Voting starts in Guinea elections marred by violence

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A presidential election with a build-up marred by violence in recent days was under way in Guinea on Sunday, amid a heavy presence of security officers and armoured vehicles in the capital Conakry.

In the Madina neighbourhood, where hundreds of shops were destroyed by a fire started during clashes between political opponents last week, businessman Mamadou Seraya was busily removing sacks of rice from his store.

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He feared if riots broke out, as they have done after previous elections, he would lose all his possessions as he is member of the Fulani group that supports opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo.

“They burnt the shops of my Fulani brothers and killed some others because they are supporters of the opposition,” he told dpa.

Clashes broke out in several areas of Conakry on Saturday, with dozens of people injured when members of the ruling Rally of the Guinean People and opposition parties threw rocks at each other.

In the country’s south-eastern Banankoro district, seven people were killed on Friday. Five of them were burned alive and two others were shot dead.

Diallo’s wife, Haja Halimatou, said security forces fired teargas and wielded batons outside her house in Conakry, while activists armed with stones and clubs roamed the streets.

“They attacked us this morning, waking us up with teargas and stones. The attackers were numerous,” said Halimatou.

The violence erupted after the Constitutional Court ruled against a request by opposition parties, lead by Diallo, 63, to postpone the election which they say has been heavily rigged in favour of incumbent President Alpha Conde, 77.

Much of the violence in Guinea is believed to be rooted in the political rivalry between the Malinke and Fulani ethnic groups.

Conde, a member of the Malinke, defeated Diallo in the country’s first democratic election in 2010 after years of military rule.

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