- As the general strike in Guinea seems to be developing into a popular rebellion that could overthrow the regime of ailing President Lansana Conté, state repression is increasing. As at least 30 people have been killed by police during the last 24 hours and authorities have heavily censored all media, President Conté finally has begun emergency talks with labour leaders.
It has now been established that more than 30 people were killed in the clashes between protesters and security forces on Monday as police opened fire on the protesters. Authorities also engaged in the arrest of trade union leaders and stepped up censorship of the country's nascent free press.
Despite these heavy-handed actions by Guinean authorities, there was no sign of an end to the two-week general strike against President Conté, his alleged unfitness to rule and rampant corruption. Unions, which also demand better salaries, were again able to mobilise large crowds to protest against the Conté regime.
Authorities today were forces to release the labour leaders imprisoned yesterday and embark on negotiations with them after they had vowed to continue the strike. In the streets of Conakry, the calls for President Conté to resign were becoming the principal message of the angry but peaceful crowds.
Ousmane Wora Diallo of the Syndicated Union of Workers of Guinea (USGT) this evening confirmed to the Guinean press that the two labour confederations organising the protests were int direct negotiations with President Conté the first lady, Henriette. The agenda of these talks was not revealed.
Meanwhile, the heavy-handed government reaction to the protests has caused world-wide concern about the deteriorating human rights and security situation in Guinea. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday strongly urged the government "to carry out investigations into the killings with a view to bringing those responsible to justice, including members of the security forces, and to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of all citizens throughout the country."
Even the African Union (AU) commission president Alpha Oumar Konaré expressed his concern over "the aggravation of the situation in recent days and condemns the repression of demonstrations that led to the deaths of several people." Mr Konaré urged all parties to the troubles in Guinea to hold talks and thoroughly to investigate the violence experienced in Conakry.
The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) today strongly protested the shooting of protesters by Guinean police and yesterday's arrest of trade union leaders Ibrahima Fofana and Hadja Rabiatou Diallo. FIDH and its Guinean sister organisation also reacted strongly to the alleged deployment of troops from neighbouring Guinea-Bissau in support of the Conté government.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) today reported and protested the Minister of Information decree against broadcasting any material on the strike. Minister Yacine Diallo was said to have "issued the directive in separate visits to the various radio stations and threatened to confiscate the broadcasting equipment of any station that disobeyed the gag orders."
Meanwhile, many foreign observers believe that the relatively stable days of the Conté regime in Guinea may be counted. In neighbouring Sierra Leone, immigration officials have noted the arrival of an ever increasing part of Guinea's expatriate society, but also members of the relatively large Lebanese community.
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