Claude Rivière : un article hautement contestable

 

Pr. Claude Rivière. Ancien Doyen de la Faculté des Lettres, Conakry.
Pr. Claude Rivière. Ancien Doyen de la Faculté des Lettres, Conakry.

Investissements éducatifs en Guinée

PProfesseur de sociologie, Claude Rivière fut, dans les années 1960, doyen de la Faculté des Lettres de l’Institut Polytechnique, devenu Université de Conakry. Il est l’auteur de plusieurs ouvrages et articles sur la Guinée. Mentionnons quelques titres :

En 1965, Claude Rivière était à mi-chemin de sa carrière sur le terrain en Guinée. C’est l’année de  publication de son papier intitulé “Les investissements éducatifs en République de Guinée” dans Cahiers d’études africaines. 1965(5): 20  pp. 618-634. Le texte complet est accessible sur Semantic Africa.

Lecture et réflexion faites, je trouve ce document hautement contestable. En conséquence, je prends ici le contrepied de certains passages. Et je réfute l’adéquation et la validité de l’article de Claude Rivière. Ma démarche s’articule sur deux plans : les considérations et objections générales, d’une part,  et les remarques sur des points spécifiques, d’autre part.

Considérations et objections générales

Rivière introduit l’article en ces termes :

Pour le Guinéen, la date la plus mémorable reste celle de son indépendance effective. Le 28 septembre 1958 marque en effet le tournant le plus décisif dans les destinées de sa nation qui a comme le sentiment de se relever d’un opprobre de soixante ans, puisque le 28 septembre 1898 s’effondrait l’empire Wassoulou soutenu par la résistance de l’Almamy Samory Touré, ancêtre du leader bien connu du pays : Sékou Touré.

Je reste perplexe devant le passage ci-dessus pour la raison suivante : l’auteur projette sur la Guinée de 1964-65 l’image et les sentiments que les citoyens nourissaient au lendemain du référendum du 28 septembre 1958. Mais cinq à six ans se sont écoulés entre la proclamation de la souveraineté guinéenne le 2 octobre 1958 et l’année de rédaction de cet article. Entretemps, comme on dit, beaucoup d’eau a coulé sous le pont. Et Rivière aurait réffléter une telle évolution. Hélas, au lieu de faire état de l’évolution compliquée du jeune, il se limite à évoquer l’euphorie des premières années de la république de Guinée.
Dans cette première partie, je me contenterai de rappeler le tournant crucial que l’année 1965 imprima à l’histoire politique de la Guinée. On lira donc ci-dessous quelques repères extraits de “Chronologie de la Guinée”, la section finale du Volume 8 de la biographie de Sékou Touré par André Lewin.

  • Du 7 au 13 janvier : Visite simultanée en Guinée du président du Sénégal, Léopold Sédar Senghor, et de Che Guevara, Guerillero Heroico et ministre cubain de l’économie et du commerce et d’une délégation de l’Union soviétique. Après Conakry, président Sékou Touré leur fait visiter successivement Labé, Pita et Dalaba.
  • 19 janvier : président Sékou Touré à Bamako pour présenter ses condoléances au président Modibo Keita, qui venait de perdre son père
  • 15 janvier : Doudou Thiam, ministre sénégalais des affaires étrangères, obtient à Conakry l’expulsion de Guinée des militants du Parti Africain de l’Indépendance (P.A.I.)
  • 21 janvier : une rencontre Senghor-Houphouët-Sékou Touré prévue ce jour-là est annulée, essentiellement en raison des attaques de la Guinée contre le projet de création de l’Organisation de la Communauté Africaine et Malgache (OCAM)
  • 30 janvier : Sékou Touré, Houphouët et Modibo Keita se rencontrent à Nzérékoré
  • 14-15 mars : Sékou Touré, Nkrumah, Ben Bella et Modibo Keita se retrouvent en réunion secrète à Bamako, pour parler des suites à donner à la création de l’OCAM
  • 14-22 mai : réunion de la commission mixte franco-guinéenne (créée par les accords de mai 1963). Signature d’un arrangement sur le contentieux financier franco-guinéen, dont Nabi Youla est l’un des principaux artisans.
  • 24-30 mai : Le ministre d’Etat Saïfoulaye Diallo conduit une délégation ministérielle à Brazzaville
  • 3 juin : remaniement du gouvernement
  • 5 juin : Sékou Touré fait un discours à Labé fustigeant l’OCAM, qu’il qualifie d’Organisation Commune Africaine des Menteurs, mais il loue le général de Gaulle.
  • 19 juin : à Alger, Ben Bella est renversé par le colonel Houari Boumedienne, qui forme un nouveau gouvernement le 5 juillet
  • 20 juin : le Bureau politique national exprime sa profonde consternation.
  • 21 juin : Sékou Touré envoie Keita Fodéba à Alger (via Paris)
  • 4 juillet : nomination du premier général guinéen, Noumandian Keita, chef d’état major; son adjoint Kaman Diaby est nommé colonel
  • 10 août : Sékou Touré séjourne au Caire comme invité personnel de Gamal Abdel Nasser pour assister le 10 août au mariage de sa fille.
  • 30 juillet : Keita Fodéba préside une réunion sur les menées anti-guinéennes au Sénégal. Carvalho, l’ambassadeur du Sénégal, y assiste.
  • 11-13 août : le ministre algérien des affaires étrangères, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, en visite à Conakry
  • 3 septembre : Conakry fait connaître son accord sur le rapatriement des militaires guinéens restés dans l’armée française.
  • 2 octobre : le général de Gaulle envoie un message à l’occasion de la fête de l’indépendance. Plusieurs personnalités françaises assistent à la réception donnée par l’ambassadeur de Guinée à Paris.
  • 6-8 octobre : Mennen Williams, secrétaire d’État américain adjoint pour l’Afrique, en Guinée. Le 7, il se rend avec Sékou Touré à Labé. A Conakry, il inaugure cinq génératrices thermiques fournies par l’aide américaine à la centrale électrique de la capitale.
  • 9 octobre : Mamadou Touré dit “Petit Touré”, directeur du Centre Guinéen du Commerce Intérieur, dépose les statuts d’un nouveau parti politique, le PUNG (Parti de l’Unité Nationale de Guinée), ainsi que Sékou Touré en avait encouragé le principe.
  • 11-12 octobre : arrestation de “Petit Touré”. Il sera accusé de complot en même temps que Bengaly Camara et Tounkara Jean Faraguet. Il décèdera le 31 octobre 1965 au Camp Camayenne (futur Camp Boiro). Sa veuve, Alamdia Keita, expulsée en 1970 vers son Niger natal, est décédée à Paris en 2009.
  • 29 octobre : à Paris, enlèvement de l’opposant marocain Mehdi Ben Barka. Il ne sera jamais retrouvé.
  • 1-5 novembre : le président égyptien Nasser en visite en Guinée. Il se rend à Kissidougou, Nzérékoré, Kankan et Labé.
  • 9 novembre : Radio Conakry annonce la découverte d’un complot autour de “Petit Touré”. La France, le Niger, la Haute-Volta et la Côte-d’Ivoire sont impliqués. A Paris, la France dément toute implication.
  • 12-13 novembre : Sékou Touré en Mauritanie pour le Sommet de Nouakchott des États riverains du fleuve Sénégal  — OERS : Sénégal, Mauritanie, Mali, Guinée.
  • 15 novembre: à Conakry, session du Conseil National de la Révolution. Léon Maka accuse de complot deux ministres français et l’ambassadeur de France, et met en cause Houphouët-Boigny.
  • 16 novembre: arrestation de l’ivoirien François Kamano; la Guinée dépose plainte contre la Côte d’Ivoire à l’OUA
  • 17 novembre : la Guinée demande à l’OUA d’enquêter sur les activités subversives financées par Houphouët. Le Conseil national de la Révolution établit un comité révolutionnaire permanent.
    Paris rappelle l’ambassadeur Koenig, qui a refusé sur instructions d’assister à une réunion du corps diplomatique au ministère des affaires étrangères, et notifie à l’ambassadeur de Guinée l’obligation de quitter la France. Le rappel coïncide avec la décision des autorités guinéennes d’expulser l’ambassadeur. Koenig quitte Conakry par avion dans l’après-midi.
    Le président  Maurice Yaméogo, depuis Paris, estime que les accusations guinéennes mettent en cause l’OUA et affirme que Sékou Touré veut démolir le Conseil de l’Entente. Le même jour, à Abidjan, Houphouët-Boigny dit qu’il y a une collusion entre Sékou Touré et Nkrumah pour masquer leur faillite politique, économique et humaine.
    Sur instructions personnelles du général de Gaulle à Jacques Foccart, les transferts de francs servant à rembourser le Trésor guinéen des pensions versées en monnaie nationale aux anciens combattants et pensionnés guinéens sont suspendues.
  • 18 novembre : Radio Conakry mentionne trois récentes tentatives d’assassinat contre Sékou Touré.
  • 19 novembre : remaniement ministériel. Keita Fodéba quitte le ministère de la Défense nationale et de l’Intérieur et devient ministre de l’Économie rurale et de l’Artisanat, Lansana Diané le remplace aux armées, Magassouba Moriba à l’intérieur et à la sécurité. Nabi Youla, secrétaire d’état à l’information, est nommé ambassadeur à Bonn pour la deuxième fois. Nenekhali Condetto devient secrétaire général de la Présidence. Commandant Zoumanigui, chef du cabinet militaire de Sékou Touré, devient commandant de la Gendarmerie.
  • 20 novembre : Conakry exige le départ de tous les membres de l’ambassade de France, qui quittent Conakry entre le 24 et le 26, à l’exception du chargé d’affaires Rey-Coquais.
  • 21 novembre : Senghor donne son accord pour que le Sénégal représente à Conakry les intérêts de la France. II préfère renoncer à cette mission le 25 novembre.
  • 26 novembre : le ministre de l’éducation reçoit Jean Cellier, président de l’Amicale des enseignants français en Guinée. Nombre de ces derniers veulent rester en Guinée. Sékou Touré s’adresse à eux le 29 novembre à l’Institut polytechnique.
  • 29 novembre : l’Italie donne son accord pour représenter les intérêts français en Guinée.
  • 6 décembre : Sékou Touré envoie à François Mitterrand un message de soutien pour l’élection à la présidence de la République.
  • 7 décembre : à New York, le représentant permanent de la Guinée, Achkar Marof, déclare devant le comité politique de l’Assemblée générale que la Guinée a été victime d’un complot permanent depuis 1958. Le délégué français réfute ces “calomnies incroyables”. A Conakry, Sékou Touré met en cause Jacques Foccart.
  • 8 décembre : à Rome, pendant le Concile Vatican II, Mgr Tchidimbo est reçu en audience privée par le Pape Paul VI, à qui il fait part de son souhait de quitter son poste en 1975 après le Centenaire de l’église catholique en Guinée, pour laisser son poste à un “Guinéen authentique”.
  • 19 décembre : au 2ème tour, le général de Gaulle est réélu président de la République française contre François Mitterrand (que Sékou Touré avait soutenu).
  • 31 décembre: par décret, la Guinée étend à 200 milles marins la limite de ses eaux territoriales

A suivre.

Tierno S. Bah

The Trial of Mamadou Dia, Dakar 1963. Part III

Closing ceremony of the Ouakam airforce base. Dakar, 2011. The French' flag is lowered as Senegal's flag is raised. — BlogGuinée
Closing ceremony of the Ouakam airforce base. Dakar, 2011. The French flag is lowered as Senegal’s flag is raised. — BlogGuinée

This is the third and final article in Victor Du Bois‘ coverage of the trial of former Prime minister Mamadou Dia and his four co-defendants, who were accused of attempting a coup d’état. Not surprisingly,  the author’s account is clear and informative ; his analysis is balanced and adequate. However, it appears that the argumentation falls short on at least two points: the French military base in Dakar, and references to the country’s colonial and precolonial history and culture.

