Trade Unionists and Chiefs in Guinea

webGuiné / Library / History / Politics

Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964.

Part Six
Trade Unionists and Chiefs in Guinea

From the French standpoint, Senegal was a pilot colony politically and Ivory Coast economically. Guinea, too, was a pilot state, but from an Afncan standpoint. It pointed the way for the other French speaking West African states by being the first to achieve total in dependence from France. An extraordinary conference of some 600 leaders of the Parti Démocratique de Guinée on 14 September acted upon General de Gaulle’s declaration on 25 August 1958 that ‘independence is at the disposal of Guinea‘. ‘Considering there cannot be for a dependent people the slightest hesitation in choosing between Independence and the proposed Community,‘ the PDG decided ‘to choose independence by voting no in the referendum of 28 september‘ . So certain were the PDG leaders of their following, they did not even campaign. The vote was 1,130,292 no against 56,959 . This result was made possible because the PDG was thoroughly rooted in town and countryside.

The PDG burst into power only after 1953. Before, Guinea was rather a sleepy backwater, as is evident from some statistics. The number of educated Africans in 1945 was tiny. For a population estimated in 1958 at 2.1/5 millions (and probably nearer 3 million) in 1937-8 less than 8,000 were in state elementary school and less than 200 in state primary school . By 1947, in both state and private elementary schools, the number was only 11,000 while in upper primary and secondary schools there were but 540 pupils or under half the number in Ivory Coast and about one-sixth the number in Senegal . Even in 1957, just before Guinea became independent, not even 10 per cent. of the school-age children were actually in classes; the total number of primary school pupils, state and private, was still no more than 37,400 only 21 took respectively the first and second parts of the baccalauréat examination; and in each only 15 passed . Thus an acute shortage of modern cadres characterized Guinea.
The money economy also was rudimentary at the end of the Second World War. There was no African planter class as in Ivory Coast; and even after the resumption of world trade in 1947 the total value of exports from Guinea was one-fifth that of Senegal. The number of inhabitants living in the towns was quite low –even Conakry, the capital and largest city was in 1945 estimated to have no more than 26,000 10. In 1947, the 35,206 wage earners was less than half the number in Senegal; roughly one-third were trade union members 11

1. All three citations from the resolution adopted at the conference, La Liberté, 24 September 1958, and reprinted in Territoire de la Guinée, L’Action politique du Parti Démocratique de Guinée pour l’émancipation africaine, by Sékou Touré, Imprimerie du Gouvernement, Guinea, n.d., tome i, p. 206.
2. République de Guinée, L’Action politique du PDG-RDA Guinée pour l’émancipation et l’unité africaine dans l’indépendance, by Sékou Touré, tome 2, Imprimerie du Gouvernement, Conakry, c. 1959, p. 9, see also p. 198.
3. Outre-mer 1958, op. cit., p. 83.
4. Annuaire Statistique, tome 2, 1951, op. cit., p. 83.
5.Ibid., p. 94.
6.Ibid., p. 96.
7. AOF 1957, op. cit., p. 115.
8.Outre-mer 1958, op, cit., p. 835.
9. See Appendix Xl.
10. See Appendix IX.
11.Annuaire Statistique, 1951, tome II, op. cit., pp. 410 and 415, n. I and 2.