UNITED NATIONS— Donors have contributed almost the entire $27 million needed to conduct what could be Guinea's first democratic election, the top U.N. envoy in the tiny west African nation said Friday.
Anthony Ohemeng-Boamah, the newly appointed U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator, said the bauxite-rich but impoverished country "is at a historic point in its history."
"We are optimistic that we will be able to hold presidential elections on June 27," he told a press conference.
After gaining independence from France in 1958, Guinea was ruled for 50 years by two dictators. Since the death of the last dictator, Lansana Conte, in December 2008, the country has been engulfed in turmoil.
Capt. Moussa "Dadis" Camara, who seized power in a military coup, began hinting he would run in presidential elections despite a promise not to — prompting a Sept. 28 protest at Conakry's stadium. Camara's presidential guard troops crushed the demonstration, opening fire with live ammunition and raping women. At least 156 civilians died in the massacre.
Camara survived an assassination attempt after the massacre and agreed to go into voluntary exile. A transitional government was established with help from international mediators and interim leader, Gen. Sekouba Konate, said earlier this month that neither he nor any prominent government figures will be candidates in the election.
"The forthcoming elections present a historic opportunity for us to recommit the U.N., the international partners, to support Guinea much more — to address some of the humanitarian and development issues that are still present in the country," Ohemeng-Boamah said.
He said the election should see the transitional government "transferring power to a civilian government."
"The $27 million dollars that are needed for the elections — almost all of it has been mobilized," Ohemeng-Boamah said. "But I think the proof of our support to Guinea will be in what we do to support Guinea to overcome some of the humanitarian, reconstruction and development needs post elections."
He said the $27 million is being used for "the whole length and breadth of an electoral process" including help with a census, purchasing ballot boxes and ballot papers, civic education campaigns, human rights sensitization, transportation and logistics.
The U.N. Development Program, which is in charge of mobilizing the funds, is helping the Electoral Commission with procurement, printing and ensuring that voter rolls are updated and posted and electoral cards are issued enabling Guineans "to vote in peace," Ohemeng-Boamah said.
What about the possibility of violence?
"Obviously, given the history of Guinea, violence has to be of concern to us," he said. "We are working with the government to ensure there is no violence." (AP)