Written by Hadi Bah    PDF Print E-mail
Sir Milton Margai almost died during a 1962 visit to Guinea
News - International
Sir Milton Margai almost died on Guinean territory during a January 1962 visit to repair ruptured relations with President Ahmed Sekou Toure.

margaiThe circumstances surrounding Prime Minster Margai’s near death in Kankan, Guinea, are recounted in Ahmed Sékou Touré (1922-1984), Président de la Guinée de 1958 à 1984,  a book by former French Ambassador to Guinea André Lewin quoting the diary of André Bettencourt, an eyewitness and diplomat.

A year after Sierra Leone independence in April 1961, President Toure was not happy with Prime Minister Margai’s conservative inclination and close ties to Britain. Guinea had become a pariah among western nations when she voted for independence from France in a referendum on September 28, 1958. Relations between the two leaders were so bad that Toure was accused of meddling in Sierra Leonean affairs and attempting to assassinate Margai.

To patch relations up, in January 1962, while Francois Mitterrand, a future French president and Bettencourt were visiting him in Kankan, Toure sent a plane to Freetown to pick Margai up. When Margai’s plane landed and Toure boarded to welcome his guest, it took them a while to disembark with the visitor visibly ill and needing the assistance of his host to get to the nearest toilet. Only after his personal physician was flown in from Freetown to administer an injection did Margai come to life, smiling and shaking hands. Margai, Toure, Mitterrand and Bettencourt then flew on to Labe in Fouta Djallon where they were the guests of Saifoulaye Diallo, president of the Guinean National Assembly.

After breakfast the following morning, Margai again fell ill. Terrified that Margai could die on Guinean territory, Toure and his guests dropped everything and flew him back to Freetown.
Prime Minister Margai died two years later in April 1964.