webGuinée / Histoire politique
Parti Démocratique de Guinée

R. W. Johnson
The Parti Démocratique de Guinée and the Mamou ‘deviation’

in African Perspectives, papers in the history, politics and economics of Africa presented to Thomas Hodgkin. C. Allen & R.W. Johnson (eds) 1
Cambridge University Press. London, New York. 1970. pp. 347-368 Ɓ

See also two related publications:
1. “Sékou Touré and the Guinean revolution.
2. Dequeker. “L'affaire de Mamou”. CMISOM, Paris, n.d.

The Context

On 31 March 1957 the Parti Démocratique de Guinée (PDG) swept to power in the legislative elections held under the new dispensation of Defferre's loi-cadre, winning fifty-six of the sixty seats in the Guinean Territorial Assembly 2. This victory completed the PDG's conquest of electoral power after a long and bitter struggle begun in 1946. It also ushered in an uneasy period of dyarchical rule shared between the French colonial Administration and the Party which was widely regarded as the most radical and intransigent movement anywhere in West Africa.
In fact the PDG leadership and particularly the PDG Secretary-General, Sékou Touré, had gradually achieved a modus vivendi with the Administration from 1954 on. This at first partial but then increasingly whole-hearted rapprochement was based partly on the Administration's recognition of the PDG's ultimately irresistible strength, but also on a number of substantial concessions made by the PDG. In the first place Touré had led almost all the French West African (including the Guinean) trade unions out of the communisant CGT to form the Confédération Générale des Travailleurs Africains (CGTA). Secondly, the PDG had been more closely integrated into the interterritorial RDA under the more conservative over-all leadership of Félix Houphouet-Boigny. Finally, this was matched from 1955 on by Touré's own emphatic adoption of the houphouetiste position with its stress on Francophile emotional attachments, its anti-communism, and its belief in the classless nature of African society.
With the PDG's assumption of power, Touré now modified his position further to extol the virtues of « constructive collaboration » with the colonial Administration and to emphasize Guinea's need (and the PDG's wholehearted welcome) for French public aid and private investment. Although Guinea was to take its independence by voting ‘NON’ in the September 1958 referendum, no such perspective was apparent in 1957. Indeed, all talk of independence was scrupulously avoided by the PDG leadership, who branded such discussions as ‘extremist’ and ‘utopian’. Ghanaian independence was passed over in public speeches as a not entirely respectable model of development and when Nkrumah visited Guinea in April 1957 it was as a private citizen that he went to Kankan to fulfill a religious vow made years before to the late Grand Cherif of Kankan.
In mid-1957, indeed, the PDG and Guinea with it seemed likely to slide into the sort of relationship with France already typified by Houphouet's PDCI in the Ivory Coast 3, thus reneging on the radical promise of earlier years. In fact there were several factors which made such a development more difficult in Guinea. Most importantly, the PDG's strength in the countryside was inextricably bound up with the support, leadership and encouragement it had provided for the peasant struggle against the chiefs. Any compromise on this central issue, the radical implications of which informed the PDG's entire outlook, would be fraught with danger for the Party. Secondly, the PDG leadership was, within limits, undeniably more radical itself than that of the PDCI. Its closer ties with the trade union movement and its long years in the political wilderness had given the PDG a markedly demagogic and oppositionist character. Moreover, the concessions and compromises made by the PDG had all been made at leadership level — even, it appears likely, between Touré and the AOF (French West African) Governor-General, Cornut-Gentille, personally — leaving the vast bulk of the PDG organisation unaffected by and largely ignorant of the bargain struck at the centre. Houphouet's volte-face in the Ivory Coast in 1950-1 and his close collaboration with the French Administration thereafter had been made possible by the Administration's repressive policies of 1948-50 which had effectively broken the PDCI as an organisational counterweight to its leader 4. This had not happened in Guinea where, moreover, the PDG leadership, conscious from late 1955 on of rumbles of discontent from students, a handful of older intellectual militants, and a number of CGT diehards, was determined not to be outflanked on its Left.
It was not surprising, in these circumstances, that Sékou Touré hesitated for some time to take up the executive powers that the loi-cadre made available to the victorious party in the 1957 elections 5. The French Governor, Ramadier, was quite unwilling, however, to appoint anyone but Touré as Vice-President of the Council of Ministers. Under his pressure Touré, gave way and on 14 May 1957 the first PDG government was formally constituted. It was in this context that the Mamou ‘deviation’ and eventual exclusion occurred.

