On February 27, Lansana Kouyate, one of four candidates acceptible to the unions of Guinea, was appointed Prime Minister. Kouyate was formerly a UN ambassador from Guinea and was Under General Secretary at the UN 1994-97; prior to his new appointment as PM, he held the office of executive secretary of the West African economic community ECOWAS.
“I welcome this appointment favourably,” Kouyate told IRIN by telephone from Côte d’Ivoire on Tuesday morning before leaving for Conakry. “It is a heavy burden that we will carry together to lift Guinea out of the situation it currently finds itself in.”
For most of the past week, Guinea has maintained a military-enforced curfew with people only allowed out between noon and 6pm. In Guinea’s capital, Conakry, soldiers drive around the city in their jeeps firing their weapons to warn people to stay in their homes. This is always described as “firing into the air”, but there are several reported incidents where “into the air” has proven to be a target beyond the marksmanship of the soldiers and their fire has hit people through the walls of their homes.
One such was seven-year-old Aicha Diallo who was hit in the head while lying in bed.
A rap video released a couple of days ago, includes footage of demonstrations in Guinea and pretty graphic photographs. The lyrics are in French and I can’t really make them out other than that they are protesting Conté’s rule, but I’ve translated the opening messages below the fold. (Plus there’s another video.)
I found this manifesto posted to a usenet group about Guinea. It was, of course, posted in French. The translation below the fold is mine, and is probably inaccurate in places — both because my French is not terrific and because the writing is a bit rough. There are some clear spelling and punctuation errors in the original. I don’t know whether the apparent grammatical oddities are errors or just dialect. The phrases in brackets are the ones I’m least sure of. Any suggestions for correcting the translation are appreciated.
Amid riots and military reprisals, union leaders in Guinea (West Africa) are now demanding that the country’s dictator, President Lansana Conte, step down after failing to keep his word in the agreement which ended last month’s strike.
The strike has been renewed; there have been armed gangs in the streets; offices and villas have been sacked; military troops have fired into crowds. Conte has declared what I’ve seen variously called a “state of emergency”, “martial law”, and a “state of siege”. According to the BBC, “[u]nder Guinean law, a state of emergency prohibits all public gatherings and imposes a strict curfew, while giving the military expanded powers.”
At least 27 and possibly close to 100 people may have already been killed in the renewed violence.
For the past two weeks, there has been a general strike in Guinea (West Africa). Thousands of union and grassroots marchers have been protesting throughout the country. Government forces have killed at least 59 people and injured over 250.
This is the third strike in a year marked by rapid inflation and rampant corruption in the country. While most of the country is shut down, those merchants still doing business have doubled the price of staple foods.
President Lansana Conte has been in office since 1984. There have been elections but their validity has been contested.
On Saturday, in a speech calling for calm Conte said:
Those who want power must wait their turn. It is God who gives power and when he gives it to someone, everyone must stand behind him.