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Political Tensions in Guinea Heating Up

FILE - Demonstrators gather during clashes between security forces and demonstrators at an unauthorized anti-government protest in Conakry, April 20, 2015.

Political tensions are heating up in Guinea again — this time over the government’s decision to postpone local elections until 2016. The opposition says it will keep protesting despite renewed calls for dialogue. Guineans say they are tired of all the discord.

Protesters clashed with security forces Monday during what authorities said was an unauthorized demonstration in Conakry. At least three people were wounded. An unknown number were arrested.

Hundreds arrested during a demonstration last week have been sentenced to two to five month’s imprisonment. One person was killed. The opposition said security forces fired live bullets, which the government denies.

It is just the latest episode in what has been a years-long stand-off between the government and the opposition over election organization.

Dozens have been killed and wounded in protests since 2012. Previous disputes have centered on the composition of the electoral commission and the company contracted to handle the technical side of voter registration and vote counting.

Losing patience

Guineans, even those who support the opposition, say they are losing patience.

Teacher Mariam Sachko says “the current situation is unfortunate.” She says “the opposition does not seem to want dialogue. They do not trust the government," she adds, "but this is not a solution and they are just being stubborn."

The opposition rejected a government delegation Monday.

Conakry Doctor Mamoudou Camara says "politics cannot go with violence that is what they should understand. Political extremism is not good."

Opposition leaders say they will not negotiate until the government withdraws the current electoral timetable.

That timetable sets the presidential poll for October and postpones local elections to 2016.

Union of Republican Forces party leader Sidya Toure told VOA he believes the government wants to rig the presidential election.

"This is like a war," he says. "They cannot call for ceasefire before going to the negotiating table. We cannot negotiate until the electoral commission has stopped its current preparations."

The international community has previously mediated deals between the two sides. Toure says the government has not kept its promises.

Election financing

The electoral commission says because of the Ebola outbreak, it cannot afford to hold two elections in 2015. But the opposition argues that municipal elections are long overdue. The last ones were held in 2005.

Government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara says the government's goal is peaceful elections and it will not stop calling for dialogue. He says "when you are sincere, you can come to the table without pre-conditions."

The government says it does not control the independent electoral commission or the electoral timetable.

But university professor and political analyst Sori Diakite says the government and the opposition need to talk.

He says it is better to go straight to the presidential elections because if the president’s elected mandate expires this year, Guinea will have an illegal president and that could provoke more problems that could be more dangerous for the country.

Human rights groups are calling for negotiations, as are vendors and businessmen.

The opposition has called for more protests Thursday, this time nationwide.