“Rest assured, we are more than ever on the road to victory. Nothing and no one can shake our resolve. The victory will be ours and we will know how to keep it this time, ”Cellou Dalein Diallo exclaims, arriving this Thursday afternoon in Conakry, the capital, supported by a fervent crowd of supporters. At each stage of his campaign across Guinea, the opponent points his watch: because he is convinced of it, his time has finally come, after two terms of Alpha Condé. For the third time, Cellou Dalein Diallo is entering the race under the colors of the UFDG, the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea. In front of him, eleven candidates, including the outgoing head of state.
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For many, he has embodied the Guinean opposition since the 2010 election, which he was on the way to winning with 43.69% of the vote, far ahead of Alpha Condé, the former historic opponent, with 18.25% of the vote. But at the end of an interminable soap opera, Alpha Condé is proclaimed winner of the second round, organized four months later. Under pressure, yet convinced of massive “rigging”, Cellou Dalein Diallo recognizes the results, to avoid a bloodbath, according to him. “I gave a gift mandate to Alpha Condé”, he sums up today.
Frail and invariably elegant, in classic costumes or large clear boubous matched with embroidered toques, or in Saharan when he is campaigning, this man with the soft voice and the allure of West African Gandhi is posed and courteous in private . Entering the political arena after ten years in government under General Lansana Conté (1984-2008), instructed by his failures in 2010 and 2015, Cellou Dalein Diallo vowed not to hold back his blows against Alpha Condé to deprive him a controversial third term.
But he also sometimes lets himself be won over by the fervor of the masses of his feared supporters, totally committed to his cause, who can form impressive tides of people in Conakry. Detractors of Cellou Dalein Diallo accuse him of being a “pure product of the Conté system” and of having enriched himself in power. But his camp values his long experience of the State.
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“A technocrat” pure product of the Guinean school
A destiny that began in 1952 in Labé, in Middle Guinea, within a family of Muslim scholars. A member of the Fulani ethnic group, considered the first in the country, he comes from a family of imams in the village of Dalein, where he was born. He likes to recall that his grandfather was “the great scholar Thierno Sadou de Dalein who had written 35 works in Arabic”. Raised in the village, in a large family – his father had “four wives and about twenty children” – he attended Koranic and French schools, then left for Conakry to study management. He then went abroad during the 1980s and 1990s to follow training at the Center for Economic, Financial and Banking Studies (Cefeb) in Paris, at the Institute of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in Washington, or even at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Back home, he joined the Guinean Foreign Trade Bank in 1982 at the age of 30, as a trade inspector.
Cellou Dalein Diallo then joined the civil service, going through the management of a state-owned company under the father of independence, the dictator Ahmed Sékou Touré (1958-1984). Under the authoritarian regime of Lansana Conté, he joined the Central Bank, then the administration of major projects as president.
Politics eventually caught up with him. In 1996, he entered the government as a “technocrat”, in his own words, as Minister of Transport, then moved on to portfolios, from Equipment to Fishing, and forged a reputation as a solid, methodical man. and serious, and “builder”. The bridges over Fatala, over the Niger, as well as the paved roads in Upper Guinea connecting Kouroussa, Kankan and Kourémalé (on the Malian border) over approximately 300 kilometers are still his “pride” today.
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The birth of an opponent
In December 2004, General Conté, ill, chose him as Prime Minister, offering him the opportunity to develop a vast network of international relations. After ten years in government, Cellou Dalein Diallo suffered sudden disgrace in April 2006, against the backdrop of struggles for influence within a dying Conté regime. At the time, the man dreamed of improving the management of the country.
This hasty departure pushes him to take his destiny in hand and get involved. He heads a large opposition party, the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), founded by the opponent Amadou Bah Oury in 1991 in favor of opening up to multiparty politics.
When Conté died in December 2008, like most political leaders, he took note of the putsch, without opposing it, to promote a peaceful transition. But disillusionment sets in quickly and the head of the junta, Moussa Dadis Camara, a Forester, makes Cellou Dalein Diallo one of his targets for his famous “Dadis Show”. “Opposing dirty hands”, “proud thinking that an ethnic group can run the country” the insults fuse.
From words to deeds, there has been only one step. First a muscular descent of soldiers to the home of the opponent, before the outbreak of violence. The explanation is quite simple: Cellou Dalein Diallo refused to give up his presidential ambitions in favor of the captain, who offered him in exchange a post of head of government. On September 28, 2009, the opposition organized a demonstration at the Conakry stadium, it will be tarnished by the savage repression of the military which left 157 dead and many victims, including many women. Dalein Diallo is badly beaten, seriously injured and hospitalized in Paris. This relentlessness of which he was the target largely contributed to his popularity. Especially since the evidence of mismanagement when he was Prime Minister has never been provided to date.
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A campaign between promises and concerns
Sometimes accused of being an ethnocentric leader at the head of a Fulani party, the candidate takes care to hold a unifying speech. “I am not presenting myself as a Peul, I am presenting myself as a Guinean who wants to be the president of all Guineans,” insisted the leader of the opposition. Ethnicity is considered a determining voting factor in Guinea, but the opponent noted advances in “trust between the different ethnic components”, he said during a meeting in Dakar with the Association of the Foreign Press in Senegal (APES). “Mr. Alpha Condé is always late, he always wants to say: ‘The Malinkés do not vote for the Peuls” “, he added nevertheless. He referred in particular to the outgoing president’s first campaign speech, on September 19, by videoconference to his supporters in Kankan, in his electoral stronghold in the east of the country, to dissuade them from voting for another candidate from that community. “If you vote for a Malinké candidate who is not an RPG [Rassemblement du peuple de Guinée, au pouvoir, NDLR], it is as if you were voting for Cellou Dalein Diallo, ”a member of the Fulani community, said President Condé. The Fulani and Malinke are the two main communities in the country, of which they constitute more than two thirds of the 12 million inhabitants, according to estimates.
“I have felt the dispute for three months in the strongholds of Alpha, in Kankan, in Siguiri, in Kerouane”, he said, denouncing the “catastrophic record” of the two terms of the outgoing president. “Poverty has worsened” and infrastructure, especially roads, have deteriorated, he said. One of his immediate challenges, if elected, will be to reconcile Guineans among themselves through equitable justice, to stitch together the social fabric through inclusive governance and to put the country to work.
In 2019, the UFDG actively participated in the mobilization within the FNDC, the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution founded by civil society to oppose the third term, before being excluded from it because of its decision to come forward despite the call for a boycott launched by this civil society movement.
Despite the adoption in March 2020, during a referendum boycotted by the opposition, of a new Constitution, invoked by the authorities to legitimize a new candidacy, Cellou Dalein Diallo launches in September in the race for the presidential election . “The UFDG has decided to take its fight against the third term to the polls,” he explains.
This time, victory can no longer escape him, because of both the “catastrophic record” of Alpha Condé and increased vigilance of citizens in the face of the risk of fraud, he says. He himself admits with a smile that he “has accumulated a lot of experience, and above all of the will”, in particular that “much more than in the past, to win and to keep his victory”. The fact remains that he will still have to draw all the consequences of his participation in the elections, whatever the result.
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