This is the fourth installment in Victor Du Bois series of papers called The Search for Unity in French-Speaking Black Africa. The author discusses the crisis that opposed President Sékou Touré to the member states of the Organisation Commune Africaine et Malgache in 1965. The hostility burst into the public realm and it unleashed unusual exchanges and debasing insults between West African heads of states, including Sékou Touré (Guinea), Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Côte d’Ivoire) and Maurice Yaméogo (Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso). The reader will find here the full text of Yaméogo scathing response to Sékou Touré. Elsewhere, the late Jeune Afrique journalist Sennen Andriamirado published excerpts from the original French version in “Avec Houphouët et Senghor, un difficile ménage à trois”. The section appeared in the book entitled Sékou Touré. Ce qu’il fut. Ce qu’il a fait. Ce qu’il faut défaire Editions Jeune Afrique. Collection Plus. Paris. 1985
Tierno S. Bah
Victor D. Du Bois
The Search for Unity in French-Speaking Black Africa
Part IV: Relations Between the “Moderate” and the “Revolutionary” States: The Case of Guinea
American Universities Field Staff Reports. West Africa Series, Vol. VIII N°6, August 1965, pp. 1-26
Victor David Du Bois (1932-1983)
Unity is a goal to which most of the independent nations of Africa aspire. It has been pursued in different ways and with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The recent regrouping of the moderate French-speaking states south of the Sahara into the Organisation Commune Africaine et Malgache (O.C.A.M .) , and the subsequent enlargement of this group by the de facto acceptance of Congo-Leopoldville , are expressions of this desire for unity. But these “moderate” states have not confined their efforts to working for unity among themselves; at times they have also sought to proselytize Guinea and Mali, which have associated themselves with what is usually called the “revolutionary” bloc in Africa. This Report will deal with the relations between the moderate states and Guinea from mid-1962 to mid-1965 . A subsequent Report will consider their relations with Mali.
Presidents Houphouët-Boigny and Sékou Touré, Conakry 1962 (Photo: Information Côte d’Ivoire)
The Temporary Reconciliation
Until mid-1962 Guinea was isolated from the other states of French-speaking Black Africa. This isolation was in part voluntary and in part the result of circumstances forced upon it by France
Guinea’s President, Sékou Touré, was convinced that he and he alone represented the real interests of the people in the former French territories. These interests, as he interpreted them, necessitated a break with the ex-métropole. Touré disdained his colleagues in the other territories who had chosen to remain on friendly terms with France, and over Radio Conakry he poured out a torrent of invective against them. He accused them of being in league with “colonialists and imperialists,” and even of being their “stooges” and “valets.” President Houphouët-Boigny of the Ivory Coast, one of the main architects of the French Community, was an especially frequent target.
In the latter part of 1962, African leaders began to speak more and more about calling a summit conference at Addis Ababa to lay the basis for promoting African unity. The Guinean President realized that if the summit conference were held he would have to confront Houphouët and the other leaders he had been attacking for so long. As a result, Radio Conakry’s “Voix de la Revolution” suddenly became circumspect in its remarks about these leaders. The broadcasts recalled Houphouët’s earlier role as founder and president of the inter-territorial Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (R.D.A.) and discreetly ceased referring to him as a “puppet of the colonialists.” Touré even went so far as to invite Houphouët to stop off in Guinea on his way to France and, later, to return for a longer visit. Houphouët accepted both invitations.
When Houphouët arrived in Guinea in November 1962, Touré accorded him a lavish welcome. The visit was a personal triumph for both leaders. For Houphouët it signified that Touré was no longer using him as a scapegoat for Guinea’s failures; for Touré it was a face-saving device which allowed him to get back into Houphouët’s good graces, a prelude he probably hoped would pave the way for reconciliation with Général de Gaulle.
By the time the two men saw one another again at the Addis Ababa conference in May 1963, there was nothing but warmth and friendliness between them. Both seemed only too pleased to forget the bitterness which had existed just a short time before.
Throughout 1964, Guinean-Ivoirien relations continued to improve. Guinea also began to collaborate once again with two of its former Federation partners, Senegal and Mauritania. Joining with them and Mali in a scheme to exploit the Senegal River, which runs through all four countries.
Renewal of the Conflict Between Guinea and the Moderate States
The new harmony between Guinea and its neighbors continued until the beginning of 1965. Then, however, the Ivory Coast and its Entente partners (Upper Volta, Dahomey, and Niger), weary of being the target of subversive activities emanating from Ghana , decided to launch an all-out attack against President Kwame Nkrumah. They hoped to discredit Nkrumah before Africa and the world by exposing his support of outlaw organizations whose avowed purpose was to overthrow the legitimate governments in several African countries. Charges to this effect appeared repeatedly in the press of the Entente states.
Early in the year, therefore, the Entente states began dispatching high-ranking members of their governments on “information missions” throughout Africa. Ostensibly, the purpose of these missions was to explain the Entente’s charges against Ghana, but a more important aim was to persuade other African governments to put pressure on Nkrumah to desist from supporting subversive groups.
At the Nouakchott conference in February 1965, at which the O.C.A.M. was founded, Nkrumah’s provocations were studied in detail. Ghana was denounced publicly and the O.C.A.M. leaders reiterated their warning that they would not attend the next O.A.U. summit conference if it were held in Accra. They also stated that their representatives would press the Entente’s charges against Ghana at the O.A.U. foreign ministers conference in Lagos on June 6, 1965.
On March 14, 1965, scarcely a month after the Nouakchott meeting, Presidents Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria, Sékou Touré of Guinea, Modibo Keita of Mali, and Kwame Nkrurnah of Ghana met in Bamako (Mali). To everyone’s surprise, the four leaders refrained from making any criticism whatever either of the formation of the O .C.A.M. or of its announced goal of giving the “moderate” states a greater voice in the O.A.U. Significantly, neither Ben Bella, Touré, nor Keita made any statement in defense of Nkrumah. And when these three leaders flew down to Conakry the next day for yet another conference, Nkrumah did not accompany them
The Ben Bella-Touré-Keita meeting was also surprisingly mild in tone. Once again no mention was made of the O.C.A.M. The three presidents did not even attack Tshombe, long their favorite whipping boy. Instead, they confined themselves to denunciations of Portugese colonialism and South African racism. They pledged to come to each other’s aid if attacked by either of these countries-an unlikely eventuality.
