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Guinea holds first free elections

They've voted before -- but never freely, and never fairly.

On Sunday, junta-ruled Guinea cast ballots for a new president in the first democratic election this West African nation has ever known. The poll caps an odyssey of repression and dictatorship spanning a half century.

"We have voted and we are FREE!" one man with tears in his eyes screamed at a red-bereted presidential guard outside the villa housing Gen. Sekouba Konate -- the junta chief who steered Guinea toward elections after his predecessor, Moussa Camara was shot in the head and nearly killed in December.

Ruled as a one-party state for decades after independence from France in 1958, Guinea suffered its first coup in 1984 and spent 32 years under late strongman Lansana Conte. Guinea has come a long way since.

Konate has won praise for barring himself, all members of the junta, and the transitional government, from running in Sunday's election.

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