Guinea's president, 82, seeks to prolong rule in Sunday vote

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A supporter of the ruling Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) party joins others to demonstrate against the opposition Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) party and to block the visit of their leader, in the streets of Kankan, Guinea Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. The stage is set for Oct. 18 presidential elections pitting incumbent President Alpha Conde, 82, who is bidding for a third term, against opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, who was previously defeated by Conde in both the 2010 and 2015 elections. (AP Photo/Sadak Souici)

CONAKRY – Guinean President Alpha Conde, 82, is seeking a third term in office Sunday, insisting his attempt to prolong his rule does not make him a dictator even as opposition protesters slam his candidacy as an illegal power grab.

The electoral campaign in this West African nation already has seen deadly protests, which some fear could explode after results are announced. More than 50 people have been killed in anti-Conde protests since October last year, Amnesty International said this month, urging the government to investigate.

Already the International Criminal Court at The Hague has said it is “deeply concerned” about the mounting tensions.

“These recurring episodes of election-related violence are deplorable," ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.

“I particularly condemn the use of inflammatory rhetoric by some political actors during their electoral campaign, leading to growing ethnic tensions among the people of Guinea,” she added.

In recent days, opposition supporters have clashed with ruling party activists in northern Guinea, leaving dozens injured. And Prime Minister Ibrahima Kassory Fofana's procession was pelted with rocks while visiting another opposition stronghold.

Conde made history in 2010 when he became Guinea's first democratically elected president since independence from France in 1958, raising hopes that the country could finally emerge from a long history of corrupt rule.

Sunday's vote is also the third match-up between Conde and his long-time rival Cellou Dalein Diallo, whom he defeated in 2010 and 2015.

The president maintains his candidacy for a third term is legal because the constitutional changes were approved by voters in a referendum earlier this year. The opposition boycotted the referendum. As a result, Conde could conceivably serve another decade at the helm of Guinea if he wins Sunday's race and then is re-elected to another term five years from now.

Diallo, the opposition candidate, is urging the international community to monitor Sunday's vote, accusing the government of rigging the electoral lists.

"Alpha Conde wants to rig the elections but we will not accept it,” he said.