, CONAKRY, Oct 25 – Fresh unrest linked to the delayed presidential poll flared in Guinea on Sunday, witnesses said, despite a warning of zero tolerance from the interim junta leader and appeals for calm.
In the southeastern city of Kissidougou, shops were looted and a number of people injured in clashes between ethnic groups, local residents told AFP.
"Partisans of the Rally of the Guinean People (the party of presidential candidate Alpha Conde) attacked a shopkeeper at the bus station, and completely looted his shop," a resident told AFP.
"There were scuffles and injuries when they entered the market, four shops were vandalised. The security forces did not do anything," he said.
Clashes between the ethnic Malinke, who support Conde, and the Fula who back his opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo were corroborated by multiple residents in the city but the government would not confirm the violence.
The run-off presidential vote was due on Sunday, after a first round in June, but was postponed for the second time amid mutual accusations of violence by the rival parties.
There was also fighting between supporters of the two candidates on Friday and Saturday when shops belonging to the Fula were looted or destroyed in Conakry, Kankan and Siguiri, according to witnesses.
The two candidates appealed for calm as transitional leader General Sekouba Konate vowed a zero tolerance approach.
"I will not accept that Guineans feel strangers at home or should be hunted down because of their ethnic, religious or political background," Konate said in an address on state television late Saturday.
"The unity of the nation will be preserved at any price," Konate said, reading a statement with armed soldiers standing behind him.
"The state will assume all its responsibilities against all troublemakers, it will be zero tolerance for delinquents and those responsible for criminal acts," Konate vowed.
Konate took power 10 months ago, tasked with leading the west African nation to its first free election since independence from France 1958. The poor country has few commercial assets apart from bauxite.
At the first round of the presidential vote on June 27, former prime minister Diallo won 43 percent and longtime opposition leader Conde took 18 percent.
Konate said there should be no further delays and he was "in a hurry" to hand over power.
"The one and only task from now on should be the organisation without delay of the elections for which nobody must become an obstacle," he said.
Since the first round, both sides have charged their opponent\’s supporters with inciting violence and disrupting the organisation of the vote, which aims to return the country to civilian rule after 25 years of military regimes, dictatorship and corruption.
Leaders of 38 Francophone countries expressed their concern about the electoral difficulties in a resolution adopted at the end of a two-day summit in Switzerland on Sunday.
The resolution expressed hope that the vote would be held "as soon as possible and in a peaceful climate".
The United States on Friday urged that the election be held as soon as possible and that "significant violence" would be avoided.