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Free Elections Overdue In Guinea


The military junta ruling Guinea promised a return to democratic elections when it seized power in December, and now leaders there say they are making plans to live up to that pledge. Guinea's neighbors and much of the international community condemned the coup, and should the junta not follow through or hold elections that aren't free and fair, the struggling West African nation's isolation will continue.

The National Council for Democracy and Development seized control of Guinea after the death of President Lansana Conte, who had ruled for more than 2 decades. Led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, the military council suspended the constitution and replaced dozens of administrators with its own supporters and many key posts are held by the military. Captain Camara said the junta was taking action to fight corruption in Guinea and made many arrests of civilian leaders it accused of profiting from high office.

The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States suspended Guinea in reaction to the coup and the United States cut all aid except for certain humanitarian assistance and pro-democracy programs. Lack of stability now threatens economic investment, which the struggling nation badly needs.

After taking power, the military council said it would restore democratic rule with elections within 2 years, a timetable seen by many in Guinean civil society and outside Guinea as too slow. Responding to a proposal from local political parties, trade unions and other groups, the council moved up the date, with legislative elections scheduled for October 11 and the first round of presidential elections on December 13.

These are positive developments and show some forward momentum for restoring the rule of law. Guinea faces many challenges and the sooner an effective representative government is in place, the sooner it can get on with the work of meeting them.
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