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Guinea's Capital Breaks Out in Protests, Firefights, Crackdown


At least three people were killed in Guinea Monday, bringing the death toll to over 80 since protests began last month. Heavy shooting started at a main military base near the capital's airport, while thousands of youths are taking to the streets, amid repression by special presidential security units. The violence comes as unions restarted a nationwide strike, now demanding the resignation of President Lansana Conte. Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Local journalist Maseco Conde says the firing came from the Alpha Yaya Camp.

He said shots were fired throughout Conakry and its suburbs as well, as youths tried to take to the streets midday.

The journalist says presidential security units also ransacked Radio FM Liberte in Conakry, which had been broadcasting a talk show airing angry calls demanding the president's resignation. International radio stations are also off the air.

The presidential guard, led by President Lansana Conte's own son, has been in charge of securing downtown Conakry in recent days.

Earlier, the local radio, FM Liberte, broadcast a statement from the president of Guinea's national assembly, calling for negotiations.

The violence closely follows a meeting between security forces and President Conte late Sunday. Guinean journalists say some army leaders disagreed with the ongoing repression of the protests.

A nationwide strike suspended for a few weeks also resumed Monday. Union leaders say President Conte had named an ally to become prime minister, going against the spirit of an earlier agreement, calling for a prime minister of wide consensus.

Eugene Camara, the former minister of presidential affairs, was named prime minister on Friday.

Union leaders are now calling for Mr. Conte's resignation.

Human rights West African activist Ibrahim Kane doubts authorities will go along with that idea. He also believes harsh repression of the protests will continue.

"In Guinea, respect for human life is nothing," he said. "In Guinea, a leader can do what he wants without any consequences. They believe that this position was given to him by God and God is the only person who can take it from him. When I say they, it is not only Conte but it is also the ruling party, those who are supporting him."

Mr. Conte has been in power since a coup in 1984 despite his deteriorating health. The latest strike action was initiated after he unilaterally freed two of his closest allies who had been put in jail as part of a corruption probe.

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