Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Guinea – too dangerous to visit

Guinea, one of West Africa's most stimulating and normally enjoyable countries to travel in, has now become more stimulating than most travellers would want, with the resumption of a general strike aiming to force the country's president to stand down, and his statement that the country was now at siege and that the army should restore order at all costs. Lansana Conté who has ruled since the country's first president, the dictator Sékou Touré died in 1984, has increasingly lost his grip on power. The final straw was the January general strike, when the country's powerful unions forced him to appoint an independent prime minister, and then rejected his choice as being too close to the presidency. The gloves now seem to be off on both sides, but it's not yet clear how much of the army Conté can count on to support him. Meanwhile, the streets of the capital, Conakry, and many other towns, are scenes of chaos and confusion, with official and unofficial roadblocks and incidents of banditry and looting on the increase as the long-suffering people of this rich and beautiful country – admittedly mostly the wilder young men of this rich and beautiful country – seize their opportunity to hit back and grab what they can. Our researcher on the ground in the region has just emailed from Guinea-Bissau to say that he managed to get a visa, but we've agreed he's going to stay clear of Guinea-Conakry for now and move on to his next assignment, Burkina Faso. Most expatriates living in Guinea have now evacuated to Dakar or Freetown and Air France has cancelled its Conakry flights.

The BBC, as usual, is updating regularly. You should also have a look at the following blogs, though they aren't all being updated frequently, and some owners are no longer in Guinea.

News from Guinea and Friends of Guinea
Bonnie's Peace Corps Experience in Guinea
Letters from Guinea

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