Guinea - Ahmed Sékou Touré
Ahmed Sékou Touré was a descendant of Samory Toure, emblematic figure of the fight against the French colonization. Led by Ahmed Sékou Touré, head of the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), which won 56 of 60 seats in 1957 territorial elections, the people of Guinea in a September 1958 plebiscite overwhelmingly rejected membership in the proposed French Community. The French withdrew quickly, and on October 2, 1958, Guinea proclaimed itself a sovereign and independent republic, with Sékou Touré as President.
Under Touré, Guinea became a one-party dictatorship, with a closed, socialized economy and no tolerance for human rights, free expression, or political opposition, which was ruthlessly suppressed. Originally credited for his advocacy of cross-ethnic nationalism, Touré gradually came to rely on his own Malinke ethnic group to fill positions in the party and government. Alleging plots and conspiracies against him at home and abroad, Tourés regime targeted real and imagined opponents, imprisoning many thousands in Soviet-style prison gulags, where many perished. The regimes repression drove more than a million Guineans into exile, and Tourés paranoia ruined relations with foreign nations, including neighboring African states, increasing Guineas isolation and further devastating its economy.
The Republic of Guinea entered the growing list of sovereign African states on October 2, 1958, after existing more than half a century as part of the French colonial empire. Its independence, viewed with pride as a great moment in African self-achievement, followed quickly after the referendum of September 28, 1958, when the Guinean people and the other members of the twelve-year-old French Union went to the polls to vote for or against continued association with France in the French Community proposed by General Charles de Gaulle.
Alone among the former French African colonies, Guinea rejected membership in the new alliance and voted instead for complete independence. Behind the Guinean response lay not only accumulated resentments against colonial rule but also aspirations formed under French influence and political experience gained during the period of colonial reform after World War II.
During the first years of its national life, the young republic served as a testing ground and showcase for anticolonialism and, as such, achieved a political importance far out of proportion to its strategic location, size, population, and the nature of its economy. Under the leadership of President Ahmed Sékou Touré, who was personally responsible for the people's decision to break away from France, the government and the sole political party — the two practically synonymous — sought to bring Guineans into an African form of political socialism and a collectivist economy.
By the early 1970s, however, the aura surrounding the country's anticipated success as a model of African political and economic development had lost much of its pristine attraction. Plagued by myriad economic difficulties, elements of local dissatisfaction, and a perennial climate of real or imagined security threats, Guinea remained on the United Nations list of the world's twenty-five least developed countries.
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