webGuinée/Société/Claude Rivière/Guinea: Mobilization of a People/Balanced Neutralism
webGuinée / Etat & Société
La première décennie du régime PDG
Guinea: The Mobilization of a People
Ithaca. Cornell University Press. 1968. 260 p.
By rejecting the colonial system on September 28, 1958, Guinea committed itself to creating new forms of social organization. In breaking away from the colonial power, Guinea was forced to seek friends and aid elsewhere. Guinea’s negative vote in the referendum proposed by General de Gaulle distinguished it from all the other African territories that were dependencies of France. The rich nations, attracted by Guinea’s potential, its temerity, and its ideological idealism, showed an interest in the country so obsequious as to be sometimes wearisome.
For the Eastern bloc, eager to gain a foothold in Africa, Guinea, judging by the terminology it used, appeared to be the most receptive to Marxist teachings and to represent a possible bridgehead for communism. In the capitalist countries, potential investors coveted Guinea’s undeveloped resources. International capitalism could foresee a prosperous future for a country so rich as Guinea in resources of bauxite, iron, diamonds, and gold, and in unharnessed hydroelectric power from the waterfalls in rivers flowing down from the Fouta Djalon. Furthermore, agriculture in Guinea looked exceptionally promising, through its enormous potential for growing many tropical crops, such as bananas, pineapples, citrus fruit, oil palms, and coffee. To those assets were added a sufficiently numerous population and a long seacoast, which reduced the cost, respectively, of production and of transport.
Compared with some other African countries, Guinea offered the advantage of having modern administrative, political, and social institutions, thanks to the influence of a party that had achieved a dominant position under the loi-cadre It was so structured as to assure freedom – the principal aspiration of all colonized peoples – and to heal a continent infected by the virus of ethnocentricity and bloated chieftaincies. As the first French-speaking African country to affirm its capacity for self-government by freeing itself from the colonial strait jacket, Guinea further enhanced its prestige as a bright self-taught pupil by becoming both a symbol for oral tradition and for demonstrating how a country can be transformed from a subjugated land to a sovereign state in the comity of nations. Finally, the underdeveloped tropical states, deeply troubled by their isolation, sought in African unity the means of restoring their impoverished and divided economies.
Apart from this dream of African unity, which Guinea continued to cherish without necessarily seeking the means of making it a reality, Sékou Touré’s ideology has made positive neutralism the guideline of his foreign policy. The policy of positive neutralism, inspired by the Afro-Asian conference at Bandung in 1955 and dear to Nkrumah, aims to attain the goal of preserving world peace through respect for the rights of man and for national sovereignty. Thus it can be defined as both an attitude of nonalignment in relation to the big Western and Eastern blocs and as one of resolute opposition to any attempt to force the acceptance of an ideology. Taking the equality of all states as its basis, the policy of positive neutralism requires refusing to follow the behests of the former colonial powers. In practice it has given birth to a truly African diplomacy that allows any and all relations to be formed or broken off between countries at will. But neutralism, if it is to be regarded as positive, also implies taking into account, and eventually taking a stand on, major international problems that relate to the guiding principles of peace and freedom and the rejection of domination. Those principles, in effect, imply condemnation of an atomic weaponry, the wars in Vietnam and Algeria, Biafra’s secession, Portuguese colonialism, apartheid, and neocolonialism.
In part, the strategy used by a country to preserve its independence derives from this ideological choice. To some, such a strategy appears to be a sophisticated balancing act between the two blocs, between Moscow and Peking and between the different Western governments. To others, it reflects the dependency on both East and West. And to still others, it is a sequence of incomprehensible whims. Alternating concessions with firmness, zigzagging between a theoretical ideal and a pragmatic response to changing circumstances, sharing certain benefits or using them as bargaining counters – these are part and parcel of a policy of deliberate unpredictability in governmental action.
As if to escape the grasp of capitalism just at the time when American investments were expanding, Guinea in 1969 stepped up the exchange of official visits and agreements of many kinds with all the socialist countries. The conceding of the Boke bauxite deposits to the U.S. was matched by that of analogous deposits in Kindia to the U.S.S.R., which was anxious for repayment of the debts contracted by the Guineans in the course of more than ten years.
Sometimes the presence in Guinea of one country led to the temporary eviction of another. For example, in February 1971, West Germany was accused by Sékou Touré of having participated in a plot. Many observers related this to the establishment, six years earlier, of diplomatic relations with East Germany, which until then had had only relations of trade and cooperation with Guinea. At Conakry some hinted that this about-face was the result of mutual accusations made by the two Germanys to the Guinean government, while others believed that Sékou Touré was availing himself of an alibi so as to avoid for the time being paying his debt to one of his biggest creditors.
In other cases, some tentative steps toward a rapprochement were seriously compromised or at least delayed by external or internal events that fanned the flames of old hostilities. For example, no sooner had Sékou Touré been reconciled with President Houphouet-Boigny in 1970 than he categorically denounced any dialogue between Ivory Coast and South Africa and stated that students who had been expelled from Abidjan University would be welcome in Conakry. And after congratulating Georges Pompidou on his election as president of the French Republic and establishing contacts with the Bank of France in 1969, Sékou Touré violently attacked the former colonial power’s military intervention in Chad.
From time to time in its political evolution, Guinea has changed course: at first it favored the East, but beginning in 1961 it turned to the West. In 1965, it veered back again to the East, only to change again in September 1967, when it began to cooperate with both blocs. In certain cases such fluctuations could be traced to external forces, for obviously each bloc tried to check Guinea’s drift to the opposing camp.
