Quand Houphouët-Boigny se raconte !

Contribution du président Houphouet-Boigny à la vérité historique du RDA

 Félix Houphouët-Boigny naquit en 1905. Il mourut le 7 décembre 1993. Il fut député de la colonie de Côte d’Ivoire à l’Assemblée nationale française (1946-1958), fondateur-président à vie du Rassemblement Démocratique Africain, RDA (1946-1993). Il siégea au gouvernement français entre 1952 et 1958. A la tête du Parti démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire  (parti unique) il devint l’inamovible président de la république de Côte d’Ivoire, qu’il dirigea pendant 33 ans (1960-1993). Au total il exerça le pouvoir pendant 47ans.
Du 18 au 25 octobre 1986, Président Houphouët-Boigny, âgé de 81 ans, organisa à Yamoussoukro le Colloque international sur le Quarantenaire du RDA. Il consacra notamment toute une journée à la  session spéciale intitulée “Contribution du Président Houphouët-Boigny à la vérité historique sur le RDA”.

Actes du Colloque international de Yamoussoukro, 1946-1986
Actes du Colloque international de Yamoussoukro, 1946-1986

Les rémémorations d’Houphouët au cours de cette journée furent transcrites et publiées dans un livret dont la couverture paraît ci-dessus. L’ouvrage est de fabrication médiocre. Distribué par le journal Fraternité-Matin, il ne fournit ni lieu, ni date de publication. En cela il diffère entièrement des Actes du Colloque international sur l’histoire du R.D.A. : Yamoussoukro, 18-25 octobre 1986. Abidjan, CEDA, 1987, 2 volumes. La typographie  et la photographie — des illustrations de valeur historique — de cette compilation sont remarquables.

J’entreprends ici une revue de la version imprimée de l’intervention verbale d’Houphouët. Il y a beaucoup à redire des propos du président ivorien durant deux journées consécutives du Colloque. Je voudrais examiner sa performance dans l’ordre suivant :

  • La “traversée du désert”
  • Houphouët et Sékou Touré (1946-1984)
  • De Gaulle et Houphouët (1943-1969)
  • Houphouët et le RDA (1946-1993)

Avant d’entrer dans le vif du sujet, je dois souligner qu’à la  date du Colloque de Yamoussoukro, et à l’exception de la Côte d’Ivoire, le RDA avait chuté dans tous ses principaux bastions. Ainsi, victimes de leur propre politique, de coups d’Etat et de la mort, les dirigeants suivants — et anciens lieutenants d’Houphouët — avaient disparu de la scène publique :

Cette évolution négative devait pese lourd dans l’esprit du président-fondateur du RDA. C’est donc avec un tel handicap historique qu’Houphouët-Boigny partagea son témoignage oral avec les membres du Colloque. Dommage qu’il s’y prit maladroitement. Car au lieu de présenter des documents dûment préparés et rédigés, il choisit d’improviser son discours. De même, ses réponses impromptues aux questions de l’auditoire souffrent d’impréparation, de banalités, d’exaggérations, de trous de mémoire, et de contre-vérités. Le tout sur fond de paternalisme, de mégalomanie et de culte de soi.

Houphouët mit à profit le deuxième jour de ses interventions pour réparer des omissions, combler des lacunes, attaquer les adversaires passés et rosir le bilan électoral du RDA. Il se confesse d’emblée, page 78 :

« Je me suis invité moi-même ce matin, pour revenir compléter et préciser certaines déclarations que je vous ai faites hier. En effet, je vous ai donné les raisons pour lesquelles nous avons créé le RDA. Je vous ai dit les difficultés que nous avons rencontrées au départ. Mais. je n’ai pu préciser les actions du Rassemblement au niveau de ses différentes sections. le RDA, ce n’était pas qu’Abidjan; il ne se limitait pas à la seule Côte d’Ivoire. Son ambition et son but étaient de rassembler les Africains pour une lutte commune en vue de l’émancipation sociale et politique de notre cher Continent. Nous avons eu des sections dans presque tous les pays francophones de l’ex-Afrique Occidentale Française (AOF) et de l’ex-Afrique Equatoriale Française(AEF). »

Houphouët-Boigny s’était auparavant érigé en apôtre et avait accordé à ses compagnons — anciens et récents — le rang de disciples ! Solennel, il déclare en page 4 :

«  Aujourd’hui, vous êtes ici, jeunes et vieux, disciples de mon action. Je romps devant vous avec le silence. »

Ainsi commence le survol par le “Vieux” — pour reprendre le sobriquet que lui donnèrent les Ivoiriens — des aspects clés de sa longue vie et de sa complexe carrière.

Première partie
La “traversée du désert”

Houphouët inscrit les activités du RDA en Guinée au registre des difficultés des débuts de la lutte et de “la traversée du désert” qui suivit. Il déclare :

La lutte a été dure. Je vous ai parlé de la traversée du désert; elle fut pénible. Je ne voudrais pas relater ce dont ont souffert les autres sections territoriales.

Houphouët évoque ensuite brièvement l’évolution du RDA  sur le terrain en Afrique Occidentale et en Afrique Equatoriale françaises (Haute-Volta (Burkina-Faso), Dahomey (Bénin), Congo-Brazzaville, Tchad, Oubangui-Chari (République Centrafricaine), Sénégal, Niger, Gabon, Soudan (Mali), Guinée) et à Djibouti.

Et il met l’accent sur la Guinée, qu’il introduit dans un passage vague, décousu  et erroné. Houphouët suggère :

« C’est ainsi que, pendant longtemps, nous n’avons pas eu un seul représentant à l’Assemblée Territoriale de Guinée. Au départ, un de mes anciens collègues de promotion à l’Ecole Normale d’Instituteurs de Gorée, Mamba Sano, nous avait représentés. Malheureusement, avec les difficultés, mon frère Mamba Sano, paix à son âme, s’était retiré de la lutte. Et il y eut un vide qu’heureusement ont ensuite comblé deux braves parmi les plus braves militants du RDA : Madeira Kéita au Mali, et Ray Autra en Guinée. »

Cette affirmation ne résiste pas à l’étude et à l’analyse pour les raisons suivantes :
Primo, elle est ambiguë parce que son auteur ne précise pas de dates. Et pourtant le propos du président Houphouët était d’établir la vérité historique. Il aurait dû en conséquence retracer le cadre temporel de son action. En  indiquant le lieu, le jour, le mois, l’année, les acteurs/participants des faits et évènements. Hélas, il se contente  de dire “pendant longtemps”.  Cela est vague, insuffisant et incomplet.

Secundo, on sait que le RDA fut fondé en 1946. Dix ans plus tard, après la promulgation de la Loi-cadre Gaston Deferre de 1956, le mouvement accédait au pouvoir dans les territoires coloniaux ci-dessus mentionnés. A l’échelle de l’Histoire, la période passée dans l’opposition fut donc relativement brève. En réalité, il faut réduite le temps d’opposition à quatre ans seulement, de 1947 à 1951. En effet dans Ibrahima Baba Kaké note :

« La mise en place de nouvelles équipes à Paris, au ministère de la France d’outre-mer, et surtout à Dakar, avec la nomination en septembre 1951 de M. Bernard Cornut-Gentille comme haut-commissaire de l’AOF, entame bientôt un changement complet d’attitude de l’administration à l’égard de Sékou Touré. Cornut-Gentille … a l’intelligence de constater qu’il est beaucoup plus dangereux de rejeter indéfiniment un Sékou Touré dans l’opposition, voire l’illégalité, que de lui permettre d’entrer regulièrement dans les assemblées de la République et d’exercer les charges qu’appellent son talent et son ascendant sur les masses. Les conséquences de ce changement d’attitude de l’administration coloniale vont être immédiates. Et commencent alors pour Sékou Touré, que Bernard Cornut-Gentille se charge personnellement de récupérer les consécrations électorales et parlementaires. »

Tertio, Mamba Sano ne se retira pas de la lutte. Il fut, brièvement, l’un des trois conseillers au Comité directeur de la section territoriale du RDA en Guinée. Ses collègues étaient Mamadou Traoré, dit Ray-Autra (instituteur) et Mamadou Sankaréla Diallo (médecin à Faranah). En novembre 1946, Mamba Sano fut élu au collège unique en tête de liste du Parti socialiste de Guinée, rival du PDG-RDA. En tandem avec Yacine Diallo — que Houphouët ne mentionne pas — il représenta son pays au Palais Bourbon jusqu’en 1956. Il perdit sa réélection face au duo du PDG : Sékou Touré et Saifoulaye Diallo —qu’Houphouët omet également. Educateur-modèle, pionnier de la politique, Mamba Sano nous laisse  un écrit admirable : “De la mélodie populaire ‘Alfa Yaya’ à l’Hymne national ‘Liberté’”. Après 1963, il s’effaça graduellement de la vie publique, vivant incognito, dans l’indifférence totale de Sékou Touré. Ayant survécu d’un an à son cadet et ancien concurrent, Mamba Sano s’éteignit en 1985.

Quatro, Madeira Keita fut élu et co-dirigea la section guinéenne du RDA de 1947 à 1951, date de la désignation (et non pas l’élection) de Sékou Touré à la tête du parti. Voir la composition du Comité directeur en 1947 et 1948.

A suivre.

Tierno S. Bah

 

 

 

L’impunité version Sidya Touré

Sidya Touré, leader de l'UFR
Sidya Touré, leader de l’UFR

Sous la plume de Boubacar 1 Diallo Africaguinée rapporte  des extraits d’une interview de Sidya Touré sur les ondes d’une radio de Conakry. L’article est intitulé  “Un soutien de taille pour Dadis Camara”.  Comme d’ordinaire le journaliste se comporte comme une simple caisse de résonnance de la personne interviewée. On enregistre passivement. Il n’y ni contradiction ni suggestion d’alternative à l’opinion de l’invité(e). Pas la moindre réflexion même sur des évènements aussi tragiques que ceux du 28 septembre 2009.

M. Sidya Touré rejoint ici d’autres dirigeants de l’opposition qui ont des attitudes ambiguës sur l’inculpation, l’enquête et le procès des accusés du massacre au stade de Conakry. Ainsi Cellou Dalen Diallo, Faya Millimouno et Mouctar Diallo ont soit rendu  visite à Moussa Dadis Camara, soit cherché à lénifier le rôle d’un Toumba Diakité durant les violences sur le terrain. Autant d’actes qui, objectivement, renforcent l’esprit d’impunité qui prévaut en Guinée. Et qui contribuent à noyer les crimes de l’Etat guinéen dans l’eau.

Mais en l’occurrence Sidya Touré émerge par un  comportement singulier. Il est comme une girouette qui tourne au gré du vent de la scène publique. Ainsi hier, il était membre de l’opposition et il dénonçait vigoureusement le mépris et le viol de la Constitution par le président Alpha Condé. Aujourd’hui, il est le Haut Représentant du chef de l’Etat. Dans quel domaine et à quelle fin représente-t-il le président ? Il ne saurait lui-même le dire !

