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GUINEA: Military warns of more protests if demands not met

CONAKRY, 17 August 2007 (IRIN) - Guinean soldiers warn they could stage fresh protests within weeks if the government fails to meet demands that were at the centre of military-led riots in May that left two people dead and several injured.

Soldiers say they are giving the government until 8 September to pay long-overdue salaries. “After that deadline, we’ll make ourselves heard as we did in May,” said one sergeant major who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid problems with superiors. Many soldiers IRIN spoke to echoed this position.

Demanding back salary and the dismissal of top military officials, soldiers rioted in the capital, Conakry, and in two other towns, shooting into the air and strafing a residential area with machine guns, killing at least two people.

The bulk of the soldiers’ demands have yet to be met, military sources told IRIN. “What we want is to obtain, at the end of this month, what is our due, as promised by the government under [President] Lansana Conte.”

He said soldiers will refuse their salary for this month. “We have decided not to touch our money at the end of this month to protest the failure to meet the commitments made by our leaders.”

The military has long demanded back salaries, the reintegration of soldiers sacked after a rebellion in 1996 and promotions. Troops want the government to give them 300 billion CFA francs (US$77 million) Conte allegedly promised them to end the 1996 mutiny.

After the uprisings this year Conte dismissed his defence minister and other top officials but the government will be hard pressed to meet the salary demands. “The Guinean government does not have the means to deal with these salary arrears – the military’s principal demand,” Himourana Soumah of the Ministry of Economy, Finances and Planning, told IRIN.

Other government officials and spokespeople contacted by IRIN declined to comment on the situation.

Observers say the government cannot keep deferring the problem of the military. “The artificial promises from government will only hold for so long,” said Kissy Agyeman, sub-Saharan Africa analyst with the London-based research group Global Insight.

“Without the materialisation of concrete financial solutions, the political machinery, already teetering on the brink, could be pushed over the edge as the military’s loyalty is reaches its limit.”

For now it is citizens who suffer the military’s discontent, a lawyer in the capital, Conakry, told IRIN. “The military makes the population pay, instead of those responsible,” said Boubakar Sow, president of the bar association. He said even in relatively calm times it is common to hear of military robbing citizens, as in a case two weeks ago when some soldiers commandeered a truck full of food in Boke – about 300km from the capital, Conakry – and made off with the contents.

“The military can’t get at those responsible. All they can do is kill and pillage the citizens.”




Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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