GUINEA: Youths on hunger strike for "dialogue", "justice"
DAKAR, 28 October 2009 (IRIN) - Youths in the Guinea capital Conakry went on hunger strike on 28 October - one month after the deadly military attack on civilians - to call for political dialogue, an end to violence and the arrest of those who attacked demonstrators.
"No to violence, no to impunity, yes to national unity, yes to peace and social tranquillity" is written on a banner hanging outside the Dixinn Port youth centre, where some 30 people gathered for the five-day hunger strike.
"This is to draw our leaders' attention to the need to engage in dialogue, preserve national unity, prevent further violence and arrest the authors of [the 28 September] massacre," said Thierno Baldé, president of the Federation of Youth Associations of Guinea, which has organized the protest.
"The situation in Guinea today is extremely difficult, and no one knows how things will evolve," he said. "This is why we want now to urge everyone to avoid more violence."
Another participant, who requested anonymity, told IRIN: "One of the major problems has been a lack of dialogue between the CNDD [National Council for Democracy and Development, which the junta calls itself] on the one hand and civil society and political leaders on the other. They must go to dialogue. We say, no more killings in Guinea."
He added: "It is the youths who are the real victims of the crisis in Guinea. We must remind our political leaders of that."
Burkina President Blaise Compaoré, mediator in the Guinea crisis, has called for talks between the junta and a national coalition of political parties and civil society groups.
On 28 October large markets and stores in Conakry were closed, as were schools and banks and most people stayed home, heeding a call by Guinea's political and civil society coalition to observe "a day of protest, prayer and meditation for the victims of 28 September".
"This day is dedicated particularly to the women and girls who were savagely attacked," a coalition communiqué says.
Interior Minister Frédéric Kolié on the eve of the one-month commemoration called for people to go about their activities as normal, saying the country has already observed several days for the victims.
The union representing the banking sector announced on 27 October that banks will remain closed until Monday because of harassment of bank employees by soldiers.
The youths going on hunger strike told IRIN this is the first time they have used this form of protest.
"Given the context [and the current tension], instead of going to the streets, we thought this would be a peaceful and effective way to protest," the unnamed youth told IRIN. "We will just be in a room at the youth centre, protesting quietly."
As of midday on 28 October all was calm at the Dixinn Port youth centre. One youth told IRIN from another area of Conakry he was trying to join his colleagues for the strike but his neighbourhood was at a standstill and he was awaiting public transportation.