The French military presence

Du Bois accurately indicates that the 8000-strong military base in Dakar served as a shield to French economic investments in Senegal and beyond. And he underscores that those interests were never threatened, in either of the two major crises that shook Senegal in the early 1960s:  the collapse of the Mali Federation in 1960 and the 1962 constitutional  crisis between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary branches of the state.
But it would be naive to think that because French troops did not patrol the streets of Dakar, their officers did not participate, behind the scenes, in the eventual defeat of the Mamadou Dia camp. After all, they had all the intelligence and logistics resources at their disposal.…
Likewise, in hindsight, France’s strong military deployment in its former colonies (Senegal, Gabon, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, etc.) was a strategic response to the Soviet Bloc in the tense Cold War era. And after that rivalry waned and ended in 1990, the Dakar air force installation  remained open for ten more years. In the end, located in the suburb of Ouakam, the former Colonel Frédéric Geille base 160 closed in 2011, pursuant to a bilateral agreement signed by presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Abdoulaye Wade.

Historical and cultural backgrounds

Du Bois was a dedicated field researcher, a perceptive analyst, an elegant writer, and an articulate and empathetic thinker on the subject of African politics. He observed closely and his publications deciphered meticulously the evolution and contradictions of the newly independent states. However, he devoted less focus on the historical and cultural background that embed them—then, now and for the foreseeable future. For instance, he refers only briefly to the Muslim clergy (marabouts, a French word derived from Arabic m’rabit, i.e. sufi, spiritual mystics and warrior monks organized in fortified convents). Yet, he acknowledges their role as power brokers. But he does not outline the brotherhood system they run to wield their influence in all aspects of life in Senegal: religion, economy, culture, politics. In fact, the main brotherhood—the Mourides, founded by Cheikh Amadou Bamba—is not mentioned at all. And only a footnote is devoted to Seydou Nour Tall, who “was flown to Podor to calm potential unrest.” But the article does not  point out that the government asked him to intervene because he was the leader (Cheikh) of the Tijaniyya, Senegal’s second most influential brotherhood. Last, Du Bois mistakenly places the geographic location of the town of Podor in Casamance, i.e. in southern Senegal, bordering the republic of Gambia. Actually, Podor is the main city in Fuuta-Tooro, in the north of the country, near Mauritania. And the visit by Cheikh Seydou Nour Tall —a descendant of Alhajji Umar Tall—was important to his Tijaniyya followers in that region, where Tukolor (Toucouleurs) are predominant. Also known as Takruri, they form an important branch of the Fulɓe/Halpular civilization.

Read  The Emergence of Black Politics in Senegal: 1900-1920
The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part I: Background of the Case.
The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part II: The Proceedings in Court, May 7, 1963

Tierno S. Bah


Victor D. Du Bois
The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part III: Aftermath of the Trial, May 7, 1963

American Universities Field Staff Reports.
West Africa Series, Vol. VI No. 8 (Senegal), pp. 1-11

Dakar, July 1963

The trial and conviction in May 1963 of former prime minister Mamadou Dia and his co-defendants on charges of attempting a coup d’état dealt a serious blow to Senegalese national solidarity. The government had been set against the National Assembly; party unity had been shattered; the citizenry had been divided; and the army had been compromised. How did the Senegalese greet the outcome of the Dia affair? What position did Senegal’s large European population take in the controversy? What were the repercussions of the trial on internal politics? Viewed in retrospect, why did the attempted coup d’état fail? What effect did the trial have on Senegal’s subsequent reconciliation with Mali? And, finally, what new problems lie in wait for Senegal as a result of this crisis?

The Reactions in Senegal

Considering the risks which the Dia trial ran of inciting antigovernment demonstrations, the Senegalese, on the whole, accepted the High Court’s judgment with equanimity. A few hundred tracts denouncing both President Léopold Senghor and Lamine Gueye, President of the National Assembly, were circulated in Dakar shortly after the trial; but there were no riots in the streets of the capital, no mass movements in the Medina to protest the Court’s harsh sentences on the defendants 1. Senegalese went about their daily business. The Dia episode seemed to pass unnoticed by the majority of the people. Indeed, one of the comic-opera aspects of the entire attempted coup d’état was that even during its height, life in Dakar went on the same as usual. Vehicular traffic rolled on without interruption, the cafés were full, and crowds queued up to go to the cinemas.

In some circles the conflict between President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia inevitably was given a racial and religious interpretation. It was alleged, for example, that President Senghor acted for European economic interests, that the European element in Senegal supported him while the African population of the country was overwhelmingly behind Prime Minister Dia. It was also claimed by some that Senghor, a Catholic, was interested in eliminating Mamadou Dia from power because he was a Muslim.

Actually, the situation was quite different. Although the President was generally regarded as more permissive toward European private enterprise than his Prime Minister, in reality, he shared many of Mr. Dia’s views on the need for state planning and a balance between private and public interests. Like Mr. Dia, President Senghor was firmly committed to a socialist form of government for Senegal. Ironically enough, President Senghor found his major political support not among the Catholic element in the cities, but among the Muslim population in the hinterland, whose leaders, the Marabouts, he has always courted. By the same token, Mamadou Dia derived his support not from his fellow Muslims (many of whom regarded him with suspicion because of his belief in a reformed Islam and his determination to diminish the power of the Marabouts) but from the urban African Catholic population who looked with favor on his progressive social policies.

The European Position in the Crisis

By and large, Senegal’s European population of 40,000 remained completely aloof from the crisis. Through the French Embassy in Dakar and consular offices in several other key cities, French residents were advised by letter to refrain from getting involved in the Dia-Senghor quarrel. This advice was generally followed.
Sensibly, French military personnel stationed in Senegal (about 8,000 strong) were kept completely out of the picture. During the critical period of December 17-18, 1962, they were confined to barracks by their commanders. Not so much as a solitary French soldier was to be seen on the streets of Dakar. As neither French lives nor property were at any time threatened, there was no need for the French troops to act. The French thus showed the same sound judgment during the Senghor-Dia fray that they did during the crisis of the Mali Federation in August 1960, when they also refused to take the side of either protagonist. Had they intervened, this purely intemai quarrel might have tumed into a Franco-Senegalese conflict whose repercussions would have been felt far beyond the confines of Dakar.

Although they were not directly involved, this does not mean that the Europeans did not feel strongly for one side or the other. Their prejudices increased as the time for the trial neared. Most among them, of course, were for President Senghor, whose attachment to France they well knew and appreciated. The business community, predictably enough, was solidly behind Senghor—not so much because it was persuaded of his procapitalist tolerance, as because it knew that his allies, the 41 deputies who had originally proposed the motion of censure against the Dia govemment, had interests which coincided with its own. To both, Dia’s socialism was anathema, and his removal from power was hailed as a welcome development.

Yet it would be a mistake to conclude that all of the Europeans were for Senghor. Some were for Mamadou Dia. Particularly was this so among the so-called “technocrats,” the men who had worked directly with the former prime minister in the government. At one moment during the trial the strong feeling felt for Dia was dramatically illustrated by the appearance of François Perroux, a professor of the famed Collège de France, and one of France’ s most distinguished economists. Flying from Argentina, where he was on lecture tour, to testify as a character witness, Perroux delivered an impassioned plea on Dia’s behalf, extolling his qualities as statesman, intellectual, and humanitarian. He told of Dia’s dedication to promoting tolerance and understanding between the Muslim and Christian communities in Africa. His testimony, culminating in a fatherly embrace given to Dia, visibly moved the audience in the courtroom as few other incidents had during the trial. That one gesture, wholly ingenuous, brought into relief the divided sympathies of the French. It highlighted the anguish felt by many—Senegalese and foreigners alike—at seeing so worthy a person as Mamadou Dia in such an ignoble position.

The Attempted Coup d’Etat Viewed in Retrospect

What kept many people from siding with Mamadou Dia in the attempted coup d’état was that while they esteemed him personally, they did not sympathize with the principle of party supremacy he was supposedly defending when he undertook the actions he did against the Assembly. While the “41” who originally had moved to censure the Dia government did not inspire wide confidence either, they at least had the tactical advantage of being able to pose as defenders of a principle—the rule of law—which elicited the support of many civic-minded Senegalese. Ultimately, this proved the stronger cause.

Thus one of the major mistakes of Dia’s attorneys was that they chose to justify the actions of the defendants on grounds which could not hope to compete in respectability with the prosecution’s more virtuous claim of defending the Constitution. It was not that the defense was wrong when, in near desperation, it accused the prosecution of seeking to apply in the present case legal principles (i.e., the primacy of the Constitution over the party) not in keeping with actual political realities. It was just that this argument was useless in dispelling the popular view, now firmly embedded, that Mr. Dia had gravely erred when he took matters into his own hands, had violated the Constitution, and had precipitated the crisis which had threatened to plunge the whole nation into a bloody civil war.
Another reason that this attempted coup d’état did not succeed was that it lacked one essential ingredient which any such action requires if it is to be successful: namely, a certain minimum of popular support. This the Prime Minister simply did not have. For all the admiration he quite justifiably elicited from persons abroad, Mamadou Dia was never particularly popular in his own country. Aloof, austere, contemplative, he rarely inspired the enthusiastic response from people that the far more popular President Senghor did. Though a Muslim, he did not command the following of Senegal’s overwhelmingly Muslim population.
In part, this was because he had never solicited their support on religious grounds, but it was also because he had refused to court the powerful Marabouts, the Muslim leaders, who hold the real keys to power among Senegal’s hinterland peoples.
A further reason for his lack of success was that he was the target of popular dissatisfaction. As the government’s Prime Minister, Mr. Dia had been the author of many measures which over the years had alienated him from various groups of his countrymen. Many of these measures such as the organization of the controversial Office de Commercialisation des Arachides (OCA), or the reform of Dakar’s archaic transport system, were necessary—even indispensable—in the long-range socialist plans he envisaged for his country; but they earned him many enemies . His plans to reorganize the means of collecting and shipping peanuts—Senegal’s principal crop—directly threatened the financial security of the Marabouts, and of certain deputies (among them Théophile James, one of the judges on the High Court) who had important interests in these activities.

Prime Minister Dia could not claim the support of his country’s intellectuals either. These intellectuals, especially as represented by the students in Paris and at the University of Dakar, were not any more sympathetic with Dia than they were with President Senghor, both of whom they have always regarded as little more than pro-French collaborators. Neither man, however much he talked of African socialism or négritude, had ever been invested by them with the halo of hero-worship with which they had crowned, say, Guinea’s Sékou Touré or Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, because of the latter’s extreme nationalism and vociferous anti-colonialism. Whether Mamadou Dia, in his imprisonment, will now become the hero of this militant and articulate element of the extreme left is one of the things to watch in the months ahead. But if he does, it will be for the first time. Mr. Dia fared no better among the government functionaries, although it was among this group that he probably enjoyed his greatest popularity. As Prime Minister, he was their immediate superior, and whatever improvement in social and material standing they, as a class, have come to know over these last few years, they owe primarily to him. Although many of them sincerely believed in Dia’s “Plan” for Senegal and shared his conviction that judicious planning and a careful balancing of state and private interests could raise the general standard of living of the country, in the moment of crisis they did not come forward to aid him. Considerations of jobs and security discouraged them from embarking on any such adventurous course.