The moderate tone of the Bamako and Conakry conferences led the O.C.A.M. leaders to believe that they had succeeded in isolating Nkrumah from even his closest allies. It also led them to hope that the “revolutionary” states had resigned themselves to the formation of the O.C.A.M., and were prepared to accept it as a legitimate organization working for the cause of African unity.
But on the eve of the special session of the O.C.A.M. in Abidjan, called to accept the Congo-Léopoldville, Sékou Touré delivered a blistering attack against the various diplomatic missions which the Entente states had dispatched across Africa to explain their case against Nkrumah:
« The “traveling salesmen” of discord, enemies of the O.A.U. and its program of African renovation, bawling spokesmen of defeatism, have begun running around the continent spreading everywhere the venom of misunderstanding and the virus of hate in order to compromise the success of the meetings of the O.A.U. committees. They even want to change the place and date agreed upon for the third session of the African summit conference … Whatever happens, the collective conscience of the African peoples will doom to failure all these attempts at compromise, at betrayal, irrespective of the guise in which they may insinuate themselves . »
When the O.C.A.M. leaders meeting in Abidjan learned of Touré’s remarks, they were incensed. At the press conference following the special session, President Houphouët was asked to comment on the attacks delivered by “certain African leaders” against the Entente’s information missions. He said:
« Without offending anyone, I believe I have answered these attacks. I do not think that it is good for us to embark on such a path. Those who talk of “traveling salesmen,” of “agents of discord,” certainly have short memories. I must tell you very clearly that I will ask our young brother, Sékou Touré, for he is the one concerned, to confirm the statements attributed to him. But I would like Sékou to hear me: If he really did utter such words regarding his friends and brothers-in-combat, I will set things straight. And since Sékou asks that the people be asked their opinion, I think that our two peoples will be able to evaluate the soundness of our different policies.
It is about time for those who have failed in every endeavor to have the courage to admit their mistakes instead of spending their time heaping tons of garbage on men … who patiently and resolutely use the independence of their country to achieve the welfare of their people. If the people of Guinea were really happier than the peoples of the Entente countries, then it would be the people who would say so, and not Sékou Touré . »
Touré renewed the attack on the moderate leaders in another speech delivered on June 10, 1965 . Singling out Houphouët for special attention, he accused the President of the Ivory Coast of being a puppet of the neocolonialists and imperialists. He claimed that as a visitor in Guinea the Ivoirien chief of state could ride about the countryside in complete safety, while “in his own city, he cannot move around in an open car.” 10
With a rancor that revealed the animosity he still felt toward his old mentor, Touré accused Houphouët of impeding the normalization of relations between France and Guinea:
« I affirm here that never has a chief of state been received in Guinea as was the President of the Republic of the Ivory Coast. Yet this man’s weapons, the weapons of evil, the venom, the virus of division between Guinea and certain other African countries, the continued lack of understanding between France and Guinea, it is he alone who has been responsible for all this —the sole author. We have not taken into account all of the damage which he has done our country, all of the insults he has addressed to our person. »
Touré proceeded to take on the other O.C.A.M. leaders :
« … They [the O.C.A.M. leaders] do everything to discredit us, their brothers . That cannot help [the cause of] African unity. They have given proof of their treason. They have betrayed our ideal; they have betrayed the dignity of Africa; they have betrayed the solidarity of Africa. In replying to Guinea’s declaration, “The O.A.U. will triumph,” which accused no one, our brother, the chief of state of the Ivory Coast, accused us. And what was the occasion? It was the solemn opening of the O.C.A.M., the “Organisation Contre l’Afrique en Marche,” or, as our friend Massamba-Debat 11 says, the “Organisation Commune des Africains Menteurs.” 12 »
He then resumed his attack on Houphouët, accusing him and other Ivory Coast leaders of plotting against Guinea:
« … We were the object of an armed plot by forces residing on Ivoirien territory … Arms were seized on Ivoirien soil and troops were as sembled there … it was the lvoirien people who warned us of the plot which their leaders were fomenting against Guinean freedom 13
… Never have we tried to deepen the rift between the Ivory Coast and Guinea. Never have we tried to take advantage of the slightest difficulty in the Ivory Coast. Rather, we went to the Ivory Coast to tell the people that we firmly backed its government in its decisions; that we were deeply committed to each other 14. Did they even once publicly offer Guinea any support whatsoever, through a communique or a statement on the radio? We say no … 15 »
Answering the accusation that Guinea had to depend on foreign subsidies for its existence, Touré said:
« … The driving force of the Guinean revolution is the Guinean people, who freed themselves from foreign domination. We have never counted on aid from outside to carry on our revolution. We establish our plans in the light of our possibilities, and whatever additional aid we get is supplementary and not complementary in nature … 16 »
Touré then threw down a daring challenge to his critics:
« … We appeal in all sincerity to every head of state who truly believes that Guinea has failed … we invite them all to come to Guinea, to take my place as the President of the Republic of Guinea for six months so that they may direct Guinean affairs as they wish. Let them visit all the villages and administer the state. But, in return, we ask them to authorize us, for a period of only 24 hours, to go to their countries and speak to their peoples …
… Let each one of them who believes that Guinea has failed send to Guinea all the inspectors of finance that they consider capable at home, or that they can recruit from foreign countries, to come and inspect the finances of the Presidency of the Republic of Guinea. They can also check with all the banks of the world to see whether the President of the Republic of Guinea has put one cent in banks abroad. We ask these brothers who say we have failed to do this job if they want to serve the true cause of Africa. Let them authorize us in return to send a single inspector to check on the finances of their states. And Africa will know who is honest when confronted by the misery and suffering of his people and who uses his country’s money to promote his own well-being. At the same time, we ask than an inventory be made of the goods, furniture, and real estate, cars, etc., of all the African leaders who tell their peoples that Guinea has failed, and we will see if [these leaders] are morally, financially, [and] politically honest 17
Let us ask the political parties in question if there are bona fide congresses in certain countries, if there are even democratic general assemblies, honest sessions based on a program freely discussed by the people, or if these are rather electoral committees 18. Let us inspect the political life of these countries; let us put these countries that call themselves prosperous under the magnifying glass, for they have “succeeded” whereas Guinea has “failed.” Let us see if they have been able to endow their workers with a labor code as democratic and progressive as that which exists in Guinea 19
… Do these countries enjoy monetary sovereignty? All of the nations in America, Asia, and Europe, and all of the Arab states dispose of their own money. Which are the only countries, members of the United Nations, which do not have their own money, if not those that met in Abidjan? We can understand why they do everything possible to compromise Guinea’s money. Let us also ask them about their accounts from the military bases which were installed in their countries before independence and which are still there 20. And we will see who has succeeded, because Guinea effectively exercises its sovereignty at all levels of interest to the evolution of its people.
