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Guinea Union Leaders Call New Strike to Press President's Departure


In Guinea's capital, people are stocking up on supplies in anticipation of a renewed strike, following violent protests that have left more than a dozen people dead. Union leaders and the opposition are calling for the president to go, saying his appointee as prime minister is too close an ally, and lacks the independence union leaders demanded. Phuong Tran reports from VOA's regional bureau in Dakar.

In the capital, Conakry, people are stocking up on supplies before what they fear will be another crippling shutdown, as union leaders announced the continuation of their strike starting Monday.

In the town of Kankan, east of the capital, thousands of youths shouted calls for President Lansansa Conte's death and declaring victory to the people.

Anger is mounting over the president's choice of Eugene Camara, a close ally in the president's Cabinet, to be prime minister. Union leaders had called off a crippling strike late last month after the president agreed to fill the empty post of prime minister. Union leaders had demanded that the prime minister be given broad powers.

But union and opposition leaders say Mr. Camara is too cozy with the ailing president, and too weak to lift Guinea out of corruption and poverty.

Though union leaders called for the strike to resume, they also distanced themselves from what they call the youths' violent insurrection.

Yamadou Toure, secretary general of Guinea's chapter of the International Trade Union Confederation, says union leaders do not support the vandalism unfolding across the country, and want to resolve the crisis through a strike until Mr. Conte steps down.

In preparation for another long shutdown, residents in the capital walked around barricades to look for open stores to stock up on supplies.

Journalist Maseco Conde reported from Conakry's mostly empty streets, where he says fearful residents are preparing for the worst.

Conde says almost all the big markets and stores were shuttered because demonstrators had been stoning and vandalizing stores the day before.

He says small corner stores that were still open were quickly being emptied of food and basic supplies, as people stocked up on dry goods.

Five hundred kilometers south of the capital, in Nzerekore, debris from Saturday demonstrations littered streets.

International Federation of the Red Cross local-office director Mamady Cisse says more than 20,000 students clogged the streets on Saturday. Nzerekore is Mr. Camara's hometown.