Guinea: ITUC demands the release of arrested trade union leaders

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) demands the immediate and unconditional release of the trade union leaders arrested this Monday in the early evening in Conakry.

Brussels, 23 January 2007: The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) demands the immediate and unconditional release of the trade union leaders arrested this Monday in the early evening in Conakry. According to its trade union sources in the capital, a number of trade union leaders, including the general secretaries of its three affiliated organisations were arrested this Monday by the red beret troops of the Presidential Guard. The latter, who several sources say are commanded by Ousmane Conté, the son of President Lansana Conté, apparently also ransacked the Labour Exchange, where the trade unions’ head offices are based, whose construction and subsequent reconstruction, after a tornado, were funded largely by the Belgian affiliates of the ITUC.

Several dozen trade unionists were arrested this Monday at the Labour Exchange, including Rabiatou Sérah Diallo, Ibrahima Fofana and Yamadou Touré, the general secretaries, respectively, of the Confédération nationale des travailleurs de Guinée (CNTG), the Union syndicale des travailleurs de Guinée (USTG) and the Organisation nationale des syndicats libres de Guinée (ONSLG). Several trade union leaders had received personal death threats in recent days, including some directly from President Conté, according to the detailed reports provided to the ITUC.

The ITUC also demands that President Lansana Conté immediately order the police and armed forces to stop shooting live bullets at trade unionists and other civilians. At least 23 people were killed this Monday and around 170 were injured, according to a report by Agence France Presse (AFP). Those figures raise the overall number of deaths since 10 January, when a general strike was launched by all the unions and several opposition parties, to 33. The unions are protesting against corruption and misuse of public funds and the release, by President Conté himself, of several of his followers who had been imprisoned following court cases. They are now demanding that the National Assembly declare a “power vacuum” and that a transitional civilian government be appointed.

Given these extremely serious events, the ITUC warns of the risk of a military coup and calls on the international community to press for a speedy and peaceful resolution of the crisis. “The release of all the arrested trade unionists and the ending of state violence are a vital precondition for a return to peace”, according to an ITUC spokesperson.

The ITUC has already taken some concrete steps. In Nairobi, where the World Social Forum is being held, there will be a demonstration tomorrow,
Tuesday 23 January, under the banner of “democracy and solidarity with the workers of Guinea”. The international and regional trade union organisations will be present at the Forum and also intend to ask the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, to make urgent representations to the African Union (AU) aimed at speeding up the sending of an ECOWAS (Economic Community Of West African States) mission to Guinea. Further contacts are to be made with French diplomats in the Kenyan capital.

These measures will be supported in Geneva, where an ITUC delegation is to meet the UN Ambassadors of the African Union, from Nigeria and Senegal, this Tuesday. The Presidents of those countries, Olusegun Obasanjo and Abdoulaye Wade, respectively, were asked by ECOWAS to send a mission to Guinea to seek a solution to the crisis.

The ITUC is also considering sending a mission of its own to Guinea and renewed its request to the International Labour Organisation (ILO, Geneva) this evening to intervene at the highest level.

In Brussels, the ITUC has also requested its Belgian affiliated organisations to make formal contacts with their compatriot and EU Commissioner Louis Michel.

Founded on November 1 2006, the ITUC represents 168 million workers in 153 countries and territories and has 304 national affiliates.
For more information, contact the ITUC Press Department on +32 2 224 0210 or mobile phone +32 477 580 486

See also: Guinea: Killings and Arrests as Government Turns on Strikers