- Guinea's bed-ridden President, Lansana Conté, on Monday evening decreed a martial law that gave the military sweeping powers to restore order in the country. The law also imposed a 20-hour-a-day curfew as well as declared a state of emergency until 23 February. The decree however only caused more protests.
President Conté used the last minute measure to arrest the increasing fatal protests but it was reported that sporadic gunshots were heard in the suburbs of the capital Conakry, where youths wanted to resume strikes on Tuesday.
The martial law outlawed all public meetings and gives powers to the military to arrest anyone suspected of "threatening state security" - seen as an ample definition.
Trade union leaders in the West African country ended their 18-day strike on 28 January after they were assured by President Conté that their demands were going to be met. But strikes resumed at the weekend in protest against the appointment of Eugène Camara, a long time cabinet minister, as Prime Minister.
Describing the development as a "new provocation" by President Contè, union leaders called on Guineans to go back to the streets to protest for the resignation of MrContè. Like the previous strikes, the latest also turned fatal. So far, it is reported that a total of over 80 people have been killed by security forces during both strikes.
Guinea is still declared unsafe, although heavily-armed soldiers succeeded in quashing youths from striking. Already, the United States Embassy urged all American citizens to quit Guinea.
The US embassy officials offered seats to airlift their citizens on a US government plane from Guinea, where commercial flights have not been plying.
In a state radio broadcast on Monday evening, the desperate Guinean President admitted that his country was under siege and that there was need to take all necessary measures to restore law and order, protect the people as well as avoid Guinea from sliding into a civil war.
Under the new law, Guineans have been prohibited from holding processions, demonstrations or gatherings. It also empowered the military to conduct searches in private homes, monitor phone calls, communications and censor the press.
Being the world's leading exporter of bauxite, mining and shipments of the ore were interrupted by the latest strike in the country. This has affected world market prices of aluminium, which is produced from bauxite.
In fact, work was disrupted at Guinea's biggest bauxite mining company, Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG) at Sangaredi, north of Conakry, after looting and gunfire occurred there at night.
The Guinean government holds 49 percent of stake in CBG, with the remaining shares going to a US company, Halco.
Annually, the Guinean company produces over 14 million tons of wet bauxite from its mine in Boké in the north. It also exports about 13 million tons of dried bauxite annually.
A similar incident was reported at the Kamsar export port, thus forcing the entire bauxite export operations to be grounded.
The strike has taken its negative toll on the poverty-stricken country, where shops, banks, schools and administrative offices were closed in Conakry and other major towns. But also the human rights situation in the country has suffered much from the repressive measures applied by the government and army.
This week, even the African Union (AU) has condemned Guinean soldiers for repressing the rights of civilians through killing of protesters. The AU also added its voice to those of human right organisations, asking for an independent inquiry into the killings.
The International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) - which represents the two unions behind the Guinean strikes - has also launched an urgent call on the Guinean government to end the violence and guarantees the safety of trade union leaders, some of whose lives were threatened.
It blamed the Guinean government for betraying an agreement it had earlier signed with the leaders of the country's two major trade unions.
The Director General of International Labour Organisation (ILO), Juan Somavia, in a statement. declared, "I call on the authorities and all those exercising power in Guinea to guarantee the safety of trade union leaders, to ensure the holding of immediate and sincere negotiations, to bring and end to the violence and find a negotiated solution to the serious concerns expressed by the employers and people of Guinea."
ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder said his organisation had joined ILO to express their solidarity with their Guinean colleagues.
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