said international mediation is necessary for successful talks, and free and fair elections.
It will ensure that the entire process remains honest, he said. He says they have been in this same crisis for more than two years. He says it is time to organize elections and finish the transition to civilian rule.
The elections were most recently scheduled for May, however it looks unlikely that the country will be ready by then.
Guineans say they hope the mediated talks will be a step in the right direction. However, many remain frustrated with the political class.
University student Malick Toure says now they want to bring in outsider to solve their problems? He says the country has tried that before. Maybe Guinea just needs to resolve its own problems, he says, and the two sides should sort things out face to face.
President Condé will name the international mediator. Each side will also be able to select a third-party facilitator to participate alongside them.