CONAKRY - Tens of thousands of Guineans rallied in support of President Alpha Conde on Thursday after two weeks of violent protests against the leader's suspected bid to prolong his rule claimed around 10 lives.
Communication Minister Amara Sompare said 45,000 people turned out to greet Conde, 81, on his return from a trip abroad, which the minister said proved that the president has wide backing for his push for a new constitution.
The pro-Conde rally was a response to a protest that saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets a week ago, according to local journalists. Organisers put the turnout for that rally at around a million, while the government said the protesters numbered 30,000.
On Thursday, people thronged the Conakry airport and lined the road leading into town, wearing the yellow and white colours of the ruling party, their T-shirts emblazoned with "Yes to the new constitution" and "Let's have a referendum".
Fode Oussou Fofana, vice president of one of the opposition parties, claimed that civil servants had been instructed to leave work to attend the rally.
He added that buses were chartered to ferry people to the airport at great expense.
The authorities have not responded to the accusations.
Conde, whose second term ends next year, launched constitutional consultations in September, saying the former French colony's basic law "concentrates corporate interests".
His adversaries say the president will try to push through an amendment allowing him to seek a third term.
At least eight protesters -- 10 according to the opposition -- and a police officer have been killed since October 24, when opposition parties, unions and civil society groups called for a mobilisation against a possible third term for Conde.
More violence is feared in the West African country of 13 million, which is poor despite significant mineral resources.
Conde has neither confirmed nor denied his intentions.