No matter what pressures were exerted, they were ineffective unless sanctioned by Sékou Touré. Indeed, all foreign-policy decisions were made by one man and not by a group, and were determined by the impulsiveness of the Guinean leader and by his desire to serve as an example of revolutionary behavior. His obsession with persecution, as much as his feeling of insecurity, caused him to develop a network of police informers, who could furnish him at any time with more or less trumped-up charges against some foreign power, charges of spying or of plotting an attack against the Guinean regime. Sékou Touré closed one eye to the cross-frontier smuggling but kept the other trained on the outlying regions of the country. He paid special attention to the seacoast, where ships were occasionally seized, but his vigilance proved unavailing there on November 22, 1970. He also kept under close observation those areas along the Senegal and Ivory Coast borders where troop movements took place and was alert to the restiveness in neighboring countries that had brought about the downfall of Nkrumah and Modibo Keita.
If one considers the ideological, strategic, and psychological factors as a whole, Guinea’s foreign policy is more comprehensible and in part explicable. But to grasp fully the nature of that policy, it must be viewed in its historical context and in relation to the internal evolution of Guinea – that is, in the light of the loyalty inspired by the regime on the one hand and of the economic situation on the other. One clue, in particular, indicates how Guinea’s foreign policy was the extension of its domestic policy: each announcement of a « plot, » prompted by worsening economic conditions and social unrest, has coincided with charges against an imperialist power. That power is accused of instigating or being involved in the plot, and if diplomatic relations have not already been severed they are immediately broken off.
Over and above these conflicts, their profound economic causes, in which internal and external problems are intertwined, must be comprehended. Take, for example, the cause-and-effect relationship among the following sets of facts:
- monetary independence
- the shortage of merchandise, which would promote production so as to increase local purchasing power
- the collapse of agriculture
- the rise in the public debt, due notably to the clearing agreements with the U.S.S.R. and
- Guinea’s inability to meet its obligations on time.
After recognizing the failure of the small processing industries financed and launched by a wide range of donors and investors; after endeavoring to survive by expedients such as American grants; after trying to revive the population’s flagging spirits by a Chinese-style cultural revolution, the solution finally attempted was the gamble on mining development.
Because farming had declined disastrously, both for export and for domestic subsistence needs, its revival and reorganization would take too long and, moreover, offered no assurance of success. Each year, therefore, the government sought to revive the economy by raising capital in the easiest and least socialistic manner possible, and this was also the safest and least burdensome way, because it involved neither a gift nor a loan. That capital came from royalties on the ores that were produced.
Furthermore, mining by foreign companies was the surest guarantee to the countries making investments that they would remain in Guinea. In return, Guinea acquired most of its foreign exchange thanks to mining operations. Even in instances when diplomatic relations had been broken off, informal contacts could he maintained through the agency of companies established in Guinea, as was the case of Fria-Pechiney for France. In an economy where the wholesale trade and processing industries have been largely nationalized, mining activity paradoxically confirms the grip of large-scale international finance on the country. At the same time, it helps Guinea appreciably to balance its foreign trade, and perhaps in time it may enable the country to emerge from its economic tunnel. But the length of this tunnel is unknown because we lack data on Guinea’s current foreign trade – the real barometer of the economic and political development of the country. Without such a yardstick, we must simply study some of the most stable factors, as well as those that fluctuate most widely.
Viewed from the angle of motivation, two categories of attitude seem predominant. First, attitudes toward the rich nations of the East and West are determined mainly by economic considerations. However, the rejection of any commitment curtailing the exercise of national sovereignty, and the rupture of relations with a creditor when the debt falls due and becomes too flagrant (as with West Germany in 1971), can modify the policy of smiles and the welcoming hand which are the forerunners to soliciting funds. Second, attitudes toward Third World countries are generally inspired by ideological and political concepts – such as African unity, rejection of racism, struggle against Portuguese bastions of colonialism, extolling of revolutionary countries – and by psychological motivation. The latter could explain the personal ties of the Guinean head of state with the Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah until his eclipse; with the one-time leader of the Arab world, Gamal Abdel Nasser; and with the nostalgic spokesman of an idealistic African tradition, Julius Nyerere. This is true also of the still lively resentments between Sékou Touré, who had only an elementary vocational education, and two other leaders of French-speaking Black Africa – Senghor, who had a distinguished university career, and Houphouet-Boigny, the president of the RDA, from which the Guinean president had seceded. Furthermore, in regard to Senegal and Ivory Coast, Guinea’s relations are inevitably influenced by questions of political choice, of monetary zones, and of the protection offered to voluntary emigrants.
Perforce the Guinean head of state recognizes the reality of internal conflicts in Africa, and moreover he intensively contributes to them. But to evidence how little influence his policy has had on the course of African events, it suffices to list his main disillusionments, which began with the PDG’s split from the RDA and then from the French Community. These are:
- Collapse of the Guinea-Ghana-Mali Union.
- Disintegration of the Casablanca group after it was unable to attain its goals.
- Failure of attempts, after the Monrovia summit conference, to create a free-trade zone between Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
- Aspirations rather than achievements within the framework of the OAU, in particular the dream of an African bank in which Guinea’s currency would be revalued upward.
- Disappointments and rebuffs in dealing with the Organisation de la Cooperation Africaine et Malgache (OCAM) countries, and the strong terms used to denounce African « francophonie. »
- Hesitations concerning the agreements between the countries bordering on the Senegal River.
