Ahmed Sékou Touré

"Ahmed Toure" redirects here. For the footballer from Burkina Faso, see Ahmed Touré.
"Sékou Touré" redirects here. For the Ivorian footballer, see Sékou Touré (footballer).
Ahmed Sékou Touré

President Ahmed Sékou Touré of the
Republic of Guinea arrives at Andrews
Air Force Base
in Maryland during a visit
to Washington DC. (June 1982)
1st President of Guinea
In office
October 2, 1958  March 26, 1984
Preceded by None (position first established)
Succeeded by Louis Lansana Beavogui
Personal details
Born (1922-01-09)January 9, 1922
Faranah, Guinea
Died March 26, 1984(1984-03-26) (aged 62)
Cleveland, Ohio,
United States
Nationality Guinean
Political party Democratic Party of Guinea
Religion Islam

Ahmed Sékou Touré (var. Ahmed Sheku Turay) (January 9, 1922 March 26, 1984) was a Guinean political leader; head of the PDG, he was elected as the first President of Guinea, serving from 1958 to his death in 1984. Touré was one of the primary Guinean nationalists involved in gaining independence of the country from France.

In 1960, he declared his Parti démocratique de Guinée (PDG) the only legal party in the state, and ruled from then on as a virtual dictator. He was nominally re-elected to numerous seven year terms in the absence of any legal opposition. He imprisoned or exiled his strongest opposition leaders. It is estimated that 50,000 people were killed under his regime. [1]

Early life

Sékou Touré was born on January 9, 1922 into a Mandinka family in Faranah, French Guinea, while it was a colony of France. He was an aristocratic member of the Mandinka ethnic group.[2] His great-grandfather was Samory Touré, a noted Muslim Mandinka king who founded the Wassoulou Empire (1861-1890) in the territory of Guinea and Mali, defeating numerous small African states with his large, professionally organized and equipped army. He resisted French colonial rule until his capture in 1891. He died while held in exile in Gabon.[3]

Touré worked for the Postal Services (French: Postes, télégraphes et téléphones (PTT)), and quickly became involved in labor union activity. During his youth, Touré studied the works of communist philosophers, especially those of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.


Touré first became politically active while working for the PTT. In 1945, he founded the Post and Telecommunications Workers' Union (SPTT, the first trade union in French Guinea), and he became the general secretary of the Union in 1946.[4]

In 1952, he became the leader of the Guinean Democratic Party which was a local section of the RDA (African Democratic Rally, French: Rassemblement Démocratique Africain), a party agitating for the decolonization of Africa that included representatives from all the French West African colonies.

In 1956 he organized the Union Générale des Travailleurs d'Afrique Noire, a common trade union centre for French West Africa. He was a leader of the RDA, working closely with Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who later was elected as president of the Ivory Coast. In 1956 Touré was elected Guinea's deputy to the French national assembly and mayor of Conakry, positions he used to criticize the French colonial regime.

Touré served for some time as a representative of African groups in France, where he worked to negotiate for the independence of France's African colonies.

In September 1958, Guinea participated in the referendum on the new French constitution. On acceptance of the new constitution, French overseas territories had the option of choosing to continue their existing status, to move toward full integration into metropolitan France, or to acquire the status of an autonomous republic in the new quasi-federal French Community. If, however, they rejected the new constitution, they would become independent forthwith. French President Charles de Gaulle made it clear that a country pursuing the independent course would no longer receive French economic and financial aid or retain French technical and administrative officers.

In 1958 Touré's Parti démocratique de Guinée, the RDA section in Guinea, pushed for a "No" in the French Union referendum sponsored by the French government. Guinea was the only one of France's African colonies to vote for immediate independence rather than continued association with France. Guinea became the only French colony to refuse to become part of the new French Community when it became independent in 1958. The electorate of Guinea rejected the new constitution overwhelmingly, and Guinea accordingly became an independent state on 2 October 1958, with Touré, leader of Guinea's strongest labor union, as president.

In the event, the rest of Francophone Africa gained independence two years later in 1960.

President of Guinea

Ahmed Sekou Toure visiting Yugoslavia in 1961
Ahmed Sekou Toure visiting Romania in 1979

In 1960, Touré declared his Parti démocratique de Guinée (PDG) to be the only legal party, though the country had effectively been a one-party state since independence. For the next 24 years, Touré effectively held all governing power in the nation. He was elected to a seven-year term as president in 1961; as leader of the PDG he was the only candidate. He was reelected unopposed in 1968, 1974 and 1982. Every five years, a single list of PDG candidates was returned to the National Assembly.

