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15.12.2020 Guinea

Guinea's Conde takes oath after disputed elections, urges unity

By AFP
Conde, pictured during a visit to Burkina Faso in 2017.  By Ahmed OUOBA (AFP/File)
LISTEN DEC 15, 2020
Conde, pictured during a visit to Burkina Faso in 2017. By Ahmed OUOBA (AFP/File)

Guinean President Alpha Conde appealed for national unity on Tuesday after taking the oath of office following violently disputed elections.

"I urge every one of you to forget the divisive past and turn towards a future of unity and hope," said Conde at ceremonies attended by African heads of state.

The 82-year-old's bid for a third term had been condemned by the opposition as an abuse of power, and dozens died in clashes.

"Everyone must uphold the law and ban violence from their words and acts, so that our country remains a community of freedom and responsibility," Conde warned.

The head of the constitutional court, Mohamed Lamine Bangoura, declared Conde's next term would start officially on December 21.

Conde, dressed in a white gown, promised to "scrupulously respect the provisions of the constitution, the laws and the court decisions, to defend the constitutional institutions, the integrity of the territory and the national independence".

The former opposition leader became the impoverished West African state's first democratically-elected president in 2010 and won re-election in 2015.

But as his second term progressed, critics accused him of cracking down on dissent and seeking to subvert constitutional limits on presidential tenure.

Guinea.  By Gillian HANDYSIDE (AFP) Guinea. By Gillian HANDYSIDE (AFP)

He pushed through a new constitution in March which he argued would modernise the country.

But it also allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidents, arguing that the counter had been reset to zero.

Opposition to that outcome provoked mass protests in which security forces killed dozens of people, sparking condemnation from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Conde was credited with 59.49 percent of the vote in the October 18 ballot while his main opponent, Cellou Dalein Diallo, garnered 33.5 percent, according to official figures.

Disputing the independence of the electoral authority, Diallo, 68, declared himself victorious even before the results were announced.

Clashes then ensued that claimed at least 21 lives, according to the government, while the opposition party put the death toll at 46.

Elsewhere in his inauguration speech, Conde said, "We all hope for far-reaching and swift change. This is why we have to change practices and methods. We are firmly committed to fighting corruption, cronyism and patronage."

Guests at the tightly-protected ceremony in the Mohammed V palace included 11 African heads of state as well as representatives from the United Nations, the regional ECOWAS bloc and France.

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