See also:
» 12.10.2009 - Guineans heed stay-away call
» 18.06.2008 - 2 killed in Guinea’s army and police clash
» 26.02.2007 - Guinea unions call off strike
» 19.02.2007 - Guinea opposition resists negotiation
» 14.02.2007 - Guinea lifts curfew but violence persists
» 13.02.2007 - Martial law in Guinea causes more protests
» 12.02.2007 - Guinea still in flames
» 29.01.2007 - As strike ends, Guineans hope for reform

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Labour | Politics | Human rights

Guinea confronts strike with fire

afrol News, 22 January - Guinean police have reportedly confronted the 13th day of strike by firing gunshots at strikers thus killing 18 people in the process, reports say. Union leaders, who have been calling for a massive strike calling for President Lansana Conté's resignation over running a failed state as well as officialise graft in the country, were also said to have been arrested.

Over 10 demonstrators were killed by security forces last week.

Over 30,000 people have participated in today's strike, the biggest amount since the general strike started in the capital Conakry and elsewhere in the country. Protesters were shouting angry remarks calling on their bed-ridden President to step down.

Mr Conté, a diabetic patient, has been running the country from bed. Protesters accused him of creating a wreaked economy and of securing the release from prison of two prominent businessmen accused of being corrupt.

On their way to the national assembly in Conakry, the strikers were blocked by the security forces at the 8 Novembre Bridge by firing gunshots , killing 18 people while leaving close to a 100 people injured.

There were similar violent protests in the towns of Siguiri, Kankan, Pita, Dabola and Telemele.

Filled with desperation, President Conté at the weekend delivered a televised speech - his first public appearance for months - calling for calm, peace and unity in the country. He called on soldiers to maintain their loyalty to the state.

President Conté, who took power by force in 1984, was thrice elected as President in widely criticised polls. During his televised speech, he said it is "only God who gives power" to a person, which was why people must respect and support those in power.

The Guinean crisis has become a cause for concern, with fears that it might turn into a full blown war. It is against this background that both leaders of United Nations and African Union - Ban Ki-moon and Alpha Oumar Konaré - have called on both sides to choose dialogue as an alternative.

"The [UN] Secretary-General is closely following developments in Guinea, including negotiations between the parties, aimed at bringing an early end to the present situation," Mr Ban's spokesperson, Michele Montas, said in a statement.

"He encourages them to avoid any action that would result in casualties and to reach a peaceful and mutually satisfactory agreement that would help restore calm and refocus the efforts of the country on poverty alleviation and development."

The Presidents of Senegal and Nigeria - Abdoulaye Wade and Olusegun Obasanjo - were to fly to Guinea before the week ends to broker peace between President Conté and the strikers backed by the main trade unions. This came after a meeting of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) on Friday, which endorsed that a highly profiled mission be sent to Guinea.

While the UN and neighbouring countries were most dedicated to finding peaceful solutions, international rights activists demonstrated their solidarity with Guinean protesters. The New York-based group Human Rights Watch in a statement today called on Guinean security forces to "exercise restraint in responding to demonstrators and to ensure that their fundamental right to life, and freedoms of expression and assembly are respected."

The strike, the third nationwide protest in a year, got under way on 10 January and resulted in the shutting down of schools, shops and markets across the country. The strike was called by Guinea's two most powerful unions. Over the weekend, the government banned all demonstrations, marches and assemblies in the capital - but to no effect.

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