Guinea’s unpaid soldiers revolt
CONAKRY, Guinea – Soldiers demanding pay raises spread their revolt from Guinea’s capital Friday, seizing control of many provincial towns, going on looting sprees and killing at least two people in the second day of an uprising in the West African nation.Troops armed with machine guns blocked the main roads into the town of Kindia, 80 miles east of Conakry. Shots rang out in Mamou, 170 miles east of the capital, and soldiers blocked traffic in Macenta, 500 miles to the south.Similar scenes were reported in Kissidougou, Faranah and other towns in Guinea’s forested interior.In a radio address from Conakry, the capital, Information Minister Justin Morel Junior asked the soldiers to “stay calm and return to their barracks.” Junior also said President Lansana Conte had agreed to meet with soldiers Saturday to hear their grievances.The revolt began Thursday at the Alpha Yaya Diallo military base in Conakry when junior officers learned only soldiers with at least 14 years’ service would get raises. Younger troops rampaged through neighborhoods around the camp, shooting into the air and ransacking the home of a colonel.Keeping the military content is seen as key to the president’s bid to stay in power. Conte, who grabbed control of the country in a 1984 coup, has clung to power despite mass protests earlier this year demanding that he step down.The majority of Guinea’s 10 million people live in poverty even though the country is the world’s largest producer of bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminum.At least two people were killed in Kindia when troops fired their weapons in anger, Abou Cheri Camara, governor of the region, said by telephone.People in the town reported they were too afraid to go outside.”Since last night, the soldiers have been shooting. Some of them are using this as an opportunity to vandalize shops and break into the homes of wealthy people,” said Mabinty Camara, a trader at Kindia’s main market.Mody Sory Barry, a teacher, said he had barricaded himself inside his house. “The town is under siege. The soldiers are angry, on edge. They’re shooting and breaking into shops … We are afraid,” he said.