Page last updated at 15:37 GMT, Monday, 12 October 2009 16:37 UK

Guinea strike marks rally deaths

Soldiers arresting protesters, 28/09
About 50,000 people were said to have protested against the military leader

Guineans are observing a strike called by opposition groups to commemorate those who died when soldiers fired on an anti-government rally two weeks ago.

Most shops, offices, markets and banks in the capital Conakry are closed and there are few cars on the streets.

The head of the West African regional body Ecowas warned of the danger of a new dictatorship in Guinea, at the start of crisis talks in Nigeria.

Activists say soldiers killed 157 people at the demonstration.

The government put the number of dead at 57 and said most had died in a stampede.

Minister resigns

A Conakry resident told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the streets of the capital were calm on Monday afternoon.

"There is no police or military presence like before," he said.

"People are not scared. People are going out to visit their families and friends to offer condolences."

The signs are there now that if the military junta has its way it will impose yet another dictatorship on them
Mohamed Ibn Chambas
Ecowas commission president

The National Organisation of Free Trade Unions in Guinea (ONSLG) organised the strike, which is due to continue until Tuesday, with the backing of other opposition groups.

ONSLG head Yamodou Toure told the AFP news agency: "All workers in the public, private and informal sector are invited to stay at home to pray for the memory of those felled by the bullets of the massacre of 28 September."

Meanwhile, Guinea's Agriculture Minister Abdourahmane Sano has resigned in protest over the killings, reports the AP news agency.

The country's ruling junta has been widely criticised over the shootings - particularly leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.

He led the coup which installed military rule late last year, promising to reform the country and hold an election by January 2010.

But the rally two weeks ago was sparked by persistent rumours that he intends to stand for president in the election - something he had previously ruled out.

Population repressed

Although Capt Camara has denied responsibility for the shootings and promised to investigate, opposition groups say he must step down.

Captain Moussa Dadis Camara
Seized power in December 2008 as a little known army captain
Promised democracy, but now shows signs of holding on to power
Increasingly erratic behaviour and public humiliation of officials

The captain's critics are hoping that the strike, combined with the Ecowas crisis talks in Nigeria, will increase the pressure on him.

At the start of the Abuja talks Ecowas commission president Mohamed Ibn Chambas told West African foreign ministers that Guinea was "characterised by arbitrary and irresponsible use of state power by the military to repress the population".

"The signs are there now that if the military junta has its way it will impose yet another dictatorship on them," he said, AFP reports.

Opposition leaders are taking part in the talks, even though they had previously said they would not talk to the junta until Capt Camara had left his post.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week expressed horror at the murder, rape and pillage she said had been carried out by government forces.

Former colonial power France has called for international intervention.

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