Tale of two countries.

Author:Lokongo, Antoine
Position:Around Africa - Zimbabwe/Guinea - Brief Article

The recent response of the "international community" to political developments in Guinea and Zimbabwe has been stunning in its double standards. Guinea's president, Lansana Conte, in power since 1984 through a coup d'etat, held a referendum on 11 November to change a constitutional clause barring him from seeking a third term. The landmark event barely commanded any attention in the democracy-loving Western media.

The referendum results, according to the government, showed a massive 98.36% "yes vote" on a turnout of more than 87% in favour of amending the constitution to give Conte a third term when his current one expires in 2003, and also extending the presidential mandate from five to seven years.

The opposition hotly disputed the results, saying fewer than 20% of registered voters took part. Journalists covering the event reported that "there were no long queues at the polling stations" to warrant an 87% turnout.

Jeune Afrique, the Paris-based weekly, reported that the results were "computer-generated" by Guinea's interior ministry, and "there was massive fraud and intimidation"

"I am ashamed for my country," said Mamadou Ba, the opposition spokesperson.

The referendum did nor only lift the upper sealing on how many terms a president can serve (now it is indefinite), it also lifted the age limit of 70 for presidential candidates that would have barred Cont'e from standing again in 2003.

Days after the referendum, the government postponed "indefinitely" the parliamentary election fixed for 27 December, claiming that the postponement would allow for further consultation between the political parties and the electoral commission.

Conte, 67, first seized power in a coup in 1984. He was elected president in 1993, and again in 1998. Mugabe has served only four years longer than him.

The response of the "international community" to his referendum has been quite shocking.

The EU, which has been threatening sanctions against Mugabe, and recently sent a delegation to Harare to further pressurise him "on democracy and human rights", only expressed "concern" about the lack of respect for constitutional rule in Guinea.

The G7 ambassadors in Conakry had lectured Conte before the referendum on the need to hold it under democratic principles, yet they merely expressed "concern" after the disputed results had been announced, No threats of sanctions!

At the time of going to press, there had been no reported individual American, French or British...

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