Responsabilité indirecte

Sidya Touré est l’un des leaders qui convoquèrent le meeting au stade de Donka le 28 septembre 2009. Les milliers de participants furent invités et encouragés à se mobiliser pour marquer l’opposition du pays à la candiature du chef de la junte militaire à l’élection présidentielle de 2010. A son arrivée au pouvoir en décembre 2008, par un coup d’Etat programmé par feu Lansana Conté, Dadis avait juré sur la Bible et le Coran qu’il n’exercerait le pouvoir que temporairement.  Mais au cours de l’année suivante, il changea d’avis, parla de démissionner de l’armée pour convoiter, en tant que civil, le fauteuil présidentiel, conformément à son droit de citoyen !… Le problème fut que le pays ne l’entendait pas ainsi et rejettait absolument son parjure et son ambition. Ce qui devait arriver arriva. Et, en ce jour fatidique du 28 septembre, en quelques heures, une assemblée pacifique et joyeuse, devint un carnage : des centaines de militants furent abattus par balles ou à l’arme blanche. Des dizaines de femmes et de jeunes filles furent violées. La barbarie et l’horreur suscitèrent la condamnation universelle. La rage et la violence n’épargnèrent pas non plus M. Touré et ses collègues politiciens. Ils reçurent des soins pour les coups et blessures subis aux mains de la soldatesque et des miliciens du capitaine Moussa Dadis Camara. Celui-ci est exilé depuis 2010 à Ouagadougou, la capitale du Burkina Faso. Mais la conscience des dirigeants politiques devrait les amener à admettre leur responsabilité indirecte dans la tragédie. Par exemple, avaient-il élaboré un plan de sécurité en cas d’actes de répression par la junte ? Disposaient-ils de services ou d’agents de renseignements postés autour des casernes militaires, notamment le Camp Alfa Yaya Diallo, siège du Comité militaire our la démocratie et le développement (CNDD). Si la réponse à ces questions est négative, alors les politiciens devraient se le reprocher aujourd’hui. lls devraient accepter leur imprévoyance et admettre leur responsabilité indirecte dans l’affaire. Car s’ils avaient infiltré le CNDD et/ou posté des informateurs autour du Camp Alfa Yaya, ceux-ci auraient pu les alerter par cellphone du départ du convoi des tueurs vers le stade. Ainsi avertis, les organisateurs auraient eu le temps d’évacuer le stade avant l’arrivée dess hordes de tueurs dirigées par Moussa Tiégboro et Tomba Diakité. Et une telle mesure aurait permis d’éviter le bain de sang et les cruautés.

Des années se sont écoulées depuis la perpétuation du massacre. Le gouvernement tient des promesses vagues, mais n’offre rien de concret sur l’éventualité d’un procès des personnes impliquées dans la tuerie. De son côté, au lieu de lutter sans relâche pour que justice soit faite, la classe politique cherche plutôt à créer la diversion ou à disculper les accusés, au détriment et au grand dam des survivants et des familles des disparus !

Diabolisation de la CPI

Au lieu d’agir en démocrates convaincus de la nécessité absolue de la séparation des trois branches de l’Etat : le Législatif, le Judiciaire, l’Exécutif. Alpha Condé et ses opposants (naguère ses alliés) s’immiscent en permanence dans le processus de la justice. Et refusent d’admettre le principe de l’indépendance de celle-ci.
C’est une approche qui vise à détacher la Guinée et l’Afrique du principe de l’universalité de la justice. Il faut au contraire se souvenir et souscrire à l’avertisssement immortel du Révérend Martin Luther King, Jr, qui, du fond de sa cellule de prison à Birmingham, Alabama, lança : « Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere! » (Une injustice où qu’elle soit est une menace pour la justice partout.)
De son côté l’Archevêque Desmond Tutu a formellement dénoncé les manoeuvres d’hommes d’Etat africains qui diabolisent la Cour Pénale Internationale (CPI) afin de se soustraire aux poursuites judiciaires. Il s’agit, par exemple, des présidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi), de l’ex-président Yahya Jammeh (Gambie), etc. C’est là une stratégie évidente visant à perpétuer l’impunité des crimes politiques en Guinée et en Afrique.

Lire In Africa, Seeking A Licence To Kill

Une girouette nommée Sidya Touré

Bien qu’étant en perte de temps et de vitesse pour la course à la présidence, Sidya Touré vient de s’inscrire dans le club des détracteurs de la CPI. Dans son interview d’hier sur Espace FM il déclare :

« Je crois qu’on devrait laisser le capitaine (Dadis Camara) rentrer à Conakry. L’histoire de la CPI n’est pas une solution. Ce sont des procès qui peuvent durer dix ans. On devrait faire en sorte qu’il vienne ici et qu’il défende son honneur, c’est vraiment mon souhait. »

Primo, la CPI n’est pas “une histoire”. Malgré ses ressources modestes, elle a une mission mondiale et elle exerce des fonctions réelles. Si Sidya en doute, il n’a qu’à se rappeler le sort de Charles Taylor, Jean-Pierre Bemba, et consorts. Sans omettre, bien sûr, l’incarcération de Laurent Gbagbo et de Charles Blé Goudé, ses compatriotes Ivoiriens. La CPI est ainsi effectivement  une solution.
Secundo, la justice peut et doit prendre tout le temps requis pour aboutir. Non astreinte aux contraintes temporelles, elle range un dossier seulement en cas de disparition  physique établie d’une personne accusée de crimes. Une telle règle est particulièrement valable pour les accusations de crimes de sang, de crimes de guerre et contre l’humanité. Cela explique que des Nazis soient toujours visés par des inculpations pour leur rôle dans les crimes commis sous la dictature d’Hitler, notamment l’Holocauste.

La “famille” : apologie du crime et promotion de l’impunité

Sidya Touré poursuit :

« Je crois que chacun de nous a quelque chose à dire par rapport à ça. Il y en a dont on ne parle pas aujourd’hui peut-être qui sont autrement plus impliqués dans cette affaire. ».

La première phrase se termine par l’expression “par rapport à ça”. Sidya effectue là un changement de code linguistique et s’exprime dans le vague parler franco-africain (Côte d’Ivoire, Guinée, etc.). Cette tactique lui permet de parler sans rien dire de substantiel. Il  confirme son choix par l’affirmation suivante : “Il y en a dont on ne parle pas aujourd’hui peut-être qui sont autrement plus impliqués dans cette affaire.” Un propos désolément vague et vide.

Sidya enchaîne :

« C’est nous qui savons comment est-ce que nous allons laver notre linge sale en famille. Mais aussi c’est là aussi qu’on pourrait avoir des débats sereins. »

L’invocation de la Guinée comme étant une famille ne date pas d’aujourd’hui. Elle remonte aux premières années de l’après Sékou Touré. La question brûlante à l’époque était de savoir comment sortir du vide politique instauré par le CMRN et le CTRN sous la férule de Lansana Conté.  Comment instaurer le pluralisme politique après la chute du PDG et l’autocratie militaire ? Quelqu’un  avança la phrase : “La Guinée est une famille.” Mais il se trouve qu’il s’agit d’un cliché artificiel et d’un mythe creux.
Mamadou Bâ y a objecté de façon convaincante dans “La Guinée est une république, pas une famille”.
Hélas, Sidya Touré nous ramène en arrière avec son histoire de “laver notre linge sale en famille”. En lieu et place d’une cour de justice et d’un tribunal, il voudrait balayer le massacre du 28 septembre sous une natte. Comment ? Cela serait à travers “des débats sereins.” C’est incroyable ! Des assassinats et des viols ont été commis. Et aujourd’hui, Sidya propose des “débats” groupant les auteurs, les survivants et les parents des victimes du massacre. Cela est inadmissible de la part d’un politicien qui se veut d’envergure nationale !

Noirs et Blancs : une fausse dichotomie

Sidya Touré s’enfonce davantage par ces mots :

« Il faut faire les assises en Guinée mais sur l’ensemble du problème, comme ça on appréhendera ce que les uns et les autres ont pu faire. »

Tout d’abord Sidya Touré doit garder en mémoire, et pour de bon, qu’au cas où — et cela n’est pas sûr — “des assises” de tiendraient en Guinée au sujet du massacre du 28 septembre 2009, seule la magistrature du pays devra siéger. Et le contexte sera un cour de justice, un tribunal réunissant des juges, des accusés et des avocats. Il n’y aura pas de place pour “des débats sereins”. Si les accusés peuvent prouver leur innocence à l’appui de faits et de témoins valables, la justice les disculpera. Si, au contraire, le procureur convainc la cour de la culpabilité des prévenus, la loi s’appliquera à eux. Quoiqu’en pensent ou disent les politiciens du gabarit de Sidya Touré. Les palabres africaines, les discours sur la “réconciliation nationale” viendront après. Ils prendront la forme et le temps  que l’on voudra. Mais seulement après que le verdict de la justice, prioritaire et suprême, et sur la base des lois en vigueur.

« Seuls les guinéens peuvent sortir de cet embrouillamini. »

Cela est archi-faux. La justice est un impératif national et international. Si elle s’applique au sein des Etats, elle aussi  tracés frontaliers et requiert le concours de tous et de toutes. La justice est  un régime indispensable à l’exercice de la vraie démocratie. Cela étant, les Guinéens ne peuvent pas s’enfermer dans un vase clos et vivre en autarcie. Au contraire, pour vaincre sa pauvreté — matérielle, morale, industrielle, scientifique, technologique —, la Guinée a cruellement besoin de l’apport d’autres pays et des institutions multilatérales. Surtout dans le domaine de la justice, où le régime d’Alpha Condé traîne la patte, fait des promesses, et tient la dragée haute à ses partenaires dans l’organisation du procès de Moussa Dadis Camara, Toumba Diakité et leurs co-accusés (Tiegboro Camara, Pivi Togba, Sékouba Konaté, etc.)

« Mais si on commence à expliquer ça à la Haye, les blancs ne comprendraient même pas comment des gens peuvent se comporter de la sorte. »

Prenant la couleur de la peau comme critère, ce passage révèle une conception superficielle et vulgaire de la gestion des affaires publiques. Une vision aussi épidermique ravale l’Africain encore plus bas que le fameux slogn de la Négritude : “Si la Raison est Hellène (grecque), l’Emotion est Nègre.” En effet elle est pire dans la mesure où, d’une part, elle suggère que l’énormité du masscre guinéen dépasse l’entendement des Blancs, et, d’autre part, prétend que les Noirs sont habitués et donc immunisés contre ces atrocités. Sidya Touré oublié qu’en matière de droit international et selon les normes de l”ONU, l’affaire du 28 septembre est classée comme un crime contre l’Humanité. Or la Guinée fait partie de cette humanité-là. Il ne saurait donc y avoir deux poids, deux mesures.
Mais Sidya Touré ne fait qu’appliquer la vieille tactique du “diviser pour régner”. En l’occurrence, Nous les Noirs contre Eux les Blancs. Que Sidya Touré veuille bien se remémore la boutade célèbre de Frantz Fanon : Peau noire, masque blanc ! On peut être noir de peau mais être aliéné et déraciné. Au point de s’assimiler à l’Europe coloniale et post-coloniale. Mes objections spécifiques contre le propos ci-dessus sont au nombre de deux :
Primo, le Camp Boiro, les répressions sanglantes cycliques opérées par Lansana Conté, le massacre du 28 septembre ne se réduisent pas à une fausse dichotomie entre Noirs (Guinéens, Africains) et Blancs (Européens). La vraie justice est impartiale et aveugle quant à l’origine, la “race”, le sexe, la religion d’un prévenu.
Secundo, Fatou Bensouda, la procureure en chef de la CPI, est une magistrate gambienne. Elle est Noire ou, de préférence, sud-Saharienne. Sidya Touré se tromperait lourdement s’il croit être plus Africain que Ms Bensouda ! Ou bien qu’elle est devenue Blanche du fait de son mandat à la tête de la CPI !

