Reports say, mass protests have shaken Guinea over the past year to oppose a third term of Conde. They were met with a ruthless crackdown, in which dozens of people were killed. Now many fear the elections could be rigged.
As Guinea braces itself for its presidential election , Guineas’s blogger association will deploy around 150 observers to report any possible incidents or frauds in Sunday’s election.
Concerns that come after months of political unrest in the West African state, where President Alpha Conde, 82, is bidding for a controversial third term.
Alfa Diallo, the president of Ablogui, Guineas’s blogger association, has decided to monitor any possible shortcomings in the elections. They also keep tabs on president Alpha Conde’s promises made along the way.
“According to our analysis, 13% of the promises have been kept, which accounts to 40 commitments out of 345. But the other thing to note is that we have documented 47% of the promises that have not been kept, and by ‘not kept’ we mean that there has been no concrete action towards the fulfilment of these promises” explains Mamadou Alfa Diallo.
As the elections are just a few days away, Internet freedom monitors worry an internet shutdown could incapacitate reports of shortcomings on the day of the vote.
A shutdown that wouldnt be a first in Guinea: last march during the constitutional referundum, several websitesm including Ablogui, could not be accessed.
Defying critics, he pushed through a revamped constitution in a referendum on March 22, which he argued would modernise the country, but which also allowed him to sidestep a two-term limit for presidents. At a press conference in Conakry this week, Ablogui’s Alpha Diallo warned that internet restrictions would hinder the work of observers. “We are not going to allow what happened last time,” he said, explaining that his group would document all blocks.
Internet freedom monitors have their eyes trained on Guinea ahead of its tension-filled election on Sunday, fearing that the government will restrict access to social media to weaken the opposition. Worryingly for rights activists, internet disruptions accompanied the referendum — a speech-crimping scenario they say will likely play out again.
“It’s very rapidly become an element in how elections are decided in Guinea,” said Alp Toker, the founder of internet-monitoring group NetBlocks. Before the March referendum, the country’s telecoms infrastructure firm Guilab announced repairs to its submarine internet cable, but it postponed the work after an outcry. But on March 21 — without announcement — access to apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp was disrupted, according to a report by NetBlocks.
The report added that the disruption originated from Guinea’s leading mobile internet service providers, Orange and South Africa’s MTN. The African Union’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression, Lawrence Mute, admonished Guinea for internet disruptions in an April statement.
“Internet and social media shutdowns violate the right to freedom of expression and access to information,” he said. Francois Patuel, a researcher on policing and surveillance in West Africa, said earlier disruptions were a “gross violation of freedom of expression”.
“The authorities must refrain from ordering further shutdowns,” he said. Neither Conde’s office, nor Guinea’s telecommunications ministry responded to several requests for comment about internet restrictions.