The climate of the relations between Guinea and the African states (except for the so-called revolutionary governments, especially those of Mauritania and Tanzania) has been alternately stormy and clear. Following ruptures after some coups d’état, relations with them were resumed. This was the course followed with
- Houari Boumedienne of Algeria in 1966
- with Dr. Kofi Busia of Ghana in 1969, three years after asylum had been offered to Nkrumah; and
- with Lieutenant Moussa Traoré, president of Mali, at the February 3, 1970, meeting of the OERS
The Guinean president has no special liking for his English-speaking neighbors except when they agree to help him. Those who have done so were Gambia, which handed over political exiles to him in 1970, and Sierra Leone under Siaka Stevens. In June 1970, Sékou Toure unsuccessfully proposed to the latter a union for the purpose of getting rid of British influence and of lending their armed forces to each other in case of need.
As for his French-speaking neighbors in the former French West Africa, their relations with Guinea were influenced by Franco-Guinean relations, which were a mixed bag of personal relationships, principles, and concerns.
The events of late 1958 and early 1959 have often been recounted. The clash between de Gaulle and Touré, and the latter’s refusal to accept the former as a father figure explain in part the developments that followed
- the search for other fraternal ties
- the haste and radicalism of the decisions taken
- the attempt to decolonize completely, and
- the breaking of currency ties that marked the onset of Guinea’s stagnation.
Yet it must be admitted that the status of Franco-Guinean relations did not vitally alter the character of Guinea’s regime. Between 1962 and 1965, the steady improvement in relations between the French and Guinean governments served chiefly to lay bare the points at issue between them. These concerned mainly financial transactions, such as the payment into French banks of Guinean veterans’ pensions against which Guinea drew especially for transferring the savings of experts and technicians and for the purchase of French materiel and products – motor vehicles for the administration, school books, etc. Since the rupture of November 1965, there has been a vacuum, marked from the Guinean side by discreet overtures voiced at the eighth PDG congress in 1967, by frequent denunciations of French imperialism, and, for about six months in 1970, by a semi-reconciliation whose purpose was to settle in Guinea’s favor a financial dispute involving some 10 billion CFA francs at the time (the veterans’ pensions that had been frozen since 1965 ).
While General de Gaulle continued in power, relations between Guinea and France could never be wholly serene. Yet the presence of Guinea’s delegation at de Gaulle’s funeral suggested either a silent admiration for the famous French statesman on the part of Sékou Touré and the Guinean people or the wish to normalize relations, as had already been tacitly implied by the congratulations sent to Georges Pompidou upon his election as president of the French Republic. In Paris, the establishment of an entente cordiale with Guinea is seen as difficult, so long as its leaders cultivate close friendships with the Socialist and Communist members of the French government’s opposition. Since the surprise attack of November 22, 1970, which was followed by charges against France and the sentencing of French nationals to death, Franco-Guinean relations have remained tense, although the election of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing as president of France led to a change of attitude beginning in 1974. On the other hand, the Soviet Union, China, and the United States have preserved their favored position.
Despite temporary disagreements, Sékou Touré, who was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, has for many years received considerable technical and economic aid from the East for widely diverse sectors of Guinea’s economy. Aid supplied by the U.S.S.R. includes mineral prospecting, agricultural improvements, national education, administrative advisers, and the building of certain public works and processing industries, including canneries, sawmills, a stadium, a polytechnic institute, and a radio station. Eastern European countries have contributed a furniture factory, fisheries, urbanization assistance, a printing press, a brick factory, a generating plant, and other facilities. The Chinese have built a combined cigarette and match factory, a hydroelectric dam and plant, a people’s assembly hall, cinemas, a tea plantation and factory, and other structures.
Nevertheless, counterbalancing the above-mentioned aid, the following assistance from Western countries should be cited:
- Great Britain sponsored the building of a textile complex
- Italy, a fruit juice factory and oil mill
- the German Federal Republic, an slaughter-house (abattoir), a tannery, and a shoe factory
- the United States, investments through the Harvey Aluminum Company at Boke, and a plant for making household utensils (American aid projects are fewer but more valuable).
Yet relations with countries of the Eastern bloc continue to be favored, as shown by the frequency of visits by their ministers, civil servants, labor leaders, and party militants; the exchange of youth delegations; the sending of students (200 in 1959, 860 in 1962, 450 in 1965); the sojourns of experts; the organizing of trade exhibitions; the free distribution of news by Tass and the New China News Agency; and work carried out under the three-year and seven-year plans.
The ties binding Guinea to the socialist countries are also apparent in the sphere of technical and financial aid. Clearing agreements have dealt with the loans received from those countries, which were for long terms and at low interest rates (the first loans from China were interest-free). The grant of loans on a government-to-government basis, thus by-passing the underwriter companies, the speed with which decisions were made, and the low cost of technical assistance have all been advantageous to Guinea. However, they are accompanied by certain drawbacks, such as an over rapid turnover of technical aid personnel (who risk losing their Marxist zeal in Guinea), the psychological gap between the Soviets and the Guineans, the mediocre quality of the merchandise supplied, and an insufficient knowledge of the French language among many teachers. Given technical and even administrative responsibilities, the Eastern-bloc counselors, whose advice has certainly influenced prominent politicians, have nevertheless not been decisive factors in Guinean policy-making. The differences in viewpoint among the Guinean leaders and Sékou Touré’s determination to pursue a neutralist course have lessened the possibility that communist propaganda by means of the press and cinema might exert an undue influence. Thanks to this control mechanism, the massive aid received from the Eastern bloc has never, in the eyes of the Guineans, constituted a danger to their independence. The fact that the chief of state, in 1973, entrusted the piloting of Guinea’s planes and its navy to Soviet technicians even conferred a certain security.
Although psychological influences are hard to evaluate, it must be admitted that the U.S.S.R. and China have the ear of those leaders of the national politburo who have undergone Marxist training. The population, on the other hand, does not relish the moralistic zeal of the Chinese workers, the discourtesy (in the light of familiar French standards of behavior) of the proselytizers of development from the backward Eastern bloc region, nor the Cuban bodyguards of Sékou Touré. But the Yugoslavs, Rumanians, Hungarians, and East C.Germans are oblivious to these Guinean reactions and do not suffer from any lack of self-confidence.