Auparavant Sidya fait la caricature des procédures de la CPI en ces termes :

« La CPI est très loin, on envoi des témoins qu’on cache derrière les rideaux qui racontent des choses qu’on ne peut pas vérifier. »

Cela est également archi-faux. Les séances de la CPI sont présidées par trois juges triés sur le volet et nommés pour une durée limitée. La fonction de la procureure consiste à convaincre la cour de la culpabilité des accusés, qui sont flanqués de leurs avocats. En cas de négligence ou violation des procédures, la procureure peut perdre un procès. La sentence de tout prisonnier (Charles Taylor, Jean-Pierre Bemba, etc.) reposent sur des preuves matérielles, irréfutables pour les faits reprochés. La protection des témoins est une mesure préventive pour la sécurité physique des intervenants. La mascarade dont fait état Sidya Touré n’existe que dans son imagination.
Sidya Touré conclut :

« Mais nous, on connait qui nous sommes. Donc, nous pouvons trouver des solutions ici. »

Cela fait huit ans que les militants de l’UFR (et ceux des autres partis politiques) victimes du massacre attendent que l’Etat guinéen organise un procès. Le souhait — ou la proposition — de Sidya Touré rappelle la métaphore du chien malade, qui ne peut pas manger son plat, et qui ne veut pas laisser un autre chien manger le consommer à sa place. Les dirigants guinéens se comportent de la même manière. Au lieu de remplir leur devoir primordial et sacré de justice, ils ont recours à toutes sortes de prétextes et de méthodes dilatoires pour retarder et, en réalité, empêcher la tenue du jugement des prévenus. A l’heure actuelle on parle vaguement de la fin de l’année, sans fixer une date. Nous verrons bien. En attendant de quelle solution Sidya Touré parle-t-il ?

La moralité à tirer de l’interview de M. Sidya Touré tient dans la comparaison entre les domaines de la santé et de la justice. En dépit de différences apparentes, ils ont un dénominateur commun  communs.
Le premier terme recouvre le domaine de la santé personnelle et collective. Là, les soins des malades physiques et mentaux relève de la compétence de la profession médicale. Ainsi durant la crise de l’épidémie Ebola, la Guinée bénéficia de la coopération avec des dizaines pays, de l’OMS, de Médecins Sans Frontières, de volontaires individuels, etc. Il y a avait péril en la demeure. Pour stopper les ravages du virus, on n’a pas cherché à faire des “débats” entre Guinéens. Il y eut certes des campagnes d’éducation sanitaire. Mais elles furent guidées par des experts et des agents formés et encadrés.
Le second terme concerne la justice. Son virus s’appelle l’impunité. Infaillible, son pronostic s’appelle le déni de justice. L’Etat guinéen en est l’originateur et le vecteur principal. Ce virus s’est propagé.  Il affecte désormais toute la société. On note ainsi la fréquence de scènes de “vindicte populaire” et d’actes de vengeance (torture, immolation par le feut, etc) au niveau des populations. L’impunité est endémique et épidémique dans le pays. Et ses consequences sont plus dévastatrices que celles des maladies corporelles et des troubles mentaux. Car, si l’on remonte à 1958, on constatera que le bilan de l’impunité est plus négatif que celui de toutes les épidemies qui frappé la Guinée, y compris celle du virus Ebola. Comment doit-on s’y prendre pour remédier à cette situation catastrophique. Très simple : la Guinée doit pratique la même politique que celle qui permit de vaicre Ebola entre 2014 et 2015. Cela signifie trois choses : (a) l’obligation de laisser le champ libre aux spécialistes de la profession judicaire, (b) la formation et la surformation du personnel (c) la renonciation aux commissions dites de “réconciliation” (d) le retrait de la classe politique — en quête d’électeurs — du domaine de la justice.
La branche judiciaire est théoriquement assez bien charpentée en Guinée. Ainsi la loi fondamentale, les codes et les règlements existent. Une hiérachie pyramidale est en place. Malheureusement presque tout est pourri au plan pratique. Notamment à cause de l’étranglement de la magistrature par le pouvoir exécutif depuis 1959. Et en raison de la corruption — grande, moyenne et petite — alimentée par la pauvreté et la médiocrité des salaires. Enfin, pour éradiquer le virus de l’impunité, l’Etat doit s’ouvrir à la coopération franche avec (a) la Cour Pénale Internationale (b) les pays dotés de solides traditions judiciaires (c) les ONG de défense et de promotion des droits de l’homme.

Tierno S. Bah

Guinée : Occidentaux, Asiatiques, Maroc

Réunion du Groupe de Casablanca, rival du Groupe de Monrovia. De g. à dr.: prince héritier Moulay Hassan (futur Hassan II), Gamal Abdel Nasser, Kwame Nkrumah, Ferhat Abbass, Sékou Touré, Modibo Keita, roi Mohamed V. Casablanca, janvier 1961.
Réunion du Groupe de Casablanca, rival du Groupe de Monrovia. De g. à dr.: prince héritier Moulay Hassan (futur Hassan II), Gamal Abdel Nasser, Kwame Nkrumah, Ferhat Abbass, Sékou Touré, Modibo Keita, roi Mohamed V. Casablanca, janvier 1961.

La question d’un éventuel trosième mandat du président Alpha Condé revient fréquemment sur le Web. C’est là une autre manière de  noyer le poisson dans l’eau. La présidence d’Alpha Condé se déroule  à son avantage, certes. Mais elle s’exerce au détriment de  la Guinée, où la pauvreté s’aggrave. L’embêtant pour M. Condé, c’est qu’après Sékou Touré (26 ans) et Lansana Conté (24 ans), le pays ne peut supporter un autre quart de siècle avec le même dictateur. Sur le site Africaguinee on lit le passage suivant :

« A l’occasion d’une session des assises sur l’eau au Maroc, le dirigeant guinéen a parlé de « continuité » citant en exemple le royaume chérifien, les pays asiatiques et occidentaux. »

Et Guinee7 renchérit :

« Pourquoi les pays occidentaux n’ont jamais demandé aux pays asiatiques de limiter les mandats », s’interroge Alpha Condé au Maroc.

La question est ridicule et hors-sujet. Car il ne s’agit ni des pays cccidentaux, ni de ceux asiatiques. Eux, ils se  conforment à leur Constitution et ils appliquent  leurs lois. Ainsi:

  • François Hollande n’aura exercé qu’un seul mandat. Une ultra-nationaliste comme Marine Le Pen pourrait bien lui succéder.
  • Les USA viennent de remplacer Barack Obama par Donald Trump.
  • La Corée du Sud vient de destituer une présidente, la fille d’un ancien président-dictateur, pour arrogance et corruption.

Monsieur Condé ne se rend pas compte combien il est naif de comparer la Guinée à des pays fonctionnels et prospères, d’Europe et d’Asie. Il devrait se concentrer sur l’Afrique, ne serait-ce qu’en sa qualité de président en exercice de l’Union Africaine pour 2017-18.
En attendant, son admiration pour la stabilité ou la « continuité » marocaine indique son inculture historique et politique. Car l’histoire de cette dynasite est marquée tour à tour par la continuité, la dépendance et les conflits internes.

Anciennete et continuité de la monarchie chérifienne alaouite

Selon Wikipédia la dynastie alaouite :

« règne sur le Maroc depuis la seconde moitié du xviie siècle. Venus du Hejaz2, ils s’installent au Tafilalet, les Alaouites deviennent sultans du Maroc à la suite d’une période d’instabilité ayant suivi le décès du dernier sultan de la dynastie des Saadiens en 1659 et durant laquelle le pays est morcelé en plusieurs États indépendants, l’autorité centrale échouant aux mains des Dilaïtes. Moulay Rachid, troisième prince alaouite du Tafilalet, réunifie le pays entre 1664 et 1669 et réinstaure un pouvoir central, marquant ainsi le début de la dynastie alaouite du Maroc, qui est toujours à la tête du royaume de nos jours. »

Impérialisme français et Protectorat français

« Mis en place par le traité franco-marocain conclu à Fès, le 30 mars 1912, entre la Troisième République française et Moulay Abd El Hafid2, éphémère sultan marocain, il était officiellement nommé Protectorat français dans l’Empire chérifien dans le traité de Fès, publié quelques mois après dans le premier bulletin officiel du pays, qui avait pour en-tête : « Empire chérifien : Protectorat de la République française au Maroc ». La fin de ce protectorat, dont l’arrivée fut annoncée au Maroc par le sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Youssef — futur roi Mohammed V — lors de son discours du trône du 18 novembre 19553 (date retenue pour la Fête nationale de l’indépendance), fut actée avec la Quatrième République française le 2 mars 19563.
Parallèlement, fut instauré un protectorat espagnol au MarocN 2 à compter du 27 novembre 1912, sur la base d’une convention franco-espagnole, et le retour à la souveraineté du Maroc fut officiellement reconnu par l’Espagne près d’un mois après la France, le 7 avril 1956. »

Conflits internes

C’est donc seulement en 1956 que le royaume du Maroc redevint souverain. Sous le règne des deux premier monarques — Mohamed V et Hassan II — un agent de la France, le général Mohamed Oufkir, joua un rôle de premier plan. Consultons Wikipédia :

« En 1950, (Oufkir) est “détaché au cabinet du général commandant supérieur des troupes du Maroc”, le général Duval au côté duquel il devient un spécialiste des services de renseignement français. »
« En 1955, les autorités françaises l’imposent comme aide de camp du roi Mohammed V dès son intronisation au lendemain de l’indépendance du Maroc. Son rôle est de réduire l’influence de l’armée de libération nationale marocaine (ALN), d’atténuer le plébiscite autour de la légitimité des partis nationalistes, notamment l’Istiqlal et l’UNFP, et de construire les structures policières et de surveillance officielles (notamment les FAR Forces Armées Royales) et parallèles. »

Général Oufkir dirige ainsi la répression contre “le soulèvement du Rif entre 1957 et 1959 (cette répression exécutée avec zèle lui vaut le surnom de ‘Boucher du Rif’, le ‘complot de juillet’ que le régime attribue en 1963 à la gauche marocaine et les émeutes de Casablanca du 23 mars 1965 où, à bord d’un hélicoptère, il tire à la mitraillette sur la foule.”

En 1965, Oufkir et le roi Hassan II sont impliqués dans la disparition de Mehdi ben Barka, enlevé et assassiné en France. “La justice française  condamne Oufkir par contumace … aux travaux forcés à perpétuité.”

Peu importe. A Rabat Oufkir continue de monte en flèche. Il devient commandant en chef des Forces armées royales et ministre de la défense en 1971. C’est fort de cette position qu’il tente successivement de liquider le roi Hassan. Son premier coup d’Etat date de 1971. Il échoue. Pareil pour celui de 1972. L’échec de cette deuxième tentative entraîne sa mort : suicide,  exécution ?

Alpha Condé et la Guinée

L’interrogation plus haut est ainsi superflue. La vraie question est  plutôt la suivante:

Pourquoi ne pas respecter  la Constitution guinéenne, qui limite le nombre de mandats présidentiels consécutifs à deux ?

La réponse est claire. L’autocratie et son corollaire, le narcissisme, ainsi que la cupidité et sa compagne, la corruption, conduisent monsieur le président-commis voyageur à mépriser son pays au point de laisser circuler des spéculations sur un troisième mandat. Alors que sa politique inarticulée, brouillonne a — en 10 ans bientôt — ruiné  l’économie et enfoncé le pays davantage dans la pauvreté.

Qu’il n’oublie pas cependant que la république et la monarchie sont des systèmes différents. Et que la république de Guinée n’est pas le royaume du Maroc. S’il existe de vagues ressemblances, il n’y a, par contre, pas de correspondance entre les deux pays.

