Police strikes turn bloody

Soldiers have surrounded a police camp and two policemen have been killed in the second day of police strikes over back-pay in the Guinean capital Conakry.

An IRIN correspondent in Conakry said soldiers are currently looting the police camp, piling furniture and fridges into their military trucks.

On 16 June policemen started firing shots in the air outside the police camp prompting military officers to surround it and join in the shooting in a bid to quell the protests. Most of the shots were heard between the November 8 bridge and the camp in the Cameroon district of the city.

These protests come just two weeks after military officers rioted at three military camps across the capital demanding their own pay-offs from the government. Following emergency talks, the government agreed to pay each soldier US$1,140 in back pay. Over 100 people were injured in the protests.

Police started their protest on 16 June, calling on the government to pay salary arrears, asking for a bigger monthly rice subsidy and for salaries to be improved. Policemen also took several police chiefs hostage on 16 June, releasing them later that night.

Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Soare and representatives from the police force are currently meeting in emergency talks to discus the problem, according to policeman Alpha Kabine Kaba, though the government has not confirmed this.

Some observers say the police are copying the military’s actions, as they proved to have beneficial results.

The citizens of Cameroon district have been warned by soldiers not to leave their homes. "We urge all civilians to stay at home or you risk dying,” shouted a soldier from near the November 8 bridge. Shops and petrol stations in the area are closed.

Customs officers also joined the police strike, paralysing activities at the capitals’ main port, according to customs officer Baoury Mara. “We can also protest to improve our conditions. Nothing is coming or going here.”

The police strike is the second crisis in the short term of new Prime Minister Souare, who was appointed by President Lansana Conte in a surprise reshuffle in late May. Guinea is viewed by analysts as a politically and militarily unstable threat to a region of Africa that is otherwise moving towards better governance and stability.

mc/aj/nr