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Frustrations Mount in Guinea as President Delays Naming PM


Frustration is growing in Guinea as President Lansana Conté delays naming a national unity prime minister, the key concession that ended a deadly strike one week ago. Naomi Schwarz reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Union leaders say they are impatient for Guinea's President Conté to name his candidate for a consensus prime minister.

But analysts say it may be difficult to find a candidate that satisfies people's demands.

Gilles Yabi is an analyst based at International Crisis Group's West Africa office in Dakar.

"They do not want somebody that has been associated with Conté, who has had government positions with Conté, for example," he said. "So that excludes a lot of people."

But Yabi says a bigger problem is that the prime minister's position is not guaranteed by the constitution. This means that, unless there is a constitutional amendment, Mr. Conté could fire his new prime minister at any moment. Yabi says this has happened to several reform prime ministers recently.

"Perhaps it is because of this absence of guarantees of the power of prime minister that it is difficult to find someone really willing to take that position," he added. "If it is a good candidate for the position, he will certainly understand that he needs more guarantees than what we have"

A week has passed since union leaders ended the nationwide strike that paralyzed the country for more than three weeks and left dozens dead. Now they are saying that if Mr. Conté does not make his choice soon, they will resume the strike.

Mamadou Mansarè, leader of the National Council of Guinean Workers, says that they are vigilantly waiting for the president's choice and that the strike is suspended, but not called off entirely.

But local journalist Maseco Condé says that the strike could resume even after Mr. Conté names a prime minister.

He says if Mr. Conté names a prime minister who does not meet their criteria, they will take to the streets.

In recent years, inflation has spiraled to more than 40 percent, and the price of a single 50 kilogram sack of rice now exceeds the monthly salary of many workers. Union leaders have said that Mr. Conté, a reclusive, diabetic in his seventies, is unable to govern the country out of this quagmire.

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