Deux mandats consécutifs sont suffisants pour un président intègre, rassembleur et travailleur. Dix mandats sont insuffisants pour un dictateur assoiffé de pouvoir pour soi. En conséquence, la Guinée doit fermement appliquer le principe de l’alternance, qui est nécessaire et indispensable à l’exercice de la démocratie, même électoraliste.
Elle doit le faire par-delà les plans machiavéliques et les manoeuvres sournoises du président Alpha Condé. Qui voudrait s’accrocher indéfiniment et futilement au fauteil.

Tierno S. Bah

The N’ko Alphabet: Then and Now

Dianne White Oyler. The History of the N'ko Alphabet and Its Role in Mande Transnational Identity. Words as Weapons.
Dianne White Oyler. The History of the N’ko Alphabet and Its Role in Mande Transnational Identity. Words as Weapons. Cherry Hill, N.J. : Africana Homestead Legacy, 2005, 2007. xiv, 241 p. : ill., map

Dianne White Oyler
Dianne White Oyler

Dianne White Oyler’s article on the N’ko Alphabet   includes my contextual annotations and corrections. The paper appeared in 2001, four years before the same author’s book named The History of the N’ko Alphabet and Its Role in Mande Transnational Identity. Words as Weapons. I focus here on the article below, which Dianne wrote based on her fieldwork in Conakry and Kankan, back in 1994. As the saying goes one is entitled to one’s opinion but not to one’s facts, lest they are the “alternative facts”  per Ms. Kellyanne Conway now infamous TV statement. In this case, it is normal and routine  to study and even support cultural activism and language revival efforts around the world. However, does such an activity and commitment permit to publish fabricated facts or falsifications of the historical record? I don’t think so. Dianne correctly points out that “Sékou Touré’s archival documents, including personal papers and correspondence, were either destroyed or hidden after his death. Consequently, there are no currently existing archives of the First Republic and the papers that are hidden are inaccessible.” However, it is counterproductive to try to fill in that void with superficial documents and inaccurate information. Such a shortcut circumvents academic deontology. Worse, it ends up hurting the cause championed, here the N’ko Alphabet. And it lowers considerably the quality and the value of the output. That explains —but does not justify— why Dianne’s article “A cultural revolution in Africa:  literacy in the Republic of Guinea since independence” is replete  with errors and exaggerations. Again, I react contextually below on those shortcomings.
That said, and for the record, my track record in the Guinea national language debate dates back to the mid-1970s. I was then a young faculty in the Linguistics and African Languages department of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. I also headed the Pular section of the Academy of National Languages, in close collaboration with a competent and elder deputy in the person of  the late Mamadou Gangue (a survivor of the “Teachers Plot”). The work environment was quite collegial, and I was great professional rapport with the head of the Sosokui section, the late Kanfory Bangoura.
In 1975 I wrote a lengthy descriptive and analytical paper titled “La politique linguistique du Parti démocratique de Guinée,” in Miriya, Revue des Sciences économiques et sociales, of which I was co-publisher with Bailo Teliwel Diallo. My article generated positive verbal comments from my colleagues, Yolande Joseph-Nöelle, for example, and from her husband, Senainon Béhanzin, the de facto intellectual guru of Sékou Touré
During the 2010 presidential election campaign, relying heavily on the Maninka electorate of Haute-Guinée, the RPG candidate, Alpha Condé, vowed his support for the ongoing N’ko campaign. He subsequently “won” the second round. But his regime did little to translate the promises into funded programs. Having managed to gain a second term in 2015, Mr. Condé does not give cultural activities the priority they deserve. His former deputy, the late Ahmed Tidiane Cissé, lamented the lack of governmental support for his ministry of culture.… In sum, N’ko has not fared  well under any of the three Maninka presidents of Guinea: Sékou Touré, Sékouba Konaté and Alpha Condé. Ditto for the heritage of each of the other 15 ethnic cultures of the country.
See also my article “The cultural policy of the PDG.” and “Are Fulɓe Disappearing? And Is Adlam Their Savior?
Overall, I was an active participant-observer of cultural life under the dictatorship of Sékou Touré. For instance, I was a prominent member of the National Film Censorship Commission (1971-1981). We screened, discussed, authorized or rejected movies imported for distribution around the country. Given the nature of the police-state the pro-bono function was not risk-free. Thus, in August 1978 Sékou Touré admonished the sub-commission I led was on the air waves of the Voice of the Revolution. For what reason ? We had signed our names for the approval of the film Midnight Cowboy. Unfortunately, the regime’s secrete police filed a report slamming the content of the R-rated movie. Subsequently, when I visited him with the late Zainoul A. Sanoussi, President Sékou Touré somewhat downplayed privately his public communiqué blaming us by name on the radio. It was a meager consolation for us, and particularly for our families and friends. They had been alarmed by the fact that Sékou Touré and the Bureau politique national of the PDG decided to disavow our official action so openly. They did not even watch themselves the incriminated movie, in the first place ! Although a screening session was held after the facts, in presence of Mamadi Keita, member of the Politbureau, and Senainon Behanzin, memer of the Central committee. The two officials acknowledged that despite its implicit sexual content, the film had artistic and substantive quality.… After all, it won the Motion Picture Academy Best Picture award for 1969.
Another record worth mentioning, from 1975 to 1977, I was, first co-host then sole host, of a radio show called “Voyage à travers la Guinée”. Still teaching at the University, I decide to explore radio-broadcasting. My mentor was veteran journalist Odilon Théa. We featured a different region  each week, presenting its history, culture, economy, touristic potential, etc. And we had fun preparing and airing the weekly (every Tuesday) program. For nearby Dubréka, I recall that we rented a cab and visited the town to collect information from residents. Later on, Marcelin Bangoura joined us. And, feeling confident in my performance, Odilon graciously bowed out and let me do the show alone. There too, an incident reminded of the peril involved in living and working under Sékou Touré. Having scheduled the town of Boffa (northwestern coast) I produced the show by going to the archives. There I dug out files about Nyara Gbèli, a mulatto female slave-trader. I aired selections of her biography and historical record. It turned out that Sékou Touré and all members of the Politbureau were tuned in. At the end the show, some were not please to hear about the slavery piece of the show. They suggested that I be summoned for explanations. Luckily, Sékou Touré agreed with those who opposed the idea, arguing that it would not be a boost to my confidence in exploring the country’s past. How did I know what happened in the higher echelon of the government? Well, Léon Maka, National Assembly president attended the meeting. His daughter, Madeleine, was a colleague and a good friend of mine at Voix de la Révolution. He told her about the discussion they had had. And she, in turn, shared with me, saying: “Tierno, careful! Last you were nearly dragged before Sékou Touré and the Bureau politique!”

Tierno S. Bah


Dianne White Oyler
A cultural revolution in Africa:
literacy in the Republic of Guinea since independence

The International Journal of African History. Vol. 34, No. 3 (2001), pp. 585-600

Contents

Introduction
Guinea and Decolonization
The N’ko Alphabet
Guinea’s Cultural Revolution
The Role of Literacy in Cultural Revolution
Souleymane Kante’s Indigenous Approach to Literacy
The Contest: Sékou Touré vs. Souleymane Kanté
Conclusion

Introduction

At independence most African nations attempted a process of decolonization in the three spheres of European imperialism: political, economic, and cultural. While progress in the political and economic arenas is apparent decolonization of the cultural area is much harder to define because European cultural impositions had usurped the areas of language, socialization through education, and technology from simple writing to electronic media. However, the approach of the Republic of Guinea to cultural decolonization can be analyzed in light of the more formal “Cultural Revolution” launched by its independence leader Sékou Touré in 1958 as a policy of the First Republic.

Erratum. — That program’s official name and acronym were “La révolution culturelle socialiste” and RCS, respectively. And it was not launched in 1958. To the contrary, it was declared ten years later at the improvised Conseil national de la révolution held in Kankan in 1968. — T.S. Bah

Touré’s objective was to validate the indigenous cultures that had been denigrated by the Europeans while at the same time creating a Guinean national consciousness 1. In other words, Touré launched a countrywide campaign to recapture indigenous culture by formally focusing on language and education. His specific intent was to validate indigenous culture by using maternal language education to achieve better control of European science and technology. This action, he believed, would lead Guinea into creating global economic partnerships within the modem world’s economy.

An unanticipated consequence of Touré’s campaign, however, was the cultural awakening of the Maninka speakers who consider themselves to be the direct descendants of the ancient empire of Mali. Although dispersed through the countries of West Africa (including Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria), the Maninka speakers constitute roughly 40 percent of Guinea’s population. Many of them live in the region of Haute-Guinée, which makes up about two-fifths of Guinea’s territory.

Errata. — (1) Ms. Oyler shows here the first sign of her sole reliance on verbal informants at the exclusion of available written sources. Thus it is plain wrong for her and her informers to state that Sékou Touré did not anticipate a “Maninka cultural awakening.” Actually, he was an hands-on president who exhausted himself micro-managing every aspect of social and, indeed, family and personal life. Accordingly, it’s just valid to speak of a social movement like the N’ko, that he would not have predicted, and more or less tolerated.
(2) In percentage the Maninka demography comes second to the Fulɓe (Peul, Fula, Fulani) in Guinea. The former stands at approximately 35% of the population while the Fulɓe actually hold 40%. Given their respective size, the two groups weigh heavily in the political sphere. — T.S. Bah

The Maninka cultural revolution that began within Touré’s larger “Cultural Revolultion” continues today in the Second Republic of Lansana Conté, which began in 1984. The cultural revival of the Maninka language, its oral literature, and its connection to the heroic/historic past has been juxtaposed to any official policy of creating a Guinean national consciousness since 1958.

Note. —Guinea’s quest for “national consciousness” in the wake of the independence declaration stemmed from the heritage of all 16 ethnic communities, not that of the Maninka alone, especially in the first decade of the republic. Take for instance, the various musical traditions — either from sizable groups, like the Kisi of Forest Guinea with the Kebendo danse and song (see my review of Sia Tolno’s My Life album, or fom minorities, such the Koniagui (Unyëy) of Koundara with the rhythm Sampacthe. Everyone  contributed and enjoyed the celebration of the birth of the new nation. Alas, the euphoria lasted no more than two years!
— T.S. Bah

This article specifically addresses Guinea’s internal revolt against European cultural imperialism as evidenced in the issues of language and literacy that have dominated the political landscape in post-1958 Guinea 2.

Note. — This passage reads like a militant statement. But it lacks a specific to lend it credence. Where, when, how, and who staged the so-called revolt? How was it actually expressed? — T.S. Bah

It further addresses the concept of maternal language learning that became central to decolonization, and particularly the policy Sékou Touré developed and implemented with the support of UNESCO—the National Language Program (1968-1984) 3.

Erratum. — Beginning in the late 1960 UNESCO assisted the cultural policy of the Sékou Touré regime. However, the first illiteracy campaign was supported by the government of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, in 1964-66. — T.S. Bah

More importantly, however, the article documents one result of Touré’s program that has acquired a life of its own outside government control, a grassroots literacy movement that centers on an alphabet called N’ko. The dissemination of N’ko shows the growth of a literacy movement that is currently spreading across international boundaries throughout West Africa. A salient aspect of the issue of language and literacy was the involvement of Souleymane Kanté (1922-1987), a Maninka-speaking “vernacular intellectual” who invented the N’ko alphabet in 1949. Souleymane Kanté was born in Soumankoyin-Kölönin about thirteen kilometers from Kankan. He was the son of the famous Quranic school teacher Amara Kanté. When Souleymane had finished his Quranic school education, he could read and write Arabic and translate Islamic texts. After his father’s death in 1941, Kanté left Guinea for Côte d’ Ivoire to make his fortune as an entrepreneur in a more cosmopolitan urban setting. Becoming an autodidact there, he read extensively, learned other languages, and became renowned as a scholar.

