CONAKRY, Guinea — Guinea's opposition and ruling party reached an agreement to hold the country's long-delayed legislative elections in September, signing a deal Wednesday under the watchful gaze of a United Nations special envoy.
Aboubacar Sylla, a spokesman for a coalition of opposition parties, said they had agreed to several issues that had earlier been sticking points, including the use of a South African-based vendor to create the voter IDs. Earlier the opposition had claimed that Waymark was in cahoots with the ruling party, and was planning to use the voting software to rig the vote.
"We have agreed on a realistic chronogram which could open the way for us to hold legislative elections on Sept. 29," he said.
The accord calls for elections to be held between Sept. 27 and Sept. 29 and was mediated by United Nations special envoy Said Djinnit.
Guinea held its first democratic election in 2010. Although deemed to be transparent overall, the vote was marred by the deep ethnic divide it revealed between the country's Malinke and Peul, each of which represents about 40 percent of the population. The two sides backed politicians from their own ethnic groups – the Malinke supported Alpha Conde while the Peul backed Cellou Dalein Diallo.
In 2010, the opposition charged that Conde, who is now the president, won only after his supporters organized riots in parts of northern Guinea known to be Peul strongholds. Because of the unrest, thousands of Peul voters fled their homes, and were not back in time for the election. Diallo has long claimed he would have won the ballot had Guinea's north been able to vote normally.
The fight over the legislative election started soon after the presidential race, with the opposition vowing they will never allow the ruling party to "steal" the race again.
Much of the bickering has been over the voter roll, which the opposition previously said was being tailored to favor Malinke areas of the country.
Decades of unrest in Guinea have turned it into one of the globe's poorest countries. That is a source of deep frustration to Guinea's 11.4 million people, whose country is not only rich in gold, diamonds and timber but also has the world's largest reserves of bauxite, the raw ingredient used to make aluminum.
Callimachi contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.