The development of the Mamou PDG section 6

The fact that the PDG's most radical and dynamic Section should have developed at Mamou is, at first sight, itself most surprising. The Mamou region, centred on the small town of Mamou, constitutes an important part of the mountainous Fouta Djalon, the homeland of the Foulah people, Guinea's largest ethnic group, and always the most resistant to the appeals and propaganda of the PDG. Not only was Mamou more than 200 miles from Conakry, the solidly PDG capital, but it was the residence of the greatest and most prestigious of all Guinea's chiefs, the Almamy Ibrahima Sory Dara II. Almamy Ibrahima, the representative of the Alfaya line, enjoyed an indisputably greater prestige than Almamy Aguibou of the (alternate) Soriya line. The two lines had ruled the Fouta Djalon from their capital of Timbo for centuries before the arrival of the French, who had decided at the turn of the century to suppress the traditional capital and to move the Almamys away from this nerve-centre. The Soriya Almamy, Bokar Biro, had led the most serious resistance to the French in the Fouta, culminating in his death at the battle of Porédaka in 1896, and accordingly the Soriyas were settled at Dabola on the distant edge of the Fouta, far from their allies and supporters. The Alfayas, however, were settled at the new town of Mamou not far from Timbo and from this time on had enjoyed a predominant influence among the other Foula chiefs. Almamy lbrahima Sory Dara, indeed, had been chef de canton of Mamou since 1928 and for some years was actually allowed to combine this with the chieftaincy of Timbo. In 1950 he was given the unique title of chef supérieur du Fouta Djalon by an Administration grateful for his unfailing support.
Almamy lbrahima had taken the coming of « modern » politics in his stride. Easily elected to the newly created Conseil Général in 1946 and to the Grand Conseil in Dakar, he was the chief backer and supporter of Guinea's first deputy, the Socialist Yacine Diallo. Indeed, it was chiefly the Almamy's support that was responsible for Yacine's easy electoral victories in 1945, 1946 (twice) and 1951. A strong and active partisan of the French Administration, the Almamy could always be sure of full official support and sympathy. In fact he had little need of it for he was held in almost universal awe and respect. Conservative, intelligent, a devout Muslim and not prone to make the spectacular exactions that were so often the detonator of peasant rebellion against the chiefs, he could rely on the unforced allegiance of most of the Fouta.
However, though Mamou might appear an unpromising environment for the PDG, several factors had favoured the development of a particularly militant Section there. First, Mamou was a « new » town, deliberately constructed by the Administration to displace Timbo from its role as traditional capital of the Fouta. Though distant from Conakry, Mamou was directly linked to the capital by road and rail. Lying at the crossroads between Guinea's two largest cities, Conakry and Kankan, it quickly became a major administrative and commercial centre and acted as an entrepot for commerce from Sierra Leone and the rest of the Fouta, Upper Guinea, the Forest, Portuguese Guinea and the Casamance.
Mamou's recent creation and its pivotal situation had meant that it had attracted an ethnically diverse population among whom the PDG grew more easily than among the region's native Foulahs. Moreover, from a relatively early stage the PDG realised that the struggle for Mamou had a special importance, both strategically and symbolically. Thus the first steps to put a PDG organisation on foot in Mamou were taken in 1951 — though most of the rest of the Fouta was to wait until 1955-6 to see the appearance of formal Party organisation at a local level.
Paradoxically, a radical PDG Section developed at Mamou not only in spite of the Almamy's presence there, but also partly because of it. The French Administration habitually resorted to administrative sanctions against those African fonctionnaires (civil servants) who demonstrated a recalcitrant support for the PDG. Chief among these sanctions was the transfer of the offending employee away from his home-area or from the locale where he was giving political trouble into a less friendly environment. Mamou, naturally enough, became a last resort where, in the heart of the conservative Fouta and in the formidable shadow of the Almamy, the most militant-fonctionnaires could be safely transferred 7. Thus the Administration itself unconsciously helped to give the Mamou Section its distinctive character. Among the radical fonctionnaires transferred there were:

