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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Guinea soldiers suspend protest
Guinean soldiers stand guard on the streets of the capital, Conakry (file picture)
Soldiers say they were promised a pay rise after a 1996 army mutiny
Soldiers in Guinea who marched on the capital have agreed to return to barracks after the president promised to meet them about their unpaid wages.

The meeting is scheduled for Saturday and comes after a week of army unrest.

A BBC correspondent in Conakry says there has been an air of panic in the city as soldiers took to the streets firing shots in the air.

On Thursday, a civilian was shot dead and eight injured when soldiers opened fire in the southern town of Gueckedou.

The protests began last week when the soldiers alleged President Lansana Conte had gone back on his pledge to increase their wages after an army mutiny in 1996.

Guinea was the scene of violent protests earlier this year as people called for the ailing president to step down.

A three-week general strike ended after a military crackdown and the appointment of a consensus prime minister.

Off air

The BBC's Alhassan Sillah in Conakry says the situation remains very tense.

[Prime Minister] Kouyate cannot solve the situation by asking the bank to print some money
ICG's Gilles Yabi

The soldiers marched into the city centre to the army headquarters.

Shops and market stalls closed as people rushed to get home and pick their children up from school.

At the height of the stand-off, two government radio stations went off air.

There were also reports of disturbances in Kindia and Mamou in the east and Macenta in the south.

Last week, a spokesman for the aggrieved soldiers told the BBC they wanted their promised 11-year salary arrears paid.

He also said they wanted the resignation of senior military officials including the army chief, Gen Kelfala Camara, and the new Defence Minister, Arafan Camara.

Catch 22

Guinea analyst Gilles Yabi, from the International Crisis Group, says these events do not come as a surprise.

Workers celebrate as deal to halt Guinea strikes emerges
The deal emerged after days of intense negotiation

"Even in the middle of demonstrations in January and February there were signs of discontent within the military... it was not connected to the political situation, it was really because of their conditions," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"The soldiers want to be rewarded for the loyalty they've maintained towards President Lansana Conte," he said.

But Mr Yabi said it puts the new prime minister, Lansana Kouyate, in a very difficult position.

He was appointed to curb inflation and bring in badly needed economic reforms.

"That means that Kouyate cannot solve the situation by asking the bank to print some money," Mr Yabi said.

Although Guinea's mineral wealth makes it potentially one of Africa's richest countries, its people are among the poorest in West Africa.

Mr Conte seized power in a bloodless coup in 1984 and in 2003 won a third term in a poll boycotted by the opposition.




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