Guineans headed to the polls on Sunday in the West African nation's first democratic election since independence in 1958, hoping to end half a century of military and civilian dictatorships.
Long queues of patient voters built up around the country to take part in the crucial election just nine months after the Army massacre of at least 156 opponents of a military junta in a Conakry stadium. “I am happy to vote freely,” said shopkeeper and mother-of-five Marieme Kande (50), who was the first to cast her ballot in Conakry.
Abdoul Barry (55) said it was the “second happiest day of my life” after his wedding in 1986.
“I have had many occasions to vote in Guinea, but I always refused because one could not trust the results.”
In a working class neighbourhood in the Conakry suburbs, polling stations were flooded with an enthusiastic but disciplined crowd mostly composed of youths.
“I don't know my number,” or “where is my polling station?”, asked anxious voters who were unable to read in the Cosa neighbourhood, in a country where two-thirds of the population is illiterate.
A large turnout is expected among the 4.2 million Guineans eligible to choose a President from among 24 civilian candidates, including one woman, at 8,261 polling stations around the country.
The three frontrunners are the former Prime Ministers Cellou Dalein Diallo and Sidya Toure, and a former opposition leader, Alpha Conde.
The new leaders will have their work cut out for them in a country which is one of the world's poorest and unstable despite massive mineral wealth in bauxite and iron stores.
Guinea has been led by a transition government for the past six months, headed by General Sekouba Konate, the architect of a coup that followed the death of long-time President Lansana Conte, another military leader, in 2008.
Keywords: Guinea polls