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Guinea Capital Largely Calm Under Curfew, Marital Law


Guinean military are patrolling the streets of the capital, Conakry, enforcing a 20-hour-a-day curfew declared by President Lansana Conte that is intended to end demonstrations urging him to step down. From our regional bureau in Dakar, Jordan Davis reports.

Despite a curfew, some Conakry residents were seen walking in the streets. Gunfire was heard in the capital's suburbs during the morning as youth protesters were dispersed by security forces.

But local journalist Maseco Conde says by and large the city is calm.

Conde says military vehicles are patrolling the streets and the military has set up checkpoints along major roads and intersections.

Under a new curfew, Guineans are allowed to leave their homes for four hours during the late afternoon and early evening.

Mr. Conte declared martial law late Monday, ordering the military to protect the country against what he says is the risk of civil war.

Unions and opposition parties have stepped up calls for the president to resign, rejecting his appointment of Eugene Camara as prime minister on Friday.

They say Mr. Camara is too close to Mr. Conte to lead the national unity government that was promised last month to end to an 18-day general strike.

Observers say the declaration of martial law through February 23 shows Mr. Conte strongly depends on the military to stay in power, despite growing popular discontent.

Gilles Yabi, a Dakar-based analyst with International Crisis Group, says the Guinean leader has made a number of promotions within the army in recent days to secure their support.

"I think it is an obvious way of buying loyalty of the army," he said. "It seems like this strategy is still working because up to now we have seen the official hierarchy of the army following the president."

Many analysts say the crisis in Guinea risks destabilizing neighboring countries, including Sierra Leone, which is still recovering from a devastating civil war that ended five years ago.

Sierra Leonean President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah says he and other regional leaders are in contact with Mr. Conte and hope to find a peaceful end to Guinea's political turmoil.

Political unrest in Guinea has killed more than 100 people this year, including at least several dozen since Mr. Camara's appointment.

Opponents of Mr. Conte, who is in his seventies and suffering from diabetes, say he is becoming increasingly erratic in his behavior.

In January, unions called their third general strike in a little over a year to protest Mr. Conte personally intervening to release two political allies jailed in connection with a corruption investigation.

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