About the Author: Patricia N. Moller serves as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea.
As the June 27 presidential election approaches, there is a sense of excitement and expectation in the air in Guinea and the feeling is infectious. Unlike past elections when irregularities and a heavily tilted playing field caused widespread cynicism and despair, now there seems to be a strong belief that this election can be different and that the people of Guinea have the will -- and the electoral voice -- to make it so.
I recently spoke to a group of political party members participating in a “Campaigning 101” election seminar at our Embassy. Some of these participants had been imprisoned for their political beliefs. Others had been victims of a violent crackdown at a gathering of thousands of opposition members last September, where over a hundred demonstrators were killed, a thousand more were injured, and scores of women were raped in broad daylight by the security forces of the former dictator Captain Moussa Dadis Camara. Now these same people were planning and supporting campaigns for the highest office in the land. They were drawing strength from their struggle and seemed determined to build a new tomorrow from the experience of their shared tragedy.
One woman sat in the front of the room, her bright pink traditional boubou dress proclaiming her irrepressible spirit. This woman was a victim of those terrible events last September. But now she stood strong and resolute. What struck me most about this courageous woman was that she refused to be defeated by the violence she had suffered; she would work to make this election reflect her own hopes for the future. She saw this democratic process as the antidote to the ills of her country, and it inspired me as it did those around her. Nor was she alone. There were others in the room who had similar stories.
My message to them was simple. This is your opportunity to shape your future and secure your place among the peaceful, prosperous, and politically stable countries of the world. Whether you or the candidate you support are victorious or not, a free, fair, and peaceful election leading to democratic governance makes each of you a winner. You all win because democracy is about a process, not a person.
Embracing this message about process and democracy, the participants in our seminar worked across party lines, developing an action plan which affirms respect for election results and endorses non-violent campaigning. They even pledged to organize and host candidate debates. An atmosphere of hope is unfolding in Guinea because the people themselves, who have suffered injustice for so long, are determined to bid for a better future.