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UN Mission in West Africa Encouraged by Guinea Vote Preparations

The United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative for West Africa says he is encouraged by preparations for elections in Guinea that are meant to return the country to civilian rule.

With three months to go before elections to end military rule in Guinea, U.N. Special Representative Said Djinnit says preparations for the vote are going well. "Really, overall the situation is quite positive. I think things are moving on the right track so far honestly," he said.

Djinnit heads the United Nations Office for West Africa. In an interview with VOA following his meeting with Guinea's acting military leader General Sekouba Konate, Djinnit says the current transitional government is a model of power sharing.

"We have on the one hand a general who is the head of state and the leader of the transition who is very committed to returning the country back to democracy and to the rule of law. On the other hand, for the first time in the history of that country, force vive and the opposition forces are in charge of the country during the transition. They have been calling for a quick return to constitutional order. Now they are in charge of making it happen," he said.

As part of the regionally-backed transition plan, neither General Konate nor civilian Prime Minister Jean-Marie Dore or any other member of the interim government is eligible to run in elections scheduled for June 27.

The vote is meant to return the country to civilian rule after a December 2008 coup. Captain Moussa Dadis Camara took charge of the military government. One year later, he was shot in the head by the former chief of the presidential guard who accused the captain of trying to blame him for the killing of opposition demonstrators.

With Captain Camara still recovering from his wounds in Burkina Faso, General Konate is leading this transitional authority. And he has made clear to the army that he will not tolerate any threat to a return to democracy, warning anyone who uses ethnicity or tries to make trouble that they will be wiped out without hesitation.

Djinnit says the international community understands well how fragile the situation in Guinea remains. "General Konate himself stated that there are still some elements within the army who might have different opinions on the transition. And we know the background from which the country is emerging, so it is not difficult to believe that," he said.

While most of the much-needed security sector reform in Guinea will come after the election, Djinnit says there are some things that should be done now including a reorganization of the military and improvements in basic equipment and facilities including barracks to show soldiers that the international community is committed to help transforming the army.

"General Konate has made it his priority because he knows very well his army, he is one of them, and he is quite clear on what needs to be done during the transition. And he would like to make sure that the new president is elected safely, peacefully, and democratically. That will lead the country forward," he said.

General Konate met with Djinnit here in Senegal where he also held talks with President Abdoulaye Wade and met with members of the Guinean community in Dakar. It is part of the military leader's outreach to both Guineans abroad and regional heads of state that included talks in Bamako last month with Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure.

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