Unionists and Chiefs

webGuinea/Histoire-Politique/Guinea/Unionists and Chiefs


Ruth S. Morgenthau
Political parties in French-speaking West Africa

Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964.

Part Six
Trade Unionists and Chiefs in Guinea

Regional Politics

Against the background of economic stagnation,limited education, and African inexperience with modern politics, it is understandable why the reforms of 1945 did not immediately precipitate great changes in Guinea. There were only stirrings of discontent, leading, for example, to incidents in the ‘holy city’ of Kankan inhabited by a Malinke Muslim majority and a Fulani minority. These incidents were isolated, however, and in the absence of any organized parties had little meaning beyond the level of local politics. Only limited changes followed the reforms in Guinea. For the first few years, ‘elections were prepared and directed by the ethnic groups while none of the candidates could pretend to represent the entire territory’.
The principal ethnic bloc in Guinea is Fulani ; a little more than a third of the total population is Fulani proper if those assimilated with them are counted together. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Fulani invaders came from the region of Macina in the present Republic of Mali, and in the name of Islam declared war on the diverse peoples most of whom now inhabit upper and lower Guinea. As victors, the Fulani occupied the plateau of the Fouta Djallon, concerned themselves with cattle, and lived in an almost feudal society.

1. Mamadou Barry. Le Fouta Djalon, L’Etudiant Afrique noire, April 1957, p. 12.
2. See La Liberté, Conakry, 27 June 1955.
3. Touré, Sékou. ‘Rapport moral et politique’, Les Assises du PDG, 23-26 janvier 1958, L’Action politique du PDG . . ., tome i, op. cit., p. 8.
4. See the ethnic groups of Guinea, Map 5.
5. The administrative estimate of the number of Fulani in Guinea was 870,000 out of a total of some 2.1/5 million. Houis, Maurice. Guinée fran&ccedilaise, Editions Maritimes et Coloniales, Paris, 1953, p. 324. See also Richard-Molard, op. cit., pp. 95 and 99.
6. For brief descriptions of the feudal organization of Fulani society in the Fouta Djallon, see Barry Mamadou, op. cit., p. 12; Richard-Molard, op. cit., p. 99; Poirier and Leroi-Gourhan, op. cit., pp. 258-9; Abdoulaye Diallo (African doctor), in L’AOF, Dakar, 11, 15, 18, and 22 July 1947; Ba Kamanca Ollida in Réveil, Dakar, 23 September 1946. Gauthier, E. F., in L’Afrique noire occidentale, Larose, Paris, 1943, p. 171 calls the life of the Fulani chiefs la vie de chateau. A longer description of Fulani feudal leaders is given by Marty, Paul. L’Islam en Guinée, Leroux, Paris, 1921, Chap. I.

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