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Guinea's President Declares State of Emergency


Guinea's President Lansana Conte has declared a state of emergency following renewed violence that left at least a dozen people dead in the capital. This came as union leaders resumed a nationwide strike Monday which calls on Mr. Conte to resign. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Speaking on state television, Mr. Conte called for a state of emergency. He ordered all army chiefs of staff to take necessary measures to reestablish public order and protect Guinea against the risk of civil war.

An 8 p.m. to 6 a.m curfew was immediately established.

The president said despite the government's effort to satisfy union demands, "badly intentioned people" were destroying private property and ridiculing state authority.

The military now has the right to arrest anyone it believes threatens state security.

An exiled opposition activist, Amara Camara, reacted angrily.

"I think that it is an insult for the country actually," said Amara Camara. "If the country decides that they do not want him, he should be leaving the power and not implement martial law. I think that is a big insult for the country at this moment."

In recent days, Mr. Conte has been paying extra bonuses to some army leaders while quickly promoting others to top security positions.

The presidential guard, led by his son, has played a key role in securing downtown Conakry. The guard Monday ransacked a private radio station, while callers demanded Mr. Conte's resignation.

The U.S-based group Human Rights Watch says there is credible information indicating former Liberian rebels are in Conakry helping to defend Mr. Conte's rule.

But there was burning and looting of many government offices and residences in the interior of Guinea.

Camara says he believes despite martial law, Mr. Conte's days in power may be numbered.

"I think it is not going to take that long anymore," he said. "What I think, my personal impression, he is now learning his lessons at this moment. This man should resign or the army is going to get up against him that is what I think is going to happen."

Mr. Conte has been in power since a coup 23 years ago and ruled since last April without a prime minister. More than 100 people have died in the union led protests which began in January, stopped for a few weeks, but started again after Mr. Conte named a close ally as new prime minister on Friday. The unions are now demanding Mr. Conte step down.

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