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Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Fear in Guinea at army takeover

By Alhassan Sillah
BBC News, Conakry

The sunshine in Conakry does not reflect the mood of anxiety hanging over Guinea's capital city.

People are worried.

Two women carrying goods on their heads (Archive 2007)
People have started venturing out to markets, but the streets are quiet

The death of a president, especially one who has brought the country to its knees, might be a reason to celebrate.

"I cannot be 100% happy over the death of someone," one woman told me.

But she said she could not mourn President Lansana Conte, "given what he did to his people - his own people".

She added that she wanted to see a new civilian president, not soldiers, in charge.

It is the intervention by the army that residents in the capital really fear.

They want to know if the army is united behind its decision to suspend the constitution and take power within hours of the announcement of Gen Conte's passing.

Soldiers have set up check-points along the main roads into the centre

If the army command is not "as one" then there could be chaos, people in the townships have been telling me.

"The military should try to find a solution for the average Guinean who is in a permanent state of crisis," one man said.

The suburbs were where a deadly strike against Mr Conte's rule started nearly two years ago.

The army had to be brought in to restore order to the streets.

Military music

Today, those streets are quiet. They are free of their usual hustle and bustle.

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We need a change, change that will benefit all Guineans. We pray for a good leader
Amara, Nzerekore

I am parked outside Ratoma Communal Hospital, where the normal crowds are absent.

The shops are also closed, although a few market women have started to come out to sell vegetables at the markets.

Traffic is also picking up.

After residents awoke to news of the death, a few ventured outside.

Those taxi drivers who had reported to their ranks returned home apprehensively.

Now more taxis are out and about and a few minibuses have started to plough their routes.

Soldiers have set up check-points along the main roads into the city centre, but so far there have been no reports of them being heavy-handed or harassing people.

Demonstrators in January 2007
Several people were killed in anti- Conte demonstrations in January 2007
Vehicles are checked briefly and waved through.

Music on the state radio has changed from music mourning the late president to more military tunes.

Private radio stations are continuing with their usual broadcasts - mainly music programmes - although mention has been made of the military intervention.

Guinea is a mainly Muslim country, so Christmas is not widely celebrated here.

The biggest party of the year is on 31 December, when everyone takes to the streets.

But in a country where there is a tradition of respecting leaders, it is not clear whether people will be dancing into the new year.

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