Written by Hadi Bah    PDF Print E-mail
Sékou Touré's cult of personality and tyranny matched other world dictators
News - International

Ahmed Sékou Touré, the Guinean leader who rose from a peasant background to become the undisputed leader of his country developed a cult of 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.

hungAt 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.