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Guinea Opposition Wants New Power-Sharing Government - 2004-07-19

Political opposition groups in Guinea are calling for a national unity government to replace ailing President Lansana Conte. Recently, human-rights organizations have criticized the government in the West African nation for violations of freedom of speech and in the judicial process.

Six opposition parties in Guinea have issued a joint statement calling for a radical break from the current administration, to establish a power-sharing government and strengthen stability in the impoverished country.

The statement calls for all institutions of the republic to be dissolved, and for government systems to be completely overhauled.

A spokesman with the Human Rights Watch organization, Stephan van Praet, says President Conte has been in power for too long, and caused the situation in Guinea to deteriorate. "We see now that those years of political reign dominated by the same person provides risks of disintegration, especially when you see the flow of arms, which are linked to the wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia and now also Ivory Coast," he says. "So, I think, it is very important that Guinea is not becoming the next domino in the fragility of the political processes in West Africa."

Political instability in Guinea could spread, if a successor to President Conte, who suffers from diabetes and heart problems, is not identified. The prime minister quit in May, just two months after accepting the position, to protest the blocking of his political and economic reforms.

Although Guinea has a wealth of resources, such as mineral, hydropower and agriculture, the average citizen earns less than a dollar a day, and recent skyrocketing rice prices have put the staple food out of reach for many.

A local rights group in the Guinean capital, Conakry, has also accused the government of human-rights abuses for holding nearly two-dozen people, arrested six-months ago, without trial. The rights group says the conditions in which the detainees are living are inhumane, unacceptable and degrading.

Many international organizations have suspended aid, citing poor governance. And rights groups worry about the lack of democracy observed by the current government.