Guinea’s opposition urges West African leaders to step in

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Guinea’s main opposition leader called on neighboring West African states to head off a political crisis in Guinea where President Alpha Conde is running for a third term in October elections.

The 15-nation West African group known as ECOWAS supports democracy in the region and has recently pressed Mali’s junta, who seized power last month, to return the country to civilian rule. Guinea’s opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, said Thursday that he would like to see the regional body turn its attention to his country.

Diallo, 68, has denounced as unconstitutional Conde’s decision to run again in the Oct. 18 elections. This will be the third face-off between Conde and Diallo, who first ran against each other in the country’s 2010 election that came after more than a half-century of dictatorship.

“We are a little jealous of the promptness with which ECOWAS acted in Mali to help that country reconcile when it has not taken action to help Guinea which has long been in crisis,” Diallo told reporters in Dakar, Senegal, where he was visiting Thursday. “We deplore the lack of reaction from ECOWAS against President Conde’s candidacy.”

For months, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Guinea to oppose another term for Conde. He insists he is following the will of the people by running in the October elections, after voters in March approved a referendum that allowed for him to run again. Since then, dozens have died in anti-Conde demonstrations that have turned violent.

Diallo, of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea party, said he traveled to Senegal to rally the support of the large Guinean population living in the neighboring nation.

“I have the strong will to win and keep the victory,” he said. He warned that Guinea has an unreliable voter registry, affecting at least 3 million voters. The electoral commission has said it is unable to correct these shortcomings, he said.

While the incumbent president previously defeated Diallo in both the 2010 and 2015 elections, many in Guinea say that Conde’s popularity has sharply fallen as a result of his decision to seek a third term. After surviving colonialism and dictatorship, many Guineans fear that Conde intends to extend his rule at the expense of the country’s democracy.

The country has a two-term limit for presidents, but Conde now maintains that does not apply to him because of a constitutional referendum approved earlier this year.

Opponents now fear that Conde, 82, will use the new constitution to restart the clock on his term limits, potentially giving him another decade in power.