The United Nations voiced alarm Wednesday at ethnically-charged hate speech flourishing in the run-up to Guinea’s elections later this month, warning the situation was “extremely dangerous” and could lead to violence.

The UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet and Pramila Patten, the UN’s Acting Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, decried the “increasingly pervasive and divisive appeals to ethnic affiliations” ahead of the October 18 polls.

In a joint statement, they urged the candidates to “refrain from using provocative language that may lead to violence, discrimination and other human rights violations.”

Guinea’s politics are mostly drawn along ethnic lines.

Its 82-year-old President Alpha Conde, who is seeking a controversial third term, is largely backed by Malinke people, while his main opponent, Cellou Dalein Diallo’s UFDG party is largely backed by Fulani people, although both insist that they are pluralist.

Bachelet and Patten pointed out that the candidates have made specific mention of the Malinke and Fulani ethnicities, and suggested violence could follow the announcement of the results.

‘Deeply worried’

Bachelet said, given the history of intercommunal violence in Guinea, I am deeply worried about such dangerous rhetoric by political leaders, which in some cases may amount to incitement to hostility, discrimination or violence.

She warned, there are already serious indications of rising intolerance and confrontation, including among youth groups, and media outlets amplifying messages of hate.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on all candidates to refrain from stirring up ethnic divisions, and to condemn incitement to hostility, discrimination and violence.

In Wednesday’s statement, Patten and Bachelet also demanded accountability for the reported use of excessive force by security forces during demonstrations over the past year.

Protests against Conde’s suspected ambition to stay in power that began in October 2019 have been severely repressed in the country of some 13 million people.

Last week, in a report that at least 50 people were killed in the crackdown through July and criticised the government for failing to hold the security forces accountable, Amnesty International said.

Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 after decades of authoritarian rule in the former French colony. He won re-election five years later.

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