Sékou Touré led Guinea to independent from France in 1958. Touré voted against joining the French Community and famously declared: “We prefer freedom in poverty to opulence in slavery.” This is precisely what happened. France sabotaged Guinea’s economy, to ensure that Guinea was indeed free in poverty.
Given Touré’s nationalist and socialist views, he was a very unpopular leader with Western governments. For this reason, he was the target of various assassination and coup attempts. This included Operation Green Sea, which was a Portuguese led effort to overthrow Touré and capture Amilcar Cabral. At the time, Guinea supporting Cabral’s efforts to liberate Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde from Portuguese colonial rule. There were other plots and conspiracies to overthrow Touré as well.
These various plots against Touré were used to justify the extreme measures that the government took to protect itself, but the level of brutal inflicted by Touré’s government exacted a terrible toll on the people of Guinea. As one account noted: “The Revolution in Guinea has devoured its children at an alarming rate.” One of the most infamous features of Touré’s regime was Camp Boiro, where critics of the government were detained and subjected to very inhumane forms of torture. Starving people to death was one of the many burtal tactics which the government of Guinea used to eliminate political opponents.
These abuses were justified as being necessary to protect the revolutionary government of Guinea against the plots of the imperialists, who were trying to destabilize Guinea. Many of the citizens of Guinea were growing tired of the government’s repressive and heavy-handed policies, however. The incident which demonstrates this was the protest of market women in 1977.
Touré planned to replace the traditional markets in Guinea with government owned stores. Women in Guinea were outraged by this and marched in protest to make their outrage known. The security forces broke up the protest with violent force, killing some of protesters. Despite the violent repression, the protesters were successful at forcing Touré to withdraw his planned policy.
The gallant market women of Guinea who shocked and changed autocratic leader Sekou Toure in 1977 …
On September 28, 1958, during a meeting with French West African States to choose between agreeing to autonomy under…
Touré died 1984, after having served as the president of Guinea since 1958. At the time, Touré was Africa’s longest serving leader. Under Touré, Guinea was a one-party state and in all of the elections that Touré won, he was unopposed. As was noted earlier, the repressive nature of Touré’s regime was justified on the grounds of protecting the revolution, but under Touré’s leadership Guinea remained one of the poorest countries in the world and decades of a brutal dictatorship had left Guinea without strong political institutions, so that Touré’s death was followed by a military coup.
Lansana Conté took advantage of the instability caused by Touré’s passing. The military organized a coup in 1984, which brought Conté into power. Much like Touré before him, Conté resorted to repressive force to maintain himself in power. Conté’s presidency lasted from 1984 until he died in 2008.
Conté died in office in 2008, after being in power fo 24 years. The military moved to take advantage of Conté’s passing and Moussa Dadis Camara became Guinea’s new president after the military coup. Once again, the passing of a long-serving dictatorial president was followed by a military take over.
Much like Touré’s and Conté’s governments, Camara relied on violent force to keep the citizens of Guinea suppressed. The most infamous moment of this repression came in 2009 when thousands of Guineans protested the military junta. The government responded by sending security forces to open fire on the protesters, killing more than 100 citizens and injuring over 1,000 more. Several women were also brutally raped by the soldiers during the crackdown.
In 2009, Camara managed to survive an assassination attempt and left the country shortly afterwards. The military ultimately agreed not to contest the upcoming election in 2010. Sékouba Konaté served as acting president in Camara’s absence until Alpha Condé was elected in 2010. This was the first fair and free election in Guinea since the nation gained its independence from France. Condé served two five year terms, but is now seeking a constitutional referendum which allow him to run for a third term.
Condé’s decision to seek a third term has sparked months of protest in Guinea, which the government has responded to with violent force. Since October of last year, 30 people in Guinea have been killed. Condé’s actions threaten to undermine democracy in Guinea and to revert Guinea back to the days of a repressive dictatorship which imposes its will on the people through brutal force. It is for this reason that the people of Guinea have mobilized in protest against Condé’s third term.
Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook and Twitter.