Chinese and Soviet nationals coexist peaceably in Guinea, though without contacts aside from the exchange of formalities at official receptions. The same could be said of relations of those nationals with the Cubans and Vietnamese. Conakry’s policy of balancing Moscow against Peking, like its policy between East and West, is sometimes slightly askew. This imbalance can be seen by studying the list of trade agreements, cultural delegations, and diplomats’ visits. Such an analysis discloses clearly that the main thrust of Guinea’s policy does not reflect the slavish imitation of some foreign model. Chinese technical aid (involving between 2,500 and 4,000 persons in 1972, depending on the source of the figures and on the scale of the work being done) for rice-culture improvement, industrial construction, and agricultural experiments and education, is appreciated by the rulers of Guinea pretty much at its true worth for its scope, efficiency, and discretion. At the same time, however, steps are taken to keep watch on the judicious mixture of economic advertising and political propaganda (pamphlets and sayings of Mao, and Chinese films) that are the stock in trade of China’s strategy in Africa.
Despite its liking for « scientific socialism, » is Guinea likely to become, in the words of Alpha Condé, « the valet of American imperialism? » To find the answer, one must study the American tactics.
Immediately after Guinea’s independence, the Republican administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower adopted a temporizing policy toward that country, even though a United States mission had defined the precise objectives of access to raw materials, of trade development, and of American moral leadership. Following the Democratic Party’s victory in 1960, a change of policy took place under President John Kennedy. In February 1961, only a month after Sékou Touré had accused the United States of involvement in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, William Attwood was sent to Guinea as ambassador. He became the first architect of the operation of « salvaging » Guinea, by gradually persuading the Guinean president to
- join the International Monetary Fund
- facilitate and guarantee private investments, and
- accept the services of the Peace Corps, at least in the fields of education and health.
The visit to Guinea by Peace Corps director R. Sargent Shriver preceded a visit by Sékou Touré in October 1962 to the White House. One writer commented that « Toure was won over by Kennedy’s charm, which is a mixture of attentiveness, humor, frankness and grace. » Economic and aid agreements concerning the delivery of food products, the sending of rice-farming specialists, the electrification of nineteen towns, and so on had already been signed. In the ensuing years, the United States Agency for International Development (AID) program expanded.
It has often been stressed that American aid, with Sékou Touré’s consent, was aimed at offsetting the influence of the Eastern-bloc countries. Moreover, it is quite possible that sometimes certain stands taken by the Guineans sharpened the rivalry between Paris and Washington. It can be said with some certainty that the waves of pro- and anti-Americanism in Guinea were colored by the factor of aluminum.
In 1964, the American ascendancy began to be more marked. Olin Mathieson Chemical Corp., became a majority stockholder (48 per cent) in Fria; Harvey Aluminum Co. revived its plan to extract ores at Tamara and Boké the Mack Truck Company built an assembly plant for trucks and utility vehicles; and Pan American Airways and American oil companies were more firmly established in the country, inasmuch as the former reorganized Air-Guinée and Texaco planned to build a refinery. United States AID to some degree controlled the money in circulation, through the assistance provided by its « food for peace » program and by the financing of some industrial installations. In 1965, the United States became Guinea’s ranking supplier and its second most important customer. The next year, the detention of a Guinean delegation at Accra, as described below, gave Sékou Touré a pretext to find out how far he could go in detaching himself from this « imperialism. » But the hopes of finding another Fria near Boke created new links of self-interest between the United States and Guinea (through Aluminium Ltd. of Canada, Aluminum Company of America, and Harvey Aluminum Company ) . Consequently, no amount of anti-imperialistic fulminations could thenceforth be strong enough to destroy the web of mutual obligations, political complicity, and common interests
The Chronological Periods
With these general clues in mind, it may now be easier to interpret the meaning of the periodic fluctuations in Guinea’s foreign policy.
Initial Hopes and Trends (September 28, 1958-February 1960)
The conditions under which Guinea obtained its independence in September 1958, aside from the temporary restrictions caused by the suspension of FIDES aid, led to a rapid deterioration in its relations with the French government. As a result of the negative vote in the referendum, France sternly ordered the immediate withdrawal of all technical, administrative, military, and economic aid. Right after the September referendum, five hundred French civil servants were repatriated. The unambiguous offers of association made by Sékou Touré to the former Metropole in the months following Guinea’s secession did not suffice to heal the breach. On the contrary, they intensified the former administrators’ itch for revenge. Three preliminary draft agreements between Guinea and France were signed in January 1959, and several French missions were sent to Conakry in June and August of that year. But relations could scarcely improve in the atmosphere created by Guinea’s radio campaign against the Algerian war and the Community and by the haste with which Guinea solicited – and received in March 1959 – from the Eastern bloc in general and Czechoslovakia in particular the arms which it had vainly sought to obtain from Eisenhower. Moreover, Guinea resented the implicit decision of the French trading companies, banks, and planters to cause financial difficulties for the country that they foresaw they must abandon, and it therefore decided to create the Guinean franc.
This quarrel with the former Metropole necessitated an adjustment of Guinea’s economic and political relations with the rest of the world. During the first years of independence, the bilateral agreements concluded by Guinea reflected quite clearly the orientation of the new state – as indicated in Table 2 – despite a very few omissions, which do not invalidate the over-all picture.
