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Strike in Guinea Commemorates Recent Killing of Protesters


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Workers in Guinea are holding a nationwide strike in commemoration of the killing of at least 157 opposition demonstrators one month ago. Guinea's military government says it will cooperate with a U.N. investigation into the killing.

The main opposition coalition of political parties, civil society groups, and trade unions organized the strike to remember those killed, beaten, and raped by members of Guinea's military on September 28.

Protesters at Conakry's main sports stadium were demonstrating against the expected presidential candidacy of military ruler Captain Moussa Camara. Human-rights groups say at least 157 people were killed and hundreds injured when soldiers opened fire on the crowd.

The military government says 57 people died, most in the crush of people fleeing the stadium.

Salimata Keita is a member of the opposition New Democratic Forces party.

Keita says the 28th of September is now more than just a symbolic day simply marking the anniversary of Guinea's independence. It is also a day of great sadness for the people of Guinea and the women of Guinea who were victims of the violence that day.

Keita says opponents of the military government are calling on and hoping that all the Guinean people, men and women, consider October 28 as a day of mourning. She says people are still living with that mourning, and September 28 should always be a sacred day.

Ramatoulaye Sow is with the National Party of Hope and Development.

Sow says women were raped and brutalized that day by drunk and drugged members of the military. On the one-month anniversary of that violence, Sow says Guineans want to remember that day by inviting everyone, especially women and young girls to stay at home and pray. It is a day of meditation for the whole country.

Sow says people must not forget women who were arbitrarily killed just because they do not share the opinion of Guinea's ruling military council. She says we have the same right to disagree as those who have the right to agree with the military. Sow says if Captain Camara did not order soldiers to go to the stadium, they would not have gone.

Captain Camara is denying responsibility for the violence because he was not at the stadium. He is blaming both his political opponents for holding an unauthorized protest and what he calls "uncontrollable elements" of the military.

Captain Camara has promised to cooperate with a U.N. inquiry into the violence and has established his own investigation. But opposition groups are refusing to take part in that domestic inquiry and say they will not join regional mediation efforts unless Captain Camara steps down.

Fatoumata Bah of the Union of Guinean Democratic Forces Party says last month's violence against women has shaken the military's ability to control the country.

Bah says Guinea's ruling council should understand that women make up 52 percent of the population. Women were beaten and humiliated during the violence of September 28. And Bah says without the support of women, no one can rule the country.

Bah says women had the right to go to the stadium that day, to demonstrate and give their opinion. And they were beaten, killed, and humiliated because they exercised these rights.

Bah says those who beat and raped women at the stadium that day were their husbands, their sons, and their children - all part of the larger Guinean family. Enough is enough, she says, the women of Guinea are tired of how the country is being ruled.

The European Union has joined the Economic Community of West African states in an arms embargo against Guinea. The European Union is also restricting travel and freezing the assets of members of the military council.