Guinea and Decolonization

Under Sékou Touré’s leadership, the Republic of Guinea ended political imperialism in 1958 when 95 percent of the voters cast a “No” vote in a referendum addressing the country’s wish to join the “French Community.” Thus began a real struggle for autonomy in the political, economic, and cultural spheres of national life.
At that time the reality of political independence meant indigenous leadership; in Guinea’s case, it also meant an inexperienced leadership. Sékou Touré’s experience offers a salient example of the under-preparation of emerging African leaders.

Note. — There is no such thing leadership preparation for independence. Colonialism meant hegemony, domination, exploitation, racisme, alienation. The colonizer did not —and would never— intend to genuinely associate the colonized in power-sharing. Read Albert Memmi’s Portrait du Colonisateur. — T.S. Bah

Possessing an eighth grade, French-style colonial education, plus a bit of training supplied by French communist trade unionists, and the experience of ten years in governmental service, Touré deliberately created an eclectic form of government that drew upon the strengths of his equally eclectic education. In the Cold War period Touré chose the political path of African Socialism and the diplomatic path of nonalignment. The type of government he called “positive neutralism” allowed him to open Guinea to all manner of foreign investment without committing himself to any specific ideology 4.
Inherent in the political independence of Guinea, however, was the problem of a revenue shortfall; France had withdrawn both its economic aid to Guinea and also its trade partnership. At the same time, Guinea lost its trade connections with many of France’s trading partners, especially among France’s NATO allies.
Guinea’s sister colonies within French West Africa (AOF) continued to trade with her unofficially, however.
As a Third World country producing raw materials to supply the First World industrial complex, Guinea produced many of the same products as other Third World nations that were constantly being encouraged to increase production. One result was a decrease in Guinea’s share of the world market, forcing the new nation to find alternative markets. With its doors closed to Western capitalist markets, Guinea became a trading partner with the Eastern bloc nations. Trade with Second World nations, however, exacerbated Guinea’s economic shortfall, as these nations were unable to purchase Guinea’s raw materials with foreign exchange, substituting instead manufactured goods. They then sold Guinea’s raw materials on the world market, thus gaining foreign exchange that improved their own economies to the detriment of Guinea’s. Although Guinea received Second World technology, she never did receive the support system that would have allowed her to maintain and expand upon that technology.

Today Guinea is one of the poorest nations in West Africa.

In the cultural sphere of Guinea’s national life, Sékou Touré opted to keep the French language; all documents would be written in French in the Roman alphabet, Guinea’s official language. It seems that Touré chose the colonial language with an eye to national unity in order to avoid the conflicts that would arise over choosing one of the twenty ethnic languages as the country’s official language.
French also served Guinea in the international marketplace where buyers and sellers were not likely to learn an African language. Guinea also continued to use the French system of education. However, university training for Guineans was now sought in First and Second World countries. Students received scholarships in the United States as well as a “free” education in the Soviet Union.

Although Touré had earlier implied that Guinea would be an Islamic state after independence, he imposed religious toleration instead in a country of Muslims, Christians, and African traditional religions; this eclecticism became one method of promoting national unity.

Note. — Since the above assertion provides no reference to  written sources, or to verifiable quotes, it appears pretty much groundless.
— T.S. Bah

Nevertheless, in the years following Guinea’s political independence, a large segment of Guinea’s Maninka-speaking population has tried to return the cultural initiative to African hands by utilizing an indigenous alphabet created by an indigenous scholar and cultural leader named Souleymane Kanté. While Sékou Touré, a Maninka-speaker himself, had encouraged Kanté in this initiative, he preferred not to allow the use of the writing system known as N’ko as a national language/writing system. Ultimately, though, Kanté’s research and promotion of learning in the maternal languages may have directly influenced Touré, who had addressed the issues of indigenous languages/writing systems as a way to reclaim African culture by implementing a National Language Program (1968-1984).

Notes. — (1) The above paragraph is too general and vague. How does the expression “large segment” translate numerically, statistically?
(2) It is hypothetical to write Souleymane Kanté “may have directly influenced” Sékou Touré’s language policy. Adverse, one can argue, the former did not inspire the latter. In the absence of any evidence from the author, I am enclined to think that Guinea’s adventurous linguistic initiatives had little to do with the efforts of Souleymane Kanté.
T.S. Bah

The N’ko Alphabet

According to informants, Souleymane Kanté created the N’ko alphabet both in response a media-based challenge 6 that Africans have no culture because they have no indigenous system of writing, and because of his growing realization that foreign writing systems could not fully express the meaning of such tonal languages as Maninka, his maternal language. Kanté responded to the allegation that “Africans have no culture” by creating an alphabet that would transcribe the twenty languages of the Mande language group as well as other tonal languages.
Thus, in his role as a “vernacular intellectual,” 7 Kanté campaigned against ignorance and illiteracy by providing a writing system that would allow his countrymen to acquire knowledge without having to depend upon outside interpretation. According to informants, he expressed the idea that Africans needed to learn their own maternal languages first, because learning in a second or third language often obfuscated the cultural meaning of the text 8. The potential for indigenous literacy would enable illiterates to read and write, even though they had been excluded from the colonial education system. Kanté devoted four years (1945-1949) to research and application, trying to write the Maninka language first in Arabic script and then in the Roman alphabet. In both cases he found that foreign alphabets could not transcribe all the tones produced by the spoken Mande languages. While still living in Cote d’Ivoire, he thus embarked on an entirely new project—the creation of a writing system that would reflect the specific characteristics of Mande languages, especially their tonality. The result was the N’ko alphabet. Having developed the alphabet, he called together children and illiterates and asked them to draw a line in the dirt; he noticed that seven out of ten drew the line from right to left 9. For that reason, he chose a right-to-left orientation. In all Mande languages the pronoun n- means “I” and the verb ko represents the verb “to say.” By choosing the name N’ko, “I say” in all Mande languages, Kanté had united speakers of Mande languages with just one phrase.

Furthermore, all Mande speakers share the heroic past recounted in the tale of Sundiata, an epic of Mande history—reflecting the cultural dominance of men of valor who say “N’ko,” the clear language of Mali (Niane, 1989:87) 10.
After Souleymane Kanté had perfected his alphabet, informants recall his becoming absorbed in creating reading materials in the N’ko script. Kanté’s lifelong passion then became the production of N’ko texts to highlight knowledge that should be written in the maternal language. Kanté worked assiduously after returningt o his native Guineai n 1958. He translated and transcribed Islamic texts and also works of history, sociology, linguistics, literature, philosophy, science, and technology. Then he wrote textbooks for teaching the N’ko alphabet, and, like Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster before him, he created a dictionary for the written form of the Maninka language. There are no dates for the translations of any of the above mentioned texts. Other than the fact that religious works were translated and transcribed first, informants are not aware of the order in which other texts were renderedi n N’ko. After hand-writing these texts, an arduous task in itself, Kanté would then create copies to give as gifts to teachers, thus encouraging N’ko literacy within the Mande community. Teachers then made these texts available to students, who in turn reproduced additional books by copying them.
Consequently, Kanté directly touched the lives of many of those who became literate in N’ko, and he was the prime mover of a type of cultural nationalism that gave people the pride of sharing a language that could stand in words and script alongside any other.

Guinea’s Cultural Revolution

When Sékou Touré called upon all Guineans to return home to help build the new nation after Guinea achieved independence in 1958, Kanté returned from Côte d’Ivoire to a new social order 11.

From the 1940’s through the 1960’s, Guinea was in the process of reinventing itself politically and culturally at the local, regional, and national levels 12.

In the midst of this cultural upheaval, nationalist leaders professed a desire to shed colonial trappings and to tap into their heroic/historic African past. Since the ethnic groups within Guinea’s national borders had never before been joined together, a nationalist rhetoric was developed that sent mixed messages about loyalty to the past. Harking back to the grandeur of an African heritage, however, also tempted each group to focus their allegiance internally rather than to a greater Guinean nationalism. At the national level, the Partie Democratique Guineen (PDG) agitated for a Guinean “national consciousness,” 13 while local ethnic groups continued the cultural re-identification process that had begun in the mid-1940s 14.

The Maninka speakers of Haute-Guinée, for example, had established the Union Manden in 1946 as a voluntary mutual aid association organized around a linguistic, ethnic, and regional base 15. That action kindled interest in the glorious Mande past.

This mutual aid association had been founded by such Maninka speaking political activists as Sékou Touré and Framoi Bérété. The association had also served as a regional political party with the ability to launch candidates in national elections, something the Maninka speakers had been unable to do in the 1945 elections.

Despite the desire of the Union Manden to give national expression to Mande discontent, it never developed beyond its regional, cultural base 16.

The conflict between Guinean nationalism and regional, ethnic/cultural nationalism continued to manifest itself throughout the First Republic, particularly in the implementation of the National Language Program (1968-1984).

The Role of Literacy in Cultural Revolution

Souleymane Kanté introduced Sékou Touré to the idea of maternal language literacy and education in 1958 17. Although Sékou Touré had praised the Mande styled alphabet, he rejected the idea of its becoming the national alphabet of Guinea 18 because he believed it could not improve written communication among Guinea’s ethnic groups, and he knew that it would also obstruct communication with the outside world 19.

Nevertheless, Touré rewarded Kanté’s scholarly achievement by honoring him with a 200,000 CFA gift from the Guinean peoplefor indigenous excellence 20. But he still refused to support or promote the alphabet unless Kanté could prove that more than half the population of Haute-Guinée used the technology 21. Touré further requested that Kanté and his family return to his home country 22.

Answering the call, Kanté went to the area of Treicheville in Abidjan, where he was met by a military truck sent overland by Touré to collect the Kanté family 23.

The Kanté family moved to Kankan where Souleymane Kanté then became a merchant who taught N’ko on the side 24. Interestingly, however, the alphabet preceded Kanté’s arrival in Kankan; many of the initial students of N’ko had been merchants who had carried the new alphabet with them along trade routes throughout Mande-speaking West Africa 25. Informant family members reminisced that Souleymane had visited them in Guinea, and that they had visited him in Côte d’Ivoire. He had taught them the alphabet, and they in turn had taught their neighbors.

Although Sékou Touré had rejected Kanté’s Mande-styled alphabet as the national alphabet, he did eventually accept the concept of maternal language education 26.

Touré is reported to have introduced Kanté to his national education minister, Barry Diawadou, and to his minister of national defense, Fodéba Keita 27.

Touré excluded Kanté from policy making sessions, however, as he worked together with his minister of ideology and information, Senainon Béhanzin, to produce the model for a maternal language program that would accommodate Guinea’s multilingual society 28. Touré’s final proposal was then submitted to the rank and file of the PDG membership at the cell level within villages and urban districts 29.

One informant from Haute-Guinée had participated as a member of the party cell at the village level voting on the proposal for teaching in the maternal language. A teacher who had also been involved in standardization the Maninka language in the Roman alphabet, this informant explained that in 1958 Guinea was struggling to regain its political, economic, and cultural independence. The country chose to free itself culturally through a National Language Program: Congress established a National Education Commission to formulate government policy, and teachers were called upon to contribute to the effort in two ways-to standardize their specific, spoken language in the Roman alphabet and to translate into the national languages modem scientific knowledge that had been written in French. Finally, the government intended to use its publishing house, Imprimerie Patrice Lumumba, to print textbooks for the project 30.

