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Ahmed Sekou ToureAhmed Sékou Touré

the first President of the Republic of Guinea

Ahmed Sékou Touré was born in Faranah, the son of a poor farmer, in 1922. His father was a member of the Soussou tribe, his mother of the Malinke. He was educated at the village Koranic and primary schools, and enrolled in the French Technical School in Conakry at the age of 14. He was expelled from the school after one year, however, for organizing a student strike. He completed his secondary education by correspondence, after which he was employed by a commercial firm.

Union Activist

In 1941, Touré qualified for a position in the Posts and Telecommunications Service (PTT). Very active in union affairs, he became head of the Postal Union in 1945, and its Secretary General in 1946. His union activity led to his being discharged from the PTT in 1947.

In 1948, Touré became Secretary General of the Confédération Générale des Travailleurs (CGT). He became Secretary General of the Coordinating Committee of the CGT for French West Africa in 1950. Believing that Guinean workers would be much better served by a union that wasn't affiliated with any French-based union, he subsequently helped establish the Confédération Générale du Travail Africain (CGTA), a Communist-dominated French workers' federation which was not affiliated with any other European movement. The CGTA was so effective that other movements merged with it in 1957 to form the Travailleurs d'Afrique Noire, which soon attracted most of the unionized workers in French West Africa. He served as its first Secretary General, and then its President.

In 1953, Touré led a two-month general strike against the French colonial government which forced the Governor General to capitulate.

Independence Activist

In 1946, Touré helped found the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA). In 1952, he became Secretary General of the Parti Démocratique de Guinée (PDG). He was elected to the Territorial Assembly in 1953, became Mayor of Conakry in 1955, and was elected as Guinea's representative to the French Assembly in January 1956.

Touré's great standing amongst the working class got him elected Vice-President of the PDG in 1957, making him the chief elective officer of Guinea (a position equivalent to Prime Minister). Upon taking office, he immediately implemented government plans for improvement of industry, roads, and railways. He also established cooperatives and village councils to undercut the power of traditional authorities. Touré was more than willing to cooperate with the French colonial authorities, as long as it was to the advantage of Guinea. In 1957, he became a member of the Grand Council, the highest advisory body in French West Africa. He was elected Vice-President of the RDA that same year.

Although many French colonies at this time had begun agitating for independence, most of them advocated keeping some kind of affiliation with France. Touré, however, believed that true independence could only be achieved through a complete break, and in 1958 he conveyed that position to French President Charles de Gaulle. In September 1958, Guinea voted overwhelmingly against continued association with France. France announced Guinea's independence on September 30, and then promptly cut off all financial aid, withdrew its technicians and advisers, and removed all equipment possible. Sekou Toure reads the proclamation of independenceThe Republic of Guinea became officially independent on October 2, 1958, and Touré became its first President.

right: Sekou Toure reads the proclamation of independence

President of the Republic of Guinea

Two months after independence, Touré negotiated a $10 million loan from Ghana, which enabled him to stabilize Guinea's economy. In 1959, he accepted a $35 million loan from the Soviet Union, which in turn led the United States to provide assistance to the new nation.

In November 1961, the Teachers Union, in conjunction with officials of the Soviet embassy, went on strike. In response, Touré arrested the strike leaders and expelled the Soviet ambassador and most of his key aides. Then, to compensate for the inevitable loss of Soviet financial assistance, Touré began seeking aid from Western nations, and sought to establish more contacts with other African states.

In a reorganization of the government in 1964, Touré named four resident Ministers in four major regions of Guinea. Each Minister was directly responsible to the central executive. He also restricted membership in PDG to more militant socialists who had proven their worth.

When Ghanian Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in January 1966, Touré declared Nkrumah honorary president of Guinea and threatened to restore him to power by force. The new Ghanian President replied by sending troops to the border and promising to invoke French aid. Touré ultimately backed down from his threats of force, but continued to support Nkrumah.

In January 1968, elections were held for National Assembly members and President. Touré was the only candidate for President, and all candidates for the Assembly were chosen by the PDG. He was re-elected President in 1982, and held the position until his death.

President Touré died on March 25, 1984, while undergoing heart surgery in Cleveland, Ohio.

SEE ALSO
French West Africa
Charles de Gaulle
Ghana
Kwame Nkrumah

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This page was last updated on February 11, 2017.