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Guineans Suffer Under Military Rule While Strike Lingers

Union leaders in Guinea are pursuing a strike that began in early January, demanding that long-time President Lansane Conte name a consensus prime minister. Meanwhile, the government is maintaining a state of emergency the president says is needed to prevent a civil war. Meanwhile, Guineans in the capital, Conakry, say they are suffering under military rule. VOA's Nico Colombant has more from Dakar, with on the scene reporting by Tatiana Mossot in Conakry.

Helicopters hover in the sky.

Soldiers patrol neighborhoods of the capital.

The head of the army appears on state television telling citizens what they can and cannot do.

Residents in courtyards, like More Kamara, his right eye gashed, tell horror stories. He says, a group of soldiers bashed his eye with their riffle butts when he was trying to get water from an outdoor pump at night, violating the curfew. He says soldiers do not seem to be in Guinea to protect the people anymore, but to protect the interests of President Conte and his government.

Human Rights Watch says security forces have committed numerous abuses, including beating and shooting people and rape.

The top union leader, Radiatou Serah Diallo, accuses soldiers of raping women at night, and says this must stop. She says the government needs to make more effort and to show more compassion to put an end to the crisis.

More than 100 people have been killed in the unrest, while many more have been wounded.

At this ward at the main hospital, a wounded young man, who prefers to remain unnamed, says Guineans want change. He says they are tired of poverty and crumbling government services, and that is why they are protesting. He was shot through the leg into his knee. He says he is ready to sacrifice himself for the future of his country.

If Mr. Conte does not leave power, he says, he will go back out on the streets to protest.

Small markets are starting to reopen, but prices for basic goods have gone up.

Mediators from the regional grouping ECOWAS are preparing to send a new team to Conakry, while the United Nations is also trying to prepare a mission to help defuse tensions.

For these young Guineans, toiling around a destroyed gas station, it seems the strike has caused more hardship and more deterioration.