General Strike Cripples Business Across Guinea

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Above Photo: Policemen escort a demonstrator in an empty street of Conakry, on February 15, 2016, on the day of a nation-wide general strike in Guinea, with unions calling for lower fuel prices and better pay conditions (AFP Photo/Cellou Binani)

Conakry (AFP) – Shops, banks and offices remained closed and streets empty of traffic in Guinea’s capital and in other cities Monday, the first day of an open-ended general strike called by trade unions.

Union leaders are demanding that prices of basic commodities and fuel be brought down by the government, while also pressing home pay claims.

“The strike is being followed 100 percent,” Louis Mbemba Soumah, general secretary of the Syndicated Union of Workers of Guinea (USTG), told AFP.

The union, one of the largest in the west African country, called jointly for the strike with the even bigger National Confederation of Workers of Guinea.

A picture taken on February 15, 2016 shows carts parked in a street of Conakry, on February 15, 2016

A picture taken on February 15, 2016 shows carts parked in a street of Conakry, on February 15, 2016

Police were deployed in strength in the capital Conakry, mostly on major roads and in front of university and school premises, and schools were closed, an AFP journalist saw.

Health workers in public hospitals were only providing legally-required minimum services, unions said.

Even usually bustling markets were shut down, with only a handful of service stations open in the city centre.

Public transport also ground to a halt, said Amadou Bah, manager of the bus station in the suburb of Bambeto. “No vehicle will be leaving here, either on domestic routes or abroad,” he said.

Government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara urged the strikers to remember that Guinea was still recovering from the Ebola epidemic, which badly hit the economy.

“Given the current state of our finances, we can’t afford to lose what little income we have,” he said, referring to fuel duties.

Residents reached by telephone also reported total shutdowns in major towns such as Kankan in the east, N’Zerekore in the south, Labe in the north, Boke in the northwest and Mamou in central Guinea.

The last strike on such a nationwide scale took place in January 2015.