Returning from a long and sometimes perilous tour across the country, Cellou Dalein Diallo was greeted by an impressive green tide in Conakry.
A smooth arrival, above all, for the president of the Democratic Union of Guinea Forces (UFDG), who is fighting his last battle, at the polls, against the one he has called for nearly 10 years “Mr. Alpha Condé” , and his party the Rally of the People of Guinea (RPG).
For Le Point Afrique, he looks back on this electoral campaign started late on October 4.
Le Point Afrique: You boycotted the double referendum and legislative ballot of March 22, what prompted you to launch into the presidential race?
Cellou Dalein Diallo: First, the overwhelming majority of party structures decided that the UFDG should participate in the presidential election. The argument developed is that Alpha Condé is decried everywhere and that the voice of “Cellou” can be a twin voice of that of the street. Without giving up our fight within the FNDC, we therefore wanted, conscious weaknesses of Alpha Condé, who is disowned even in his traditional strongholds, seize this opportunity to fight against the 3e mandate, but at the polls this time. And my application was very well received, including in territories favorable to Alpha Condé.
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Did that surprise you?
Yes. I did not expect such massive support in Upper Guinea. The youth mobilized to support me. There have been massive resignations from the RPG and waves of UFDG memberships. This is why Mr. Alpha Condé did not want me to go strutting in his strongholds, and why he made arrangements to block me before my arrival in Kankan. He is a candidate who does not respect the rules of the game. He uses his presidential helicopter to campaign, which is not in accordance with the law. But considering his age I am tolerant and forgiving of it.
You still questioned his ability to lead the country on France 24?
Yes, his physical and intellectual capacities. The presidential function is very demanding. It takes work, to read the files, to understand them, to decide. I think that the age limit that was written into the Constitution was a good thing, because from a certain age, whatever your experience and your talent, you are diminished. And it’s not your fault, it’s the use of time. A President of the Republic must be in good physical health and have a certain intellectual energy to work and make others work.
If you are elected, will you revert to the 2010 Constitution, which was replaced by a new Constitution after the March 22 vote?
Yes, absolutely. I am going to dissolve this Constitution, take over that of 2010 and have it adopted as it is, with the separation of powers, the strict limit on the number of elective mandates, and I will ensure that the independence of the institutions is respected. The 2010 Constitution was the result of a broad consensus. Its authors were concerned about the wishes of heads of state to remain in power, so the provisions relating to the number and duration of mandates were placed in intangible provisions, such as the republican form of the state, secularism, political and union plurality… we have to maintain that, and see how to lock it down further. We must return to constitutional legality by repealing this new Constitution.
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You said you were pleasantly surprised by the demonstrations of support for your candidacy in Haute-Guinée, stronghold of the outgoing president. But you were also well received in Forest Guinea, a region which is rather favorable to it?
Yes, but in Forest Guinea, I must admit that I expected to find such a welcome. We worked on it and I felt that the populations were inclined to support my candidacy. But this perhaps surprised Mr. Alpha Condé. He must have been unsettled by this support which he did not expect, and he decided to prevent me from going to Kankan (regional capital of Upper Guinea and 2e city of the country, Editor’s note) but also to repress the citizens who had left to welcome me. A few days earlier, we witnessed acts of symbolic destruction, attacks on UFDG militants, our headquarters was even ransacked in Kankan. Perhaps that is what also made him decide to leave his palace to see if he could put things right. But the people of the forest are disappointed. All the leaders of Forest Guinea, except one or two, support my candidacy, through the Alliance for Alternation and Democracy, which brings together 40 parties.
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Have you been received by the Patriarch of Nzérékoré, who is a weighty moral authority?
Yes, very warmly. Very warmly. They are disappointed with the governance of Alpha Condé and they did not fail to say it, sometimes subtly, but sometimes more bluntly.
What happened on the way to Kankan?
I was informed several times that traps were set. So I decided to take another route, so as not to cross two strongholds of Mr. Alpha Condé. Unfortunately, 120 km from Kankan, some young people blocked our way and told us that we were not welcome.