During his presidency, Touré's policies were strongly based on Marxism, with the nationalization of foreign companies and centralized economic plans. He won the Lenin Peace Prize as a result in 1961. Most of those actively opposed to his socialist regime were arrested and then jailed or exiled. His early actions to reject the French and then to appropriate wealth and farmland from traditional landlords angered many powerful forces, but the increasing failure of his government to provide either economic opportunities or democratic rights angered more.[5] While he is still revered in much of Africa[6] and in the Pan-African movement, many Guineans, and activists in Europe, have become critical of Touré's failure to institute meaningful democracy or free media.[7]

Opposition to single-party rule grew slowly, and by the late 1960s those who opposed his government faced the risk of detention camps and night visits by the secret police. His opponents often had two choices: say nothing or go abroad. From 1965 to 1975 Toure ended all his government's relations with France, the former colonial power.

Touré argued that Africa had lost much during colonization, and that Africa ought to retaliate by cutting off ties to former colonial nations. However, in 1978 Guinea's ties with the Soviet Union soured, and, as a sign of reconciliation, President of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing visited Guinea, the first state visit by a French president.

Andree Toure - Spouse

Throughout Toure's dispute with France, he maintained good relations with several socialist countries. However, Touré's attitude toward France was not generally well received, and some African countries ended diplomatic relations with Guinea over his actions. Despite this, Touré's position won the support of many anti-colonialist and Pan-African groups and leaders.

Touré's primary allies in the region were presidents Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Modibo Keita of Mali. After Nkrumah was overthrown in a 1966 coup, Touré offered him asylum in Guinea and gave him the honorary title of co-president.[8] As a leader of the Pan-Africanist movement, Toure consistently spoke out against colonial powers, and befriended African American activists such as Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, to whom he offered asylum. The latter took the two leaders' names, as Kwame Ture.[9]

With Nkrumah, Toure helped in the formation of the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party, and aided the PAIGC guerrillas in their fight against Portuguese colonialism in neighboring Portuguese Guinea. The Portuguese launched an attack upon Conakry in 1970 in order to rescue Portuguese prisoners of war, overthrow Touré's regime, and destroy PAIGC bases. They succeeded in the rescue but failed to dislodge Touré's regime.

Relations with the United States fluctuated during the course of Touré's reign. While Touré was not impressed with the Eisenhower administration's approach to Africa , he came to consider President John F. Kennedy a friend and an ally. He said that Kennedy was his "only true friend in the outside world". He was impressed by Kennedy's interest in African development and commitment to civil rights in the United States. Touré blamed Guinean labor unrest in 1962 on Soviet interference and turned to the United States as an ally.

His relations with Washington soured, however, after Kennedy's death. When a Guinean delegation was imprisoned in Ghana, after the overthrow of Nkrumah, Touré blamed Washington. He feared that the Central Intelligence Agency was plotting against his own regime.

During its first three decades of independence, Guinea developed into a militantly socialist state, which merged the functions and membership of the Parti Démocratique de Guinée (PDG) with the various institutions of government, including the public state bureaucracy. This unified party-state had nearly complete control over the country's economic and political life. Guinea expelled the US Peace Corps in 1966 because of their alleged involvement in a plot to overthrow President Touré. Similar charges were directed against France; diplomatic relations were severed in 1965 and Toure did not renew them until 1975. An ongoing source of contention between Guinea and its French-speaking neighbors was the estimated half-million expatriates in Senegal and Ivory Coast; some were active dissidents who, in 1966, formed the National Liberation Front of Guinea (Front de Libération Nationale de Guinée, or FLNG).

International tensions erupted again in 1970 when some 350 men, under the leadership of Portuguese officers from Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau), including FLNG partisans and Africans-Portuguese soldiers, entered Guinea in order to rescue Portuguese prisoners detained in Conakry and capture Touré. Toure directed waves of arrests, detentions, and some executions of known and suspected opposition leaders in Guinea followed this military operation.

Between 1969 and 1976, according to Amnesty International, 4,000 persons on Guinea were detained for political reasons, with the fate of 2,900 unknown. After an alleged Fulani plot to assassinate Touré was disclosed in May 1976, Diallo Telli, a cabinet minister and formerly the first secretary-general of the OAU, was arrested and sent to prison. He died without trial in November of that year.

In 1977, protests against the regime's economic policy, which dealt harshly with unauthorized trading, led to riots in which three regional governors were killed. Touré responded by relaxing restrictions on trading, offering amnesty to exiles (thousands of whom returned), and releasing hundreds of political prisoners. Relations with the Soviet bloc grew cooler, as Touré sought to increase Western aid and private investment for Guinea's sagging economy.