… Have certain governments abolished the chieftaincy, liberated woman by giving her the right to choose her husband, dispensed justice freely, nationalized water, electricity, diamond exploitation, decolonialized education and turned over public administration to Africans ? 21 »
Touré then gave another version of the famous bet that is supposed to have been made between Nkrumah and Houphou~t several years ago:
« … There was a wager which the Ivory Coast made with Ghana at the time when this brother country was struggling for its independence … That wager was that Africa would remain part of a non-African ensemble and that Ghana would lose [i .e., in its struggle for independence]. Not only did Ghana achieve its independence, but this other country [the Ivory Coast] which bet against it, despite its leaders, was itself obliged to declare its independence 22. »
In claiming that the O.C.A.M. states are not yet truly independent, Touré struck at a sensitive nerve—the continued importance of the French presence in many of the O.C.A.M. countries:
« How can we, the people of Guinea, fail? We control directly all of the … country’s economy. We control the banks. The import and export companies belong to us, as do the insurance companies, the airlines, the electricity, water, railroad, road transport, etc., etc. Nothing escapes our control. This is not the case in the countries which claim to have succeeded, because to this day foreigners are members of their governments and direct important branches therein while qualified natives are left by the wayside 23
In order to clear the air which has become so heavy since the conference of the O.C.A.M., l’“Organisation Contre l’Afrique en Marche,” we owe it to ourselves to speak these various truths which we have always known … »
Touré then turned to one of his favorite themes, the defense of Patrice Lumumba:
« … Their peoples [i .e., the O.C.A.M.’s peoples] have not yet found an effective way of showing their indignation and even their scorn for the ignoble role which the O.C.A.M. leaders a replaying in supporting the assassin [Tshombe] of that African patriot, Patrice Lumumba. »
Touré wound up his speech with a final indictment of Houphouët:
« After having threatened us in your opening address at the meeting of your puppets’ club, “l’Organisation Contre l’Afrique en Marche,” thank you, my dear brother, for your threats and insults. Thank you for your anti-Guinean hate and calumnies, and also for your constant contempt of the African man. Your silence is ended. Henceforth you will speak and act, showing everyone what you are and what you do in the shadows against your comrades-in-arms of yesterday, against your brothers who believed in you, against your neighbors, against your own country, and against the valiant people who have followed you for so long …
… We say that the O.A.U. will triumph, African dignity will triumph, the legality of the O.A.U. and morality will triumph, and puppetism will be beaten as will colonialism, imperialism, and neocolonialism.
Puppetism, lies, hate are all doomed to failure. The sad end of [persons like] Glaoui of Morocco, Bao Dai of Indochina, and Batista of Cuba is there to prove the inexorable law of history which demands that victory belong always to the struggle for liberty, dignity, social progress, and peace.
Shame to those who divide Africa!
Long live the O.A. U.!
Long live the Revolution!
The Reply to Touré
Touré’s sudden attack on Houphouët so soon after his vow of undying friendship took the O.C.A.M. leaders by surprise. The stridency of his attack infuriated them, the more so since it was Touré himself who had been so anxious to re-establish friendly relations. In the past, such attacks by Guinea’s President had been greeted with stony silence by the moderate leaders, who preferred to let Touré talk himself out rather than demean themselves by answering him in kind.
President Maurice Yaméogo. (Photo: Information Côte d’Ivoire)
Things were different this time. In line with the new policy of toughness which they were determined to adopt in what they regarded as the legitimate defense of their interests, the O.C.A.M. leaders counterattacked with an unaccustomed fury. Houphouët himself did not answer Touré. In keeping with his image as the wise, dignified, and venerable leader, he chose to remain aloof from the fray. Instead, whether by prearrangement or simply out of a sense of loyalty to Houphouët, President Maurice Yaméogo of the Upper Volta picked up the gauntlet thrown down by Touré.
Yaméogo’s reply more than matched Touré’s remarks for sheer vehemence, and his speech is probably one of the most violent attacks ever delivered by one head of state against another. First given on June 18, 1965, on Yaméogo’s return to his capital of Ouagadougou, it was rebroadcast the next day over Radio Abidjan 24. To emphasize his contempt, President Yaméogo employed the familiar tu form. Trying to justify the extraordinarily acid tone of his remarks, Yaméogo said: “To answer Sékou Touré, I will descend into the garbage pail where he is.”
« … When we left Abidjan we asked our dean, President Houphouët, and the leaders of the P.D.C.I. not to answer Sékou Touré, whatever he may say, or, rather, whatever tales he may tell.
Knowing Sékou Touré as we do, arrogant liar, hypocrite, ingrate—very much an ingrate—he does not want to deal with me, his peer, whom he scorns, but prefers instead to attack the man who did most to make him … what he is today, the leader of Guinea, a leader, alas, who cannot lead, because he attains grandeur through folly …
… I am replying to Sékou Touré for all sorts of reasons. I have known President Houphouët-Boigny for over 20 years, well before Sékou Touré [knew him]. I have been an ardent member of the R.D.A. since its creation at Bamako in 1946 …
… Sékou Touré has put in less time than I in the struggle. He is a Johnny-come-lately …
… President Houphouët will not reply. He will not do him [Touré] that honor. Someday, if wisdom, the mother of us all, visits Sekou, I know that President Houphouët will not hesitate to welcome him anew as a brother, as he has always done for all of us.
