|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by New UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Guinea
The United Nations was on track to support the June presidential elections to be held in Guinea, but the proof of that support lay in what was done to help overcome the country’s humanitarian, reconstruction and development needs after the polls, Anthony Ohemeng-Boamah, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the West African nation, said today.
Speaking at a Headquarters press conference on the ballot scheduled for 27 June, he said the country was at a pivotal point in its history as Guineans would actually be transferring power to a civilian Government for the first time. For that reason, Guinea deserved the support of the United Nations, which should aim to respond to the transitional, recovery and development needs of its people. He said he was pleased to note that donors had come to Guinea’s aid, and almost the entire $27 million needed for the ballot had been mobilized.
In response to a question, Mr. Ohemeng-Boamah said the United Nations had always been engaged in Guinea from the period when the late President Lansana Conté had been in office, through the rise to power of Captain Moussa “Dadis” Camara, until the December incidents that had resulted in his replacement by General Sékouba Konaté.
The United Nations system had responded “very forcefully” to the 28 September incidents in which at least 100 people had been killed following an attack by troops on an opposition rally, he said. It had responded in a similar manner to an outbreak of yellow fever in January, and had been very supportive in other ways, including by providing humanitarian air-support services which the non-governmental organization community and other partners had been using to provide services to people in some of the country’s remote areas. “We have had a fruitful collaboration with that country and, as I indicated, the forthcoming elections present a historic opportunity for us to recommit the UN and international partners to support Guinea much more to address some of the humanitarian and development issues that are still present in the country.”
Responding to a question about how the $27 million would be spent, Mr. Ohemeng‑Boamah said the funds would go to supporting the entire gamut of electoral preparations, including a census, the purchase of ballot boxes and ballot papers, paying for transport and logistics, civic education campaigns, human rights sensitization and other activities. “So it covers the whole length and breadth of an electoral process that ensures that we get a free and transparent election in Guinea,” he added.
Asked if there were concerns about violence during the election period, he said that obviously, given Guinea’s history, violence had to be a matter of concern and for that reason the United Nations was working with the Government to ensure it did not occur.
When asked to comment on reports that humanitarian air services were at risk of being discontinued due to lack of urgently needed new funding, he confirmed that no new funding had been received for the humanitarian air service, adding that if no support was received, the flights would have to be discontinued as of 1 April. Such an eventuality would be “very detrimental” to the 1.5 million people in some of the country’s remote areas that depended on the services that the flights allowed non-governmental organizations and other partners to provide. The United Nations was “still pleading” with donors to support the air services, he added.
Asked to define the Organization’s role in the election itself, he said the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was in charge of mobilizing resources and had done “quite well” in helping Government entities, including the Electoral Commission, procure and print ballot papers while ensuring that the voter rolls were updated and electoral cards issued to enable Guineans to vote in peace.
Responding to another question, he said the United Nations was not in a position to pass judgment on the fairness or unfairness of the elections because they had not happened yet. “But the preparations are ongoing and we’re optimistic that we will be able to hold presidential elections on 27 June,” he added.
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