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Guinea Strike Paralyzes Capital, Mining Sector

Workers demand higher wages, internet access and media freedom

by Victor Adetimilehin

CONAKRY – A nationwide strike by workers in Guinea has brought the capital and the vital mining sector to a halt, as protesters demand better pay and living conditions.

The strike, which began on Monday, was called by the Guinean Trade Union Movement, an umbrella group of several unions. They are asking for the release of a jailed media activist, lower food prices, the restoration of internet access, and an end to censorship of independent media outlets.

The strike has affected public transport, schools, banks, markets, and government offices in Conakry. Some youths have erected barricades and burned tires on major roads, clashing with police who fired tear gas to disperse them.

Two people were reportedly shot dead on Monday in the suburbs of Conakry, but the circumstances of their deaths remain unclear.

The strike has also disrupted operations in the mining sector, which accounts for more than 80% of the country’s exports and is a major source of revenue for the junta that seized power in a 2021 coup.

Guinea is the world’s second-largest producer of bauxite, the raw material for aluminum, and also has significant deposits of iron ore, gold, and diamonds.

A senior official of a mining company, who requested anonymity, said workers had stayed away and some mines were maintaining minimum service operations.

“Production has dropped drastically. We don’t know how long this will last, but it’s a big loss for the country and the companies,” the official said.

Another official of a different mining company confirmed the situation and said the strike was affecting the supply chain and the transport of minerals to the ports.

The strike comes a week after the military junta dissolved the transitional government that had been in place since July 2022, without giving any reason. The junta also ordered the confiscation of passports and the freezing of bank accounts of former government members.

The junta, led by General Mamady Doumbouya, has banned all public demonstrations and arrested several opposition leaders, civil society activists, and journalists since taking power.  They have promised to organize elections and return the country to civilian rule but have not given a clear timetable.

Some analysts say the strike could put pressure on the junta to speed up the transition process and address the social and economic grievances of the population.

“The strike is a sign of the growing discontent and frustration of the people with the junta’s lack of transparency and accountability,” said Abdoulaye Sow, a political analyst based in Conakry.

He said the junta should engage in dialogue with the unions and other stakeholders to find a peaceful solution and avoid further instability.

“The junta should realize that they cannot govern by force and repression. They need to respect the rights and aspirations of the people and restore the rule of law and democracy,” he said.

Despite its mineral wealth, Guinea remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, with a history of coups, violence, and human rights violations.

However, some civil society groups and ordinary citizens have expressed hope that the strike could be a catalyst for positive change and a more inclusive and prosperous future for the country.

“We are striking for our dignity, our freedom, and our development,” said Fatoumata Camara, a teacher and union member in Conakry. “We want a better Guinea for ourselves and our children.”

Source: Reuters 


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