What bug has bitten you again, Sékou?
After 1960 when our states gained their independence, the skies of our relations were cloudless. After our dean’s [i.e., Houphouët’s] memorable official visit to Guinea, when [everyone] including you yourself did him glowing homage for the service he has rendered Africa, everything seemed to go well … between the Ivory Coast and Guinea and between our dean and you.
President Houphouët told us of the friendly and brotherly rapport that he had with you. Every time someone complained of your immeasurable pride, he was quick to defend you. That is not the only thing he has done on your behalf, as others besides myself will no doubt tell you.
You say that President Houphouët-Boigny works against brother countries, notably against Mali and Guinea. I would like to inform you that you are the only one who thinks so, who believes, who affirms that our dean is capable of such a crime against the brotherhood which binds and will always bind the peoples of these states to those of the Ivory Coast.
Why, then, when nothing was said or done against you, against your politics, against your country, against the O.A.U., which you seem to monopolize, why then, on the anniversary of the O.A.U., did you launch these baseless and unexpected attacks against your former comrades and against the venerated and respected chief of the R.D.A.?
Your pride blinds you, Sekou. I am going to help you cure yourself of it.
But who, then, is this Sekou, alias Touré, who is so anxious to be talked about?
A proud, lying, jealous, envious, cruel, hypocritical, and intellectually dishonest man.
Granted, he has his strong points. He knew how to organize his party. He talks about it all the time .
He is very dynamic. Unfortunately this overwhelming activity is devoted to meeting upon meeting, speech upon speech. Does he not say with ridiculous pride: “I spoke for four hours”?
If he devoted a quarter of the time that he wastes on demagoguery to concrete acts of economic development, Guinea would not be in the sad state in which it is today …
He ruins everything with his mistakes and never wishes to be corrected. We hoped that with age and the hard realities of life, the life of a real leader, conscious above all of the happiness of his countrymen in peace and liberty, Sékou Touré would mend his ways and grow wiser.
But we observe, alas, that such is not the case. He is still lying, arrogant, jealous, cruel, ungrateful. … I hope that Sékou Touré will have the patience to hear me out until the end of my speech (which will last as long as his did) before replying. I warn him, charitably, that I will not be still until he is . If he replies, I will answer him again, because he spoke first. So he will not be the one to have the last word.
But if this little war of the airwaves, which he asked for, is not enough, then I will happily take him on else where. For I and no one else will go to Conakry and to Kankan to strip him, to show him up for what he really is before the Guinean people whom he cheats and terrorizes, to denounce, with proofs, the crime he is committing against unhappy Guinea, so rich and yet so poor . Yes! So poor because of his senseless and demagogic politics.
Sékou Touré, you have become the shame of Africa!
In order to attract the attention of Africa and of the world to you with your very limited intellectual and human qualities, you have become this international puppet which at once amuses and reassures the real enemies of Africa .
In pouring forth your bile over President Houphouët in answer to my declaration of May 31  25 you reveal the real level of your leadership. You feel that I am not your equal. That’s it, isn’t it? So you prefer to attack the man whom the great majority of Africans respect and admire, and who occupies the leading place among the chiefs of state worthy of Africa.
This time you will be obliged to address yourself to the underling that you think I am, because I am going to descend into the garbage pail of coarseness where you live to make you feel the weight of the world’s opprobrium which you have brought down upon your self .
I have before me the whole packet of your asinine remarks made on the radio. In reading them over I measure the degree to which you are at sea among the difficulties that assail you from within and without—these difficulties which your grandiose folly and your unawareness each day render more and more insurmountable, and which will end up by getting the better of you, because the Guinean people are not mad like you, to let themselves be led un-protesting to the slaughter.
In reading over your remarks, I felt that you were at the end of your rope and that you were panting, because each line is the gasp of a dying man and exudes insult mixed with desperation before the failure of a personal policy, condemned by all Guineans, even your worshipers.
Yes, Sékou Touré, you have become the shame of Africa,
and it was to be expected.
Your irrational desire to play the most important role … your contradictions of all sorts, your intrigues before and since independence to make you the star of Africa, have put you in this sad situation which today we are forced to acknowledge in your unhealthy, revolting language which provokes general indignation among all those whose African soul has not left their bodies.
You speak incessantly of history, as if you were a historian. It is true you have become a poet since Guinea’s independence, so much time do you have to devote to this difficult art for which the Senghors have a talent after years of effort at the University of Paris …
… Having fought the U.A.M. 26, Sekou, you now open fire on the O.C.A.M. But you are wasting your time and your stinking saliva in slobbering on your colleagues whom you treat as liars, whereas the greatest of African liars is you, yourself.…
… You already claim to have triumphed over the difficulties which line the road to real African unity, [a unity] which is made of patience and continuity in action. What a coward and traitor you are, perfidiously setting up this schism in the O.A.U. What a liar you are, affirming your desire for unity while wishing for the breakup of the O.A.U.!
This is very serious, Sekou, and history will judge you severely. You speak of morality and honesty, while you are the prototype of the most intolerable immorality. And you dare to drag Ivoirien womanhood through the mud, fellow-Africans who have done nothing to deserve such insults from you. Everyone knows that in Guinea everything belongs to you—men and women. Everyone knows that you have reached such a point of ignominy that a minister is permanent in Guinea only in so far as he gives you his wife.
You have no soul because you have no heart.
You speak of castles and of millions in order to humiliate President Houphouët when you know that before becoming a deputy, a minister in the French government, and finally President of the Republic of the Ivory Coast, President Houphouët-Boigny was one of the rare leaders of French-speaking Black Africa to have a place in the sun 27. You speak of scandalous real-estate holdings when you know that even in Abidjan President Houphouët does not have a personal dwelling and that the house in Yamoussokro, which sheltered you so graciously, is his only personal abode.