The Repercussions of the Trial on Internal Politics

The most severe repercussions of the Dia trial were felt within the Union Progressiste Sénégalaise (UPS), the ruling political party in Senegal, of which both President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia were members. Once Mamadou Dia and the other defendants were out of the way, the 41 deputies who had sponsored the censure motion quickly sought to consolidate their position. Determined to neutralize completely all of Dia’s followers, they moved first against those of their fellow deputies who had refused to go along with them on the censure vote. Aboubakry Kane and four other deputies who had defended

Dia’s actions, either in testimony before the High Court or in party councils, were expelled from the UPS. Many other deputies who had also refused to go along with the censure vote suffered a comparable fate.

By exerting pressure on local party organizations, the “41” were able to deprive most of these pro-Dia deputies of the mayoralties in their home territories which served as their bases of power. The loss of other political offices quickly followed. Within a remarkably short time the mosaic of political power in the country was completely rearranged. Twenty-nine major towns throughout the country passed into the hands of men representing the interests of the “41.”
The municipal councils of ten towns which had pro-Dia mayors were dissolved. The shift in political loyalty was especially noticeable in Senegal’s key cities. In Thiès, Ousmane N’Gom, Vice-President of the National Assembly and a key figure in the “41” clique, replaced Ibrahima Sarr, Dia’s former Minister of Development, as that city’s bigwig. In Kaolack, another “41” sympathizer, Ibrahima Seydou N’Daw, replaced Valdiodio N’Diaye, Dia’s convicted Minister of Finance, as the chief political figure. In Saint-Louis, Mayor Macadou N’Diaye, who was on his way out as a political power before the Dia-Senghor quarrel, got a new lease on life and is now firmly back in power in that important town. A similar shake-up occurred in Matam, where Mayor Fodel Kane, a Dia sympathizer, was replaced by a supporter of the “41.”

The Dia Trial and the Reconciliation with Mali

One of President Senghor’s first acts after the arrest of Mamadou Dia was to announce that Senegal wished to settle its differences with Mali. The President’s now famous remark, “Nous tendons la main au Mali” (We extend our hand to Mali) was welcomed with a sigh of relief throughout French-speaking Black Africa. It meant that at last the two former partners in the ill-fated Mali Federation were ready to close the breach that had developed between them since the collapse of the Federation three years earlier (1960).

President Senghor’s choice of this particular occasion to extend the olive branch to Mali’s President Modibo Keita gave rise to much speculation. Did it mean that Mamadou Dia’s presence as “Number 2 Man” (Prime Minister) in the Senegalese government had all along impeded the normalization of relations with Mali? Was it a move on Senghor’s part to boast his popularity at the expense of his deposed Prime Minister? Was it a reaction to internal pressures?

In all likelihood it was a combination of these three factors. At the time of the Mali Federation, Mamadou Dia was Vice-Premier to Federal Prime Minister Modibo Keita 2. Few persons familiar with the facts concerning the Mali Federation would blame Mamadou Dia any more severely than Senghor or Keita for its collapse. But in the eyes of many Malians, and in those of many Senegalese as well, Mamadou Dia was always regarded as the central figure around whom the storm broke. It was he who, as Federal Minister of Defense, had vetoed Modibo Keita’s nomination of Colonel Soumaré, a fellow Soudanese, as Chief of Staff of the Federal Armed Forces—an action which prompted Keita to divest Dia of his ministerial portfolio and even to seek his ouster as Premier of Senegal, thereby precipitating the crisis.

While Dia was very interested in and worked vigorously for a reconciliation between Mauritania and Morocco and even for a settlement between France and Guinea, he concerned himself less with the problem of righting relations with Mali. Though as an economist he was sorely aware of Senegal’s dependence on Mali, as its natural hinterland market, he sought to compensate for the loss of this market not by seeking a rapprochement with Mali, but by trying to expand trade relations with other nations.

Yet it was not Mamadou Dia’s presence in the Senegalese government that all along had impeded the resumption of normal relations with Mali. Rather it was the residue of ill-feeling and mistrust remaining between the two countries from their sad experience with the Federation that poisoned relations between them. Their conflicting stands on certain basic issues of the day, such as their membership in the rival Casablanca and Monrovia groups, their different attitudes
in the Cold War, and their opposing positions on such African problems as the Algerian War, the Congo crisis, and the existence of Mauritania, all contributed to the existing enmity. It was not the disappearance of Mamadou Dia from Senegalese politics that made a reconciliation with Mali possible. It was the resolution of these basic problems.

As the leader who initiated the rapprochement with Mali, and as the Senegalese statesman who represented his country at the recent African summit conference at Addis Ababa, Mr. Senghor, of course, will reap the benefits of this reconciliation. The settlement with Mali and the resumption of normal diplomatic and trade relations which this settlement will make possible should do much to strengthen Senghor’s position in his own country.

But President Senghor is not relying on this alone to enhance his stature, either at home or abroad. He is also taking a much more active role in African and international affairs. The strong stand he has taken on Portuguese colonialism and South African apartheid indicates a desire to prove that he can be as much a nationalist as other African leaders. His plan for organizing in the near future a form of economic union around the states of the Senegal River Basin (Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, and Guinea) points to his hope of creating a Senegalese version of the successful Council of the Entente founded by Ivory Coast President Félix Houphouët-Boigny.

Internal political considerations also made it advisable to seek a reconciliation with Mali at this time. With his own party torn from within as a result of the Dia trial, a settlement with Mali might serve as an inducement to Senegal’s opposition parties to join with the UPS in forming a sort of “national union.” The Senghor forces hope that this idea will be particularly attractive to members of the Bloc des Masses Sénégalaises (BMS) and the Parti de Regroupement Africain (PRA), two parties with which they share many political views, and which have always been in favor of mending fences with Mali.

According to a new Organic Election Law, passed on June 15, 1963, in future elections each party will put up a single list of candidates. Henceforward, the voter will cast his ballot not for individual deputies or councilors but for an entire list. Thus the party whose list gets the greatest number of votes will have all of its candidates elected to office in toto. Whatever its original intention, this scheme, enacted on the heels of the Dia trial, will work to the disadvantage of the opposition parties, none of which are allowed to campaign freely.

lt can also be expected to dissuade any of the chastised pro-Dia deputies either from forming a new party, or from joining forces with other opposition groups, as such action supposedly would gain them nothing.

Still, along with the stick there is also a carrot. The carrot in this case is that the Senghor forces are said to have offered a certain number of places for deputies and even a number of ministerial portfolios to the opposition parties if they will agree to join forces with the UPS in the December 1963 elections. This would have the advantage of presenting proof of a certain “national union,” while at the same time both preserving the dominance of the UPS and cutting the ground from under the opposition.

There is some doubt that either the BMS or the PRA will be drawn into such a scheme. Although it would unquestionably give them a voice in the government—something which they do not now have—they may feel they have more to gain by continuing to go it alone and submitting their own list of candidates in the December contests. Current dissension in the rank and file of the UPS, resulting from the Dia trial,
might just give the opposition parties the chance they have been waiting for to break the UPS’s hold on the country. In either case, the reconciliation with Mali has at least provided the opportunity for reopening the dialogue with the “loyal opposition.” It also stands as one of the UPS’s most concrete achievements since the outbreak of the Dia crisis.

The Problems Ahead

The impact of the Dia trial shook the UPS to its very foundations. The doctrine of party supremacy (primauté du parti)—the mortar which had held the party’s diverse elements together—was chipped away by the prosecution’s successful claim that this doctrine was invalid in a Senegal committed to rule by constitutional law. To what extent this doctrine, which has proved so useful in the past, can again be resorted to in the future is a key question. Having so effectively gained its repudiation at the trial, the Senghor forces may find it difficult to resuscitate it at some later date.

Equally questionable will be the UPS’ s ability to survive the bitter animosities which this trial has engendered among some of the party’s most prominent members. The severity with which the “41” have dealt with the pro-Dia deputies may have gained them their immediate goal (deposing the Dia forces from power), but it is likely that their success also carries with it the seeds of their own eventual destruction. A very real possibility now exists that the dissident deputies, unless they can be reconciled with the “41” faction, will either break entirely from the UPS to form still another party or, failing that, join forces with the major opposition groups to better challenge the conservatives who new have gained control of the party—and through the party, the country. The same holds true for many of the younger, more progressive party elements who have been alienated as a result of the Dia trial.

Recognizing that his party is faced with a major internal crisis, President Senghor’s first task must be to close the breach that has developed in party ranks since the eruption of the Dia affair. To lend vigor to his call for national unity, the President has sought to minimize the impact of Dia’s departure from Senegalese political life by keeping to Dia’s program of economic and social reforms. He hopes thereby to disprove the charge that with Dia’s disappearance from Senegal’s political scene, the country’s social revolution comes to an end. But the President’s efforts have been only partially successful, for he has shawn less willingness to openly challenge the important pressure groups in Senegalese society—the Muslim Marabouts, the transport workers, and the European businessmen—than Mamadou Dia was prepared to do to see his program through.

So long as President Senghor stays at the party’s helm, he may be able to keep the conservative elements at bay, thereby preserving something of the UPS’s progressive air. But Senghor’s popularity has also suffered from the trial. Many Senegalese hold him responsible for the Dia affair. Increasingly, he is being lumped with the “41” and becoming identified with the conservatism which this group represents.
As Senghor must now himself assume direct responsibility for such unpopular measures as the government’s present austerity program, it is only to be expected that he, too, will begin to suffer some of the slings and arrows formerly directed at Dia when he acted as the government’s chief spokesman for such measures. Hence the President’s dilemma: the greatly enhanced powers which have been conferred on him as a result of Mamadou Dia1s elimination, he owes to men whose political views and economic philosophy he does not share. Yet he now needs the support of these men just as surely as they need his and require the luster of his name. Whether a working alliance can be built up between Senghor, those of his liberal advisers remaining, and the “41” will determine how smoothly the Senegalese government will function in the days ahead.

The UPS now also faces a crisis of leadership. Thus it joins the ranks of other African states where the question of who will succeed the incumbent President poses a grave problem. The elimination from the political scene of Mamadou Dia and Valdiodio N’Diaye, two leading prospects, has significantly narrowed the range. Ousmane N’Gom, who appears to be emerging as a sort of éminence grise as a result of the Dia episode, and who therefore would seem to be a logical candidate, lacks a popular following. Moreover, N’Gom is rumored not to enjoy the President1s confidence. None of the other ministers in the present government have yet demonstrated exceptional promise. About the only real alternative to Léopold Senghor existing at the moment in Senegal is Lamine Guèye, Senghor’s once formidable political rival. Lamine Gueye still commands great respect among the nation’s electorate, particularly among Dakar’s Muslims, but his advanced age makes him an unlikely contender.

President Senghor’s chief problem at the moment is to repair the damage to national solidarity left in the wake of the Dia trial. To accomplish this he will first of all have to assert his authority over the “41” and their followers, lest he one day find that they and not he rule the country. Because of the number of people who have been alienated as a result of the trial, and because of the doubts that have been sown about the government’s willingness to pursue the Dia-initiated social and economic reforms which Senegal badly needs, a new basis of unity must be found to reconcile these individuals and to dispel such doubts. Unless this can be done, the Dia trial may not have marked an end so much as a beginning to party-government conflict.

One view which made the rounds in Dakar at the time of the Dia trial was that President Senghor wanted an open trial so that basic questions of conflict between party and government could be threshed out. If this was in fact the case, one may question the President’ s judgment in choosing a public trial as the proper means to accomplish this end. Certain political problems are more amenable to settlement in the privacy of the politicians’ smoke-filled backrooms than in the glare of the public spotlight.

We may never know just how much President Senghor himself shared the opinion of the High Court that condemned Mamadou Dia. Nor may we ever know the full story of the motives which prompted this whole sad episode in the first place. It is difficult to render justice in a political trial, and the tragedy of this particular trial was that in the end it raised more problems than it resolved. It marked an end to a fruitful partnership between two of the most brilliant leaders Africa has yet produced. If there was a winner in this trial, it was not Léopold Senghor. And if there was a loser, it was not so much Mamadou Dia as the young Republic of Senegal.

