Guinea: 5 killed amid student protests over teacher strikes

February 20, 2017 GMT

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — At least five people were killed Monday when police in Guinea clamped down on hundreds of students who demonstrated with stones and sticks amid teacher strikes that have kept them out of class for weeks.

Guinea’s government announced the deaths and condemned the events leading to them, calling the demonstrations illegal. It called for restraint and said it would prosecute those involved in violence.

The dead were shot at close range by riot police and gendarmerie, according to a hospital worker. The staffer spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation and because he was not permitted to speak to the media.

It was not immediately clear if the five killed were all young people.

Police and hospital workers confirmed that at least 30 people were injured, including members of the security forces. The government says at least 12 demonstrators were arrested.

The West African country’s two largest teacher trade unions have been on strike for weeks, demanding higher salaries and the resumption of work by contracted teachers. The government, they say, is not meeting their demands.

Government centers, small stores and gas stations closed Monday amid fears there would be looting by the protesting students, who mostly were age 15 and older.

“Where will we go to class? There is no activity in the country,” students shouted in various neighborhoods. Demonstrators also set fire to tires and threw them into the streets. Police shot tear gas to disperse the protesters.

The unions said Monday that the strike will continue until a pay raise of between 7.5 to 10.3 percent is granted.

“We will continue to strike, and we then also demand the resumption of courses by licensed educated contractors,” union spokesman Aboubacar Soumah said.

The government, however, said an agreement had been reached Sunday.