You say that you do not have a [foreign] bank account. If you are telling the truth, that shouldn’t come as a surprise
to anyone. You entered politics like the rest of us, without a penny to speak of. You cannot put any money in a bank account outside Guinea … because your money is worthless and unacceptable 28
You say that we should all remain in the hovels of our ancestors. Why then, to set an example, don’t you live in the little hut you owned before the R.D.A. made you what you are today?
Is it the maintenance of hovels that you are preaching?
Is that, then, your revolution?
Is that what independence has destined for Guinea?
Is that the meaning of your “No” to De Gaulle?
How pitiable you are! What a shame you are to future generations! I can understand why those who are more educated than you and who aspire to progress hate you.
I can understand why no one in Guinea can sign his works
except you, the great writer, the great poet 29
You say that the [presidential] succession in Guinea will not be a problem, yet you allow none of your ministers to speak in public. You a lone speak on the radio to say and say again the same thing; and yet you are the least capable man in all of Guinea, whose courageous leaders, whom you rebuke, remain silent and watch you pityingly while waiting for you to commit suicide without their help.
You claim on the one hand that it is President Houphouët who impedes all co-operation between France and other countries with Guinea, while on the other you say that he is only a puppet. What a contradiction!
… Neither De Gaulle nor the Americans can say that President Houphouët has tried to turn them against you.
… But you will kill neither Guinea nor the O.A.U. You will liquidate yourself, and the O.A.U., whose cohesion we all deem indispensable, will not founder because of the petty politics of an unproductive brawler.…
… You ask for 24 hours to come and destroy the Ivoirien government and you give President Houphouët six months to attempt the same thing in Guinea. How puerile you are! …
Regarding your revolution, can you tell us on what date your famous revolution took place and how many Guineans fell under the bullets of the French colonialists who occupied Guinea? And what role did you personally play in the Guinean revolution? We know that after this imaginary revolution you shot many revolutionaries and that many others who sincerely loved Guinea are still rotting in your prisons 30
There is your revolution! And history will remember that to your great shame.
It is true that you no longer know shame, because more and more you hide what is known about you but is not mentioned out of respect for Guinea: that you are nothing but a bastard among the bastards who populate the world.
That is what you are, Sekou, a bastard among bastards. You are ashamed to bear the name of your father. Certainly your maternal grandmother is a daughter of Samory Touré 31. But your mother’s father was not a Touré, but a Fadiga, if my information is correct.
On the other hand, your half-brother, Ismael, is descended from a Touré. You do not want to acknowledge your real father. You are thus a bastard.
It is all clear. You are not ashamed to declare that you do not have a heritage to pass on, because none was left to you.
Every Guinean who has a father should be indignant at such declarations. You offer the Guineans such politics because you do not have a father, poor Sekou, alias Touré.
Until the next time, little bastard , Sekou, alias Touré 32. »
The Reactions in Africa to the Touré-Yaméogo Exchange
This exchange of invective provoked three distinct reactions:
- From the man in the street
- From the African elite
- From the foreign diplomatic colony
The African masses have traditionally believed whatever their leaders of the hour have told them. To the extent that the man in the street was aware of the conflict, he sided with the leader of his own camp. Because of these fierce national loyalties, it is improbable that if Touré went to the Ivory Coast or Yaméogo to Guinea either would be able to do what he so confidently proposed. In all likelihood they would be mobbed by an outraged citizenry. Each knew that the other would never accept such a challenge; and knowing this, each hurled his challenge in the most arrogant way.
Among African officials, one sensed a feeling of dismay at the unseemly conduct of two African heads-of-state. Abdoulaye Fofana, Senegalese Minister of Information, expressed a sentiment probably shared by many when he deplored the negative use of the radio in the whole affair:
« Why use this wonderful instrument of understanding and
friendship for hate and disunion? … How can we advance toward unity when we make a country’s youth sensitive to the irreducible differences in concept among African states; when we call anyone who pursues the same ends [as we] but by different means a traitor, a valet of imperialism, an enemy of Africa?
Thousands of foreigners are listening, disillusioned, as [these] embattled brothers exchange sarcasms instead of liberating themselves by work and common effort 33. »
The diplomatic colony felt embarrassment and distaste. In the Ivory Coast, for example, many people sympathized with Yaméogo and were glad to see that someone had at last given Touré what they regarded as a long-overdue rebuke. But they were astounded by the vehemence of Yaméogo’s language, even when they recalled his warning: “To answer Sékou Touré, I will descend into the garbage pail where he is.” In the eyes of many who have come to look upon the Voltaic President with greater respect because of his increasingly important role in West African affairs, the unbridled fury of his counterattack against Touré compromised his new standing. Houphouët managed to preserve his own image from blemish by remaining aloof from the controversy; but it does him little credit that he allowed Yaméogo to tarnish his by engaging in such a blatantly low-toned exchange with another head-of-state, whatever the provocation.
Touré, for his part, once again confirmed the already widely held impression that he is a reckless and irresponsible leader, incapable of self-restraint and indifferent to the grave damage he does his country by allowing himself such outbursts.
There was a mixture of truth and exaggeration in the fusillade of accusations. Certainly Touré was right when he said that in 1958 Houphouët would have preferred membership in the French Community to independence for the Ivory Coast. He was also painfully accurate when he pointed out that in the Ivory Coast today “foreigners are members of the government and direct important branches therein, while qualified natives are left by the wayside.” But he distorted the truth when he claimed that Houphouët, and Houphouët alone, is responsible—“the sole author,” as he put it—for the continuing lack of understanding between Guinea and France, and between Guinea and the other African countries. This unfortunate state of affairs is due mostly to Touré’s own mismanagement of the Guinean government over the country’s first five years of independence, his foolhardy foreign policy, and his own opportunism.
