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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 11:38 GMT
Guinea strike over sick president
Guinea's President Lansana Conte
President Conte won a third term in 2003 elections despite poor health
Guinea's capital is quiet on the first day of a general strike protesting at the high cost of living and ailing President Lansana Conte's behaviour.

Shops, government offices and petrol stations are closed, with no public transport running.

The main trade unions want the government to agree to salary rises.

They also accuse President Conte of interfering with judicial processes by securing the release from prison of two men being investigated for corruption.

One of them is believed to be the country's richest man, Mamadou Sylla.

The unions say the strike must continue until both men are back behind bars.

On the eve of the strike, courts ordered the seizure of Mr Sylla's assets.

Power vacuum

Last year, Guinea was ranked by Transparency International as the most corrupt country in Africa.

The last strike led to student protests and several people were shot dead by the security forces.

There have been growing calls for President Conte to step down. He is in his 70s and in poor health suffering from diabetes.

Without an obvious successor there are fears a power vacuum could emerge, the BBC's West Africa correspondent Will Ross reports.

All eyes would then be on the military which could easily split along tribal lines during a scramble for power, he says.

Insecurity in Guinea would also impact on the country's neighbours, especially Liberia and Sierre Leone which are both recovering from war.


SEE ALSO
'One hundred' arrests in Guinea
25 Jan 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Guinea
09 Nov 04 |  Country profiles

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