Guinea police clash with youths as strike begins

Tue Feb 19, 2013 2:15pm EST
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By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Security forces clashed with youths throwing stones in Guinea's capital on Tuesday as opponents of President Alpha Conde began a nationwide strike to demand a corruption-free election.

The strike began a day after street protests by opposition groups who say preparations have been flawed for the May 12 parliamentary vote, the first in a decade and a test of Conde's democratic credentials after the West African state emerged from two years of violent military rule.

The election will also be watched by major donors such as the European Union, which warned in November that it needed a credible and detailed timeline for the vote to unblock about 174 million euros ($232 million) for the impoverished country.

Much of the capital Conakry appeared unaffected by the strike on Tuesday, but in neighborhoods seen as be opposition strongholds, shops closed and there was little road traffic.

Conakry residents said the clashes took place in three of those opposition neighborhoods - Koloma, Bambeto and Bomboli.

"We've received several calls about a number of arrests," said Thierno Maadjou Sow, president of the Guinean Organisation of Human Rights. "We learned that one entire household was arrested following skirmishes between the youths and the security forces."

Koloma resident Abdoulaye Diallo said police beat a group of youths at the market in Koloma, arrested some and used tear gas to disperse the rest.

A spokesman for the security forces said they had acted after the youths began throwing stones at moving vehicles to punish their drivers for ignoring the strike call.   Continued...

Opposition supporters protest to demand a free and fair parliamentary election, on the streets of the capital Conakry February 18, 2013. REUTERS/Saliou Samb