Opposition to rigged elections spreads across borders (39477)

May 28 (GIN) – African leaders attempting to rush elections even where voter registrations are not complete or are incorrect are meeting fierce opposition in the streets.

A peaceful protest in Guinea turned ugly last week when police fired tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators after they deviated from a route approved by authorities and marched on one of Conakry’s main streets.

Mamadou Dian Balde, editor-in-chief of the Independent and Democrat newspapers, said a total of 15 people were killed by security forces during two days of protests.

The government denies its security forces targeted protesters. Instead it said the victims had been attacked by fellow protesters.

According to Balde, local observers dispute claims by the electoral commission that a successful parliamentary election can be held on June 30.

In neighboring Mali, elections have been called for July 28 despite the fact that nearly half a million people are displaced and living in refugee camps in the neighboring nations of Mauritania, Niger, Algeria and Burkina Faso as a result of a coup d’etat in January that saw a military president installed.

Besides the crucial city of Kidal, which is now under the de facto rule of the rebel National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, numerous towns and villages are still not fully under the government’s control, making it unclear how they will carry out the vote.

In Ivory Coast, local polls last month were boycotted by the opposition party of former President Laurent Gbagbo, highlighting the slow progress of reconciliation in the West African country.

A spokesman for U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that campaign period had been marred by “regrettable incidents, including unacceptable intimidation in certain constituencies”.

Finally, polls this week in Equatorial Guinea were called seriously flawed, according to the London-based Amnesty International and NY-based Human Rights Watch. They cited reports of voter intimidation, denial of free speech to political groups and harassment of the opposition.

Tutu Alicante, head of EG Justice, observed: “President Obiang often says that Africans should demand a voice in global affairs, but he denies one to the people of Equatorial Guinea… The sad truth is that Equatoguineans have never experienced a free and fair election.”