Eight killed during Guinea strike

General strike claims more lives as trade unions begin talks with senior officials.

    Police have clashed with protesters in
    towns across Guinea [AFP]
    A city official told AFP "police and army troops dispersed between 4,000 and 5,000 demonstrators" in the Nzerekore region, which is located near the border with Liberia and Ivory Coast.

    "Several people were wounded. Three were seriously hurt with gunshot wounds," the city official said.
     
    He added that demonstrators had ransacked a police station in the Boiro district, freeing about 20 detainees. Police officers at the station were briefly overpowered by the protesters.

    The demonstration was the first in Nzerekore since the strike started on January 10.

    Clashes across Guinea

    Riot police armed with rifles and tear gas have clashed with groups of youths in the capital, Conakry, and about one dozen other towns across the country in recent days, killing at least five people.
    "They are eight deaths too many and we can only condemn the perpetrators and masterminders."

    Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, 
    the United Nations secretary-general's representative for West Africa.

    Saturday's deaths drew condemnation from Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, the UN secretary-general's representative for West Africa.
      
    "They are eight deaths too many and we can only condemn the perpetrators and masterminders. They could expose themselves to serious prosecution," Ould Abdallah said.
      
    "I appeal to the government and all other parites to avoid the  creation of an incontrolable situation. I urge all the parties to maintain contact so there is an orderly and peaceful end to the crisis."

    The two trade unions called the strike to protest against government corruption and a decision last month by Lansana Conte, the Guinean president, to free two of his associates who had been facing trial for embezzlement.
      
    The unions, backed by 14 opposition parties, have since toughened their line and called for Conte to be removed from power by the supreme court on the grounds that he is too unwell to hold office.

    President unwell

    Conte has run the west African country since a bloodless military coup in 1984 but suffers from diabetes and memory lapses and was twice hospitalised last year.

    The trade unions met Aboubacar Sompare, the parliamentary speaker, and other parliamentary officials, senior members of the economic and social council, supreme court officials and the most senior Muslim leader in Conakry on Saturday in an attempt to find a solution.

    The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has decided to send Abdoulaye Wade, the president of Senegal, and  Olusegun Obasanjo, his Nigerian counterpart, to mediate in the crisis, Burkina Faso's state radio announced on Saturday.
      
    Ecowas leaders said they were deeply concerned by developments in Guinea and urged Blaise Compaore, the Ecowas president, to send a  delegation to the country to help find a solution through dialogue and non-violence.
      
    The 55-nation Organisation of French-speaking Nations also issued a statement saying that it was also deeply worried.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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