By Perpetua Chery – Program Associate, West and Central Africa at Search for Common Ground
Originally published on the HuffPost Blog – Oct. 28, 2013
“When I woke up on September 28, 2013, two things struck me immediately: The electricity was still on and outside, the city was eerily quiet. While having electricity in Guinea was rare, the stillness hit me first — no honking sounds from passing cars, no street vendors offering their wares, just overwhelming silence. During my time in Conakry, Guinea’s bustling capital city, silence had become an omen of trouble. It meant an email from the embassy encouraging me to stay off the streets, a phone call from a colleague telling me to go home, tires burning at intersections, gunshots, barricaded streets, closed shops and violent protests. Since 2011, political violence and ethnic clashes have killed more than 100 people in Guinea.
But when I woke up that morning, quiet meant something entirely different. Guinea was holding its first legislative elections in over a decade. Initially slated for 2007, the elections were delayed by a military coup d’état and intense political gridlock. Visiting the polling stations that day, I was touched to see so many Guineans standing patiently in line to vote. Men and women, from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, old and young — especially the young! — turned out early and in great numbers.”