Friday, January 04, 2008

Guinean general strike to resume following executive power grab

Originally posted in Friends of Guinea's blog. Republished with permission.

There has been rioting in Guinea after the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté fired Communications Minister Justin Morel Jr.

Voice of America reported that Conté's New Years Day message attacked the government of Prime Minister Lansana Kouyaté, calling it a "disappointment."

However an analyst for the International Crisis group disagreed, saying that "[t]here has been some clear improvement in social services, water, electricity, and all these issues were really the core reason of the general strike and the massive demonstrations last year.".

Morel responded by telling state television that the words attributed to Conté were penned by extremists "nostalgic for a past that no longer exists."

Kouyaté and his cabinet were appointed after an agreement struck last year between Conté and labor unions in order to end a debilitating general strike.

Many inside Guinea are outraged by Morel's sacking by presidential decree, arguing that he was named minister via consensus and could only be sacked via the same method.

This is seen as only the latest move by the presidency to undermine Prime Minister Kouyaté's authority.

Last month, Conte signed a decree giving more control within the government to one of his closest allies, the presidency secretary-general, Sam Mamadi Soumah.

Guinéenews reported that Kouyaté's government threatened to resign if Conté's decree was not reversed.

Outraged by what it sees as Conté's betrayal of last year's deal and undermining of Kouyaté's authority, unions have called for a resumption of the nationwide general strike, starting on January 10.

"We are going to stage an unlimited general strike to force the government to respect these agreements," the secretary-general of the National Confederation of Guinean Workers (CNTG), Rabiatou Serah Diallo, told a news conference.
Earlier a union leader told Reuters: "This is a serious violation of the agreement which ended last year's crisis."

Officially, union leaders did not end last year's general strike following the power-sharing deal, but only suspended it.

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