UN supports democratic transitions in Guinea and Niger, says envoy

13 May 2010

The United Nations is working to ensure that democratically-elected administrations are established in Guinea and Niger through the holding of peaceful elections in the two countries, which have been rocked by political instability in the recent past, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, said today.

Unrest erupted in Guinea after the forces of Moussa Dadis Camara, who seized power in a coup in 2008 following the death of long-time president Lansana Conté, opened fire on unarmed protesters at a rally last year, killing at least 150 people.

In December, Mr. Camara was wounded in an assassination attempt. In January, after mediation by President Blaise Compaoré of neighbouring Burkina Faso and others, an agreement was signed setting up a Government of national unity and calling for elections within six months.

Mr. Djinnit said the elections will be held on 27 June with UN support. “I think it is a matter of pride for all of us that we have been able to work together and to overcome that tension which prevailed and which could almost jeopardize the whole transition,” he told a news conference in New York.

“The UN is fully in support of the [electoral] process and we are confident and we believe that the elections will go smoothly and are looking forward to the elections, and after the elections real transition to start, I believe, because, honestly, Guinea has been destroyed over the last decades,” said Mr. Djinnit, who is also the head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA).

On Niger, Mr. Djinnit said that the UN is engaged in supporting the transitional process which the leadership there has committed itself to, and which will culminate in the holding of the first round of elections towards the end of this year.

In February, a military ruling council in Niger dissolved the Government, seized the President and suspended a contested constitution that would have allowed then President Mamadou Tandja to remain in power beyond the stipulated term.

“We are pleased that they [authorities in Niger] have decided on a short transition and we expect them now to respect that commitment and to implement the schedule towards elections and the return to stability,” Mr. Djinnit said.

“That country [had] known a period of 10 years of stability and has been a source of pride in the region. Unfortunately, there was the attempt by the former President to remain in power, but now things are back on track and we are supporting them,” Mr. Djinnit said.

Asked how the UN Office is helping the region achieve the globally agreed anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Mr Djinnit stated that while the relevant UN agencies are playing their roles supporting poverty alleviation and development programmes, the most important UN contribution is to enhance the institutions of governance and stability in West Africa.


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