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Guineans Return to Work After Costly General Strike, but Nation Faces Uncertain Future


Last month's general strike in the mineral-rich West African nation of Guinea became a popular movement demanding the resignation of President Lansana Conte, in power for 23 years. Security forces killed scores of protesters, but the 18-day strike ended January 27th after Mr. Conte promised to name a prime minister with decision-making powers to fight corruption and ease grinding poverty. The country's bauxite mines are back in operation now, but there is widespread concern about possible further unrest. VOA's Nico Colombant updates the situation, with reporting by Tatiana Mossot in Guinea's capital.

Guinea's capital is busy again, but after last month's deadly protests, some things will never again be the same.

In markets, the price of rice has gone up, and will probably never go back to pre-strike levels. Instead of bringing prices down, the protest action worsened inflation. The price of gasoline also nearly doubled.

In the slums of Conakry, families are mourning the dead.

Amadou Oury Diallo was killed by a soldier's bullet to the head. His brother remains defiant: "I have a right to defend myself. I have a right to defend Guinea. We must all fight for change. I am not afraid to die. I have suffered too much."

A few streets down, a father mourns his son, who was killed by security forces on the deadliest day of the strike. The father remembers how his son's friend came to break the news. "He said, 'I need your help with Adramane.' I said, 'Why can't you help him?' He said, 'They shot him down.' I said, 'Did you leave him in the streets?' He said, 'Yes.' I asked him, 'Is that his blood on your shoes?' He said, 'Yes.' I knew then that my son was dead. His friend would have never left him behind alive."

Guineans, who used to be afraid to speak out -- afraid they would be arrested, now gather in courtyards talking about politics. One protester says, "Change is still needed. And this change needs to happen on all levels: economic, social, and cultural. Everything is oppressive here. Before, we were too afraid to even talk. But now we are really determined. If they don't want real change, they will have to kill us all."

Guineans are waiting to see if the changes to end the strike will go far enough, or if they will have to return to the streets for more protests.