- The authorities in Guinea have arrested 17 student leaders at Gamal Abdel Nasser University in the capital, Conakry, since its 14,000 students went on strike earlier this week, student representatives said today.
Reports from the interior said students at the Institute of Geology and Mines at Boké, 200 km northwest of Conakry, had joined the stoppage.
University students in Conakry abandoned their classrooms on Wednesday following the arrest of a student leader. They have pledged not to return until those arrested have been released and the government agrees to address a long list of other grievances.
These include the reinstatement of 11 students expelled from the Kankan University in the northeast of Guinea last year and moves to end severe overcrowding and improve student living conditions at the country's cash strapped universities.
Ousmane Touré, a spokesman for the striking students, earlier today had warned the university authorities, not to provoke trouble. "Up to now our strike has been peaceful, we do not want violence because we are intellectuals," Mr Touré said, "but if the authorities react violently to this impasse, we too will react violently."
Mr Touré spelled out a long list of other grievances which the students wanted to be addressed. "We want 11 students who were expelled from Kankan University last year be reinstated, and we also want the method through which the authorities admit students into university, be overhauled," he told IRIN. Mr Touré said only 6,000 of the 26,000 students who took university entrance exams this year were awarded places to study. "The rest were thrown out," he lamented.
Reports from Boké said the students there had stayed away from lectures demanding that the authorities look into the greviances aired by their colleagues in Conakry.
A spokesman for the students in Conakry told IRIN that most of those arrested in the capital had been picked up while organising the strike.
He denied claims by the authorities that the students were being manipulated by opponents of President Lansa Conté, a former army colonel who has ruled Guinea with an iron hand for the past 20 years.
- Our action is independent and is geared solely towards the improvement of students' condition at the university, the student spokesman said.
Guinea's main opposition leaders boycotted a presidential election in December which saw President Conté returned virtually unopposed for a further seven-year term. Foreign observers were banned from monitoring the poll which the opposition claimed was massively rigged.
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