Table 2. Summary of Guinea’s foreign agreements, 1958-1963
|Signatories||Number of agreements|
|1958||1959||1960||1961||1962||1963 (3 months)||Total|
After the rupture that followed the referendum, so many misunderstandings, grievances, and petty rancors accumulated that Guinea, now divorced without alimony, had to turn to the Eastern bloc. It did so in order to counteract the French blockade and France’s persuasion of its allies to delay their recognition of the new state. By October, however, such official recognition was granted out of fear that Guinea would join the rival camp, and then missions and delegations began to arrive. The United States moved to match the gift shipment of five thousand tons of rice from China. Neutralism and nonalignment were emphasized during Sékou Touré’s trip in October and November 1959 to the United States, Great Britain, West Germany, the U.S.S.R., and Czechoslovakia. The aim of the trip was to procure material advantages for Guinea, as well as to assert the personality of that country and, even more, that of its president.
Nevertheless, the 1960-1961 agreements show clearly that the scales were tipping in favor of Eastern Europe. This was due in part to the pressure successfully exerted by the advisers who had come to place their services at the disposal of the new state and in part to Guinea’s eagerness to demonstrate its independence of Western imperialism.
Revolutionary Radicalism (March 1960-November 1961)
The withdrawal of the Guinean franc from the franc zone on March 1, 1960, because of the prevailing economic and financial situation in Guinea, was followed the next month by the discovery of a « plot » implicating three Frenchmen and one Swiss. Forewarned of Sékou Touré’s intention to arrest them, two of the men took flight in s mall plane stolen from the Aero Club. ) These developments aggravated the deterioration in relations between Guinea and France, which was accused of wanting to reconquer its former colony.
At the same time that Guinea’s policy became violently anti-French and was moving toward the nationalization of French properties, its links with the Eastern bloc were strengthened. This is clearly shown by the country’s financial balance sheet during its early years. From November 1958 to October 1963, Guinea received the equivalent of about 44 billion Guinean francs, or three times the total of its annual budget at that time. Of those 44 billion, 18 came from the U.S.S.R., 6 from China, and 7 from Eastern European countries. Early in 1959, Ghana had loaned Guinea the sterling equivalent of 6 billion Guinean francs. As for the United States, its massive aid in dollars (a total of 39 million dollars as of October 1963) did not begin until 1962. Bernard Charles wrote, with discernment, that
it is not easy to assess the importance and the repercussions of the aid given. In some cases the grant and the acceptance of aid seem to have been principally political gestures, with little attention being paid to their utilization. By the end of 1962, a considerable portion of the credits, such as those from China and Egypt, had not yet been put to use, or to only a slight degree. Another deduction that can be made is that Guinea, unlike some other states such as Egypt, seems not to have played the East against the West during the 1959-1962 period, or in any case not to have earned dividends therefrom. The 3 billion Guinean francs received from West Germany did not match what Guinea had received from the Eastern-bloc countries.
Profiting by the welcome accorded its financial and technical assistance, the Eastern countries believed that it was necessary at the same time to help the Guineans with their thinking. The speeches of Khrushchev, Mao’s Thoughts, the works of Lenin, and Marxist economic treatises arrived in such profusion and were so widely distributed among the young people that the toxic effects of this intensive propaganda were denounced by Sékou Touré himself. On December 14, 1961, he actually reproached the U.S.S.R. for continuing to disseminate its propaganda widely (despite the warning issued to the foreign embassies the preceding month) without official Guinean approval, and also for making direct contacts with Guinean youth. These accusations of ideological infiltration, which coincided with the teachers’ plot, the recall of Ambassador Daniel Solod, and the icy reception given to Anastas Mikoyan, the Soviet foreign minister, contrasted with the warmth of the meeting between Sékou Touré and Heinrich Lubke, president of the German Federal Republic. Mikoyan realized that the wind was now blowing from a different direction when Sékou Touré told him that « revolutions can be neither imported nor exported.»
The Ebbing of the Revolutionary Wave (November 1961-November 1965)
By warning the overzealous supporters of communism in this way, eight months after he had closed down the American cultural center, Sékou Touré reaffirmed his insistence on neutralism and independence so as to preserve at all costs his freedom of maneuver. His refusal to accept a dependent role or binding ties, and his determination to remain master in his own house, seemed to be Sékou Touré’s guiding principles in the event that the United States should decide that the time was opportune to support the Guinean economy with abundant and multiform aid. Such aid was to include tractors, motor vehicles, fishing nets, textiles, fuel, asphalt, the restoration of rice fields, projects to increase the production of paddy, corn, and palm oil, the electrification of towns, the improvement of civil aviation, the training of middle-category technical cadres, scholarships to American educational institutions, a language institute, and a visit by the hospital ship « Hope. » In 1963, American aid in the form of agricultural surpluses alone (rice, flour, powdered milk, soybean oil, etc. ) amounted to 3 million dollars. In June 1964, a new Guinean-American agreement, involving 8.57 million dollars’ worth of foodstuffs, was signed. This raised the total American imports under the Food-for-Peace program through the fiscal year, October 1, 1964 September 30, 1965, to 14 million dollars, or 3.5 billion Guinean francs. The government of the Republic of Guinea paid this sum into a special fund, most of which was available for financing its plan for economic development.
All the Western and pro-Western nations benefited by the change in Guinea’s policy that had taken place since November 1961, because it had been marked by a definite rapprochement between Guinea and the other former French West African partners, notably Ivory Coast and Senegal. In the meetings between Sékou Touré and Houphouet-Boigny at Bouaké (April 1964) and at Nzerekore (early 1965), it looked as if the former solidarity of the RDA might be revived. As for Senegal, President Senghor, in his encounters with Sékou Touré at Labé and Dalaba during January 1965, tried to reach an understanding on fourteen agreements for economic cooperation in the framework provided by the new Inter-State Committee for Improvement of the Senegal River (which became the OERS).
