Life and times of President Sekou Toure of Guinea

Life and times of President Sekou Toure of Guinea

toure 2

Ahmed Sekou Toure was born on the 9th day of January 1922 in Faranah, central French Guinea now can . He was said to be a descendant of Samory Toure of Madinka tribe, who became a national hero by leading the resistance against the French. Born of Islamic parents Sekou Toure was initially educated at the Koranic school in Faranah before transferring to a school in kissidougou. He moved on to a French technical college. The Ecole Georges poiret, in Conakry, but was expelled in less than a year for initiating a food strike. While attempting to complete his education through correspondence courses, Sekou Toure went through series of menial jobs. His lack of formal education was an issue throughout his life; this probably made him suspicious of anyone who had attended tertiary education.

 

Ahmed Sekou Toure obtained a post as clerk for the campaign du Niger Français in 1940, while also working to complete an examination course which would allow him to join the post and telecommunications department. On, joining the postal service, Toure became involved in the labour union movement. He helped to found the postal workers’ union in 1945 and became deeply involved in Guinean nationalist politics. He became the leader of the Guinea Democratic Party, which advocated the independence of Guinea and the departure of all colonial powers from Africa. He was elected as Guinea’s representative to the French National Assembly in 1956 and became the Mayor of Conakry, Guinea’s capital city. He used both positions to oppose French occupation of the country.

 

There was a referendum held by France in 1958 in their African colonies to determine whether to stay in the French Union or not. Toure’s influence in Guinean politics resulted in the colony voting to leave. The French Government shocked by Guinea’s voting to leave, had no choice but to grant the country its independence grudgingly. On Guinea independence in 1958, Toure was made the president and he set about consolidating his power. He declared his political party, The PDG, the only legal one in the country.

 

Ahmed Sekou Toure governed Guinea from a Marxist point of view a philosophy he had come to believe in while involved in the labour union movement. He developed an economic strategy for the country based on a strong central planning authority. He nationalized businesses and industries that were controlled by foreign government. He jailed and sent on exile all opponents. He was very popular among the Guineans however, his economic and governing policies soon started to disappoint large numbers of the people who saw little or no improvement in their economic and political situations. By 1965, he broke all ties with France and moved closer to the Soviet Union. In 1978, his relationship with that country has deteriorated, so when France’s Valery Giscard d’Estaing approached him for a state visit by the French president to repair relations, Toure readily accepted. As he had little choice because his main ally among Africa’s leaders, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was overthrown in 1966 in a military coup and most of the other Africa leaders were cold towards him.

 

After Nkrumah was overthrown, Toure offered him an asylum in Guinea, and made him co-president of the country. The two of them helped to form the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, to help free the remaining African colonies from their European owners. The group funded and gave support to a rebel group fighting Portuguese forces in the neighbouring country of Portuguese Guinea. The Portuguese did not take kindly to this, so in 1970, they mounted an attack on Conakry in order to rescue some of their men who had been turned over to Toure by the guerilla fighters. As a matter of fact their primary objectives were to overthrow Toure’s regime and capture or kill him. They were able to rescue their men, but could not accomplish their other objective.

 

Toure did not have good relationship with the US, but when US president John F. Kennedy came to power in 1960, Toure was impressed with his outlook on Africa and his policies on civil rights in the US and his relationship with the  country warmed up considerably When in 1962 there was a spate of labour troubles in Guinea, Toure found an opportunity to break away from the Soviet Union by  pointing an accusing finger at them for meddling so much in their affairs.

He broke relations with them and adopted a more Pro-American policy.

 

After Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Toure’s relation took a turn for the worst. He suspected the CIA was plotting to kill and overthrow his government and when the delegates he sent to the new government in Ghana were thrown in  prison, Toure felt the CIA plot against him had begun.

So in a state of panic his regime made series of mass arrest, Imprisonment of opponents, both real and imagined. Many people were thrown into detention camps, many were tortured and killed. Tens of thousands of Guineans fled to neighboring countries. He eventually came back to his senses in 1978 and formally renounced Marxism as the official state policy and forged closer ties to the west.

 

In 1982, Toure was re-elected as president in an election in which his party was the only one allowed and he was the sole candidate.  After his re-election, he visited the United States of America to seek political and economic aid.  He also announced a program of economic reforms towards a more free-market economy.

 

On the 26th day of March 1984, Toure died while undergoing  treatment  for heart problems at a clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

Tunde is a very versatile African traveler with visits to close to 20 countries on the continent and 10 others outside Africa. He enjoys photography and meeting people from different background.

View my other posts