As for Yaméogo—disregarding the petty remarks he made about Touré’s family background, his lack of formal education, and his alleged comportment toward his ministers’ wives—he hit close to home when he spoke of Touré’ s “imaginary revolution.” Notwithstanding the many genuine social, economic, and political experiments that were courageously tried in Guinea during the first two years of independence, much of the revolutionary mystique in Guinea is the product of Touré’s vivid imagination. And although no Guinean official will admit it, it is true that the Parti Démocratique de Guinée (P.D.G.) has increasingly had to resort to strong-arm methods and even terrorism to impose its will on the populace.
The Obstacles to Possible Reconciliation
These serious charges and counter-charges, these truths and half-truths and exaggerations taken into account, is it possible that Guinea and the O.C.A.M. states may someday be reconciled?
Guinea and its neighbors have quarreled before, but rarely in the past has the tenor of the quarrel been as vehement as this. The exchanges between Touré, Houphouët and Yaméogo will not easily be forgotten; they reopened old wounds and even created new ones.
Moreover, Sékou Touré is as determined as ever to “go it alone” regardless of the consequences. His refusal to reintegrate Guinea into the franc zone, or even establish relations with another monetary zone which could back his nation’s currency, is but the most notorious example of this obduracy 34. Another is his slavish faith in doctrinaire political solutions to problems which are essentially economic in nature and should be dealt with by pragmatic economic formulas.
A further obstacle is Touré’s commitment to what other African leaders regard as extremism. Since Guinea became independent, Conakry, like Accra and Dar es-Salaam, has at one time or another been a haven for exile groups seeking the overthrow of other African governments in power. Between 1958 and 1960, Felix Moumie‘s outlawed Union des Populations du Cameroun (U.P.C.) made its headquarters there, as did the anti-Houphouët group known as the Comite pour la Liberation de la Côte d’Ivoire (C.L.C.I.). Touré’ s support of the latter clearly belies his claim that: “… Never have we tried to deepen the rift between the Ivory Coast and Guinea.”
Radio Conakry’s “Voix de la Revolution” has delivered diatribe after diatribe against the Ivoirien President and other African leaders who happened to be out of favor with Touré at the moment. In public meetings, at rallies of the P.D.G., and at Afro-Asian conferences, Touré rarely missed an opportunity to castigate in the strongest terms those who did not subscribe to his ideals. To deny, as he now does, ever having done such things is neither historically accurate nor intellectually honest.
Touré’s reputation for extremism derives also from his conduct toward the Congo, where he first supported Patrice Lumumba, then Antoine Gizenga, and, more recently, the rebel forces under Christophe Gbenye. This reputation has been further intensified by his reckless attempts to undermine other regimes with which he was supposedly on friendly terms. His incendiary behavior in Brazzaville while an official guest of President Fulbert Youlou is said to have been a major factor in inciting the popular unrest which led to Youlou’s overthrow. Touré’s appeal to be allowed “just 24 hours to talk to the Ivoirien people” has rightly been interpreted by President Yaméogo as being in the same destructive vein.
[Read André Lewin. “A Brazzaville, Sékou Touré déstabilise l’abbé Fulbert Youlou” — Tierno S. Bah]
Another factor impeding reconciliation is that neither Guinea nor the O.C.A.M. members approve of each other’s friends. In coming to the defense of Nkrumah, Touré has allied himself with a man loathed by most O.C.A.M. leaders. And they, in accepting Tshombe into their group, have sponsored a man still reviled in much of Africa. The
O.C.A.M. leaders are also uneasy over the close ties which Touré has established with the Eastern bloc, while he disapproves of their reliance on the Western bloc 35
Moise Tschombe visits Abidjan in 1965. First, head of the Katanga province secession from Congo-Léopoldville in 1960, he then became Prime minister of the Central government. He died while under house arrest in Algiers following the interception of his airplane and his detention by the Algerian government. Then and now, accusations and investigations point to Tshombe—along with President Joseph Kasavubu and Army chief Joseph Désiré Mobutu—as having been personally and actively involved in the assassination of his predecessor, Patrice Lumumba. (Tierno S. Bah) ( Photo: Information Côte d’Ivoire)
There is also an important economic consideration which checks the resumption of completely friendly relations between Guinea and the other French-speaking republics, and this is the threat of Guinean competition.
Of all the sub-Saharan states formerly ruled by France, Guinea is potentially the richest. Its mineral reserves, especially in bauxite and iron ore, are among the largest in the world; the hills and valleys of its Fouta-Djallon region comprise one of the most fertile grazing areas in Africa; and its coastal plantations, under proper guidance, could be enormously productive.
A reintegrated, friendly, and completely stable Guinea could compete vigorously with the O.C.A.M. states in the export of such products as bananas, pineapples, palm oil, and tropical woods. If Guinea succeeded in exploiting its full economic potential, it might, in a decade or so, outstrip its poorer but presently more developed neighbors.
[Read – Justice Belge : Qui a Tué Patrice Lumumba ?
– Les Etats-Unis et Patrice Lumumba
– Visite et Discours de Lumumba à Conakry
Finally, there is a subtle but no less important hindrance to reconciliation in the challenge which Sékou Touré represents to certain O.C.A.M. leaders, notably to Houphouët and Senghor. Touré is younger than they and, like them, still dreams of becoming the undisputed leader of French-speaking Black Africa. Enjoying the popularity that he does with the younger and more dynamic elements in Africa—the students, junior functionaries, labor leaders and militant groups—Touré may one day be able to undermine their national loyalties and bring their disciplined forces into his own camp. And this is a prospect which neither Houphouët nor Senghor contemplates with much relish.
The Advantages of Reconciliation
As against these difficulties, there would be certain undeniable advantages in a Guinean-O.C.A.M. detente. The most immediate advantage would be a halt to the denigration of the individual leaders by their opponents.
A long-range advantage would be that the two principal parties concerned, Houphouët and Touré, might help or at least not hinder each other in their relations with third parties whose good will is important to them. Given the tremendous prestige which Houphouët enjoys with Général de Gaulle and other world leaders, he could help to smooth the way for Guinea on its bumpy road to self-realization as a nation. Houphouët could urge the French to settle their differences with Guinea and renew their aid to Conakry, and perhaps even persuade Général de Gaulle that the time has come to welcome Sékou Touré back to Paris.