Notes
1.  At its outset the Dia affair did arouse some reaction in the hinterland. Twice during the week following Dia’s arrest, the grand Marabout, Seydou Nourou Tall, had to be flown by special government plane to Podor, in Casamance, to explain to restless Tukulor followers why Dia had been deposed from office and put under detention. The Tukulors, who number about 700,000 and constitute roughly a third of Senegal’s population, greatly esteemed Dia.
2.  Senghor, though he had not yet been named as such, was slated to become the Federation’s president.

Previous articlesThe Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part II: The Proceedings in Court, May 7, 1963
The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part I: Background of the Case

Sékou Touré : l’assassinat d’Amilcar Cabral

Ceci est le 7ème chapitre de Sékou Touré, l’homme et son régime. Lettre ouverte au Président Mitterand. Paris : Editions Berger-Levrault. 1982, 106 pages, par feu Docteur-Professeur Charles Diané. L’auteur rejoint les rangs de ceux qui affirment que Sékou Toure fut le commanditaire de l’assassinat d’Amilcar Cabral, ingénieur agronome, fondateur et dirigeant charismatique du P.A.I.G.C.
Tierno S. Bah

Dr. Prof. Charles Diané
Dr. Prof. Charles Diané

Du même auteur La FEANF et les grandes heures du mouvement syndical étudiant noir

Chapitres précédents :
Sékou Touré et son régime
Sékou Touré : Gouvernement par le Complot et le Crime
Constitution de façade, violation des Droits de l’Homme et perversion de la démocratie
Sékou Touré : pseudo-socialisme, faux anti-impérialisme

Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral (1924-1973), fondateur et secrétaire général du Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde, PAIGC.
Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral (1924-1973), fondateur et secrétaire général du Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde, PAIGC.

Nationalisme et
politique anti-nationale africaine.
L’assassinat d’Amilcar Cabral

Monsieur le Président Mitterand,
Je voudrais en venir au nationaliste que Sékou Touré est prétendu être. Nous savons trop bien, nous autres Guinéens, ce qu’il en est. Dans ce monde où l’espoir et la demande pour un mieux être son des exigences croissantes et impératives, le nationalisme se définit surtout par le nombre et la qualité des opportunités offertes au peuple pour son bien-être. Le développement et l’éducation constituent l’essentiel de ces opportunités. Et l’indépendance n’a jamais été qu’un moyen que notre peuple a acquis pour atteindre ces objectifs fondamentaux. Nous avons vu que pour tout cela Sékou Touré a trompé toutes nos espérances. De plus, malgré toutes les impostures que cache, de nos jours, le mot nationalisme, il ne signifie pas chauvinisme. Il est le contraire d’autarcie. Il aspire au progrès.

La nationalisme est devenu malheureusement pour Sékou Touré l’arbre de ses ambitions cachant mal sa forêt d’incompétence, d’errements et d’obscurantisme, Son nationalisme n’est, à l’intérieur, que le reflet de sa prétention d’en remontrer à tous en Afrique. Hélas ! Le bilan de son action montre bien qu’il lui est plus facile de détruire les citoyens et le pays que de répondre véritablement aux exigences du nationalisme. Le gâchis dont il est responsable prouve qu’il lui est plus facile de vociférer des récriminations insensées contre un ennemi imaginaire que de satisfaire les aspirations élémentaires de notre peuple.

Commandant João Bernardo Vieira et Amilcar Cabral dans les territoires libérés par le PAIGC. Les deux hommes furent assassinés à 36 ans d'intervalle, en 2009 et en 1973 respectivement. (T.S. Bah)
Commandant João Bernardo Vieira et Amilcar Cabral dans les territoires libérés par le PAIGC. Les deux hommes furent assassinés à 36 ans d’intervalle, en 2009 et en 1973 respectivement. (T.S. Bah)

En Guinée, il sévit, il tue. Il a institué un système policier qui demande à la femme de tuer le mari, au fils de cracher à la figure du père, au père de jeter l’anathème sur tous les siens. C’est la délation érigée en institution nationale. Tout cela au nom, dit-on, de son nationalisme. J’ai lu une lettre écrite par un éminent africaniste de l’Université d’Ife à une revue africaine. Cet homme, érudit dans sa matière, s’étonnait tout simplement qu’un journal africain puisse attaquer Sékou Touré ! Voilà l’imposture. Celle de pouvoir continuer à tromper l’intelligentsia africaine sur l’homme qu’il est, sur son action réelle qu’elle n’apprécie qu’à travers ses discours et les mensonges de ses émissaires. Alors que la réalité et les résultats de son action sont tout autres.

Monsieur le Président, notre échec à nous, Guinéens, c’est qu’il existe encore de par l’Afrique, des gens qui pensent que Sékou Touré représente aujourd’hui quoi que ce soit qui vaille. Des hommes qui croient encore qu’il est nationaliste. Je sais bien que nombre de ses amis qui savent pourtant bien le mal qu’il fait, ne voient en la Guinée qu’un champ d’application pour leurs idéologies stériles.

Ceux-là sont des idéalistes qui sont bien contents de trouver ailleurs que chez eux des incultes du genre de Sékou Touré pour torturer leur peuple et le conduire à la ruine et à la misère.

Les prétentions de Sékou Touré ne connaissent pas de bornes. Il croit encore pouvoir dicter sa loi à l’Afrique. Ses porte-paroles exaltés l’appelle le “Soleil de l’Afrique”. Quelle insulte ! Planqué derrière son micro, lui qui osait à peine sortir de Conakry, il s’arroge le droit et s’est fait le devoir de dénoncer la plupart de ses collègues de trahison. Alors que l’Afrique a décidé de le traiter avec le mépris et l’indifférence qu’il mérite.

Son nationalisme retranché dans sa vieille tannière branlante ose parler de paix et d’unité en Afrique. Chacun a compris qu’il s’agit de mettre l’Afrique entière sous sa botte meurtrière. Alors même qu’il distille chaque jour davantage les germes de la diversion et de la division ! Ses rapports en dents de scie avec chacun de ses voisins, ses insultes d’enfant mal élevé, ses cliquetis d’armes de va-t-en guerre croupion pour moraliser l’Afrique. Ses récriminations contre tous ses paires et ses accolades empressées avec chacun, y compris les militaires au pouvoir, qu’il a traité avec désinvolture et arrogance ; tout cela montre bien son ambition viscérale de potentat, son inconscience et sa tension permanente vers le seul pouvoir. Il n’a pas hésité, certainement au nom d’une certaine Unité Africaine, et d’un nationalisme exubérant, d’intervenir militairement chez ses voisins immédiats.

Au Libéria où il a envoyé sa troupe maintenir l’ordre et tenté de sauver le pouvoir de Tolbert.

En Sierre Léone il a remis en selle l’actuel Président Siaka Stevens. Tout commença le 20 mars 1967, lorsque le Gouverneur général de Sierra Léone chargea Siaka Stevens, vainqueur des élections de former un nouveau gouvernement. Sir Albert Margaï contestait les élections. A la suite de troubles, le 21 mars, le Général David Lansana s’empara du pouvoir après avoir arrêté les deux rivaux. Suspecté de complicité avec Albert Margaï, il est à son tour renversé par un officier supérieur. A la suite de deux autres coups d’État et pendant que l’armée détient le pouvoir, Sékou Touré récupère Siaka Stevens et fait venir quatre cent cinquante Sierre-Léonais qu’il paie et qu’il entraine à grands frais pendant six mois à Conakry sous le contrôle de son armée. Ainsi, ce qu’il n’a pu faire pour Kwame N’Krumah, intervenir directement par la force dans les affaires intérieures d’un autre pays africain, il le fait pour Siaka Stevens. Cétait plus facile.

Malheureusement pour lui, au moment où ses mercenaires sont fin prêts pour aller à la guerre civile, installer son protégé à Freetown, deux officiers subalternes rétablissent la vie démocratique et parlementaire chère aux Sierre-Léonais et remettent le pouvoir à Siaka Stevens, sans qu’il lui en ait une reconnaissance éternelle.

Le 11 septembre 1971 , deux des Mig d’occasions offerts par ses amis Russes, et qu’il utilisait pour effrayer notre peuple et espionner à l’occasion les voisins se sont écrasés à Odienné, en Côte-d’Ivoire. Il paraît qu’ils allaient de Conakry à Kankan. Il a gardé le silence trois jours pour négocier dans les couloirs avec Houphouët-Boigny, qu’il insultait la veille. Et l’on a vu cette chose extraordinaire pour ceux qui ne le connaissent pas. Le procès radiophonique de nos compatriotes dans lequel la Côte-d’lvoire était tous les jours impliquée et bassement traitée, a été arrêté au quarante-septième jours pour faire les éloges du peuple frère et remercier chaleureusement le “grand frère” Houphouët, retransmettre longuement son discours fleuve de trois heures aux pauvres militaires ivoiriens venus accompagner les cendres de ses pilotes. Et il n’a même pas compris la leçon et la gifle magistrale de celui qu’il appelait férocement, le “valet des valets de l’impérialisme”. Oh tristesse ! Voilà comment il a entamé une autre réconciliation avec Houphouët sur les cadavres de deux malheureux soldats tombés lors d’un vol d’espionnage. L’occasion précédente, c’était par ballon de football. Des matches amicaux obtenus contre la Côte-d’Ivoire avaient permis à son féal Lansana Diané d’embrasser Houphouët au Congrès de Yamoussokro. Pas pour longtemps. Les embrassades de septembre 1971 avaient pour prix la peau de nos amis Guinéens d’Abidjan. Comme ses insanités contre Senghor, ses théories contre la négritude, ses tentatives de proposer des soulèvements au Sénégal ont pour unique raison le refus de Senghor de lui livrer nos amis Guinéens de Dakar.

A Monrovia, il joue carrément au banditisme et son ambassade n’est qu’une officine de racket. En avril 1979, il envoie à Monrovia même ses soldats pour réprimer les émeutes qui ont ébranlé le régime de Tolbert.

Monsieur le Président, les hauts faits de son “nationalisme” et beaucoup d’autres du même genre cadrent très mal avec l’idée que les Africains se font de l’Afrique et des relations inter-africaines. Sékou Touré n’a-t-il du reste pas annoncé publiquement que “chaque fois qu’il jugera que les intérêts de l’Afrique sont engagés à tort par un Chef de Gouvernement”, il interviendra. Ainsi serait-il seul à détenir la vérité africaine contre tous; contre tous les autres Chefs d’État ?

Cette attitude démontre, s’il en était besoin, les illusions que lui donnent les ovations télécommandées de ses foules fanatisées et surtout la sympathie dont il jouit encore auprès de nombreuses personnalités et pays pour qui importe peu le sort de notre peuple.

Monsieur le Président, vous me permettrez de vous rappeler un souvenir douloureux, mais c’est pour mieux cerner le “nationalisme” de Sékou Touré.

Le 20 janvier 1973, Amilcar Cabral a été assassiné à Conakry même. C’était le Secrétaire Général et fondateur du PAIGC (Parti Africain pour l’Indépendance de la Guinée et du Cap Vert). A la date du 22 janvier 1973, dans La Paille et le Grain vous écriviez :

« Cabral, à son tour. J’apprends sa mort. Sékou Touré accuse le Portugal. Caetano s’en défend. Je n’ai pas d’éléments pour juger. »

Amilcar Cabral était votre ami. Il avait eu l’occasion, en Guinée même, de vous “confier ses luttes, ses espoirs”. Il avait engagé la lutte de libération de son pays et son mouvement ; il contrôlait les deux-tiers du territoire de la Guinée Bissau. Comme vous le dites justement “le mouvement de libération disposait d’écoles de brousse, d’hôpitaux de campagne et de structures administratives”.

