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Experts Warn of Violence After Guinea President Fires Prime Minister


Opposition politicians in Guinea are welcoming the ouster of former Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate, while union leaders say they will take a wait and see approach. Kouyate was fired in a presidential decree read on state television Tuesday. Ricci Shryock reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Opposition leaders said Kouyate had not done enough to improve economic conditions of Guineans, and that they welcomed his dismissal.

Kouyate was named consensus prime minister in 2007 following violent union-led protests against long time President Lansana Conte.

Union leaders said Wednesday they would wait until the new prime minister, Ahmed Tidiane Souare, names his new government before commenting further.

Souare is close to President Conte, and has previously been minister of mines and education.

He told journalists Wednesday he would work for reconciliation, change and ending what he called a state of cacophony at the higher echelons of Guinea's government.

Immediately after the announcement Tuesday night, youths took to the streets and threw stones in protest in several suburbs of the capital Conakry. But Wednesday the situation was calm.

In the eastern city of Kankan, though, shops and offices were closed, in fear of possible violence. Kankan is populated mainly by ethnic Malinke, the ethnic group of the dismissed prime minister.

A senior researcher for West Africa for the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, Corinne Dafka, warned of increased violence.

"A clear concern of ours, and I am sure others, is that this firing could provoke another wave of violent protests in Guinea," Dafka said.

Dafka says the government reacted violently to public protests in 2007, and she worries it will happen again.

"We are concerned about the way those were dealt with about one year ago, in which at least 130 individuals were gunned down and otherwise killed in other forms by members of the security forces," Dafka said.

President Conte has been in power since a coup in 1984. Berlin-based Transparency International has called his government one of the most corrupt in the world.

The West African country is home to mineral wealth-it holds more than a third of the world's known reserves of bauxite-but most of its citizens live in poverty.


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