Ahmed Sékou Touré (var. Ahmed Seku Ture) (January 9, 1922 – March 26, 1984) was an African political leader and President of Guinea from 1958 to his death in 1984. Touré was one of the primary Guinean nationalists involved in the independence of the country from France.
Sékou Touré was born on January 9, 1922 into a poor Mandinka family in Faranah, French Guinea, while a colonial possession of France. He was an aristocratic member of the Mandinka ethnic group and was the great-grandson of Samory Touré, who had resisted French rule until his capture.
Touré's early life was characterized by challenges of authority, including during his education. Touré was obliged to work to take care of himself. He began working for the Postal Services (PTT), and quickly became involved in Labor Union activity. During his youth and after becoming president, Touré studied the works of communist philosophers, especially those of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.
Touré's first work in a political group was in the Postal Workers Union (PTT). In 1945, he was one of the founders of their labour Union, becoming the general secretary of the postal workers' union in 1945. In 1952, he became the leader of the Guinean Democratic Party which was local section of the RDA (African Democratic Rally, French: Rassemblement Démocratique Africain) , a party agitating for the decolonization of Africa. 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 a future rival, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who later became the president of the Côte d'Ivoire. In 1956 he was elected Guinea's deputy to the French national assembly and mayor of Conakry, positions he used to launch pointed criticisms of the colonial regime
Touré is remembered as a charismatic figure and while his legacy as president is often disdained in his home country, he remains an icon of liberation in the wider African community. 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 1958 Touré's RDA section in Guinea pushed for a "No" in the French Union referendum sponsored by the French government, and 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. In the event the rest of Francophone Africa gained its independence only two years later in 1960, but the French were extremely vindictive against Guinea: withdrawing abruptly, taking files, destroying infrastructure, and breaking political and economic ties.
As President of Guinea
In 1960, Touré declared his 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 led a strong policy based on Marxism, with the nationalization of foreign companies and strong planned economics. He won the Lenin Peace Prize as a result in 1961. Most of the opposition to his socialist regime was arrested and 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. While still revered in much of Africa and in the Pan-African movement, many Guineans, and activists of the Left and Right in Europe, have become critical of Touré's failure to institute meaningful democracy or free media.
Opposition to single party rule grew slowly, and by the late 1960s those who opposed his government faced fear of detention camps and secret police. His detractors often had two choices—say nothing or go abroad. From 1965 to 1975 he ended all his 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. Only in 1978, as Guinea's ties with the Soviet Union soured, President of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing first visited Guinea as a sign of reconciliation.
Throughout his dispute with France, Guinea 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 the incident. Despite this, Touré's move 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 a refuge in Guinea and made him co-president. As a leader of the Pan-Africanist movement, he consistently spoke out against colonial powers, and befriended leaders from the African diaspora such as Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, to whom he offered asylum (and who took the two leaders names, as Kwame Ture). He, with Nkrumah, 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 Prisioners of War (POW), overthrow Touré's regime and destroy PAIGC bases. They succeeded in everything but the overthrow.
Relations with the United States fluctuated during the course of Touré's reign. While Touré was unimpressed with the Eisenhower administration's approach to Africa, he came to consider President John F. Kennedy a friend and an ally. He even came to state 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.
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. Over time, Touré's increasing paranoia led him to arrest large numbers of suspected political opponents and imprison them in camps, such as the notorious Camp Boiro National Guard Barracks. Some 50,000 people are believed to have been killed under the regime of Touré in concentration camps like Camp Boiro. Tens of thousands of Guinean dissidents sought refuge in exile. Once Guinea's rapprochement with France began in the late 1970s, another section of his support, Marxists, began to oppose his government's increasing move to capitalist liberalisation. In 1978 he formally renounced Marxism and reestablished trade with the West.