Comme vous même, Monsieur le Président, l’Assassinat d’Amilcar Cabral en plein Conakry, dans les conditions troubles que l’on sait, ont laissé plus d’un observateur sceptique.

Je vais vous apporter des éléments, dont certains vous sont connus, pour vous dire que de Caetano et de Sékou Touré, le plus coupable n’est pas celui que l’on a cru. La PIDE a été accusée à tort. Amilcar Cabral, que j’ai eu l’honneur de connaître, était un grand intellectuel. Vous avez écrit que le Portugal a perdu en lui “l’adversaire le plus sensible, le mieux formé à ses valeurs”.

Cétait un nationaliste vrai, un combattant de la liberté, les armes à la main; à qui son courage, son autorité, sa rigueur intellectuelle et sa culture avaient conféré un grand rayonnement et une très grande notoriété en Afrique et une envergure internationale.

Cétait là une première tare aux yeux de Sékou Touré, qui n’a jamais ni tiré un coup de feu ni armé qui que ce soit, pour ce faire, contre quelque colonialisme que ce soit. Vous êtts mieux placé que moi pour savoir qu’il s’accommodait fort bien du colonialisme français.

Amilcar Cabral était ingénieur agronome. Cétait là, je l’ai suffisamment montré, une autre tare aux yeux du dictateur de Conakry.

Amilcar Cabral avait autant de charisme mais beaucoup plus de relations et surtout de crédibilité que Sékou Touré.

Sékou Touré, certes, par la force des événements, a donné asile au PAIGC dès 1958. Quand les autres pays limitrophes sont devenus indépendants, Sékou Touré apparaissait déjà comme le “tuteur” du PAIGC et la Guinée comme la base des combattants de la liberté de la Guinée Bisseau. Personne n’attribuera en cela un mérite particulier à Sékou Touré. D’autres l’ont fait, la Tunisie et le Maroc pour l’Algérie, le Zaïre et le Congo pour l’Angola, le Gabon pour Sao Tomé et Principe, la Zambie pour le Mozambique, le Mozambique pour le Zimbabwe, l’Angola aujourd’hui pour la Namibie ; pour ne citer que quelques exemples en Afrique.

Aussi, Sékou Touré avait-il consenti à Cabral toutes les facilités pour l’aider dans sa lutte : détaxes de toute sorte, fréquence spéciale pour ses émissions à la radio nationale guinéenne, avantages diplomatiques et surtout deux camps militaires à Conakry réservés aux combattants du PAIGC.

Mais tout cela n’allait pas sans conflits. Sékou Touré recevait et gérait pratiquement tous les fonds envoyés de l’extérieur pour le PAIGC. Il contrôlait leurs mouvements et tentait de contrecarrer les relations qui ne lui plaisaient pas.

Ces conflits étaient de notoriété publique en Guinée. Ainsi, nul n’ignorait que Sékou Touré détournait, au bénéfice de ses milices, armes et munitions pour la défense de son pouvoir. Parfois, il s’appuyait directement sur certaines fractions des forces PAIGC stationnées à Conakry pour sa police intérieure et la répression.

Ainsi, tout opposait ces deux hommes sauf la géographie qui allait paradoxalement devenir la plus grande pomme de discorde.

Les deux Guinée Occidentales ont des problèmes de frontière que le PAIGC, alors engagé dans sa lutte de libération n’a pas voulu agiter lorsqu’en 1964 Sékou Touré publia un décret reprenant un accord passé en 1960 entre la France et le Portugal, et fixant unilatéralement les frontières maritimes des deux pays. Ce conflit éclata au grand jour en 1980 lorsque Sékou Touré accorda à la Compagnie pétrolière américaine Union Texas des droits de prospection en mer, précisément dans cette zone frontalière litigieuse. On se souvient de la déclaration sèche du Conseil Supérieur du PAIGC, publiée de Praia le 14 août 1980 et dans laquelle il est dit clairement que “toute initiative unilatérale allant dans le sens de l’exploitation des ressources naturelles des zones en litige est illégale et ne peut qu’envenimer et aggraver les relations entre les deux pays”. C’est dire à quel point ces relations étaient déjà tendues.

En plus des zones maritimes, la région frontalière sud de la Guinée-Bissau a toujours fait l’objet de convoitise de la part de Sékou Touré à cause de la bauxite déjà largement exploitée par les multi-nationales en Guinée.

Tout cela explique les appréhensions d’Amilcar Cabral qui ne manquait pas de s’en ouvrir à ses intimes. Sékou Touré avait ses hommes au sein du PAIGC qui attisaient les moindres contradictions, y compris les oppositions entre Cap-Verdiens et Guinéens, métis et noirs.

Bruno Crimi rapporte, dans le Continent du 26 mai 1981, ses dernières conversations avec Cabral, deux semaines avant son assassinat :

« Amilcar m’avait fait part de ses soucis. Son parti, disait-il, était secoué par de profondes divisions. Le conflit toujours latent entre Cap-Verdiens et Guinéens était devenu très aigu.
Nous aurons un jour l’indépendance. Cest sûr. Mais aujourd’hui, je ne peux pas dire que la Guinée et le Cap Vert resteront unis… Je ne sais pas non plus si je serai encore là pour assister à la proclamation de findépendance de mon pays. »

Quelles prophéties ! Oui Cabral fut tué quinze jours plus tard.

Aujourd’hur, Guinéens et Cap Verdiens sont séparés par quelque chose qu’Amilcar craignait le plus, le coup d’état militaire. L’on sait avec quelle précipitation et quels délices Sékou Touré s’est jeté dans les bras des militaires de Bissau, sacrifiant par là même le frère d’Amilcar, Luis Cabral, qui n’avait jamais pardonné à Sékou Touré le meurtre de son frère. Parce que Luis Cabral savait. Il savait que, depuis 1970, son frère s’était confié à des ministres de Sékou Touré sur la trahison de ce dernier. Cétait avant le débarquement de novembre 1970.

Il savait que, contrairement à ce que les services de propagande de Conakry et les différents bureaux du PAIG affirmaient, Amilcar Cabral avait été tué par des éléments guinéens du PAIGC, appuyés par le stratège de Conakry lui-même.

Il savait que la fameuse police politique portugaise, la PIDE, n’était en rien mêlée à cet assassinat.

Il était au courant du conflit aigu qui avait opposé Amilcar à Sékou Touré avant le fameux débarquement du 22 novembre 1970, qui fut la meilleure aubaine pour ln remise en selle du régime de Conakry.

Les Portugais avaient en effet tenté sans succès de faire un échange de prisonniers avec le PAIGC, qui détenait dix-huit prisonniers, dont le fils du richissime Maire de Lisbonne, pilote d’hélicoptère, tombé entre les mains des forces de libération de Cabral. Ce dernier était prêt à miser au maximum pour récupérer son fils. Après le refus catégorique de Cabral, il mit Sékou Touré dans son jeu en y mettant le prix. Toute la classe politique guinéenne sait que le Ministre de l’Armée, Diané Lansana, a été chargé par Sékou Touré de prendre contact avec Amilcar Cabral pour l’amener à accepter l’échange de ce fils à papa.

Prisonniers de guerre portugais du PAIGC, détenus d'abord à Manou, puis transférés à Conakry par Sékou Touré, contre l'avis d'Amilcar Cabral
Prisonniers de guerre portugais du PAIGC, détenus d’abord à Manou, puis transférés à Conakry par Sékou Touré, contre l’avis d’Amilcar Cabral

Devant l’intransigeance de Cabral, l’opération du 22 novembre vint à point, financée en partie par la PIDE et le Maire de Lisbonne.

On sait aujourd’hui que Sékou Touré était informé de l’opération “Enlèvement des prisonniers”. Il ne savait cependant pas, peut-être, qu’elle serait combinée avec celle de la tentative du renversement de son régime. Des faits précis étayent cette aflirmation.

Au début de l’année 1970, Sékou Touré avait décidé d’éliminer près de six cent cadres nationaux. Le congrès de son Parti, réuni en janvier 1970, avait pour thème l’épuration du Parti et de l’Etat. Pendant six mois, ce thème sera diffusé à travers tout le pays.

En juin 1970, Sékou Touré réquisitionne toute la toile bleue venue de Chine pour en faire des tenues de prisonniers. C’est cette toile qui servira effectivement au Camp Boiro et dans les différentes geôles du pays.

En juillet 1970, il commande mille menottes au directeur d’Unicomer M. Boris, qui sera arrêté par la suite.

Une édition du journal Le Monde de mai 1970 relate que Sékou Touré s’apprêtait à effectuer une épuration d’une ampleur sans précédent dans son pays.

Sékou Touré savait tout le bénéfice qu’il tirerait d’une opération portugaise pour “épurer” son parti, son état et asseoir dans la terreur un régime enfin élagué et “radicalisé”.

Prévenu vaguement de l’opération début novembre, il décide de transférer les prisonniers portugais. Jusque là, ces derniers étaient détenus à Mamou, sous la surveillance de Habas Diallo, à 350 kilomètres de la capitale.
Le PAIGC, contre l’avis de qui le transfert est décidé à Conakry, demande au moins leur garde dans l’un des camps de la capitale. Sékou Touré refuse. Il les met dans une villa privée, celle de M. Fodé Mangaba Camara, à un kilomètre de la plage. Sur l’insistance du PAIGC, il fait la concession de les laisser garder par seize soldats du PAIGC.

Ce transfert a été effectué le mercredi 9 novembre 1970. Les commandos portugais qui en furent informés, n’auront aucune peine à massacrer les seize malheureux gardes et libérer leurs compatriotes dans la nuit du 21 novembre.

Sékou Touré, qui ne s’attendait pas à une opération combinée visant ausi son régime prend peur, et se réfugie hors de son palais, chez une amie. Pour ce déplacement, il est déguisé en femme par celui-là même qui a pris en main la riposte, qui sera arrêté quelques mois après, le ministre Alassane Diop. Il ne sera relâché qu’après huit ans de détention.

Lire la version, plus fiable, par Alpha Abdoulaye Portos Diallo sur l’évacuation secrète de Sékou Touré cette nuit-là.
— T.S. Bah

Le régime est une fois encore sauvé. Dans son cerveau machiavélique, Sékou Touré prépare la riposte … contre le peuple de Guinée.

Il met en oeuvre la résolution qu’il avait fait adopter par le congrès de son parti en janvier 1970, l’épuration du Parti et l’Etat. Il ressort sa liste de six cents cadres à liquider, les mille menottes et déclenche la répression par une machine mise en place depuis plus d’un an. Six mois plus tard ce sont près de 30.000 Guinéens, hommes, femmes et enfants de toutes conditions qui se retrouvent dans les prisons.

Monsieur le Président,
Dans les enquêtes de ce genre, on demande à qui profite le crime. L’amoncellement des faits désigne l’homme à qui l’assassinat de Cabral a profité. D’ailleurs, d’autres faits ne laissent aucun doute sur l’identité du commanditaire de l’odieuse opération.

On sait à Conakry que trente minutes après leur forfait les cinq assassins ont été reçus au palais de Sékou Touré qui les attendait seul dans son bureau.

Les meurtriers auraient donné comme seule raison de leur forfait le fait que le gouvernement, mis en place par Cabral, ne comportait que des Cap-Verdiens, pas de Guinéens.

Aristides Pereira, secrétaire général adjoint du PAIGC
Aristides Pereira, secrétaire général adjoint du PAIGC

L’enlèvement simultané d’Aristides Pereira, le numèro deux du PAIGC, n’aura été qu’une diversion. Après l’assassinat, Sékou Touré a refusé catégoriquement, dans un premier temps, de livrer les coupables au PAIGC, qui se proposait de les juger lui-même. Il ont été mis sous protection dans le fameux Camp Boiro après un semblant de procès radiophonique dont Sékou Touré a le secret.

