Guinean President Alpha Conde on Saturday urged his supporters not to let themselves be provoked into violence, as political tensions ratchet up ahead of this month’s election in the West African state.
Addressing cheering supporters in the capital Conakry, Conde suggested that warnings of violence in the poor nation amounted to opposition provocations.
“There will never be war in Guinea,” Conde said, after explaining he thought the opposition planned to declare victory but seek refuge in an embassy, “thinking there will be a war”.
“You don’t take power with blood. You don’t take power by destroying vehicles. You don’t take power by provoking others,” the president said, urging voters not to use violence.
Voters go the polls on October 18 in Guinea, where Conde is a seeking a controversial third presidential term.
The 82-year-old president pushed through a constitutional referendum this year which reset the two-term presidential limit to zero.
Conde also recently drew criticism for stoking ethnic tensions in the country of some 13 million people, which opponents warned could trigger violence.
In a speech last month delivered in the Malinke language, Conde told voters that backing an opposition Malinke candidate amounted to voting for his main opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo.
Guinea’s politics are mostly drawn along ethnic lines. President Conde’s party is largely backed by Malinke people, and Diallo’s UFDG by Fulani people, although both insist that they are pluralist.
On Saturday, Conde made an apparent swipe at Diallo, telling supporters that Guinea’s opposition had been “made” by former autocrat Lansana Conte.
Diallo is a former prime minister who served under Conte.
Guinea’s electoral campaign has already been marred by violence.
A man was shot dead in clashes in central Guinea, an opposition stronghold, on Wednesday, for example.
That killing also follows the death of dozens of protesters against a Conde third term, from October last year.
Despite saying on Saturday that there would never be a war in Guinea, Conde himself likened his contest with the opposition to a war in a speech last month.
“This election is not just an election, it’s as if we were at war,” he had said.
A former opposition activist, Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010, and won re-election five years later.
Rights groups have accused him of veering towards authoritarianism, however.