It was these fonctionnaires who provided the Mamou Section with its distinctively marxist leadership. It is worth noting that all those named above were members of the tiny African elite with a secondary education. They all were graduates of the Ecole Normale William Ponty in Dakar. This alone helps explain why they were merely transferred by the Administration and not dismissed from their posts as were similarly radical petits fonctionnaires with only a primary education — Touré himself being a notable example of this latter group. The fact that the PDG leadership in Conakry was firmly in the hands of men of Touré's own stamp, with a well-developed suspicion of Ponty-trained « intellectuals », goes not a little way to explaining the later tension between Mamou and Conakry.
This Mamou leadership group had all been members of the Groupe d'Etudes Communistes which had existed in Guinea in the early post-war years and retained the communisant sympathies which had characterised the RDA before 1950. The fact that Pleah Koniba — the Section's Secretary General — was not even a Guinean merely emphasised the fact that the Section rested on a small number of non-Foulah militants. In its early years this was also true even of the Section's lower levels.
The railway workers provided a number of PDG cadres at Mamou — notably Morlaye Camara and Soriba Bangoura, both of them Soussous. From 1951 on Mamou's women were organised under the leadership of one Malinké woman, Sylla Tourou. Of low-caste and the wife of a serf of one of the Foulah chiefs, she played an important role in spreading the word of the Party:

The Party came and I realised I was the slave of a slave. We struggled among the women to awaken their consciousness too. I was often in trouble with the police because we attacked the wife of the Commissaire de Police for not making her husband respect women. We went into the runde (slave villages) and also attacked the chiefs through their wives. We struggled to destroy the chiefs families by getting a majority of their wives to divorce them for the way they treated the people 9.

Another key militant was the Malinké, Abdoulaye Condé, an ex-serviceman who organised other anciens combattants under the PDG's aegis — an important stroke since this group often constituted conservative support for the Administration. Moreover, Condé worked as an interpreter in the office of the commandant de cercle and kept the Section informed in advance of messages passing between Conakry and the commandant 10.
As the PDG grew nationally, so the Mamou Section grew and developed, gradually extending its influence outwards from the town into the surrounding countryside and winning an increasing number of Foulah support, particularly among the serfs and those of lower caste. Though the Almamy gave his supporters voting instructions at election time, he was too shrewd to risk a direct confrontation with a popular and intransigent leadership. The PDG, for its part, did not wish to attack the Almamy directly « but we always found that he was fighting us under the table, distributing money to his agents, our opponents, and casting slurs on our fidelity to Islam. So we fought back at him under the table. » 11
The PDG pointed out the Almamy's fine house, built for him by the French, and claimed he had been bought off for a mere pittance. When the Almamy visited Paris the Section received and disseminated letters from Paris from Fodeba Keita, Ismael Touré and Alassane Diop 12. By this means the population was informed that the Almamy had in fact been received at Rue Oudinot with a minimum of ceremony which contrasted poorly with the reception given to the great Islamic leaders whom the French really valued, such as the King of Morocco.
With the gradual maturing of the peasant struggle against the chiefs in the countryside 13, always especially bitterly fought in the Fouta (where the chiefs were strongest), by 1955-6 the PDG's Fouta Sections were moving into their most militant phase. At the same time the PDG leadership in Conakry was reaching its détente with the French. At Mamou militants were by this time receiving instruction from ex-servicemen on how to make petrol bombs « though only to scare our opponents ». One glimpses briefly here the beginnings of quasi-revolutionary development which was never to come to fruition in Guinea but which was later to be paralleled and fulfilled across the border in Portuguese Guinea.