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 as part of an economic policy reversal that found Guinea seeking Western investment to develop its huge mineral reserves. Measures announced in 1983 brought further economic liberalization, including the relegation 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. Prime Minister Louis Lansana Béavogui then became acting president, pending elections that were to be held within 45 days. On 3 April, however, just as the Political Bureau of the ruling Guinea Democratic Party (PDG) was about to name its choice as Touré's successor, the armed forces seized power, denouncing 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. The leader of the coup, Col. Lansana Conté, assumed the presidency on 5 April, heading the Military Committee for National Recovery (Comité Militaire de Redressement National—CMRN). About 1,000 political prisoners were freed.
Touré's tomb is at the Camayanne Mausoleum, situated within the gardens of Conakry Grand Mosque.
In 1985 Conté took advantage of an alleged coup attempt to execute several of Sekou Touré's close associates, including Ismael Touré, Seydou Keita, Siaka Touré, former commander of Camp Boiro, and Moussa Diakité.
Works by Touré (partial)
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. 8 novembre 1964 (Conakry) : Parti démocratique de Guinée, (1965)
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. A propos du Sahara Occidental : intervention du président Ahmed Sékou Touré devant 1e 17e sommet de l'OUA, Freetown, 1e 3 juillet 1980. (S.l. : s.n., 1980)
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Address of President Ahmed Sékou Touré, President of the Republic of Guinee (sic) : suggestions submitted during the West Africa consultative regional meeting held at Conakry, during 19 and 20 November 1971. (Cairo : Permanent Secretariat of the Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization, 1971)
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Afrika and imperialism. Newark, N.J. : Jihad Pub. Co., 1973.
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. (Conférences, discours et rapports .). Conakry : Impr. du Gouvernement, (1958-
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Congres général de l'U.G.T.A.N. (Union général des travailleurs de l'Afrique noire) : Conakry, 15-18 janvier 1959 : rapport d'orientation et de doctrine. (Paris) : Présence africaine, c1959.
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Discours de Monsieur Sékou Touré, Président du Conseil de Gouvernement des 28 juillet et 25 aout 1958, de Monsieur Diallo Saifoulaye, Président de L'Assemblée territoriale et du Général de Gaulle, Président du Gouvernement de la Républ (Conakry) : Guinée Française, (1958)
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Doctrine and methods of the Democratic Party of Guinea (Conakry 1963).
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Expérience guinéenne et unité africaine. Paris, Présence africaine (1959)
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Guinée-Festival / commentaire et montage, Wolibo Dukuré dit Grand-pére. Conakry : Commission Culturelle du Comité Central, 1983.
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Guinée, prélude à l'indépendance (Avant-propos de Jacques Rabemananjara) Paris, Présence africaine (1958)
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Hommage a la révolution Cubaine ; Message du camarade Ahmed Sekou Toure au peuple Cubain a l'occasion du 20e anniversaire de l'attaque de la Caserne de Moncada (Juillet 1973). Conakry : Bureau de Presse de la Presidence de la Republique, (1975).
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. International policy and diplomatic action of the Democratic Party of Guinea; extracts from the report on doctrine and orientation submitted to the 3d National Conference of the P.D.G. (Cairo, Société Orientale de Publicité-Press, 1962)
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Opening speech of the Summit of Heads of State and Government by President Ahmed Sékou Touré, chairman of the Summit (November 20, 1980). (S.l. : s.n., 1980)
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Poemes militants. (Conakry, Guinea) : Parti démocratique de Guinée, 1972
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Political leader considered as the representative of a culture. (Newark, N. J. : Jihad Productions, 19--)
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Pour l'amitié algéro-guinéenne. (Conakry, Guinea : Parti démocratique de Guinée, 1972)
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Rapport de doctrine et de politique générale. Conakry : Imprimerie Nationale, 1959.
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Strategy and tactics of the revolution. Conakry, Guinea : Press Office, 1978.
- Ahmed Sékou Touré. Unité nationale. Conakry, République de Guinée (B.P. 1005, Conakry, République de Guinée) : Bureau de presse de la Présidence de la République, 1977.