A “Frontal Attack on Irrational Elements”: Sékou Touré and the Management of Elites in Guinea

  • Mairi S. MacDonald
Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)


As leader of the Parti Démocratique de la Guinée (PDG) from 1952 until his death in 1984, Ahmed Sékou Touré’s hold on power was more often than not the result of a balancing act. Sometimes the balance called for finesse; more frequently and notoriously, the PDG leadership opted for “frontal attacks” of varying degrees of physical or psychological brutality. Sékou Touré’s reign began when Guinea was still part of Afrique Occidentale française (AOF) and ended long after many of his contemporaries among Africa’s champions of independence had been replaced or deposed, overthrown by coup d’état or killed by the assassin’s bullet. A charismatic, self-made man with family ties to two of Guinea’s three largest ethnic groups, Sékou Touré’s longevity resulted from the unusual monopoly Guinea’s political elite exercised over power in the state. The kernel of this state of affairs was actions that Sékou Touré and his Party took in the years leading up to independence; but it took the self-interested reactions of the colonial power and of other international players to germinate it and bring it to fruition. Three incidents — the elimination of Guinea’s “traditional” chiefdoms in 1957, the teachers’ plot in 1961, and the hunt for a “fifth column” in 1971 — show the path Guinea took towards a state in which non-political elites were most often identifiable at the point at which they were being dispossessed of the very characteristics — ethnocultural or religious authority, economic or intellectual position — that gave them status.


Security Council Political Elite Union Leader United Nations Security Council Foreign Power 
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© Mairi S. MacDonald 2011

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  • Mairi S. MacDonald

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