Au dire de nombreux compagnons de détention, aujourd’hui libérés, les meurtriers d’Amilcar Cabral protestaient quotidiennement de leur détention par Sékou Touré, qui les avait engagés à commettre leur forfait.

Deux officier guinéens, arrêtés en même temps que l’ancien Secrétaire Général de l’OUA, Diallo Telli, ont déclaré avoir participé à cet assassinat, sur les instructions du “Guide Suprême”.

Selon de nombreux anciens détenus, le capitaine Lamine Kouyaté, ancien garde de corps de Sékou Touré, a en effet déclaré, au sixième jour de diète, quelques jours avant sa mort, qu’il a participé à l’assassinat de Cabral à la demande de Sékou Touré. Le commadant Ibrahima Sylla, ancien chef d’état-major de l’armée de l’air de Sékou Touré a fait le même aveu. C’est ce qui aurait précipité son assassinat par diète noire un mois aprè son arrestation.

Monsieur le Président,
Ce sont là les motifs et les faits que j’apporte au dossier de ce crime contre l’Afrique et l’humanité. L’évolution de la situation dans la sous-région ne fait que corroborer
l’accusation. Après une succession de conflits de tous ordres, Luis Cabral a été écarté le 14 novembre 1980 par le Commandant Nino Vieira, que Sékou Touré a accueilli à bras ouverts.

Conakry vient encore d’envoyer des “coopérants” à Bissao. Nous savons que cette coopération est fortement entachée par l’ambition dominatrice de Sékou Touré, qui s’est toujours posé en champion d’un confédéralisme à sa dévotion.

Les métis et leur Cap-Vert sont écartés. Les conflits sont enterrés. Pourvu que notre renard n’attende pas trop longtemps le fromage du corbeau de Bissau.
Il serait capable d’ingérence surtout que de gros intérêts économiques (bauxite et pétrole) semblent sous-tendre son ambition annexionniste.

Concernant le Sahara Occidental et la RASD 1, Sékou Touré, après avoir longtemps nagé en eau trouble, a été obligé de dévoiler son jeu. Un jeu bien triste et qui ne le flatte guère, lui le prétendu chantre de l’unité et de l’indépendance africaine. Lui le nationaliste, à ce qu’on dit.

Après avoir claqué les portes de l’OUA du fait de l’admission de la RASD à Addis-Abeba fin février 1982, il s’est trouvé une nouvelle lubie en prônant l’intégration avec le Mali, en ameutant la Guinée-Bissau et le Sénégal autour de l’OMVS 2, alors que c’est son sectarisme qui a brisé l’OERS 3, en réchauffant la Mano River Project avec le Libéria et la Sierra Léone après avoir vilipendé ce même projet pendant plus d’une décennie, en fermant les yeux sur la CEAO qui se trouve à sa porte, pour prôner une CEDEAO plus lointaine.

Monsieur le Président,
Pendant ce quart de siècle qui l’a vu faire la pluie et le beau temps en Guinée, Sékou Touré n’a eu que mépris et n’a été qu’insolence pour ses voisins. Il s’est enflammé pour des grandes idées qu’il savait irréalisables. Il a guerroyé, heureusement sans succès, contre tous ses voisins et à travers la plupart d’entre eux, contre votre pays, la France. Il a combattu toutes les idées qu’imposaient l’histoire, la géographie, la culture, l’affectivité, la sensibilité et le destin de nos pays. Il a rompu les liens séculaires de notre pays et a brisé son âme contre le mur épais de ses rêveries y compris avec la France.

Maintenant, c’est net, c’est clair. Nous le voyons fuir le dialogue africain et tenter de tromper ses voisins.

L’unité qu’il recherche actuellement n’est que celle de la division car ses prétentions régionalistes ne sont que le pendant de sa volonté proclamée de détruire l’unité de l’Afrique. Il l’a dit et répété depuis février 1982. Il y aura deux OUA, s’il le faut. Il a dit et répété, à l’occasion de sa récente intronisation hâtive à la tête de l’État-Parti de Guinée, que ceux qui ont brisé l’Unité Africaine, ce sont ceux qui ont admis la RASD. Ce conflit n’est pour lui que l’occasion de sortir d’une OUA, où il ne fait pas la loi, pour créer un clan, un groupe à sa mesure.

Curieuse trajectoire, Monsieur le Président que celle de cet homme qui, au moment où tous ses voisins se battaient pour une véritable coopération régionale, clamait un panafricanisme démagogique et abstrait pour se soustraire à la confrontation, s’isoler et moraliser avec insolence ; et qui, au moment où l’Afrique cherche à se consolider dans l’Unité, la concentration et la négociation, crie au scandale et se rabat sur sa région.
Le masque est tombé. Sékou Touré, remis en selle pour un quatrième septennat, fort de sa nouvelle virginité conférée à la hâte par des élections sans signification, faussement rasséréné par un vote téléguidé, est en première ligne pour combattre le nationalisme africain à travers, entre autres, le Polisario.

Où se cache le nationalisme dont se targue notre dictateur ? Sékou Touré, une fois de plus, est indéfendable. C’est un homme qui foule aux pieds, au gré de intérêts de son pouvoir, le principe et le fondement même du nationalisme, qui arme le bras des Africains. Son nationalisme n’est qu’un tissu d’affirmations verbales gratuites.

Trop de sacrifice nobles ont été consenti pour l’autodétermination de nos peuples, pour leur liberté et leur indépendance. Il ne doivent pas être salis par l’assimilation d’un homme sans principes, qui renie aujourd’hui ce qu’il adulait hier, d’un opportuniste rivé à la survie de son pouvoir.

Non ! Monsieur le Président, le nationalisme africain ne s’accommode pas des revirements, des sarcasmes et des récriminations de cet homme inconséquent qui n’a jamais pris un fusil.

Notes
1. RASD : République Arabe Saharaoui Démocratique.
2. OMVS : Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du Sénégal.
3. OERS : Organisation des Etats Riverains du Sénégal.

The Death of Kwame Nkrumah

This article follows up on a previous paper entitled “The Formation of a Common Front Against Guinea by the Ivory Coast and Ghana” insofar as it deals with Kwame Nkrumah’s death and legacy.
Nkrumah’s demise in 1972 and his —first— funeral in Conakry, added another sad note to  Guinea’s horrible 1970s decade. For it happened a couple of years after the Portuguese-led attack on the capital-city. And it preceded Amilcar Cabral‘s assassination in 1973 in Conakry. Following a two-year respite (1974-1975), Guinea would be engulfed again in a series of alleged plots and murderous political purges, ranging from the so-called Fulani Plot (1976) to the Market Women’s revolt (1977), etc. Here Du Bois proposes a critical analysis of the rule of Ghana’s first president. He then makes a prescient statement about the evolution of the bilateral relations between Ghana and Guinea. And he concludes with a balanced judgement regarding Nkrumah’s strengths and shortcomings. Read on.
Tierno S. Bah

Victor D. Du Bois
The Death of Kwame Nkrumah
American Universities Field Staff Reports. West Africa Series, Vol. XIV No.5 (Ghana), June 1972, pp. 1-11

Victor David Du Bois (1932-1983)
Victor David Du Bois (1932-1983)

In distant Bucharest (Romania), April 27, 1972, far from his green and lovely native land and from his own people, Kwame Nkrumah died of an unspecified but apparently incurable illness. His was a lonely death, without ceremony and without drama for a man who had been surrounded by both throughout his political career as President of Ghana and one of Africa’s most famous men. A man with a price on his head, he was unable to return to the country he had led to independence in 1957 and which he had ruled for nearly 13 years. The former Ghanaian leader, who had virtually disappeared from the active political scene since his overthrow by a military coup d’état in February 1966, had since that time been living quietly in the Guinean capital of Conakry.

The Fight Over Nkrumah’s Remains

The death of one of Africa’s most prominent personalities normally would have occasioned a dignified reaction from the two major parties concerned:

  • President Sékou Touré of Guinea, who had granted Nkrumah political asylum in his country following the latter’s removal from power
  • Colonel Ignatius Acheampong, leader of the Ghana’s military junta which seized power from Prime minister Kofi Busia in January 1972. There began instead a macabre quarrel between the two over the final resting-place of the ex-President’s remains.

Colonel Acheampong desired that Nkrumah’s body be returned to Ghana where, he said, the former President would be given a dignified burial. Madam Elizabeth Nyaniba, aged mother of the deceased President, made an impassioned plea to President Toure to allow the body to be returned to Ghana: “I want to touch the body of my son before he is buried, or I die.” 1 She also indicated that she would like her son’s body embalmed and kept permanently on public display the way Lenin’s body is preserved. Sékou Touré would not consent, however—at least not until he had extracted from the Ghanaians important concessions which would redound to his personal profit. And, since the Romanians had sent the body to Conakry, the Guineans were in a strong position to dictate terms.

Press reports shortly after Nkrumah’s death announced that Toure had attached four conditions to the return of the ex-President’s body to Ghana:

  1. Nkrumah’s complete rehabilitation in the eyes of the Ghanaian people (lifting all charges that had been pending against him)
  2. Liberation of all of Nkrumah’s partisans still held in Ghanaian jails
  3. Removal of the threat of arrest which hung over all of Nkrumah’s followers who had chosen to remain with him in exile
  4. An official welcome by the Ghanaian government of Nkrumah’s remains, with all the honors due a deceased chief of state.

On May 20, 1972, it was revealed that Touré had imposed even more conditions. He now insisted that Nkrumah’s tomb be placed in front of Ghana’s Parliament building, and that all of the men who had occupied ministerial appointments and high positions in his civil service be restored to their former posts. Touré sought, in other words, to re-impose Nkrumah’s discredited government—minus only Nkrumah—on the Ghanaian people as the price for recovering the former President’s body. Barring acceptance of these terms, Touré implied the body would be kept in Guinea. Not unexpectedly, Colonel Acheampong refused to negotiate on such a basis and continued to urge the Guineans to allow the body to be brought back to Ghana.

Sékou Touré based Guinea’s right to keep Nkrumah’s body on Nkrumah’s having been granted asylum in Guinea and having been declared co-President of the Guinean Republic in 1966 when he was “betrayed” by the Ghanaian officers who overthrew him. He claimed that Nkrumah had actually been co-President of Guinea as far back as 1958, when the two countries had formed the Guinea-Ghana Union. He even insisted that this important decision—which automatically made each man co-President of the other’s country, in addition to being head of his own state-had been officially communicated at the time to all the countries and to all the international organizations with which the Republic of Guinea had diplomatic relations 2.

Touré obstinately refused to assent to the pleas of Nkrumah’s family and the Ghanaian people, and to the demands of the Ghanaian government and press. When Guinea’s leader appeared to have no moral justification for retaining Nkrumah’s body, African public opinion began criticizing Touré’s intransigence with increasing severity.

The Daily Nation of Nairobi, in an editorial titled “A Cruel Refusal,” stated:

« Though he now denies it, President Sékou Touré is believed to have asked for the impossible before allowing Nkrumah’s body to be taken to Ghana to be buried in his home town of Nkroful… The people of Ghana cannot be dictated to as to where Nkrumah’s mortal remains should be buried… Guinea should not fear loss of face. Facing realities is more important. It should reverse the decision and thus fulfill and honor a dead man’s wishes 3. »

The Daily Times of Lagos editorialized:

« President Sékou Touré should see reason to release the corpse as he had earlier promised… If he remains adamant, he would not be depriving the military Junta in Ghana of anything. It is the common people of Ghana who would be deprived of paying their final respects to their bereaved leader.» 4

The quarrel, now attracting attention from the non-African press as well, continued unabated. Finally, several African leaders, notably Presidents William Tolbert of Liberia, Siaka Stevens of Sierra Leone, and General Yakubu Gowon of Nigeria, tried to persuade Sékou Touré that it was in the best interests of African dignity, and Africa’s image abroad, that the body be returned to Ghana. The West African press reported that Toure finally gave in to these appeals but this proved to be unfounded. As events were to show, Touré determined to squeeze every possible propaganda advantage from Nkrumah’s demise.