Is that an order you were intimidated?
I think these people came with the warrant and the means to block me. Recall that the first lady said that she did not want to see a flag other than that of the RPG fly over the city of Kankan. They have therefore taken all the necessary measures.
Not having held a meeting in Kankan, a large pool of voters, does that worry you?
I wanted to address this population. Thank them, express my gratitude to them and promise them to decline my social project, also reassure them about my ambition to reconcile the Guineans.
I also wanted to tell them that I was going to continue the work I undertook as Minister of BTP, because the young people who support me were able to note that the only viable infrastructures are those that I left, there is has not had an additional bitumen kilometer. Look at the hydroelectric dam that was planned in Kankan: we laid the first stone, but we never saw the start of work. These frustrations led a large number of young people to support me, because they saw that Alpha Condé had done nothing to develop the region.
If the ballot does not go according to the rules, this Sunday, can there be a surge of the army?
Yes, there is always a risk of a coup d’état when the rules of democracy and the rule of law are not respected. The army is given valid pretexts to seize power. If Alpha Condé does not organize good, transparent elections, when we have used all means to get him to do so, the army can take power and then hand it over to a civilian so that he can organize in a well-negotiated transition of free and fair elections. I think this is not to be deplored.
You said you would not let the victory be stolen from you. What does it mean ?
I will make all arrangements to have the results out of the polls. If we manage to have the proof that we have won, we will not let our victory be stolen.
ECOWAS has hardly been involved in recent months in Guinea. What do you think ?
We deplore the lack of solidarity vis-à-vis Guinea. Mali captured his attention from the first protest marches, while we have been marching with the FNDC since April 2019, that our marches have been bloodily suppressed with nearly 100 dead. But we did not see the ECOWAS come to help us out of the crisis.
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Is it a disappointment?
Yes. ECOWAS should have tried to organize a dialogue to iron out our differences. But Alpha Condé did not want dialogue, and ECOWAS did nothing. She invokes the Covid, all kinds of reasons. But there was two meetings and then it stopped there. She did not come to the bedside of the Guineans.
And what do the EU, France and the United States tell you?
They take refuge behind the principle of subsidiarity, and do not want to intervene until after ECOWAS, which poses a problem. There have been positions taken on the absence of dialogue with Alpha Condé, on the quality of the electoral register, supposed to be sincere and consensual, but it is rather timid. We have the impression that we are abandoned by everyone. This is not the case when there is a crisis in Mali, in Guinea-Bissau… But in Guinea, no.
Alpha Condé, for his part, claims that Guinea is sovereign and does not wish to interfere in the electoral system. He dismissed the OIF, the EU and the United States, when they were ready to come.
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Many young Guineans leave the country for lack of prospects or of feeling included by the political system. What do you propose to remedy this?
This is a problem of which I am fully aware and that is why I have included the issue of youth employment in my program. We must start by transforming our bauxite on site. With Péchiney, Guinea hosted Africa’s first alumina plant in the 1960s, in Fria. But today, we are witnessing a boom in bauxite exports, but we do not have refineries. However, their construction figured in the agreements signed in the early 2000s, in particular with the Russian company Rusal. Unfortunately, Mr. Alpha Condé has relieved these companies of their commitment, which translates into a loss of employment and added value for the country.
Fria transforms two million tonnes of alumina and creates 3,200 direct jobs and 2,000 indirect jobs. Today, 70 million tonnes of bauxite are exported. By transforming only half of this raw material, we could create a lot of jobs, and reduce illegal immigration.
When we create the rule of law, transparent access to public markets, mechanisms to support project leaders regardless of their political or ethnic affiliation, we will acquire the necessary infrastructure, with electricity to good price, decent roads, a modern port, broadband Internet everywhere, so that companies and project leaders have access to these quality services, not to mention support in fundraising, we can also help young people to create jobs.
And when you give that opportunity to someone, they help solve your problems.
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