Friday, 23 February 2007

Guinea's rule of martial law ended

The African country of Guinea has been under martial law for 11 days now. The parliament has refused to renew the state of emergency.

President Lansana Conte had asked parliament to renew martial law until a general strike is called off.

President Conte imposed the emergency following weeks of violent street protests against his leadership.

Trade unions have welcomed the vote but said they intend to continue their crippling general strike until a new prime minister is found.

The martial law measures had imposed a curfew and gave the military sweeping powers to search and arrest.

It remains unknown — to me at least — whether it is the government and army or the violent protesters who are causing the turmoil. As far as the union-government conflict goes: are the unions too power-hungry or is the government too repressive and not representative enough of the workers' rights? For the most part it sounds as if the president is painfully corrupt. He personally released too friends convicted of embezzling millions in public funds, among other actions that sent normal Guineans over the edge.

Guinea, like many other post-colonial African nations, is attempting a change from an authoritarian-type republic to an open democracy. The question that ultimately remains, for Guinea and others, is how that change will come, and whether it will just send the country backwards into more conflict or repressiveness. Power to the people, or continued instability in the name of stability and the sake of traditional power?

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