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Guineans Express Disappointment in Strike-Ending Deal


Many Guineans are expressing disappointment in a deal to end a three-week strike, saying President Lansana Conte should resign. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Conakry-based journalist Maseco Conde says, many people he has talked to, say the deal did not go far enough.

He says guarantees to lower the prices of rice and gasoline are not seen as sufficient. He also says Guineans now want the ailing and erratic president, Mr. Conte, out.

He says, many people stocked up on goods Sunday at an open market, fearing there will be a new protest march on Monday.

He says, people he has talked to in the interior of Guinea are also expressing disappointment.

Strike leader Ibrahima Fofana, who announced the deal on Saturday, tells VOA he understands the frustration.

He says, it was not possible to change everything at once, but that important steps will be taken.

He also says, if Mr. Conte backs off from anything, union leaders are ready to resume their protest.

The diabetic, chain-smoking president now must follow through on his pledge to appoint a consensus prime minister with increased powers.

The deal also calls for capping the price of staple goods and gas, pursuing the prosecution of two of the president's allies in a corruption probe and making January 22nd a national day of remembrance for the dozens of protesters killed in a security crackdown.

A local analyst with U.S.-based Human Right Watch, Dustin Sharp, says many Guineans have the feeling, even though the protest was union-led, that union leaders are now, in his words, "selling out" to Mr. Conte.

"I think it is important not to forget the unions represent, in a very little way, a very small portion of Guinean workers," said Sharp. "The reason that it has turned into a much bigger movement is there has been a certain sense of solidarity and agreement with the general principles the unions were perceived to represent. I think it is possible that certain portions of the population will not accept."

One move that could placate angry Guineans is the immediate naming of a popular prime minister, but an another analyst Gilles Yabi, with Brussels-based International Crisis Group, says that could prove difficult.

"I do not have the feeling they have a candidate. I think they just said that they want a prime minister who has not been associated to the corruption, to the financial scandals in the past of the country," said Yabi.

Mr. Conte has not had a prime minister since last April. Since then, prices have continued to soar, while government services have crumbled even more. Mr. Conte has been in power since a coup in 1984.

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