President Kwame Nkrumah presiding over the opening of Parliament. Accra, 1964 (Photo courtesy of Ghana Information Services)
President Kwame Nkrumah presiding over the opening of Parliament. Accra, 1964 (Photo courtesy of Ghana Information Services)

African Assessment of Nkrumah

When news of Nkrumah’s death reached other African capitals, the reaction from African heads of state and from the general public was surprisingly low-keyed. Nkrumah’s old adversaries, the presidents of the francophonic states, former President Namdi Azikiwe of Nigeria and others, all expressed their condolences to Nkrumah’s family, to the Ghanaian government, and to Toure. Their messages acknowledged Nkrumah’s place in history—based on his championing of the pan-Africanist cause and his role in leading his country to independence—but not even in these first public comments could these leaders refrain from treating Nkrumah’s failings as well as his achievements.

President Felix Houphouët-Boigny of the Ivory Coast, one of Nkrumah’s most vigorous and successful opponents on the African scene, remarked:

« It is my wish that in the Ivory Coast people remember that Kwame Nkrumah rendered great services not only to Ghana but to all of Africa. It is a great patriot who has disappeared. History will remember all the good that he did. He was, here on the western coast of Africa, the first to lead his country to independence. We are all men; we a have our weaknesses… but even the mistakes he made, he made because he wanted to do good. If tomorrow Ghana should recall the services he rendered and should wish to hold a funeral ceremony for him, the Ivory Coast would associate itself entirely in the hommage which we owe this great African 5. »

“He played a great role,” said President Léopold Senghor of Senegal adding, “He was one of the first leaders to attract the attention of Africans to our roots and authenticity. He was also a great man and like all great men had his faults.”

President Hamani Diori of Niger remarked:

« Nkrumah’s ideas were never mine, but for his country he was a determining [force], and in his own way, he wanted to achieve African unity. »

“Certainly he committed errors, as every man has,” conceded President Siaka Stevens of Sierra Leone, “and these mistakes were regarded as serious among certain groups. But in my humble opinion, in the last analysis there will live in the memory of generations yet unborn the role of pioneer and hero he played in the initial stages of bringing forth the African personality on the African political scene. It is only with time that one will recognize his colossal stature.”

A loftier note was sounded by Jomo Kenyatta, as perhaps befitted the President of Kenya, a state geographically less exposed to Ghanaian influences:

« Dr. Nkrumah chose to dedicate his life to the noble ideal of African unity and cooperation in all areas. His premature disappearance leaves a void in the still unwon struggle for the realization of African unity and the complete emancipation from the colonial yoke. »

* * * * *

If most African leaders reacted in a decidedly restrained fashion to Nkrumah’s demise, it is because to many of them he was not so much a statesman as a demagogue who believed only in his own brand of pan-Africanism and who sought to foment trouble in the lands of those who differed with him or dared to oppose him. It is a well-documented fact that Nkrumah was one of the chief instigators of subversion in West Africa. He actively financed dissident movements in the Ivory Coast, Cameroun, Niger, Togo, and Nigeria, whose avowed aim was to overthrow the legally constituted governments of those countries.

In the Organization of African Unity and in other pan-African organizations, he sought to discredit the leaders of more moderate governments, vehemently branding them “stooges” and “lackeys” of colonialists and imperialists. In direct violation of the OAU’s Charter which he professed to uphold , he allowed secret camps to be installed on his territory in which bands of terrorists were trained to spread chaos and disorder throughout those African countries whose leaders did not see eye to eye with Nkrumah. One such terrorist, trained on Ghanaian soil during Nkrumah’s regime, nearly succeeded in assassinating President Hamani Diori of Niger. Ironically, by the end of his political career, Nkrumah, through his numerous intrigues and attempts at subversion, had himself become one of the greatest obstacles to the very African unity he had sought to advance and with which his own name had become synonymous.

Nkrumah's monument toppled shortly after the coup of February 24, 1966.
Nkrumah’s monument toppled shortly after the coup of February 24, 1966. (Photo courtesy of Ghana Information Services)

A Guinean Funeral for the Ghanaian Leader

Nkrumah’s body arrived from Bucharest on Saturday, April 29, 1972. Hundreds of thousands of party militants, mobilized for the occasion, lined the eight-mile route from the airport to the center of Conakry. The funeral cortege took two and a half hours to reach the Maison du Peuple, where President Toure waited, surrounded by members of the National Political Bureau, other high Guinean officials, and members of the diplomatic corps.

On Sunday, Nkrumah’s wife, Madam Fatiya Nkrumah, from whom he had been estranged since 1966, arrived from Cairo with their three children. She was met at the airport by Sékou Toure’s wife and a number of officials of the Parti Démocratique de Guinée, and then driven to the presidential palace where Sékou Touré received her. After visiting the Maison du Peuple where her husband’s body lay in state, Mrs. Nkrumah retired to the President’s summer residence at nearby Camayenne.

Later that day delegations flew in from many African countries. Radio Conakry also announced that the Cuban Prime Minister, Fidel Castro, would be arriving in Conakry on a state visit, and called on all party militants to reserve an enthusiastic welcome “for the leader of the Cuban Revolution and one of the greatest warriors of the progressive world.” 6

On Monday, May 1, at the Maison du Peuple, Touré delivered a funeral oration which lasted an hour and a half reviewing Nkrumah’s life from childhood through his last days in Guinea. He dwelt on Nkrumah’s studies in the United States, his role in the early pan-African movements in London and his rise to power in Ghana which culminated in his country’s gaining its independence from Great Britain in 1957 under his leadership, as he became first Prime Minister and then President.

“Betrayed in Ghana,” Touré said, “he found himself once again on free soil in Guinea, co-President of the Republic, to the great surprise of the imperialist powers enclosed in a bourgeois legalism. With Nkrumah,” he added, “African unity became an irresistible force. That is why this thinker and this man of action is not a Ghanaian, but an African—and even more—just a man.” 7

At Toure’s side while he delivered this eulogy were:

  • Fidel Castro
  • Mokhtar Ould Daddah (President of Mauritania and Acting President of the Organization of African Unity)
  • Sourou Migan Apithy (one of the triumvirate that is Dahomey’s Presidential Council)
  • President William Tolbert of Liberia
  • The Vice-Presidents of Congo-Brazzaville and Sierra Leone
  • The President of the National Assembly of Tanzania
  • A representative of Algeria.

Aside from them, however, few important political figures from abroad attended the ceremonies. Late in the day a five-member delegation from Ghana, headed by Colonel Benni, a member of the National Redemption Council, arrived in Conakry to attempt to persuade Touré to relinquish Nkrumah’s body.

Ghana’s Reaction to Nkrumah’s Death

In his own country, Nkrumah’s death evoked mixed feelings of grief, remorse, or indifference, depending on whether one’s sentiments had lain with or against the ex-President. Shortly after the news reached Accra, the government issued an official communique:

« His place in history is assured because he was the principal architect of Ghana’s independence, which hastened the liberation movement in Africa. Also, former President Nkrumah had followed a dynamic African policy in order to promote the unity of the continent and to rid it of all vestiges of colonialism and racism 8. »

While amenable to showing the proper deference toward Nkrumah at his demise, the Ghanaian government nevertheless wished to make clear that its public tribute in no way implied an endorsement of Nkrumah’s policies or a disavowal of the motives that had led to his overthrow: it was merely a recognition of the prominent role he had played in Ghana’s independence. “It is, therefore, unfortunate,” it said, “that certain people are misconstruing the Government’s position as a rejection of the February 1966 coup which ousted the Nkrumah regime and all the actions of the National Liberation Council.” 9

Colonel Acheampong and the National Redemption Council wisely allowed Nkrumah’s partisans to express their sorrow without any interference from the government. Even more, the military junta associated itself fully with the public display of regret. May 19 was declared a National Day of Mourning and a public holiday, and a non-denominational service was held in an open area around the State House in Accra. The ceremony was attended by a number of members of the National Redemption Council (although, significantly, Colonel Acheampong himself was not among them), by the diplomatic corps, and a few traditional chiefs. In addition, there were several thousand persons from all walks of life, from barefoot peasants and market women to persons who had held high office under Nkrumah. Many wore traditional mourning cloth and wept openly as they walked past the catafalque which—draped in kente cloth—stood, symbolically, where Nkrumah’s coffin would have been.

Most of the Ghanaian press gave the President’s death sympathetic coverage, recalling in their editorials and feature articles only Nkrumah’s qualities and overlooking his faults. They evoked his stature as the man who had led Ghana to independence, blazing the trail soon afterward followed by so many other colonies in Africa. Few were the observers who were able to take a sympathetic yet dispassionate look at Mr. Nkrumah’s checkered career.

One of the rare exceptions was Kwabena Kissi, a journalist for Accra’s Weekly Spectator. In a poignant and soul-searching article, “Nkumah, the Leader We Never Understood,” Mr. Kissi described the feelings of remorse which many felt.

« … No talking drum announced this tragedy to his own people in mournful tones. No gong-gong summoned any familiar face to his side. No dirges recounted a litany to his praise. No linguist was present to recite any of his numerous appellations in eloquent and ornate language.

Ironically, “Osagyefo,” “Kwame Atoapem,” “Show Boy” lay cold and still in a lonely infirmary among a strange people he did not know.

His own people had rejected him and put a price on his head as a common criminal 10. Ghana, the land which he risked everything to free from bondage, had stabbed a deadly wound in his heart. Like the stab of Brutus to Caesar, it was “the most unkindest cut of all”; for as we knew Brutus to be Caesar’s angel, so was Ghana dearest to Nkrumah’s heart.

And like Caesar, struggling in excruciating pain till he fell beneath the statue of Pompey, so did Nkrumah struggle alone in the agony of death , till he gave up his weary soul to its Maker in the Bucharest infirmary. “And what a fall was there there, my countrymen, that deny you and I and all.” Ghana and Africa fell.

Perhaps inspired by his Shakespearean allusion, Kissi himself then daringly essayed the role of Mark Antony orating over his fallen Caesar:

« … What moral justification have we now to mourn him, the man we despised and treated with unparalleled abuse and treacherous ingratitude; the man whose memory we contrived by ingenious and crafty means to wipe away forever in history…?
… Is it not the greatest irony in the history of the Black Race that the foremost architect of Africa’s emancipation from foreign domination should die a wanted man with a price on his head for any man who should bring him to Ghana dead or alive?
What price should history place on our head for murdering this man? It is a price that we and generations yet unborn shall have to pay to Africa for so unwisely creating a vacuum and for bringing to a sudden and abrupt halt the surge of nationalism sweeping through Africa and any place where political freedom ts denied to a people…
… From his books, his speeches and declarations on politics, Kwame Nkrumah did not conceal the fact that he was a Marxist socialist revolutionary who was determined to push through a socialist programme for political, economic and cultural emancipation…
… It is unfortunate, however, that the society he sought to transform into a socialist state was not receptive to his political philosophy and strategy. The socialist intellectuals who were needed to be in the vanguard of a true cultural revolution were not there. Most of our intellectuals at the time of Nkrumah’s ascendancy were, and still are, of the western political turn of mind…
… It is no wonder that he himself, half way along the road, was bound to succumb to the corrupting influences of the unsuitable material he was working with. Not even the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute and the intensive and calculated indoctrination of the Young Pioneers could alter the unsuitable human material with which Nkrumah sought to transform Ghana into a socialist state.

