Violence breaks out ahead of Guinea election

Guinean opposition leader and former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo speaks in a microphone in Conakry to a crowd on April 19, 2015 (AFP Photo/Cellou Binani) (AFP/File)

Conakry (AFP) - Several people were wounded as supporters of rival political factions clashed in northern Guinea, witnesses said Monday, as tension mounts in the race to elect a new president.

Activists backing opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo and supporters of President Alpha Conde threw stones at each other in the town of Koundara on Sunday, a local police officer said, in the first violence of the campaign.

"The tension had been noticeable since Saturday, when the opposition activists announced an electoral campaign carnival through the city, which the government supporters didn't want," said the source, putting the wounded at 17.

The officer said public and private property was ransacked, including shops owned by traders from the Fulani ethnic group, traditional Diallo loyalists.

"All local opposition leaders were arrested and detained in a military camp by the police on the advice of the majority activists", Hadja Fatoumata Binta Diallo, a lawmaker from Diallo's Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea party, told AFP.

Koundara prefect Sana Sanoussi said police had made around 15 arrests, although the opposition estimated the figure at nearer 30.

In Kankan -- a town in Conde's eastern support base -- government supporters threw stones to prevent a meeting arranged by Sidya Toure, another candidate and former premier, he said.

"This is the last time I'm going to let them stop me holding a campaign meeting in a public place," Toure told a private radio station.

"Kankan is the town of my in-laws. I do not want to create problems here. If this continues, we will prevent government meetings everywhere in Basse Guinee (Lower Guinea), my stronghold," Toure told a private radio station.

Eight contenders including Conde, Diallo and Toure have been approved as candidates for Guinea's second democratic presidential election on October 11.

The ruling party and opposition last month sealed a deal on the organisation of the vote, raising hopes for a peaceful election, but the opposition parties say Conde has reneged on the deal.

Diallo accused Conde last week of making decisions "unilaterally" with election commission chief Bakary Fofana, in "flagrant violation" of the law.

"We are so concerned that we are questioning whether we should even continue to participate in this process," he said.

An observation mission of the European Union began the deployment last week of its first 20 of an eventual 70 observers whole will oversee the elections throughout the country.