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Ahmed Sékou Touré


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(AHMED SÉKOU TOURÉ)


Ahmed Sékou Touré (var. Ahmen Seku Ture) (January 9, 1922--March 26, 1984) was an African political leader and president of the Republic of Guinea from 1958 to his death in 1984. Touré was one of the primary Guinean nationalists involved in the liberation of the country from France. Sékou Touré was born on January 9, 1922 into a poor family in the west African country of Guinea, while a colonial possession of France. His date of birth has never been formally established; there remains a contention that he was born in 1918 at Faranah. He was a member of the Mandinka ethnic group[1] and was the great-grandson of the famous Samory Touré[2], who had resisted French rule until his capture. Sékou's early life was characterized by challenges of authority, including during his education. Sékou was obliged to work to take care of himself. He began working for the Postal Services (PTT), and quickly became involved in Labor Union activity. During his youth and after becoming president, Sékou Touré studied the works of communist philosophers, especially those of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. In his home country, Sékou Touré was a strong president. Opposition to single party rule grew slowly, and by the late 1960s those who opposed his government faced fear of detention camps and secret police. His detractors often had two choices--say nothing or go abroad. From 1965 to 1975 he ended all his relations with France, the former colonial power. Sékou Touré argued that Africa had lost much during colonization, and that Africa ought to retaliate by cutting off ties to former colonial nations. Only in 1978, as Guinea's ties with the Soviet Union soured, President of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing first visited Guinea as a sign of reconciliation. Throughout his dispute with France, Guinea maintained good relations with several socialist countries. However, Sékou's attitude toward France was not generally well received, and some African countries ended diplomatic relations with Guinea over the incident. Despite this, Sékou's move won the support of many anti-colonialist and Pan-African groups and leaders. Touré's primary ally in the region was President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Modibo Keita of Mali. After Nkrumah was overthrown in a 1966 coup, Touré offered him a refuge in Guinea and made him co-president. [4] As a leader of the Pan-Africanist movement, he consistently spoke out against colonial powers, and befriended leaders from the African diaspora such as Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, to whom he offered asylum (and who took the two leaders names, as Kwame Ture).[5] He, with Nkrumah, helped in the formation of the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party, and aided forces fighting Portuguese colonialism in neighboring Guinea-Bissau (for which the Portuguese launched an attack upon Conakry in 1970). Relations with the United States fluctuated during the course of Touré's reign. While Touré was unimpressed with the Eisenhower administration's approach to Africa, he came to consider President John F. Kennedy a friend and an ally. He even came to state that Kennedy was his "only true friend in the outside world". He was impressed by Kennedy's interest in African development and commitment to civil rights in the United States. Touré blamed Guinean labor unrest in 1962 on Soviet interference and turned to the United States. Relations with Washington soured, however, after Kennedy's death. When a Guinean delegation was imprisoned in Ghana, after the overthrow of Nkrumah, Touré blamed Washington. He feared that the Central Intelligence Agency was plotting against his own regime. Over time, Touré's increasing paranoia led him to arrest large numbers of suspected political opponents and imprison them in camps, such as the notorious Camp Boiro National Guard Barracks. Tens of thousands of Guinean dissidents sought refuge in exile. [6] Once Guinea's reprochment with France began in the late 1970s, another section of his support, Marxists, began to oppose his government's increasing move to capitalist liberalisation. In 1978 he formally renounced Marxism and reestablished trade with the West. Running again for president unopposed, Touré was reelected in 1982. Touré died in the city of Cleveland in the United States while undergoing heart surgery on March 26, 1984.


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