Most of the party ideologues who pontificated on socialist morality were intellectual dwarfs who had neither by themselves read anything serious about Marxism or had read only bits of commentaries on Marx by the very western political thinkers they fancied themselves disagreeing with…

… Other institutions in the society were equally reactionary to his cause, and his socialist ideals clashed headlong with these institutions.

One such institution is chieftaincy. In the end Nkrumah fell under the spell of the pomp and pageantry of chieftaincy. If he could not destroy it, at least he could use his immense power to invest the grandeur of chieftaincy in the presidency.

Linguists recited his appellations. State horn-blowers and sword-bearers lined his way to Parliament; then seated in the State Chair with his feet resting on a stool and a sword in his hand, no King was more resplendent in his majesty than the apostle of Marxist socialism was.

This was one example of his weakness—the love for pomp and pageantry, for frenzied adulation, and for extravagant exhibitionism—which were all subtle subverting influences
to a true socialist programme. …

… Then he had to deal with the army, one of the most conservative yet formidable institutions of society which is the most difficult, if not altogether impossible, to indoctrinate with any alien philosophy.

Nkrumah, like all socialists, realized the mighty force behind an institution built on foreign traditions averse to Marxism and which controls the means to naked power …

… At the time of his overthrow the whole western world thought that the army had acted timorously. It did not occur to us that Nkrumah had set such a high standard for political strategy that it demanded men of his calibre to fit into and respect action and visual economic monuments rather than mere political sermonizing by reactionary bourgeois intellectuals.

The result is clear for all of us to see—six years of preaching the liberal democratic gospel of being our brother’s keeper with only Guiness Stout to show for all that. Man shall not live by bread alone, but man cannot live at all without any bread. Bread, material bread is more necessary for the body in this material world than mere academic expositions on liberal
democracy. We have learnt this simple practical lesson, rather painfully, during these six uneventful years …
… Nkrumah was an unfortunate man. His vision was completely unsuited to the dynamics of the society which he sought to transform.…
… Despite everything to the contrary, Africa and especially Ghana is the poorer for his loss. We have been witnesses to six uneventful years of vacuum, and of inactivity since his overthrow. Nothing new has been added to what he achieved for Ghana.…
… Everything and every man must mourn him. The gentle ripples of the Volta Lake from Akosombo to Kete-Krachi will sing his praise. The voluminous water-shed of the Great Dam proclaims his greatness. Ships and cargo that dock at the quayside in Tema Harbour testify to his vision of economic emancipation.

Primary schools, training colleges, secondary schools, and the universities together with his policy of a fee-free education are unsurpassed anywhere in Africa.

The beautiful dual-carriage way of the Ring Road, the imposing buildings that enrich the landscape of our capital; roads, bridges, and the viable infrastructure he built for Ghana will stand as permanent monuments to his memory.

He gave the African a sense of pride and to the Ghanaian preeminence among Africans. No single leader in Africa has achieved so much for his people within so short a time as Nkrumah did for Ghana.

Oh! How we wish his statue would stand today. We would have adorned it with garlands of flowers and palm branches as the statue of a true hero.

Events unfolding themselves before our eyes today in our domestic politics have forced us to rethink if not entirely to recant our views about Nkrumah. All the accusations we
levelled against him can today be leveled against the latter day saints of our domestic politics—extravagance, corruption, nepotism and allied evils.

The Ghana he so welded into a people is now disintegrated into a group of tribal and ethnic entities who place their jealous and parochial interest above that of the nation. Political tribalism and tribal vendetta is no less an evil than political detentions. If Nkrumah is guilty of the latter, the latter day saints of our domestic politics are equally guilty of the former.…
… Let us learn from the mistakes of Kwame Nkrumah. At the same time let us learn from the life of this great man the danger in the impropriety of reckless emotionalism with which we seek to destroy our great men today and do them the honour of martyrdom tomorrow.…
… Rest in peace, Osagyefo.

Accra. Ghanaians demonstrating support for the National Liberation Council, led by General Ankrah, after the overthrow of Nkrumah. February 24, 1966. (Photo courtesy of Ghana Information Services)
Accra. Ghanaians demonstrating support for the National Liberation Council, led by General Ankrah, after the overthrow of Nkrumah. February 24, 1966. (Photo courtesy of Ghana Information Services)

The Implications of Nkrumah’s Death

Nkrumah’s disappearance from the African political scene is an event of capital importance, especially, of course, for Ghana. There no longer being any possibility of Nkrumah’s return, Ghana’s new leaders can now breathe more easily and plan their country’s future with greater tranquility than they could at any time since his expulsion in 1966. For the truth of the matter is that, even after he was ousted from power, Nkrumah haunted the nation’s politics. One sensed in Ghana the question, rarely openly discussed but always in the back of everyone’s mind : “what would happen if he were to return?” His successors, from General Ankrah through former Prime Minister Kofi Busia to the present ruler, Colonel Acheampong, all were unanimous in publicly proclaiming their determination that Nkrumah would never be allowed to return to Ghana, let alone regain power. Still , that possibility, however remote, hung in the air. And one always wondered whether Nkrumah’s Convention Peoples Party (CPP), the political machine so painstakingly put together by the former President, had really been dismantled by the vigorous attempts in this direction by those who succeeded him.

In the official lull that was permitted to allow one to pay his respects to the departed, it now became clear that Nkrumah still had many sympathizers in the country: former party and government officials who had held privileged and lucrative positions under him ; the students out at the University in Legon, who remembered only his stature as an African nationalist but not his outrageous acts against academic freedom as a dictator; the thousands of rank-and-file members of the Trade Union Congress, Ghana’s largest labor organization and one of the pillars of his regime; the legions
of youngsters who were recruited into his “Young Pioneers,” a militant youth group charged with spreading his word—and dealing with those who refused to accept it; finally, all of those people who, like Mr. Kissi the journalist felt that “nothing new has been added to what he achieved for Ghana.”

Nkrumah receiving a delegation of traditional chiefs
Nkrumah receiving a delegation of traditional chiefs. (Photo courtesy of Ghana Information Services)

How long Nkrumah’s influence will last without the former President himself to personify it and give it elan is difficult to gauge. Nkrumah had no heir apparent in Ghana—he would allow no one to rise that high—and consequently there is no one who can claim to be his legitimate successor.

The present wave of sympathy and pro-Nkrumah sentiment has created a climate that is favorable for the re-emergence of former CPP activists, quiet since 1966. While Ghana’s ruling military junta was willing to allow Ghanaians to give free vent to their sympathies for Nkrumah, it does not appear that Colonel Acheampong and the National Redemption Council are prepared to tolerate the resuscitation of institutions established by Nkrumah or a return to positions of influence of Nkrumah’s old comrades-in-arms.

The National Redemption Council, quite understandably, wishes to profit from this pro-Nkrumah feeling. But it is unlikely to allow itself to be swept along in the current, lest it be compromised with those elements of Ghanaian society, also very numerous who were—and remain-anti—Nkrumah.
Shrewdly, the NRC is reaping as much benefit as it can from the martyrization of Nkrumah (to much the same way that President Mobutu has done over the martyrization of Patrice Lumumba to Zaïre). It should not be forgotten, however, that both Colonel Acheampong and the other members of the NRC are themselves members of the same army that overthrew Nkrumah because of profound disagreements over how Ghana should be ruled. And in his public declarations to date, Colonel Acheampong has made it quite clear that neither he nor the other members of the National Redemption Council repudiate the coup of 1966.

Correctly enough, Mr. Kissi referred in his eulogy cited above, to the numerous projects—dams, harbors, public buildings, etc.—which were built during Nkrumah’s regime. Yet one should not forget that it was precisely because of the inordinate and freewheeling expenditure of state funds on such projects, many of them unnecessary and some them wasteful that subsequent rulers of Ghana are so hard put financially. Nkrumah’s extravagance had pushed the government to the very brink of bankruptcy 11,  and the difficult and always thankless task of trying to repair the massive damage done to the economy fell to those who came after him. It would be ironic, indeed, if Colonel Acheampong allowed the return to power of the very men who had played such a signal role in bringing the country to the edge of financial ruin.

For Guinea, Nkrumah’s death means that Sékou Touré now can throw over his own shoulders Nkrumah’s mantle as Africa’s number one anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist spokesman in West Africa. Nkrumah’s death also spares Touré further embarrassment in being held responsible for Nkrumah’s almost total withdrawal from public life during his final years, and the empty role he played as “co-President” of Guinea, an office with neither a juridical basis in the Guinean Constitution nor the proved mandate of the Guinean people. In all likelihood, Sékou Touré will eventually release Nkrumah’s body to Ghanaian authorities, thereby opening the way to a resumption of normal diplomatic relations between the governments.

In the other countries of West Africa—especially the French-speaking states that surround Ghana and that were frequently targets of his attempts at subversion—Nkrumah’s disappearance is regarded with unmitigated relief, for as long as he remained in conspiratorial exile in Guinea, a threat hung over them, as it did , indeed, over Ghana itself.

Any assessment of Nkrumah’s place in history must take into account the dual nature of this complex man’s personality and the ambivalent character of his accomplishments. Unquestionably, he was one of the major figures to emerge from post-colonial Africa; a man who led his country to independence and who gave to his own people, to other Africans, and to Black people in general, a sense of pride in the African personality. His presence, his oratory, the charisma which seemed almost tangibly to cloak him as he imparted his visions to his audiences, all put him in the front rank of the continent’s leaders. But at the same time there dwelt within him an arrogant, self-righteous megalomaniac who was convinced that he, and he alone, held all the right answers as to how Africa should be ruled. His partisans will accept only the former image of him; his critics remember only the latter. As with most such extreme generalizations, the truth lies somewhere in between.

Notes
1. Daily Graphic (Accra) May 20, 1972.
2. The ill-fated Guinea Ghana Union proved moribund almost from its inception. Contrary to what Touré now asserts, moreover, no official announcement of such a pact—that henceforward each of the two Presidents was to be regarded as co-President of the other’s country—was ever made. So important and peculiar an announcement would not have escaped the attention of the world press. And there is nothing in the public record to show that such an accord had been reached.
An indication of just how little regard President Sékou Touré holds for the office of “co-President,” which he bestowed upon Nkrumah with such alacrity, is revealed in an interview Touré granted to Russel Warren Howe, the American journalist, in 1967, about a year and a half after Nkrumah’s ouster. When pressed by Howe for an explanation about the co-presidential office, Toure is said to have replied, “… Any martyr of colonialism is my co-President.” The Sunday Times (London) December 24, 1967.
3. The Daily Nation (Nairobi, Kenya) May 22, 1972.
4. The Daily Times (Lagos, Nigeria) May 19, 1972.
5. These and other quotations immediately following cited from Fraternité-Matin (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) April 29, 1972.
6. Fraternité-Matin (Abidjan) May 3, 1972.
7. Fraternité-Matin (Abidjan) May 15, 1972.
8. Cited from Fraternité-Matin ( Abidjan) April 29, 1972.
9. West Africa (London) May 26, 1972, p. 674.
10. The Ghanaian police, indeed, had offered a reward of $120,000 to anyone who brought Nkrumah back to Ghana, dead or alive. The National Redemption Council, however, claims that this reward was posted during the time that Mr. J.W.K. Harlley (Nkrumah’s one time police commissioner who later joined the coup against him) was Inspector General in the period immediately following Nkrumah’s ouster. According to the NRC, the reward was revoked “in the spirit of the January 13 Revolution” (i.e., when the present junta came to power). West Africa (London) May 12, 1972, p. 575.
11. Opinions vary concerning the amount of indebtedness left behind by Nkrumah and his government when they were ousted from power in February 1966, but the most conservative estimates put the country’s external debt at that time between $500-700 million.