* "Many wounded" in street battles witness says
* Ethnically tinged political tension high over vote delay
By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY, Sept 21 Opposition and government
supporters clashed in Guinea's capital on Friday, throwing
rocks, smashing car windows and burning tyres in the latest
outburst of ethnically-tinged political violence.
Tensions are high in the coup-prone West African state over
long-delayed parliamentary elections, which the opposition says
the government wants to rig.
Protesters blocked Conakry's main bridge and barricaded
other roadways, with running clashes forcing local residents to
lock themselves indoors, according to witnesses, who said
security forces were deployed but did not intervene.
"They are throwing everything they get their hands on," said
Ibrahima Keita, an army officer. "There are many wounded here at
the gendarmerie and the Red Cross is coming to get them."
One witness told Reuters the fighting started after ethnic
Peul merchants found their market stalls ransacked Friday
morning, and blamed ethnic Malinkes .
Guinea's opposition is mostly made up of Peul, the country's
largest ethnic group which has long complained of being
politically sidelined by the Malinkes.
President Alpha Conde, a Malinke, was elected in late 2010
in a vote that ended military rule but which was tainted by
deadly riots and opposition complaints of fraud.
Since then, the opposition has staged sporadic protests in
Conakry and other towns, several of which have triggered violent
Conde's government is trying to organise legislative
elections, but progress has been slowed by opposition worries
that the electoral body is biased.
The election is the last major step in the transition back
to civilian rule in the former French colony since a 2008 coup,
and is key to unlocking millions of dollars in frozen aid.
Guinea is the world's top supplier of the aluminium ore
bauxite and holds rich deposits of iron ore, but political
turmoil has cooled the investment climate.
The opposition wants the government to fire South African
firm Waymark, which won a contract to handle the electoral
register for the vote.
"We demand an international bidding process for finding a
new technical operator," said Aboubacar Sylla, a spokesman for
In a major concession, Conde accepted the resignation of the
head of the electoral commission earlier this month and agreed
to restructure the commission to better represent the
Sylla said the move was a step in the right direction but
did not fully address concerns that the elections would be
flawed. An opposition march on Thursday over the election passed
While Conde's government has said it hopes to hold the polls
by the end of this year, technical experts and Western diplomats
say an election would not be physically possible before March at
The International Monetary Fund is set to decide by the end
of the month if Guinea is eligible for some $2 billion in debt
relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries programme,
which would free up funds for development.
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)