Over time, Touré arrested large numbers of suspected political opponents and imprisoned them in camps, such as the notorious Camp Boiro National Guard Barracks. As a result of mass graves found in 2002, some 50,000 people are believed to have been killed under the regime of Touré in concentration camps such as Camp Boiro.[10][11][12][13][14]

Human Rights Watch in a 2007 report said that under Toure's regime, tens of thousands of Guinean dissidents sought refuge in exile, although this number is in dispute; some estimates are much higher.[15]

Once Guinea began its rapprochement with France in the late 1970s, Marxists among Toure's supporters began to oppose his government's shift toward capitalist liberalisation. In 1978, Toure formally renounced Marxism and reestablished trade with the West.[16]

Single-list elections for an expanded National Assembly were held in 1980. Touré was elected unopposed to a fourth seven-year term as president on 9 May 1982. A new constitution was adopted that month, and during the summer Touré visited the United States. It was part of his economic policy change that led him to seek Western investment in order to develop Guinea's huge mineral reserves. Measures announced in 1983 brought further economic liberalization, including the delegation of produce marketing to private traders.

Touré died on 26 March 1984 while undergoing cardiac treatment at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio; he had been rushed to the United States after being stricken in Saudi Arabia the previous day. Touré's tomb is at the Camayanne Mausoleum, situated within the gardens of the Conakry Grand Mosque.

Prime Minister Louis Lansana Béavogui became acting president, pending elections that were to be held within 45 days.

The Political Bureau of the ruling Guinea Democratic Party was due to name its choice as Touré's successor on 3 April 1984. Under the constitution, the PDG's new leader would have been automatically elected to a seven-year term as president and confirmed in office by the voters by the end of spring. Just hours before that meeting took place, the armed forces seized power in a coup d'etat. They denounced the last years of Touré's rule as a "bloody and ruthless dictatorship." The constitution was suspended, the National Assembly dissolved, and the PDG abolished. Col. Lansana Conté, leader of the coup, assumed the presidency on 5 April, heading the Military Committee for National Recovery (Comité Militaire de Redressement National—CMRN). The military group freed about 1,000 political prisoners.

In 1985 Conté took advantage of an alleged coup attempt to arrest and execute several of Sekou Touré's close associates, including Ismael Touré, Seydou Keita, Siaka Touré, former commander of Camp Boiro; and Moussa Diakité.[17]

Works by Touré (partial)

See also


  1. "'Mass graves' found in Guinea". BBC News. October 22, 2002.
  2. RADIO-KANKAN: La premiere radio internet de Guinée-Conakry: GUINEE: RADIO-KANKAN
  3. Webster, James & Boahen, Adu (1980), The Revolutionary Years; West Africa since 1800, p. 324.
  4. Martin, G. (2012-12-23). African Political Thought. Springer. ISBN 9781137062055.
  5. See: William Derman. Serfs, Peasants, and Socialists: A Former Serf Village in the Republic of Guinea, University of California Press (1968, 2nd ed 1973). ISBN 978-0-520-01728-3
  6. As one example see the text of a posthumous award given to Touré by the South African presidency.
  7. Webster, James & Boahen, Adu (1980), The Revolutionary Years; West Africa since 1800, p. 377.
  8. See Molefi K. Asante, Ama Mazama. Encyclopedia of Black Studies. pp78-80
  9. "'Mass graves' found in Guinea". BBC News. October 22, 2002.
  10. "Camp Boiro". Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  11. "RFI - Les victimes du camp Boiro empêchées de manifester". Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  12. "From military politization to militarization of power in Guinea-Conakry". Journal of Political and Military Sociology. 2000.
  13. http://www.westafrik.com/cbim-documents/edito.html
  14. Guinea Background note, Human Rights Watch, 2007. Numbers fleeing remain controversial. Anti-Toure activists and the United States government say a million fled, HRW say tens of thousands.
    For the memorial to victims of Toure's government, see: campboiro.org/ For their view, reflected in the Statues of the Camp Boiro International Memorial (CBIM), see : Tierno S. Bah: Camp Boiro International Memorial. Quote: "At its peak, Camp Boiro was a contemporary of the Khmer Rouge and a precursor of the Rwandan genocides."
  15. https://books.google.com/books?id=xbmCBAAAQBAJ&pg=PR54
  16. André Lewin (2009). "20 à 30, le député français Sékou Touré conduit la Guinée à l'indépendance, et séduit en premier les pays communistes". Ahmed Sékou Touré, 1922-1924: président de la Guinée de 1958 à 1984. 1956-1958 (in French). Editions L'Harmattan. p. 27. ISBN 2-296-09528-3.


News articles

Other secondary works

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Position created
President of Guinea
Succeeded by
Louis Lansana Beavogui (interim)
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