Similarly, beginning with the agreement of May 22, 1963, between France and Guinea, the annual conferences (especially the one May 1965) of the mixed France-Guinean commission took place in a serene atmosphere. Each side saw to it that the annual debt payments were made regularly, and the French companies which had stayed on in Guinea resumed their transfers of capital abroad. These companies had not given up hope of another improvement in relations, even if the loi-cadre of November 1964 was creating some temporary economic difficulties, particularly in trade. Their optimism disregarded the possibility that a new « plot » would be uncovered and another marked change in policy would occur.
The Regime’s Isolation (November 1965-September 1967)
From the time it was founded in February 1965, the OCAM, which represented the group of moderate African states, was deemed by Sékou Touré to be incompatible with the new Organization of African Unity (OAU). « Francophonie » and the activities of the OCAM and its leaders (especially Maurice Yaméogol) were regularly and vehemently denounced in colorful language by the irascible Guinean leader. This was the state of affairs at the time Conakry claimed to have discovered a new plot, which allegedly was hatched by the Ivory Coast leaders and their friends, including two French ministers, Pierre Jacquinot and Raymond Triboulet. Diplomatic relations with France were broken off forthwith, and eight years later Italy was still representing French interests in Guinea.
The country’s isolation became more pronounced in 1966. In February, with the overthrow of Nkrumah, Guinea lost one of its strongest ideological allies (while shortly afterward also assuming responsibility for him ) . In March, Toure accused the Ivory Coast president of organizing subversive activities in Guinea and mobilized his troops along the Ivorian frontier, as much by way of a challenge as to restore the Osagyefo to power in Accra. As a result, there was a brief clash in the Beyla region, along with a continued war of insults. On the Ivorian side, Guinean refugees were encouraged to organize a National Front for the Liberation of Guinea. Pressure was exerted by Ivory Coast on the great powers, especially the United States and the German Federal Republic, to make them stop providing assistance to Guinea.
In September, the Ivorian appeal seemed to elicit a response. It was then learned that – among the general steps taken, it must be admitted, with regard to all the African countries – American aid (AID and Food-for-Peace) to Guinea during that fiscal year ( October 1, 1966-September 30, 1967) would be reduced by three-fourths that is, from 24 million dollars in 1965-1966 to 6.8 million (Nevertheless, total American aid to Guinea during the years 1962 to 1967 amounted to 105 million dollars.) At the end of October, American-Guinean relations were further strained. The Guinean delegation on its way to attend the OAU congress at Addis Ababa was arrested at Accra, and because the delegates were traveling in a Pan American Airways plane, the United States was held responsible for the incident. Mass protest meetings and denunciations of imperialism, the placing under house arrest of 408 American nationals, the expulsion of the Peace Corps, and the cancellation of Pan American’s operating permit followed. The sequence of such immediate reprisals showed no signs of abating until Emperor Haile Selassié and Presidents Nasser and Tubman intervened. After a few days, the Ghanaian military officers, who had tried simply to deflate the Nkrumah myth in their own country and to divert popular attention from the econotnic difficulties at home, agreed to free their captives. When contacts with Washington were resumed at the end of the year, it was not forgotten that in a radio broadcast on November 8 Sékou Touré had told the United States to « give us no more aid because Guinea needs only its freedom and dignity. » Among the big Western powers, only the German Federal Republic still maintained good relations with Conakry at the end of 1966.
Deprived of funds from the West, Guinea cultivated relations with the Eastern-bloc countries and multiplied its trade agreements, as well as its cultural and diplomatic exchanges with them. At the same time, it vainly tried to bring revolutionary African states together in a new group reminiscent of the Casablanca bloc.
Throughout 1967, there was a hardening of Guinea’s attitude toward Senegal and Ivory Coast, which were friendly to France. Evidences of this were the suspension of Guinea’s participation in the inter-State committee for the Senegal River (January), Senegal’s closing of its embassy at Conakry for « reasons of economy » (March), and the seizure of an Ivorian trawler, the « Ker Isper, » which had been forced into Guinean territorial waters by rough seas. Early in July, Ivory Coast retaliated by arresting certain Guinean passengers of a plane that had been forced by mechanical difficulties to land at Abidjan airport. The arrested passengers were members of the Guinean delegation to the United Nations, headed by Louis Lansana Beavogui, Guinea’s foreign minister. Abidjan let it be known that they would be held until Guinea freed the crew of the « Ker Isper » as well as François Kamano, manager of the Ivory Coast Family Allowance Fund, who had been imprisoned at Conakry since the « plot » of October 1965. The Guinean government promptly placed the blame for the arrests on the United Nations and even more on KLM, whose plane had carried Beavogui and his colleagues, and the KLM staff in Conakry were put under house arrest. Air Afrique and UTA, fearing reprisals, suspended their flights to Conakry, as Pan American had done the previous year. As a result, Guinea found itself extremely isolated.
The Resumption of Cooperation (September 1967-November 1970)
Public opinion in Guinea was critically affected by
- the misunderstandings with France in 1965
- the United States in 1967, and
- Ivory Coast and Senegal in 1967.
- It was also perturbed by the difficulties with the U.S.S.R., which began in 1967 to ration its gasoline shipments to Guinea because of Guinea’s failure to repay its debts, as well as by
- the spectacular defection of Nabi Youla, the Guinean ambassador to West Germany, in 1967.
