The nationwide strike in Guinea is one week old. Opposition parties and union leaders called the strike to protest President Lansana Conte’s economic and political policies. On Monday this week, they presented President Conte with an ultimatum to either reform his government or face massive nationwide demonstrations. They called on President Conte, who is ill, to hand over all his presidential powers, name a new prime minister and authorize that person to name a new government. Well, last night, President Conte rejected their ultimatum. So what’s next for Guinea?
Sydia Toure is leader of the opposition Union of Republican Forces party. First he explained why the opposition supports the strike.
“Opposition parties support this strike for many reasons. One of the big ones is that we don’t have any democracy in this country. We have a very difficult situation because of lack of democracy, lack of governance, and corruption in the system and inflation,” he said.
Toure said the union and political party leaders have called for a nationwide strike Wednesday because President Conte Tuesday night rejected their ultimatum to reform the government.
“Today President Conte gave his answer for the ultimatum. He said that he asked the population to go back to work. And this evening, union workers and political parties, we asked the population to go on the streets tomorrow morning,” Toure said.
There are speculations that the Guinean military may seize power if the strike continues. Toure expressed reservation about a military take over.
“For the moment, we don’t want any military take over, but the situation is very complicated. What we want is to have a negotiation. May be a kind of consultation of all the civil society, political parties, union workers and all the population. We want to have a discussion and give a new orientation for this country,” he said.
Toure said the population is angry because for fifty years, they have known nothing but poverty.
“If I can explain to you, the salary of a doctor in Guinea today is the equivalent of, I don’t know, fifteen liters of gasoline, and the salary of a teacher is, I don’t know, the price of a fifty kilo bag of rice, 25 five dollars,” Toure said.
President Conte, who is believed to be in his 70’s, is ill and said to be even senile. Toure said that’s part of Guinea’s problems.
“This is one of the reasons why it’s very difficult to have a negotiation with the president because he can tell you something today and tomorrow he forgets,” he said.
Toure reiterated the union’s and opposition parties’ next plan of action now that President Toure has rejected their ultimatum.
“From tomorrow, people are going in the streets to demonstrate and to ask Conte to go back over the paper they gave to him. We asked him to discuss with the civil society, to discuss with the political parties, and to find a new solution, and we get no response from him. So we decided for Wednesday we go on strike, which is this morning,” he said.