Ahmed Sékou Touré, the Guinean leader who rose from
a peasant background to become the undisputed leader of his country developed a
personality accompanied by a level of brutality that matched notorious
20th century world dictators such as Enver Hoxha of Albania, Saddam
Hussein of Iraq and Kim Il Sung of North Korea.
At the height of his reign, Touré was the only show
in town for Guineans. Fancying himself a great thinker along the lines of
Lenin, Marx and Mao, the self-educated Touré wrote many books and poems which
teachers and students were required to memorize. Students writing theses or
exam papers were guaranteed good grades if they included quotes from Touré's
long winded speeches. Praise singers from Guinea's diverse ethnic groups outdid
one another to lionize him, with some propagating the myth that Touré, a son of
peasants, was descended from Samory Touré, the great Mandingo anti-French
warrior. Even terrified Guineans did not believe that myth.
Nicknamed the Responsible
Supreme de la Revolution (Supreme Guide of the Revolution), all radio broadcasts
started with Touré screaming "Power to the people!" "Down with Imperialism!"
and "Down with Colonialism!" Guineans greeted one another and ended letters or
other correspondence with "Prêt Pour la Revolution!" (Ready for the Revolution),
a revolution created only in Touré's own narrow imagination.
Being the boss of such a strict one-man show, Touré could
easily have qualified for a paranoid personality disorder diagnosis as he
embarked on a series of purges of real or imagined enemies. Never passing up any
chance to warn Guineans of what he called a "permanent plot" against his regime,
Touré uncovered scores of plots that led to the arrests and executions of
thousands of Guineans.
The first "plot" known as "complot" in French allegedly
occurred in March 1960 barely two years after independence. Known as the
"Complot Ibrahima Diallo," it swept up among others, Ibrahima Diallo, a young
lawyer, Elhadj Lamine Kaba an imam and a pharmacist named Fode Touré. This was
quickly followed by the "Teachers" plot of
November 1961, the "Petit Touré" plot of 1965, the "Kaman-Fodeba" plot of 1969,
the "Fula" plot of 1976 and the Portuguese invasion of 1970.
Touré's purges did not discriminate and cut across ethnic,
gender and professional lines. He starved Diallo Telli, first secretary-general
of the Organization of African Unity to death at the Guinean gulag known as
Camp Boiro. He arrested and executed Fodeba Keita, the artistic brains behind
the creation of Les Ballets Africans,
Guinea's world renowned dance troupe. After constructing the infamous Camp
Boiro, Kaman Diaby, a trusted former military chief of staff was arrested and imprisoned in the dungeon he
built. One night in May 1969, Diaby, a former regime enforcer was among a group
of prisoners who were forced to dig their own before being shot to death. Touré
brushed off pleas from Secretary-General U Thant to spare the life of Marof
Achkar, the Guinean UN permanent representative who had replaced Diallo Telli
at the world body. Barely educated, Touré killed or drove into exile generations
of intellectuals and merchants.
When Touré died in March 1984, many terrified
Guineans at first refused to believe it, fearing that it was another trick by
Sékou Touré to test their loyalty to his regime.
For many members of Touré's close knit Mandingo family,
the parable of living by the sword and dying by sword became reality when Siaka
Touré, a nephew and commander at Camp
Boiro and Ismael Touré, a brother, along with many high ranking former
officials were executed without due process after an alleged coup attempt against
the new government of Lansana Conte.