Disagreement in the country about future policy grew apace during the rainy season of 1967. Some maintained that the revolution should be given a fresh start on a new basis and with new men, whereas others favored closer ties with neighboring countries, as well as France, the Soviet Union, and the United States, so as to obtain from them the material aid that China was unable to supply. The pro-Chinese supporters of the former policy, who controlled Radio Conakry and the daily, Horoya, seemed to have the upper hand at the end of August. The inauguration of the People’s Hall (Palais du Peuple) in September, when the eighth PDG congress would be in session, should, they believed, mark the revolution’s revival and demonstrate China’s favored position as an ally. But the more realistic group, including Saifoulaye Diallo, Ismael Toure, and Fodeba Keita, and also Moriba Magassouba, whose writings had clearly diagnosed what was wrong with Guinea’s economy, eventually won out. It became obvious that their view had prevailed when, on September 5, Radio Conakry announced the imminent departure for the United States of a delegation led by Ismael Toure, and of a delegation to the U.S.S.R. headed by Saifoulaye Diallo. Delegates to the PDG Congress favored the resumption of relations with Guinea’s neighbors in Africa, and even with France and Great Britain.
Under the influence of President Moktar Ould Daddah of Mauritania and of Dakar’s offers to renew the dialogue, the inter-State committee for the Senegal River was reactivated at Bamako on November 6, 1967. Furthermore, at the end of September, the liberation of the Ivorians held prisoners in Guinea, as well as mediation by the Liberian president, served to draw Guinea and Ivory Coast together again. France and Great Britain, for their part, remained cautious. Past experience and the fear of an adverse reaction among pro-Chinese Guineans were factors weighed by the French foreign-affairs ministry in the discreet contacts that were being renewed with Guinea. The U.S.S.R., now cheek by jowl with the Americans and West Germans in Conakry, would not be displeased by the return of a French diplomatic mission to Guinea. As for the British Foreign Office, it seemed anxious to avoid vexing the new government of Ghana.
Economic considerations were mainly responsible for this turnabout at the end of 1967, which persisted in 1968. National revenues were estimated at 180 billion Guinean francs in 1967, whereas the official public debt stood at 240 billion. In other words, the need for additional capital once again justified a policy of cooperation, more with Europe and the United States than with the socialist countries. The following chronology shows the pro-Western trend of events during 1968 :
- Resumption of diplomatic relations with Great Britain in February.
- Renewal of the military-aid agreement with the German Federal Republic in April.
- The welcome extended to the American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in Conakry in June.
- Successful negotiation in September of a loan of about 100 million dollars for the mining of bauxite at Boke. Of this total, 75 million was supplied by Kuhn, Loeb and Co. and 25 million by the Export-Import Bank of the United States, on condition that equipment material would be purchased in the United States.
- Business trips by Ismael Touré to Italy, West Germany, and Belgium in October.
- Fria’s decision to increase its production capacity from 500,000 to 700,000 tons between 1968 and 1970, if it could obtain 10 million dollars in investments. Mining operations were to be expanded in the ensuing years.
Nevertheless, Franco-Guinean relations did not move off dead center. France, although remaining silent, could not lightly dismiss the rapprochement between Guinea and Senegal. That was given concrete form in March 1968 by the commitment to economic regional integration implicit in the transformation of the Inter-State Committee of the Senegal River into the Organization of the Senegal River Border States (OERS). Guinea’s reconciliation with Ivory Coast, on the other hand, was viewed by France with smiling approval. However, the exchange of visits by soccer teams in 1970 was not enough to erase the remembrance of past disagreements, which could easily revive should the Ivorian president make the slightest move of which the president of Guinea disapproved.
From 1968 to 1971, the socialist countries continued to maintain close and varied relations with Guinea. In 1968, two military and commercial delegations were exchanged with China on a capital-to-capital basis, the first series in April and May and the second in August and September. Concurrently, exchanges with the U.S.S.R, consisting of a cultural mission (at Conakry in March), a trade mission (at Moscow in April), and a military and parliamentary mission (at Moscow in August), served to keep that country in the foreground. The Communist world’s ideological influence continued to be predominant in 1969. That year was marked by the sending of two Guinean missions to Peking, in February and October, and by the visit to Conakry of a Soviet delegation, which signed an agreement to mine bauxite at Kindia. Soviet investment in that enterprise amounted to 83 million rubles, or 22 billion Guinean francs. But there was apparently no further talk of the Konkouré dam, which had been proposed to the U.S.S.R. in 1965. Obviouxly that project would arouse no Soviet enthusiasm if it were to serve, as originally intended, to supply energy to the American-Guinean plant at Boke.
Throughout most of 1970, Guinea’s political life was marked by calm on the domestic front and by continued cooperation with the East and with the West. Until November, there was general approval of the attempts to renew ties with Guinea’s French-speaking neighbors on the one hand and with France on the other.
The Period of Panic (November 1970-February 1972)
Suddenly, once again, a chain of revolutionary events was set in motion – this time by a surprise landing during the night of November 22 by soldiers from Guinea-Bissau and Guinean émigrés. The former aimed to free the prisoners held by the PAIGC, based in Conakry, and the latter’s objectives was to seize power. This attempt was foiled by disagreements among those in charge of the raid and by the protection given to the Guinean president by his armed militiamen. Those accused of participation in the raid were tried in two stages. The trial of the « mercenaries » ended in late January with the sentencing of 159 persons, including some West German nationals; the related trial of the so-called Fifth Column lasted from August to December and dealt with those charged with lack of zeal in defending the regime. For almost a year after the danger was over, the overexcited Guinean public was kept mobilized so that it could pass judgment on the accused and carry out some of the death sentences by hanging. The delegations sent to Conakry by the United Nations learned only what the president wanted to tell them, and the staff of the German Federal embassy was expelled because a former SS officer was accused of having been in collusion with the invaders by correspondence. Violent verbal attacks were made against France and Portugal, some of whose nationals were involved in the trials, and also against Senegal, which was accused of sheltering Guinean exiles. The OERS broke up and Sierra Leone signed a mutual-defense treaty with Guinea. But the sympathy of the whole world for Guinea at the time of the attack was considerably weakened when it learned of the bloodthirsty rage of the Guinean president and his use of fake trials and summary executions as a means of getting rid of his opponents. Nevertheless, on February 2, 1972, 34 of those accused were released.
