, CONAKRY, Oct 24 – The two candidates in Guinea\’s presidential election have appealed for calm, asking their followers to avoid ethnic tensions, and the country\’s transitional president condemned violence after the run-off vote was postponed for the second time.
The separate appeals came after shops owned by the Fula people were looted or destroyed in Conakry, Kankan and Siguiri on Friday and Saturday, according to witnesses.
General Sekouba Konate, appointed nine months ago to guide Guinea to its first free presidential elections, warned late on Saturday he would not allow Guineans to "be hunted down because of their ethnic, religious or political background."
Speaking on state television, backed by armed soldiers, Konate condemned violence that had hit "the entire country," adding: "The unity of the nation will be preserved at any price."
As well as the looting of the Fulani shops, clashes were reported between followers of the two candidates in the runoff that should have taken place on Sunday – Alpha Conde, an ethnic Malinke, and Cellou Dalein Diallo, a Fulani.
"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, former defence minister in the junta that took power late in 2008 on the death of long-time leader Lansana Conte, accused the transitional government headed by civilian Jean-Marie Dore of having "done nothing to speed up the electoral process."
Long-time opposition leader Conde, who garnered 18 percent of the vote in the first round, said on Saturday: "I am calling on all our activists to remain calm."
"Some are manipulating young people… We will do everything to avoid tensions between ethnic groups," said Conde.
Former prime minister Diallo, who won 43 percent of the vote in the June 27 first round, meanwhile asked his followers "to refrain from revenge attacks to preserve the country\’s peace and unity."
But he accused security forces of provoking violence, raping and carrying out arbitrary arrests.
"For five days we have seen a crackdown in neighbourhoods known to be Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) strongholds," he said, referring to his own party.
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.