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A Tale of Two Elections

March 9, 2011


Alpha Conde after being inaugurated as Guinea's first freely elected president. (from



Guinea’s road to democracy has been a long one. 52 years after gaining independence from France, Guinea has held its first fair and open democratic elections in the fall of 2010. On December 21, Alpha Conde was sworn in as president. USAID details how the process came about and remained fair and transparent. We worked with USAID to ensure that the population

With USAID support, Search for Common Ground trained journalists and coordinated media promotion, which included a radio special—FM Guinea 2010— broadcast simultaneously on Guinea’s 16 private radio stations. In coordination with other donors through the United Nations Development Program, USAID also helped reprint and display voter lists at polling stations before election day and procure additional electoral material for new voting stations created following protests by the two candidates after the first round.

Read the full story here.

This is a sharp contrast with neighboring Côte d’Ivoire, where violence around the contested election of last fall is rising. Thousands have fled into Liberia and the phrase civil war comes quickly to conversations about the nation’s future. Can the success of Guinea’s election shed any light on the failure of Côte d’Ivoire’s?

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 11, 2011 7:47 am

    Laurent Gbagbo is not Francisco Franco, and Cote d’Ivoire in 2011 is not the Spain of 1936. But what is happening these days in Abidjan, where civil war has already begun, is nothing less than the future of the democracy in Africa. Just as the future of European democracy was at stake in Europe when the civil war begun in the young Spanish Republic.

    The crisis born in December 2010 from Gbagbo’s refusal to recognize the victory of his opponent Alassane Ouattara show a battle between two men, certainly, but also between two type of legitimacy: the one from popular sovereignty exercised through universal suffrage and the one emanating from violence, an armed force which has once again expressed itself by firing on the crowd.

    A victory of force in Côte d’Ivoire celebrates the triumph of brutality over law. It would discredit in advance all future elections in Africa. What is the point in voting if the vanquished is to retain power?

    Yet no less than eighteen presidential elections are planned for 2011 on the continent. This shows the huge potential for destabilization and authoritarian contagion..

    Conversely, the installation of Mr. Ouattara, President Elect, recognized by the African Union (AU) and UN, would be a resounding warning to the presidential candidates who want to follow the Gbagbo’s steps. .

    To say this does not mean to vote on behalf of the Ivoirians. They clearly expressed their will in autumn 2010. Alternatively, this does not patent Ouattara as a confirmed democrat. It simply means that democracy will grow on the African continent where men will bow and kneel in front of institutions.

    However, it is up to Africans to gain their democracy. A president that would be imposed by the West, or appear to be, its legitimacy would be greatly compromised. This is not the case of Mr. Ouattara, who was elected after a process conducted by the UN, a process that Mr. Gbagbo’s himself accepted after several years of negotiations.

    Half a century after African independence, the slightest interference of former colonial powers would only fuel the rhetoric of “anti-imperialism” which is of supreme tasted to Gbagbo. The time is thus not, as in 1936 for Spain, the debate about Western intervention.

    Helping Africans resolve the Ivorian crisis by Africans is a necessity and as an emergency. It is very urgent, before the civil war causes the collapse of Cote d’Ivoire and inflame of already instable West Africa. .

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