The Return to Calm (February 1972-June 1976)
With the restoration of a degree of calm in 1972, the government was eager to put a rapid end to its isolation. At first it tried to normalize relations with the neighboring countries. A meeting with President Senghor took place in Monrovia under the aegis of the OAU on May 29, and one with the Ivorian president in Faranah on July 24. (Later these relations were broken off because of new Guinean charges on September 7, 1973, « against those traitors and puppets, Houphouet and Senghor. ») Nkrumah’s body was returned to Ghana, and diplomatic missions were exchanged with that country in March 1973. This was followed by a vigorous and wide-ranging diplomatic offensive. The presidents of Cameroun, Algeria, and Zaire honored Sékou Touré by visits in 1972, and they concluded agreements with him. Of these, one of the most important was that with Zaire, which provided for the processing of Guinea’s bauxite in that country. Good relations already established with Liberia were further strengthened, as were those with Nigeria and Sudan, as a result of the visits to Conakry made by Generals Yakubu Gowon (March 1972) and Gaafar al-Nimeiry (August 1973 ).
Relations with the socialist countries and the United States continued to be important and fruitful. All of those countries are assured of liens on Guinea’s mining economy, which serve as collateral for their loans to Guinea. Thus they are protected against any attempt to oust them from the country in the event of political upheavals there. Japanese, Yugoslav, Swiss, and Spanish companies have only business dealings with Guinea, for they want simply to acquire markets and raw materials (especially bauxite and iron ores)
A visit to Guinea by Nicolas Ceausescu, head of the Rumanian state, March 9-11, 1974, culminated in an important agreement concerning the processing on the spot of Boke’s bauxite, an operation for which Rumania provided credits amounting to 80 million dollars.
The suddenly acquired power of the oil-producing countries prompted a not disinterested trip by the Guinean premier, Louis Lansana Beavogui, to Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, Abou Dhabi, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Libya. But it is with Algeria, above all, that economic cooperation in the fields of health, electronic communications, meteorology, youth, sports, and the training of cadres is genuinely developing.
As for the new French government of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, its desire to normalize relations was clearly shown by the sending to Guinea of the former minister André Bettencourt and then the visit of André Lewin, member of the French mission to the United Nations. In the final months of 1975, the points at issue were finally settled by negotiation. In exchange for liberating about twenty French nationals imprisoned in Guinea, the French government agreed to pay the pensions due to the Guinean veterans who had served in the French army. Jean Lecanuet, the French Minister of Justice, was given a hearty welcome at Conakry, where he was embraced by President Sékou Touré. And André Lewin, appointed ambassador to Guinea, arrived at his new post early in January 1976.
What is the future 1ikely to hold for Guinea? No more than common sense is needed to understand that the country, in the post-Touré period, will not turn to the Eastern bloc. To be sure, some Marxist intellectuals, unaware of Guinean realities, dream of a genuine socialism that Sékou Touré has never achieved. But the significant fact is that the population associates socialism with Sékou Touré, and that henceforth no one will be carried away by an oratory like his that has provided the background music for bitterness, fear, torture, and shortages. Among the Guinean elite there is scarcely a single family that has not had a brother, cousin, or friend who has suffered maltreatment by the militia, the wrath of a politically fanatical informer, imprisonment, or purges that recall the worst periods of Stalinism. Guinea’s future leaders probably realize that America, albeit distrusting of Sékou Touré, has had its eye on Guinea’s bauxite, while adroitly playing the role of dispenser of generous gifts. To the degree to which the influence of the Soviet Union and China is offset and the whims of Guinean rulers are moderated by tacit pressures, the presence of the United States in Guinea is not without its usefulness. As for France, the attitude of its government and public opinion toward Guinea and the rest of Africa since the referendum of 1958 precludes the eventuality of any attempt at reconquest. But it seems obvious that the regime runs the risk of extinction at the hands of the Guineans themselves who fled from the country and have endeavored to form an organization abroad. And it is not impossible that the military elements and the civilian population may find « understanding allies » in their teachers of former decades, in the friendships made during the 1950s, and in the relationships of the post-independence period. It will be up to Guinea to defend itself against predators at the crucial moment.
. On Nov. 22, 1972, François Mitterrand, leader of the French left, was at Conakry at the very time that President Pompidou was completing his third official tour of the French Community states.
. See Alpha Condé, Guinée: L’Albanie de l’Afrique ou néo-colonie américaine ? (Paris: Git-le-Coeur, 1972), p. 173.
. William Attwood, The Red and the Blacks (New York: Harper &: Row, 1967). This is the ambassador’s own account of his mission at Conakry.
. John Henry Morrow, First American Ambassador to Guinea (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1968), p. 106.
. Based on Bernard Charles, « La Guinée, » in André Malreaux and Jean Meyriat, Décolonisation et régimes politiques en Afrique noire (Paris: A. Colin, 1967), pp. 159-204.
. Fernand Gigon, Guinée: Etat-pilote (Paris: Plon, 1959), pp. 67-75.
. Charles, op. cit., p. 197.
. Marchés tropicaux et mediterranéens, No. 972 (June 27, 1964-).
. To follow these events in detail, especially those that occurred between 1963 and 1966, read the eight excellent studies on Guinea by Victor DuBois, American Universities Field Staff Reports. West African Series, 8, Nos. 7-9 (1965), and 9, Nos. 1-5 (1966)
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