Houphouët, too, would benefit from a rapprochement. At least he would no longer be the scapegoat for Guinea’s failures, nor be held up constantly to other Africans as a “puppet of the colonialists,” a charge to which his continued association with the French has made him particularly vulnerable.
Finally, the greatest single advantage of a reconciliation would be that it would allow all the parties concerned to get on with the tasks of national reconstruction which lie ahead, free from the need for constant vigilance against hostile neighbors. The channels of communication between the “moderate” and the “revolutionary” states in Africa today are so numerous that, if there is no officially inspired conflict, friendly intercourse is bound to ensue. The African nations may then learn to live with each other’s differences, to accept the legitimacy of these differences, and perhaps even to welcome the diversity they represent. Then—and only then—will Africa be able to move forward toward that unity which, for moderates and revolutionaries alike, remains the ultimate goal.
1. See Victor D. DuBois, The Search For Unity in French-Speaking Black Africa, Part I: The Founding of the Organisation Commune Africaine et Malgache (O.C.A.M.), (VDB-3-’65), American Universities Field Staff Reports, West Africa Series, Volume VIII, No. 3, June 1965.
2. See Victor D. DuBois, The Search For Unity in French- Speaking Black Africa, Part II: New Bonds Between Ex- French and Ex-Belgian Colonies : The Acceptance of Congo-Leopoldville by O.C.A.M. (VDB-4-’65), American Universities Field Staff Reports, West Africa Series, Volume VIII, No.4, July 1965.
3. For a discussion of their relations prior to this period, see Victor D. Du Bois, Changing Relations Among Guinea, the Ivory Coast, and Mali (VDB-4-’62) , American Universities Field Staff Reports, West Africa Series, Volume V, No . 4 ,September 1962; and Thaw in the Tropics (VDB-2-’63), American Universities Field Staff Reports, West Africa Series, Volume VI, No. 2, February 1963.
4. For a detailed discussion of these circumstances, see Victor D . DuBois, The Problems of Independence (VDB-8-’62), American Universities Field Staff Reports, West Africa Series, Volume V, No.8, November 1962.
5 . The Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (R.D.A.) was the first All-African political party to be founded in French Black Africa. It was established at Bamako (Mali) in October 1946.
6. For a listing of their complaints against Ghana, see Part I of this series, op. cit.
7. When asked by journalists why he was not going along, Nkrumah replied that he was not informed that such a conference was taking place.
8. These and other remarks that follow are from a speech delivered by President Sékou Touré on May 25, 1965 at the Africa Day rally in Conakry. (Author’s translation.)
9. Statement made at the press conference on May 26, 1965, following the special meeting of the O.C.A.M. leaders at Abidjan.
10. The writer has on many occasions seen President Houphouët in Abidjan riding in an open automobile .
11. President of the Congo-Brazzaville after the overthrow of Fulbert Youlou.
12. Speech by President Sékou Touré, June 10, 1965 . (Author’s translation of the unpublished text.)
13. The plot to which Touré refers was allegedly discovered in April 1960. The author, who was living in Guinea at the time, could find little evidence to support Touré’s charges that such a plot existed.
14. President Touré apparently has a short memory. Five years ago he said of the Ivory Coast’s President: “Decidedly, Monsieur Houphoutët-Boigny is not only a blackmailer but also a master in the art of the most humiliating confessions when he no longer knows what will happen in the midst of all the lies by which he thought it possible to block the profound aspirations of the African
people to a real emancipation. Everyone knows that Monsieur Houphouët-Boigny is the temporary projection of General de Gaulle in Africa, and undoubtedly he is unaware that between Conakry and Abidjan there is an enormous distance which separates a sovereign country from one that is dependent; a state which acts from one which submits.…” (Quoted from Bulletin Quotidien, Agence Guinéenne de Presse [Conakry], March 1, 1960.)
15. On October 18, 1962, before his trip to Guinea, President Houphouët said: “I am going to resume contact with a brother-in-arms [Touré] from whom I was separated for a while but who has never ceased to be for me one of the greatest servants of the great sacred cause of Africa.” (Cited in Afrique Nouvelle [Dakar], October 26, 1962.)
On November 5, 1962, in an address delivered in Conakry, Houphouët said: “My dear President and brother, Sékou Touré … Since the Guinean people took their destiny in their own hands in that historic choice of September 28,
1958, you have founded an organization (the P.D.G.) whose finest achievement is this general mobilization in the service of the nation … You have shown us all what a people, ardent with faith and will, can obtain in enthusiasm, liberty, and new-found dignity … In the light of your own experience, our confidence in the future of Africa, in the luminous future of the African man is strengthened …” (Text of speech cited from Abidjan-Matin [Abidjan], November 5, 1962. Author’s translation.)
On December 27, 1962, Philippe Yacé, President of the Ivory Coast National Assembly, said before a rally of the P.D.G. in Conakry: “The P.D.G. is one of the strong parties that have contributed to the evolution of the R.D.A. in Africa.” (Abidjan-Matin [Abidjan], December 28, 1962.)
On December 28, 1962, in an address delivered on the second day of the Sixth Congress of the P.D.G. in Conakry, Mr. Yacé praised President Sékou Touré’s leadership in generous terms and emphasized the solidarity which existed between two brother parties within the R.D.A. (the P.D.G. and the P.D.C.I.) which work together for the future of African unity. (AlP dispatch from Conakry, dated December 28, 1962.)
16. Despite Touré’s claim, this has never been true in Guinea. When the Guinean government inaugurated its first major development program (the Triennial Plan, 1960-63), the national budget and the various voluntary labor programs under the auspices of investissement humain were to provide a total of 16 billion Guinean francs (about $64 million); the remainder, 22.9 billion Guinean francs (approximately $91.6 million), was to be provided by foreign loans. See Conférence Nationale (de planification économique) Kankan, les 2, 3, 4, et 5 avril 1960, Rapport d’orientation du Bureau Politique National presenté par le Secrétaire Général du Parti Démocratique de Guinée, (Conakry: Imprimerie Nationale, 1960); also, “’Basic Data on the Economy of the Republic of Guinea,” World Trade Information Service Economic Reports, Part I, No. 60-35 (Washington: United States Department of Commerce, Government Printing Office, August 1962).
