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Guinea's Government Tries to Resolve Military Dispute


Guinea's government is holding emergency sessions to end two nights of rioting by the military, apparently because of a pay dispute. The unrest comes just several months after a deadly nationwide strike forced a change in government. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from nearby Dakar.

Conakry journalist Maseco Conde says new Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate is taking the matter very seriously.

He says after discussions with military officials Thursday failed to stop the overnight rioting, an emergency session was convened Friday with heads of the military and government ministers.

Conde says the ailing and autocratic President Lansana Conte has distanced himself from political affairs since Mr. Kouyate became prime minister.

Dozens of people have been injured in the unrest, which took place two nights in a row starting at about two in the morning in towns and cities throughout Guinea.

One night watchman was reported killed in the eastern town of Nzerekore.

The soldiers have been leaving military camps, shooting in the air, and ransacking residences of some top officials.

Alex Vines, with British-based Chatham House, says this is not unprecedented, but worrisome given the current circumstances.

"There have been sporadic incidents across the country," he said. "I know last year there were some disputes with junior soldiers, demanding increased salaries, but the timing of course with the atmosphere that is in Guinea at the moment is worrying, since there is such a fear that the military might intervene, and the uncertainty of the health of the president. These sorts of incidents just help to raise tensions further in Guinea."

Soldiers say the government has been holding back wages since 1996 when President Conte made promises following a deadly mutiny.

Since then, he has orchestrated purges and reorganizations within the army. The chain-smoking, diabetic president, who can barely walk, has been in power since a military coup in 1984.

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