Informants who had participated in implementing these educational reforms reminisced about the rationale behind the new policy. Literacy acquisition in French had been discarded as too complicated a procedure, as students would have had to learn both a new alphabet and a new language. The process would be simplified if people first learned a new alphabet to which they could apply the familiarm aternall anguage 31. The government established two autonomous agencies to deal with the National Language Program, the Institut de Recherche Linguistique Appliquée (IRLA) and the Service National de l’Alphabétisation (SNA) 32.
Eight of the twenty different languages spoken in Guinea were selected on the basis of the numbers of people using them as a primary or secondary language:

Maninka, Susu, Pular, Kissi, Guerzé (Kpelle), Tome (Loma), Oneyan, and Wamey.

Each either was or would become a lingua franca in its region or sub-region. Although Mande languages were widely used in all four regions, the Maninka form was selected to be the dominant language to be taught only in Haute-Guinée. According to the National Language Program, an illiterate adult Mande-speaking family in Kankan would be taught the Maninka language written in the Roman alphabet; adults would be taught at work while children would be taught at school. Likewise, a Pular-speaking family living in Kankan would have the same experience; even though they were non-Mande speakers, the language of instruction would be Maninka 33.
Financial constraints delayed the immediate implementation of the National Language Program 34. The regional education directors for Haute-Guinée believed that the infrastructure did not exist for a massive assault on illiteracy; despite the government’s commitment to provide free public primary education, it had failed to anticipate the additional funds necessary to generate materials written in the newly formulated and standardized national languages 35. Teachers themselves had to finance the standardization of the national languages by giving their time to the endeavor. In 1965 Touré applied for and received UNESCO funding for a maternal language education program called “Langue Nationale,” which the government implemented in 1967 36. UNESCO sent experts to assist the Guinean government in standardizing local languages in the Roman alphabet 37. Although the preparation for the National Language Program had begun in 1959, the actual campaign for adults did not begin in 1967, and in 1968 the campaign entered the schools. Both programs were associated with Sdkou Touré’s larger social program, “La Révolution Culturelle Socialiste.” 38
The reforms implemented in 1968 consisted of two coexisting educational tracks—one for schools and one for adults and school leavers. From 1968 to 1984 students in the public elementary schools were taught all subjects in the maternal language 39. During the First Cycle, in grades one through three, the language of instruction was the maternal language 40. At grade four, they were introduced to an academic course in French, which they continued each year through grade six. Academic subjects were still taught in the maternal language. In the Second Cycle, affecting the lower secondary grades seven through nine, students continued the program with an academic course in French and with the maternal language as the language of instruction. To advance to the upper secondary level, students had to pass an exam, the Brevet Elémentaire du Second Cycle Technique. During the Third Cycle, students experienced a change in the language of instruction, and the language of instruction at the lycée gradually became French 41. To be admitted to the university level—the Fourth Cycle—students had to pass the exam for the Baccalauréat Unique.

In 1973 the Ministry of Education added a thirteenth grade that bridged the third and fourth cycles, and exams were administered at the end of the thirteenth level 42. The second track consisted of adults and school leavers who were given the opportunity to acquire literacy (alphabétisation) by attending literacy programs in the maternal language before or after work either at their places of employment or at schools after the normal school day 43.

In preparation for the 1968 implementation of the National Language Program, each ethnic group was charged with standardizing the spoken language into a written form in the Roman alphabet. Educators in Kankan, the capital of Mande-speaking Haute-Guinée, looked for people who possessed a rich vocabulary and who were generally well informed who could participate in translating the diverse curricula into the maternal language.

It was then that the committee invited Souleymane Kanté to participate in the standardization process 44. They considered him an expert because while inventing the N’ko alphabet he had spent years trying to find the best way to write the Mande languages in the Roman alphabet. Kanté agreed to participate unofficially in the project.

Souleymane Kanté’s Indigenous Approach to Literacy

Although Souleymane Kanté assisted the government with the standardization of his maternal language, Maninka, he did not abandon his own literacy program.
Kanté disapproved of Touré’s National Language Program because it depended upon a foreign alphabet and on foreign constructions. In fact, he held that if there were to be a cultural revolution that drew upon the African past, then African cultural forms should be its foundation. Kanté’s goal was to control Mande and modern knowledge through the use of a Mande language and literacy program. He thus offered an indigenous alternative to the official National Language Program. The two literacy initiatives, he believed, were not mutually exclusive.
Touré’s state-funded literacy campaign dominated the formal education scene, drawing upon the existing infrastructure, its curricula and its personnel. Kanté is remembered as having taught N’ko in the marketplace. He had taught the members of his own extended family and had recommended that others do the same 45. The “each one teach one” policy was actually a recommendation for each person to teach at least seven others. Informants recalled that Kanté attracted many followers by demonstrating N’ko at social functions, such as funerals,  where he opened his Qur’an written in N’ko and read the Word of God 46. Kanté suggested that everyone should learn N’ko and that those who refused would later regret their error. Kanté’s literacy movement slowly gained support as it operated on the fringes in an informal educational environment that paralleled Touré’s state system. Kanté’s movement possessed no infrastructure, enjoyed no financial assistance, had no texts except the ones students copied for themselves. The engine that powered the movement was a person’s desire to repossess Mande culture by controlling knowledge through Mande language and literacy.
Teachers were the key to this grassroots movement. Some teachers were drawn from the existing state-funded pool of personnel. Others were businessmen and workers who taught N’ko at their businesses or in their homes. Most in the N’ko teaching force contributed their time without remuneration. In some cases the students’ families gave gifts to their teachers at the end of the service in order to help support the teacher or the school. The process of learning N’ko took about four months. Each N’ko teacher could teach three groups per year. In the beginning,  students were mostly adults, who later saw to it that their children were also educated in N’ko. Armed with a blackboard, a tripod, and a piece of chalk, the N’ko teachers employed a methodology similar to that of Quranic school—memorization, imitation, and utilization. Students would congregate at the compound of a teacher where they would copy the alphabet on slate or paper and then would use oral recitation as a tool for memorization and reinforcement. The teacher conducted the class, but students, regardless of age, had the responsibility for leading the recitations. Students who were quick and adept were recruited as assistants and eventually became teachers themselves. Students copied the texts that Kanté had translated and transcribed to produce personal or family copies. Those who became N’ko literate were well equipped to read the literature Kanté had generated, were able to communicate with others literate in N’ko, and could keep records and accounts for their businesses. Some students undertook the task of recording the oral histories of older members of their families to preserve in writing first-hand knowledge 47.

The Contest: Sékou Touré vs. Souleymane Kanté

An informal competition over the recasting of Mande culture developed as Sékou Touré and Souleymane Kanté seemed to wrestle with each other for the number of Mande speakers in Haute-Guinée who acquired literacy in the maternal language.

Maternal language literacy was the goal, but the choice of alphabet seemed to become a personal issue. Touré appeared to have the advantage because his program was heir to the already existing state program. His selection of the Roman alphabet was prudent because the alphabet was already used throughout much of the world, and local typesetting existed and was in place. While a few maternal language textbooks were published, the translation and publication of other works in the maternal languages never materialized 48. Kanté worked at a disadvantage. From the standpoint of infrastructure and funding, he lacked resources, and N’ko required an innovation in typesetting that was not locally available. Yet he continued to produce handwritten translated texts in the N’ko alphabet. These translations systematically spread throughoutt he Mande-speaking community as students hand copied them so as to have their personal copies for reading and teaching.

The two Mande-speaking competitors had developed opposing teaching methodologies. Sékou Touré imposed the Roman alphabet upon children and adults through the state-supported literacy program. The concept of a National Language Program had been supported by the PDG rank and file. But some educators observed that the program had a negative effect on learning French as an international language of diplomacy and economics 49. Because the educational system was universal only at the elementary level, students who failed the exams at the end of the Second Cycle never had the opportunity to continue French language instruction. In addition, adults who were acquiring literacy through the program never had the opportunity to learn French because they were limited to the maternal language. The goal was national literacy, and children and adults were becoming literate in the maternal language, limiting them to regional participation. By using the educational process in this manner, the government had effectively restricted the numbers of participants in the national arena, and, by so doing, restricted access to full knowledge of the French language itself.
On the other hand, Souleymane Kanté had attracted students by focusing upon Mande culture. Adults and children learned the alphabet voluntarily because it was culturally important to them. Having learned the alphabet, students used it for correspondence and business, and they amassed handwritten translations of religious, historical, and modem scientific texts. The significance of N’ko literacy led to a personal understanding of a wide variety of knowledge. Learning N’ko became a form of self-improvement because it was not promoted as the acquisition of knowledge for advancement in the political or economic structure of the nation. Touré had clung to a limited vision—that of the European—conceived nation-state that while striving for a Guinean national consciousness could not leave the designated borders of the Guinean nation. Kanté’s arena had been regional; he created a Mande consciousness that eventually drew together Guinea’s resident Mande speakers of Haute-Guinée and Guinée Forestière, and, more importantly, ultimately connected all the Mande speakers in West Africa.
Although Touré’s motives cannot be wholly known 50, in formants have characterized his relationship to Kanté based on conversations with either or both men and through the events the informants themselves witnessed.

It appears that in the 1960s Touré had hoped to isolate Kanté from his work by coopting him into the National Language Program. Kanté would not abandon his own work, however, and continued teaching the N’ko alphabet and translating texts into N’ko. Informants relate that Kanté wrote out texts by hand and used a Renault duplication machine capable of producing books of ten to twenty pages. In 1971 when the machine broke down, he journeyed to Conakry to ask the government for financial assistance in establishing a larger-scale print shop capable of duplicating works such as the N’ko version of the Qur’an 51.

In Conakry, Al-Hajj Kabiné Diané helped Kanté as much as he could by printing small runs at this Arabic printing press 52. Touré did nominate Kanté to the Conseil Islamique National (charged with defending Islam and its principles in Guinea) 53, but Kanté declined the appointment, saying that the committee meetings would interfere with the time he needed to translate texts into N’ko 54. Making his home in Conakry in the early 1970s, Kanté continued to write documents by hand; then he took them to Al-Hajj Kabiné Diané for printing 55. Kanté sold the printed manuscripts for a small sum in order to promote further literacy in N’ko in all segments of the community 56.

His family and friends reported that the relationship between the two men continued to deteriorate until Sékou Touré’s death in 1984. Thus, from the late 1970s through mid-1980’s, Kanté was forced to leave Guinea on several occasions and to reside in neighboring countries under the threat of being arrested or killed by Touré’s government 57.

During this self-imposed exile, Souleymane Kanté continued to translate works into N’ko and to compile a text of Mande healing arts 58.

Sékou Touré’s National Language Program from 1968 to 1984 had produced people who were literate in their spoken maternal language.

Under the leadership of Lansana Conté, the Second Republic implemented a new language program: French became the single national language and the language of literacy.
Although maternal language radio programs occurred during the Touré regime, the new government has systematically supported learning in the maternal languages by producing radio and television programs of cultural and news content spoken in only three of Guinea’s maternal languages—Susu, Maninka, and Pular.

After his return home to Guinea in 1985, Souleymane Kanté lived in Conakry teaching his alphabet until his death from diabetes in 1987 59.

Statistics on the number of adults and children who know how to read and write N’ko have not been established.

Under Kanté’s direction, his disciples established the Association pour l’Impulsion et la Coordination des Recherches sur l’Alphabet N’ko (ICRA-N’KO) in 1986. ICRA-N’KO was officially sanctioned by the government in 1991 as a non-governmental organization (NGO) 60. Only since then has the group actively begun to compile statistics based on the current number of students enrolled in N’ko classes. Each teacher turns in a list of students to the local ICRAN’KO association, which records the numbers and sends them on to the Service National d’Alphabétisation to be included in the year’s literacy statistics.

