Guinea: Police clash with general strike

Security forces in Guinea have fired live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters on the sixth day of a national strike.

Submitted by Ed on January 17, 2007

Youths destroyed cars and blocked streets using burning tyres and debris, after public rallies were banned. Unions called the strike over the high cost of living and to protest after President Lansana Conte allegedly freed two prominent corruption suspects. Most shops, offices and markets are closed, with no public transport.

"Groups of vandals are burning tyres and smashing car windows. They've even tried to break into a police station to recover arms. We've been obliged to intervene and we're controlling the situation at the moment," a senior Guinean police officer told Reuters news agency. Many arrests have been made. This is the third general strike in a year.

There have been growing calls for President Conte to step down. He is in his 70s and in poor health suffering from diabetes. He is also accused of personally securing the release from prison of Guinea's richest man Mamadou Sylla, and former minister Fode Soumah, last month.

The unions say the strike must continue until both men are back behind bars. On the eve of the strike, courts ordered the seizure of Mr Sylla's assets. Last year, Guinea was ranked by Transparency International as the most corrupt country in Africa. Mr Conte seized power in a 1984 coup and has since won three elections.