A thirteenth day of protests in Guinea against the rule of President Lansana Conte has resulted in the deaths of more than twenty demonstrators shot by Guinean security forces. Hundreds of thousands of marchers defied a government ban and paraded toward the Presidential Palace in downtown Conakry, the capital, on Monday. They demanded better living conditions, an end to government corruption, and an end to the President’s 23-year rule. Eyewitness Ibrahima Diallo says it was the worst day of violence so far in cities all around the country.
“About five hundred thousand people were on the road, and there were also people around the city Conakry. And then lining the crossroad way, there were so many soldiers, shooting guys with real bullets. There were shooters in so many areas, on the crossroads from Bameto, they shot people and also in front of here, on the Twentieth of September Road,” he said.
Diallo, who has just completed university studies in law at Conakry’s International College University, says about 23 protesters died in Monday’s violence, including two he saw firsthand, shot by security police at the Twentieth of September crossroads.
“It was all around the country, cities like Labe, Kankan, Kissidougou, Kindia, Faraya. People are going on strike. They are shouting about the living conditions of workers, about electricity, water, and communications, and also education,” he said.
Because of the escalation of violence, Diallo says he does not think a negotiated settlement is likely without assistance from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
“This time, all international opinion is informed about what’s happening. The President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, and also Olusegun Obasanjo, the President of Nigeria, can say to Lansana Conte just to abandon his chair,” he said.
An impoverished but resource-rich country, Guinea has been the scene of protests and worker discontent for the past several years. President Conte, who took power in 1984, was reelected to a seven-year presidential term in 2003. Last April, he fired his Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo and has not replaced him. Eyewitness Ibrahima Diallo says that with the Monday night arrests of two key union leaders, Messieurs Diallo and Fofana, the motivators who were driving the strike movement have been suppressed.
“It was the son of the President, Ousmane Conte, (who seized them), and they came to the working place of these persons and drove them in a car behind the radio station in the town. We don’t know what has happened, but maybe tomorrow, we’ll be informed about what they’ve done to them,” he said.