By looking at the numerical fragments, it can be seen that the number of students in N’ko classes had steadily increased from 1989 to 1994; however, it is not possible to say whether or not this was the result of an increase in the number of students or the result of better record-keeping.

A literacy survey of Kankan I conducted in 1994 presents the first literacy statistics for the city 61. Canvassers interviewed each household about the languages spoken and about the alphabets used to transcribe those languages. One would expect a competitive percentage of those who were able to read and write the Maninka language in the Roman alphabet after sixteen years of Touré’s National Language Program.

The results of the survey are enlightening because they show that only 3.1 percent of the 128,000—plus indigenous inhabitants (men, women, and children above the age of five) knew how to read and write in French, while 8.8 percent knew how to read and write N’ko 62.

Other figures show that among the people of Kankan, 8.5 percent could read Arabic and 14.1 percent could read and write French. The “langue nationale” appears to have been discarded, while the N’ko alphabet appears to be blossoming.

Kanté’s N’ko seems to have become more widely accepted in Kankan. Thus the ultimate advantage seems to lie with Kanté’s approach rather than Touré’s.

Conclusion

Since independence the Maninka speakers of Guinea have struggled against what they perceived to be Western cultural imperialism in the area of language and literacy. As a conflict within the nation-state, it reflects the ongoing struggle for autonomy. Being literate in N’ko has become an important part of the current Mande cultural revival because the possession of N’ko signifies the reclaiming of the area’s cultural integrity.

The N’ko alphabet has offered Maninka speakers a renewed capacity to make culturally significant choices, and they seem to have chosen N’ko as an indigenous alternative to the education of language/literacy promoted by the Western-influenced Mande speakers who have controlled government and religion since Touré’s time.

Persons seeking to learn N’ko have steadily created enthusiasm and support for learning the alphabet, which has spread from Mande-speaking Kankan both to other Mande speakers throughout Guinea and also to Mande speakers residing in neighboring states.

* This article is based on the research in Kankan, Republic of Guinea in 1991, 1992-1993, and 1994, with the assistance of a Fulbright Dissertation Research Scholarship for 1992-1993 and a West African Research Association Fellowship for the summer of 1994.

Notes
1. In the same year in the British colony of Nigeria, Chinua Achebe also validated indigenous culture by writing his classic novel, Things Fall Apart (1958).
2. It is difficult to divorce the broader issues of Guinea’s “Cultural Revolution” from ethnic ones, however, particularly the view that during the Touré and Conté periods (1958-1984 and 1984 to the present, respectively), Maninka speakers may have been progressively disfranchised from the nation’s political process. Touré did not empower all Maninka speakers but gave preference to the ones from his own area of Faranah. Conté is a Susu speaker who has systematically alienated the Maninka speakers since taking power in 1984. However, his support of the Maninka based grassroots literacy movement might be an attempt to change this.
3. Sékou Touré’s archival documents, including personal papers and correspondence, were either destroyed or hidden after his death. Consequently, there are no currently existing archives of the First Republic and the papers that are hidden are inaccessible. With regard to the personal relationship between Sékou Touré and Souleymane Kanté, interviews provide some insights.
4. André Lewin, La Guinée: [Que Sais-je?] (Paris, 1984), 67.
5. By 1990 there were approximately 16 million speakers of the 20 languages classified as Mande, radiating out from the Mande heartland across the borders of ten West African countries. The Maninka speakers of Guinea reside in the region of Upper Guinea adjacent to the Mande heartland, which lies just across Guinea’s border with Mali.
6. Informants explained that Kanté accepted a 1944 challenge posed by the Lebanese journalist Kamal Marwa in an Arabic-language publication, Nahnu fi Afrikiya [We Are in Africa]. Marwa argued that Africans were inferior because they possessed no indigenous written form of communication. His statement that “African voices [languages] are like those of the birds, impossible to transcribe” reflected the prevailing views of many colonial Europeans. Although the journalist acknowledged that the Vai had created a syllabary, he discounted its cultural relevancy because he deemed it incomplete. Personal Interviews 08 in Karifamoriah, 46 in Kankan, and 70 in Conakry, 1993. To protect the identity of the informant or informants, interview citations include only the interview number, date, and location. The informants are equally divided between N’ko practitioners and those outside the N’ko community, some of whom have never heard of the alphabet. All interviews took place with the author and research assistant in in Guinea unless otherwise indicated. Interviews were conducted randomly as informants were available, or as travel arrangements could be made I have in my possession the audiotapes in Maninka and the written translations in French.
7. See Steven Feierman’s stimulating use of the term in Peasant Intellectuals: Anthropology and History in Tanzania (Madison, 1990).
8. Group Interview 18, 5 April 1993, Balandou, Guinea. Kanté emphasizes the integration of local knowledge with foreign knowledge by preserving both in the maternal language in a script that he himself creates. For that reason, one should characterize him as a vernacular intellectual.
9. Interviews 62 (14 July 1993) and 70 (18 July 1993), in Conakry, and Interview 09, 11 March 1993, Kankan. Souleymane Kanté’s experiments, reinforced by his acquisition of Arabic literacy as an Islamic scholar, were responsible for the selection of this right to left orientation. It might also have been a political statement rejecting African deculturation by Europeans.
10. Interview 70, 8 July 1993, Conakry. It is evident that this informant associates Kanté with his own ethnic pride in the heroic/historic Mande past as descendants of the ancient kingdom of Mali.
11. Odile Goerg, “La Guinée,” in Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch with Odile Goerg, L’Afrique Occidentale au temps des Français Colonisateurs et Colonisé (c. 1860-1960) (Paris, 1992), 365.
12. R.W. Johnson, “Guinea,” in John Dunn, ed., West Africa States, Failure and Promise A Study in Comparative Politics (Cambridge, 1978), 38.
13. Defined by Victor Du Bois as “a feeling among the citizens of the young republic that their destiny is somehow linked to that of other peoples with whom in the past they have never shared a sense of kinship or identity.” Du Bois, “Guinea,” in James S. Coleman and Carl. Rosberg, Jr.,e ds., Political Parties and National Integration in Tropical Africa (Berkeley, 1964), 199.
14. Ibid., 186.
15. Ruth Schachter Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-speaking West Africa (Oxford, 1964), 224.
16. Jean Suret-Canale, La République de Guinée (Paris, 1970), 144.
17. In Interview 60, 9 July 1993, in Conakry, the informant said that as a Mande speaker himself, Sékou Touré sincerely admired Kanté’s invention but that he was a political man wanting to promote national unity. In Interview 80, 20 July 1994, in Conakry, a personal friend of Touré said that the latter wanted to support N’ko but that the other members of the Political Bureau, and his cabinet, did not.
18. Choosing Mande as the national language or even institutionalizing the Mande-styled alphabet for orthography would have caused dissension between Mande speakers and the other ethnic groups in Guinea. Furthermore, while Mande speakers could write the Mande language in N’ko, Susu speakers could write the Susu language in N’ko, and Pular speakers could write the Pular language in N’ko, they would not be able to read each other’s texts; although the script was the same, the languages would not be mutually intelligible. The former regional director of education in Kankan commented that the rejection of Kanté’s alphabet was divisive among the leaders of Touré’s government. Interview 64, 64, 15 July 1993, in Conakry.
19. Interview 09, 11 March 1993, in Kankan; Interview 60, 9 July 1993, in Conakry; Interview 68, 7 July 1993, in Conakry; Interview 80, 20 July 1994, in Conakry; Interview 59, 28 June 1993, in Kankan; and Group Interview 84, 15 August 1994, in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
20. In Group Interview 43, 18 May 1993, in Kankan, one informant stated that Sékou Touré had promised Souleymane Kanté that he would build a school for N’ko.
21. Interview 51, 22 June 1993, in Djankana; Interview 59, 28, June 1993, in Kankan.
22. There is some confusion about the manner in which this occurred. Some informants have said that Sékou Touré sought out Souleymane Kantd in Abidjan after hearing about the alphabet through the grapevine. Interview 51, 22 June 1993, in Djankana. Others insisted that Souleymane Kanté went on his own to Conakry to present the alphabet to Touré. Interview 59, 28 June 1993, in Kankan. One informant claimed to have taught Sékou Touré N’ko, after which Touré told the informant to invite Kanté to visit him in Conakry. Interview 80, 20 July 1994, in Conakry. Regardless of who initiated the interview, informants concur on the rest of the story. In Interview 81, 9 August 1994, in Conakry, the informant reasserted the claim that the informant in Interview 80 had in fact taught N’ko to Sékou Touré, but that Sékou abandoned his studies when the political arena heated up. In Group Interview 84, 15 August 1994, in Abidjan, we visited the house where the Kanté family shared a room and spoke with neighbors who witnessed the military truck moving the family back to Guinea.
23. Interview 51, 22 June 1993, in Djankana.
24. According to the informants in Group Interview 08, 8 March 1993, in Karifamoriah, at the time only Maninka-speaking long-distance traders were merchants in Abidjan. When the exploitation of the Sefadou diamond mines in Sierra Leone began, many of these merchants carried the ability to write and teach N’ko with them into the new marketplace.
25. Prior to independence, many Guineans were dispersed throughout West Africa. Some were employed by the French as bureaucrats, teachers, or as railroad transportation workers. Others, such as a large number of Maninka speakers, were dispersed along West African trade routes. For example one informant’s father had been the railroad station-master at Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, in 1944. Interview 07, 6 March 1993, Kankan; Niane, Sundiata, 93.
26. Sékou Touré, “Débat culturel: Le Chef de l’Etat sur les langues africaines,” Horoya 2889, 25-31 Octobre 1981, 13-16.
27. Interview 68, 17 July 1993, in Conakry.
28. Interview 64, 15 July 1993, in Conakry.
29. Johnson, “Guinea,” 55. In Touré’s attempt to reconnect to the African past, he organized the party structure to imitate the organization of village councils. The system appeared to consult the common man on every major government decision. Ideally, the idea originated at the cell level and gained acceptance as it moved to the high-ranking leaders of the Bureau Politique National (BPN). In this case the idea originated at the top and was presented for approval to the Comités d’Unité de l’Education. Du Bois describes the organization of the PDG in his political commentary, “Guinea,” 200-205. UNESCO, The Experimental World Literacy Programme: A Critical Assessment (Paris, 1976), 26-30.
30. Interview 34, 10 May 1993, in Kankan, and Interview 55, 24 June 1993, in Kankan.
31. Interview 64, 15 July 1993, in Conakry; Interview 60, 9 July 1993, in Conakry; and Interview 55, 24, June 1993, in Kankan.
32. Interview 66, 16 July 1993, in Conakry. The informant was a Directeur Régional de l’Education in Kankan.
33. Mohamed Lamine Sano, “Aperçu Historique sur l’Utilisation des Langues Nationales en République de Guinée,” unpublished paper (1992), 3-4.
34. Interview 64, 15 July 1993, in Conakry.
35. UNESCO, World Literacy Programme, 42.
36. Interview 64, 15, July 1993, in Conakry.
37. UNESCO considered its program separate from the government’s national campaign. Interestingly enough, the UNESCO funds were not used for a pilot project in Haute-Guinée. The program targeted 3,500 illiterate and newly literate industrial workers in Conakry and 75,000 illiterate farmers living in lower Guinea (the Susu language), middle Guinea (the Pular language), and the forest region (the Kissi, Guerzé, and Toma languages). UNESCO, World Literacy Programme, 42-43.
38. Interview 64, 15 July 1993, in Conakry; Group Interview 46, 19 June 1993, in Kankan; and Interview 55, 24 June 1993, in Kankan. See Ministère du Domaine de l’Education et de la Culture, La Reforme de l’Enseignement en Republique de Guinée Novembre 1958-Mai 1977 (Conakry, 1977), 6-8.
39. Kamori Traoré, “Guinée,” in Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow, ed., Langues et Politiques de Langues en Afrique Noire: l’Experience de l’UNESCO (Paris, 1976), 265.
40. Interview 60, 9 July 1993, in Conakry.
41. Ministry of Education and Culture, Cultural Policy in the Revolutionary People’s Republic of Guinea (Paris, 1979), 36.
42. Ibid., 9-10.
43. Interviews 34 and 55, 10 May 1993 and 24 June 1993, respectively in Kankan were with one informant.
44. Interviews 34 (10 May 1993) and 55 (24 June 1993), in Kankan.
45. Souleymane Kante’s recommendations were that each person should teach seven other people. Group Interview, 08, 8 March 1993, in Karifamoriah. In Interview 05, 3 March 1993, in Kankan, the informant said that the instructions were to teach the family, so he taught all of his children.
46. Interview 60, 9 July 1993, in Conakry.
47. Those who were literate in N’ko were spoken of as preserving for posterity the oral histories of elders. Interview 05, 3 March 1993, in Kankan.
48. Secretariat d’Etat à l’Idéologie-Service National d’Alphabétisation, Sori ni Mariama (Teheran, n.d.) and Académie des Langues Conakry, Maninkakan Sariya, Grammaire Maninka 2e et 3e cycle (Conakry, 1980) are examples of texts produced for the literacy program.
49. Interview 66, 16 July 1993, in Conakry.
50. According to this informant, the government could not fight the N’ko alphabet directly. It was necessary to formulate a political strategy to eliminate N’ko, either to isolate the creator so that he would abandon it or to exile him so that the population would forget about it. Interview 59, 28 June 1993, in Kankan. In Interview 68, 17 July 1993, in Conakry, the informant stated that the government used Kanté in the National Language Program because he was the only one who could translate all of the necessary terminologies.
51. A local merchant, Sékou Diané, is remembered as having given Souleymane Kanté money to buy this machine in Abidjan. Interview 29, 3 May 1993, and Interview 49, 20 June 1993, in Kankan; Interview 68, 17 July 1993, in Conakry.
52. Interview 82, 10 August 1994, in Conakry. El Hadj Kabiné Diané was a prominent businessman from Kankan who also owned a business in Conakry and was a part of the National Islamic Council.
53. In Interview 09, 11 March1 993, in Kankan, the informant established the date as 1973.
54. Interview 62, 14 July1 993, in Conakry.
55. Ibid.; and Interview 32, 8 May 1993, in Kankan.
56. Interview 32, 8 May 1993, in Kankan.
57. Interview 80, 20 July 1994, in Conakry, the informants described Touré as being troubled by leadership problems he was experiencing with Guinea’s intellectuals. In Interview 59, 28 June 1993, in Kankan, the informant told a story he heard from Souleymane Kanté: The government had supplied Kanté with transportation to Romania for treatment of his diabetes in 1974. Assisting the Guinean government, th e Romanian government institutionalized Kanté in a psychiatric facility, where an attempt was made on his life by lethal injection. Kanté refused the treatment and escaped death. Kanté convinced the doctors to release him, since, in the end, his condition itself was a death sentence. Later in Conakry he met the person who had been the Guinean ambassador to Romania at the time of his incarceration, wh o thought that Kanté was deceased. Interview 31, 8 May 1993, in Kankan, Interview 62, 14 July 1993, in Conakry and Group Interview 46, 19 June 1993, in Kankan.
58. Interview 31, 8 May 1993, in Kankan, Interview 51, 22 June 1993, in Djankana; Interview 62, 14 July 1993, in Conakry; Interview 59, 28 June 1993, in Kankan; Group Interview 30, 4 May 1993, in Bamako. Group Interview 84, 15 August 1994, in Abidjan, the informants recalled that Kanté told them that he had returned to Côte d’Ivoire in political exile and said that Touré was jealous of his invention. Theye estimated that he spent eight years with them in Côte d’Ivoire, two years in Bouake and six in Abidjan, interspersed with trips to Bamako.
59. Interview 62, 14, July 1993, in Conakry.
60. Interview 68, 17 July 1993, in Conakry, and Interview 69, July 18, 1993, in Conakry.
61. Literacy Survey of Kankan, 4 August 1994. There are no complete literacy statistics at any level. The numbers represented in the survey offer a beginning point at which literacy statistics can be assessed and can be later measured in percentages. I conducted another Literacy Survey of Kankan in July 2000. When I have finished entering the data, I will be able to determine growth in the numbers who are literate in N’ko over the last six years.
62. The literacy survey showed that 14.1 percent of the population knew how to read and write French, 8.5 percent of the population knew how to read and write Arabic, 8.8 percent of the population knew how to read and write [the Maninka language] in N’ko, and 3.1 percent of the population knew how to read and write [Maninka] in the Roman alphabet [Langue Nationale].

