At age 68, Cellou Dalein Diallo is running for Guinea’s presidential election for the third time. This former technocrat, compromise supporter, once prime minister of former president Lansana Conté, has become one of the biggest opponents of power in place. He hopes, this time, to win the vote against the outgoing head of state, Alpha Condé, whose candidacy for a third term is contested.
From our correspondent,
“I’m a liberal, I can not deny you anything,” Cellou Dalein Diallo says when he adheres to it, all in courtesy and courtesy, during the interview. Even his most ardent opponents admit it: The biggest Guinean opponent of the year is a man with polished manners.
Originally from the Fouta-Djalon region of central Guinea, he studied accounting and management in Conakry, then perfected in France, where Bah Oury, founder of his party UFDG (Union of Democratic Forces in Guinea), notes: “Cellou was one of The brilliant young leaders and spoiled by the regime. “
He rose through the ranks to the post of Governor-General for Economic and Monetary Affairs of the current central bank before being appointed to the administration of major projects offormer president Lansana Conté. Transport, Telecommunications, Tourism, Public Works, Environment, Fisheries, Dalein is the longest-serving Minister of the Second Republic. He became prime minister in 2004, ahead of his reputation as a careful technocrat.
A liberal convinced at the time of structural adjustment plans, his opponents accuse him of having participated in the bankruptcy of national telephone operator Sotelgui and of Air Guinea in the sale of the railway as well as the painful waste of the Kaporo Rails district in the suburb of the capital Conakry. “They have not presented any evidence so far,” the person in question replies.
In response, his supporters reject the list of built roads and bridges as well as economic cleanup measures and the resumption of relations with donors. The relationship was severed after the military coup in 1984, which brought Lansana Conté to the country’s leader after the death of father of independence Sékou Touré.
“The first thing I said to her?” I want to be involved in politics, but I do not trust you because I hold you responsible for this assessment, ”recalls Souleymane Thianguel Bah, who will be his communications adviser.
In 2001, he defended the constitutional reform that would allow General Lansana Conté to remain in power. When Cellou Dalein Diallo joined the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution in 2019 to try to prevent Alpha Condé from running for a third term, his opponents had a good time. “The referendum in 2001 was justified because Lansana Conté was a good president,” he told France 24, before resuming himself a few days later on the TV5 Monde antenna: “Conté had changed the constitution. The rest knows everyone. There was violence, death ”.
“Made by the circumstances”
Before being sacked in 2006 by a sick and weakened President Conté, Cellou Dalein Diallo represented Guinea at summits, met with heads of state and international institutions, and built a solid network of influential people. A crucial argument when Dean Bah Mamadou elected him President of the UFDG in 2007, until then led by Bah Oury, is perceived as more radical. “He had the advantage of knowing the administration by heart and we thought he could be the link we needed to expand the party’s base,” the latter acknowledges. The technocrat will become a politician, future candidate for the presidential election, “made of the circumstances”, analyzes Souleymane Diallo, editor-in-chief of the satirical newspaper Le Lynx.
“I am convinced I know there is no risk of losing this second round,” Cellou Dalein Diallo declared on September 2, 2010. In fact, he’s just come to the presidency with 43, 69 % of votes. Despite all expectations, however, he bowed two months laterhistorical opponent Alpha Condé, which obtains more than 52% of the vote after a particularly chaotic midterm round. “Fires, machine theft, all these signals would have warned even someone who was not very attentive!” Storm Bah Oury. Cellou Dalein Diallo admits his defeat and accepts the results. To avoid a “new carnage,” he explains.
Did the image of the leader of the UFDG “candidate for his community” work against him? On campaign posters, he is then shown with his family wearing the traditional Fulani headgear. “A brand that sticks to his skin,” his staff admits, but “made from scratch,” according to Thianguel. “His government was the most ethnically balanced, and he did more for Upper Guinea than for his native region.”
Cellou sits as chairman of the opposition leader at the end of the legislative election in 2013. The following years have been punctured by countless demonstrations, on the sidelines, where more than 200 people, mostly teenagers, according to the misdemeanor would have lost their lives. of his party. “Martyrs of democracy” for UFDG, “manipulated criminals” for the authorities who condemn a “tension strategy” aimed at “discouraging investors”. “He’s not cynical enough for that,” Thianguel replies. I have seen him lose his means at the sight of an open wound in the leg of a young wounded man. He will always prefer negotiation to confrontation ”.
Up to what point? Cellou Dalein Diallo is criticized for his “softness”, his “naivety” of his party’s hard wing that does not digest compromises, and has never rejected dialogue. For the 2015 presidential election, he completed one agreement with the former head of the junta, Moussa Dadis Camara. An alliance with the devil, as many of his activists lost their lives and he himself was wounded in the September 28, 2009 massacre.
“Alpha is a better politician than me”
2013, 2016, 2018 … At the end of repeated political crises, Cellou Dalein Diallo signs agreements with the authorities, the content of which is legal “distortion” and only partially respected. “It gives the impression of being constantly rolled in flour and going back to the baker!” Exclaims a journalist. “Alpha is a better politician than me,” he admits in an interview with Le Monde on March 3, 2019.
If he loses, will he accept a new deal by force? At RPG’s offices, we are already betting on a government with national unity or a possible dissolution of the National Assembly after the re-election of Alpha Condé. “Cellou is the useful opponent, Alfa’s best asset,” begged a former member of the UFDG, “one wonders if he really wants power.”
Does he pretend to be naive in order to maintain his position while biting his time? In front of the photographers, Cellou points to her watch. “It’s time” is now his slogan. “2020 will not be 2010, let alone 2015”, he promises to his activists who have just nominated him as a candidate for the presidential election against the FNDC council. “Cellou candidate for the third defeat”, the following day headlines the satirical newspaper Lynx.
Did he have a choice? “By refusing to go to the legislative election in March 2020, the UFDG lost its seats in the Assembly as well as the platform, the salaries and benefits that come with it. His party risked imploding after this political mistake, ”analyzes a diplomat.
“He is a legalist waiting to gain power. But in Guinea, power has been taken! Judge an observer. Cellou has founded too many hopes in an external intervention from the international community or the army, a deus ex machina, which does not exist ”.
Behind his lovable appearance, some in his party describe “authoritarian” leadership. “He carries this duality within himself,” Thiangel analyzes. “It can be very soft or extremely brittle. He may be a weak conqueror of power, but he wants to be a great president ”.
► Also read: President of Guinea: Alpha Condé, Portrait of a Political Beast