17. If such an inventory were ever made, it is unlikely that Guinea would come out much better than the Ivory Coast. Despite his insinuation that ministers in the Ivory Coast are profligate, while those in Guinea lead austere lives, such is not the case. Quite aside from Touré’s own two Lincoln Continentals, many of his ministers have Mercedes and own sumptuous villas along Conakry’s corniche which they rent to foreign embassies for hard currency.
18. The ruling party in the Ivory Coast (like the one in Guinea) is in fact the only political party allowed to exist. In both cases they are dominated by the personality of one man, the President of the country. What distinguishes the P.D.C.I. from the P.D.G., however, is that the P.D.C.I.’s looser discipline and greater permissiveness allow for a freer discussion of ideas, and therefore for genuine compromise. In the P.D.G., the doctrine of democratic centralism compels adherence to the party line once a decision has been reached by the party’s Political Bureau. For a more detailed comparison of the two parties, see Victor D. Du Bois, The Party and the Government (VDB-2-’62), American Universities Field Staff Reports, West Africa Series, Volume V, No.2, July 1962.
19. The labor code in Guinea is, indeed, progressive-at least in theory. In practice, it is something else. In November 1961, for example, leaders of the Guinean Teachers Union drew up a memorandum criticizing government policies in the payment of teachers. President Touré denounced the union leaders, accused them of being “counterrevolutionaries” and of working in collusion with “an Eastern-bloc embassy” which he never named. The union leaders were shortly afterward hauled before a special high court on charges of having engaged in counterrevolutionary activity and “systematic efforts tending to divide and demoralize the young.” Two of the union leaders were sentenced by the high court to ten years imprisonment, and three of the remaining defendants were given terms of five years .
20. It is true that French troops are still stationed in some of the former French colonies (notably in Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Niger, Gabon, and Malagasy). However their number has been steadily reduced in keeping with a military redeployment plan announced by Pierre Messmer, French Defense Minister, in September 1964. At that time France had 27,800 troops serving in sub-Saharan Africa; by July 1965 this number was reduced to 6,600.
21. For the sake of accuracy the items enumerated by Touré would have to be considered individually with respect to each of the countries concerned. As a general rule, however, new civil codes in the African states have introduced the social reforms to which he refers. In all of the countries (including the Ivory Coast) the administration of government is overwhelmingly in the hands of Africans. Educational systems have been revised to fill the needs of the nation. Some means is usually provided for those who cannot afford to pay an attorney to have their cases argued in court by a competent legal representative.
22. The most common version of this story (and the one told in the Ivory Coast) is that in 1957 Houphouët and Nkrumah made a wager to the effect that each would go about building up his country in the way he thought best-Nkrumah on the basis of militant nationalism; Houphouët in co-operation with France and other Western powers—and at the end of ten years they would see whose country was ahead.
23. Touré ‘s reference here is no doubt to Raphael Saller, from French Martinique, who since independence has been the Ivory Coast’s Minister of Finance. Touré may also have had in mind the 2,000-odd Frenchmen who work for the Ivoirien government as teachers and technical advisers.
24. The complete text appeared in Fraternité-Matin (Abidjan) , June 3, 1965.
25. This was an earlier statement by President Yaméogo, also critical of Touré, but not nearly so hostile. For its contents, see Fraternité-Matin (Abidjan), June 2, 1965.
26. The Union Africaine et Malgache (U.A.M.), a precursor of the O.C.A.M.
27. Houphouët’ s wealth comes from a large coffee plantation he owns in Yamoussokro, the village of his birth, about 150 kilometers from Abidjan.
28. The Guinean franc, although as signed the same value as the C.F.A. franc used in the other French-speaking states which still belong to the West African Monetary Union, is inconvertible on the international market.
29. This is an exaggeration on Yaméogo’s part. Several other Guineans, in cluding the well-known writer, Camara Laye, are also allowed to sign their works.
30. Yaméogo’s reference here is to the Guineans arrested in the two alleged plots against the government (April 1960 and November 1961).
31. Samory Touré was the Malinke warrior chief who put up a spirited resistance to the French forces sent to subdue West Africa. Sékou Touré claimed to be his descendant.
32. Author’s translation.
33. Cited in Afrique Express (Brussels), No. 97, June 25, 1965, p . 10.
34. As recently as January 26, 1965, Sékou Touré reaffirmed Guinea’s intention to preserve its monetary independence: “The Republic of Guinea has never expressed the intention of reintegrating into the franc zone which would signify for it the renunciation of an essential attribute of its sovereignty.” (Quoted from Afrique Nouvelle [Dakar], February 4-10, 1965 .)
35. About the only group that enjoys general approval on both sides is the French. Ironically, the quarrel between Guinea and its French-speaking neighbors comes at a time when the former’s relations with France seem to have taken a definite turn for the better. In recent Franco-Guinean financial talks, Guinea acknowledged its debt to the French Caisse Centrale de Coopération Economique and agreed to indemnify the owners of French firms nationalized in the first years of independence. The French in turn agreed to reimburse the Guinean government for the funds it has paid to Guinean veterans of the French army who were repatriated to their country. Moreover, Touré has been unusually generous lately in his comments on General de Gaulle. Even in his speech of June 10, 1965, in which he denounced Houphouët in such strong terms, his one remark concerning the French President alluded to him as a man who “has a sense of history.”
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Author: Tierno Siradiou Bah
Founder and publisher of webAfriqa, the African content portal, comprising: webAFriqa.net, webFuuta.net, webPulaaku,net, webMande.net, webCote.net, webForet.net, webGuinee.net, WikiGuinee.net, Campboiro.org, AfriXML.net, and webAmeriqa.com.