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Security Tightens in Guinea Over Strike Protest


Security is tightening in Guinea over a ten-day-old general strike that has paralyzed economic activity and triggered violent anti-government protests. At least five people have been reported killed amid ongoing unrest in the capital Conakry, its suburbs and interior cities. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Gunfire rang out in the early morning hours in many parts of the country as security forces tried to contain youth groups setting tires ablaze.

The heaviest police presence was in the downtown area of capital, where union leaders had initially planned a march, which did not take place.

A small market opened there, but generally the strike was still widely respected, with almost no buses, taxis, shops, banks, or offices operational.

Officials in the country's strategic bauxite industry said activities in mining towns were being reduced substantially as well, and that the number of boats being loaded for export were starting to be reduced.

Union leaders are calling for a new government after President Lansana Conte unilaterally freed two of his allies who had been put in jail as part of a corruption investigation.

An analyst with the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, Dustin Sharp, says many Guineans are trying to use historical examples of people-power movements as motivation.

"I have been surprised by the number of people that have mentioned to me the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, so they are certainly aware of the possibility of non-violence," he said. "I do not want to use the word overthrow, but non-violent governmental change based on popular pressure but I am unable to predict which way it is going to go."

The ailing President Conte, who has led his increasingly impoverished nation since a coup in 1984, has repeatedly called for the strike to end.

After several of his proposals were rejected, union leaders say the long-time president threatened to have them killed.

Meanwhile, state media has started broadcasting more and more propaganda in his favor.