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Touré, Ahmed Sékou (1922–1984)

Nationalist African premier (1958) and president (1959–1984) of the Republic of Guinea. Born in Faranah, Guinea, on 9 January 1922 to a poor family, Ahmed Sékou Touré worked for the postal service and helped organize a union of its workers in 1945, which he then headed. In 1952 he became the head of the Partie Démocratique de Guinée (PDG, Democratic Party of Guinea). In 1954 he was elected president of the General Confederation of African Workers, and in January 1956 he was elected mayor of the capital city of Conakry and Guinea's representative to the French National Assembly. In November 1957 he became vice premier of Guinea, and in July 1958 he became premier.

In May 1958, the French Fourth Republic had collapsed and Charles de Gaulle came to power. The new constitution of the Fifth Republic established the French Community in place of the former French Union, and de Gaulle called on the French African states to vote on the new constitutional arrangement. A vote of no would mean independence. With much of French Africa desperately poor and dependent on aid from Paris, the vote was expected to be favorable.

Touré opposed membership in the French Community, however. He claimed that "dignity" was more important, and that there could "be no dignity without true liberty." The community would still mean a degree of French control, and as Touré put it, "We prefer poverty in freedom to riches in slavery." The charismatic Touré helped stay the vote in Guinea. On 28 September 1958, Guinea was the only state in French Africa to vote against the constitution. The negative vote was by an overwhelming 95 percent majority.

Guinea received its independence on 2 October 1958. In national elections that same year, Touré's PDG won fifty-seven of sixty seats. He became president of Guinea in January 1959. He then pushed through a new constitution that made the PDG the sole legal political party.

Touré immediately moved Guinea into the socialist camp. Relations with France deteriorated and were broken off altogether in 1965, not to be renewed until 1975. In 1978 French President Valéry Giscard d'Éstaing undertook a state trip to Guinea, and Touré reciprocated with a visit to Paris in 1982.

Touré sought to follow a nonaligned foreign policy. Thus, during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, he refused to allow Soviet aircraft to refuel in Guinea during flights to Cuba. At the end of the 1970s, he established closer relations with the Muslim world and cemented relationships with those states and with Islamic organizations. His hold on power was weakened by two assassination attempts, in June 1969 and April 1971. Constantly reelected president (for the fifth time in 1982), Touré was visiting Saudi Arabia when he became ill from a heart aliment. He preferred to go to the United States for treatment and died in Cleveland, Ohio, on 24 March 1984.

Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
Diallo, A. A. La Vérité du ministre: Dix ans dans les Geôles de Sékou Touré. Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1985.; Marton, Imre. The Political Thought of President Ahmed Sekou Touré. Conakry, Guinea: Press Office, 1977.; Skurnik, W. A. E. African Political Thought: Lumumba, Nkrumah, Touré. Denver, CO: University of Denver, 1968.
 

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