Simandou. The bribery saga reaches new peaks

Lurid bribery revelations led the government of Guinea to confiscate world-beating iron ore reserves from junior mining company BSG Resources in 2014. So when bitter rival Rio Tinto, owner of a neighbouring concession, detonated a scandal over its own secretive payments, BSGR boss Beny Steinmetz was cock-a-hoop.

Beny Steinmetz, BSGR
Beny Steinmetz, BSGR

Developments in this sordid tale have kept the mining world agog. The concessions high in West Africa’s Simandou Mountains have yet to deliver a single tonne of ore but continues to yield an unending stream of dirt—and to provide object lessons to an industry with a sorry history of dodgy deals.

Details of Rio’s relationship with François Polge de Combret, a French banker and university friend of Guinea’s president have been explosive—and have already cost two top executives their jobs [paywall]. They prove the Guinean government singled BSGR out unfairly, says Beny Steinmetz, the billionaire diamond magnate behind the company.

“It’s a big conspiracy against us,” said Steinmetz, who is under criminal investigation in at least three countries over the Guinea bribery. “They tried to paint themselves as nice and clean but they never wanted to develop one tonne of iron ore. We are the good guys.”

François de Combret
François de Combret

But emails and court testimony seen by Global Witness show it wasn’t just Rio tangling with de Combret: BSGR had its own relationship with the president’s confidant—a potentially lucrative arrangement for the banker had he succeeded in helping Steinmetz retain the asset.

Global Witness first exposed BSGR’s Guinea imbroglio in 2012. The latest revelations are a reminder that no one has come well out of the Simandou saga—least of all the Guinean people, whose country clings obstinately to the bottom end of almost every development index despite the untold riches beneath its soil.

But let’s start at the beginning.

Rio had been sitting on Simandou for over a decade. The colossal ore trove promised to be a game-changer in the global market. But Simandou is remote and mountainous, and Guinea’s infrastructure is poor. For Rio, conditions were never quite right and as the Simandou project languished, Guinean frustration mounted.

In July 2008, matters came to a head. The government abruptly cancelled half of Rio’s Simandou rights, handing them to BSGR. Steinmetz’s relative inexperience with big mining projects didn’t prevent him from cashing in: within 18 months BSGR had sold 51 per cent of its holding to Brazilian mining giant Vale for $2.5 billion—twice Guinea’s entire budget at the time.

Only later did it emerge that there was more to the deal than simply getting a stalled project off the buffers. In 2013 Global Witness revealed a massive bribery scheme: BSGR had signed contracts promising one of the wives of Guinea’s ailing dictator, Lansana Conte, millions for her influence to get the mine. The following year, the newly elected democratic government stripped BSGR of its rights after an inquiry. Authorities in Israel, Switzerland and the US have launched criminal investigations.

Meanwhile, Rio had its own problems. The Anglo-Australian company was still dragging its feet in developing its remaining half of Simandou and by mid-2011 the Guinean government was threatening to take that too. It took months of talks, promises to build a port and a railway, $700 million and – according to the leaked emails – the services of François Polge de Combret for Rio to keep a grip on its Guinean assets.

Guinean authorities have raised concerns that Rio may have been paying de Combret to secretly fight its corner while he was advising the government. “It raises both legal and ethical concerns if, as media reports suggest, Mr de Combret was passing on privileged information in return for large amounts of money,” said Guinea’s mining minister. “Mr de Combret was at the time acting in a capacity that would have given him access to highly confidential information.”

De Combret didn’t come cheap: Rio negotiated his fee down to $10.5 million. With billions at stake, it seemed a bargain.

“I accept that this is a lot of money, but I also put forward that the result we achieved was significantly improved by Francois’ contribution and his very unique and unreplaceable services and closeness to the President,” wrote Rio’s head of energy and minerals Alan Davies in a May 2011 email to other executives. When that email and others were leaked online, Davies and Rio legal chief Deborah Valentine got fired.

Joy in the Steinmetz camp. “We have been fighting very powerful forces,” the billionaire told Bloomberg in a rare interview. “We all knew justice would prevail. I feel vindicated.”

Not so fast.

If Rio was in dodgy territory with de Combret, BSGR wasn’t far behind. An 11 April 2012 email seen by Global Witness suggests Steinmetz’s company had an almost identical arrangement with the French middleman. By this time BSGR was fighting off the Guinean government’s corruption inquiry. BSGR knew that a finding against it could lead to the confiscation of its blocks.

“Dear Francois,” wrote a mutual friend of de Combret and BSGR agent Frederic Cilins, who later served time in a US prison for his role in the Simandou bribery. “A matter has just been brought to my attention regarding iron ore in the area of Simandou. I don’t know the details but apparently this zone has been the subject of negotiations and of a contract with the Israeli group BSGR.”
“It seems that you know this dossier well,” the friend wrote. “Would you accept to speak with the person who brought BSGR into Guinea? The man in question is Frederic Cilins.”
“I’ll have to ask the authorisation of the President,” replied de Combret in a message forwarded to Cilins.

On November 18 2012, de Combret sent Cilins from his iPad the outlines of a hypothetical agreement to end Steinmetz’s dispute with Guinea: BSGR would hand back its 49% stake in its two  Simandou blocks, while the proceeds from selling the remaining 51% to Vale would be split between BSGR and the government. De Combret then helped arrange a meeting between Guinea, BSGR and Vale “to discuss an amicable settlement”, arbitration documents show.

Through de Combret, BSGR was “trying to explore whether a settlement with President Conde would be possible”, Steinmetz told the arbitration hearing in an affidavit. Had “efforts through M. de Combret led to the project getting back on track I would have advised BSGR to pay a fee. It would have been a very valuable contribution.”

The settlement drawn up by de Combret never materialised. In December 2016, Steinmetz was arrested in Israel over Simandou bribery payments (he was released on bail with a travel ban, though arrangements were made to fly him to Geneva for questioning by Swiss prosecutors).

Rio, for its part, took the drastic step of reporting itself to authorities in three countries, with a warning to investors that the de Combret affair “could ultimately expose the group to material financial cost”. Davies has said “there are no grounds for the termination of my employment”.

So far there have been no winners in the battle over Simandou. But in the case of BSGR, anti-corruption agencies have shown they can collaborate globally to tackle the bribery that drains billions from the world’s poorest countries.

Similar scrutiny of Rio’s payments would send a clear message to the biggest beasts of the mining world that it is time for the old ways to change.

Danie Balint-Kurt
Global Witness