The sources of division

Given the growing disjuncture between events at the centre and on the periphery friction between the Conakry leadership and the up-country Sections was fairly predictable. It is important to realise that among the old militants of the type found at Mamou there was no special deference to Sékou Touré. The concept of « charisma » so beloved of political and social scientists is of little use here. The loyalties of men like Pleah Koniba were :

The first open clash between Mamou and Conakry came with the elections of 2 January 1956 in which Guinea had to elect three deputies to the French National Assembly. The PDG seemed fairly certain to take at least one of the seats but, with the elections fought on the basis of strict proportional representation, it was clear that the Party's third-listed candidate would fail to gain a seat. The PDG's leading opponent, Diawadou Barry, the son of the Almamy of Dabola, needed to gain only 17 % of the votes in order to be sure of one of the seats and it was always certain he would achieve this. In Conakry the PDG comité directeur drew up its list with Touré in first place, Lansana Beavogui, his trusted lieutenant, in second place, and Saifoulaye Diallo third.
That a leading local militant had been selected for the Party list was a feather in the cap of the Mamou Section, but it was far from satisfied. Its suspicion and disapproval had been aroused by Touré's manoeuvres to disaffiliate the Guinean and AOF unions from the CGT, and Pleah Koniba now attacked the order of candidates. Touré, he claimed, was clearly an opportunist and Beavogui simply his pliable henchman. Saifoulaye Diallo was the only « incorruptible » on the list and the PDG could not afford to exclude him from any real hope of success. This was not merely an instance of support for a favourite son candidate. Throughout the PDG Saifoulaye Diallo was widely regarded as a more « intellectual » leader than Touré and of greater moral stature. Indeed, there were persistent rumours of a putsch to replace Touré with Saifoulaye Diallo at the head of the PDG, rumours which never came to anything because Saifoulaye Diallo was apparently unwilling to involve himself in such a move.
On this occasion Mamou won the day. Saifoulaye Diallo's and Beavogui's positions on the PDG list were reversed. The result was as expected: Touré, Saifoulaye Diallo and Diawadou were elected.
The 1956 election ushered in the period of full rapprochement between the PDG leadership and the Administration. Inevitably it also heralded a period of increasing strain in the relationship between Mamou and Conakry. It was not merely that Conakry was faced with a truculent local Section which was continually and embarrassingly to its Left on every major issue. More worrying for Touré was the fact that Mamou, and Pleah Koniba in particular, was merely giving voice to rumblings of discontent discernible throughout the PDG and in so doing was emerging as the standard bearer of the students and younger radicals.
This discontent consisted not only in a sensitivity to each new compromise by the leadership and a critical attitude towards the evasion of the independence issue, but in a more generalised suspicion of Touré's intentions. Many otherwise solid militants were gravely concerned by the leadership's apparent unwillingness to hold a genuine Party Congress. The Congress was continually promised but, for one reason or another, endlessly postponed although time was found to hold two special PDG conferences to prepare the 1956 and 1957 elections, an interterritorial RDA Congress in Conakry and innumerable trade union conferences and congresses. The fact was that Touré had taken power as PDG Secretary General under somewhat obscure circumstances in 1952 and had never been elected by a PDG Congress. Nor had the PDG comité directeur ever been elected — it consisted merely of the handful of militants whom Touré had gathered round him in Conakry. One of the functions of a full Congress would be to subject the entire leadership to the ordeal of election or rejection. PDG membership had increased by something like 100-fold between 1952 and 1956 — it was now really a totally different Party — and pressure from below mounted for a proper Congress. Touré's own position was probably safe, certainly while Saifoulaye Diallo showed no sign of personal ambition. (Saifoulaye Diallo was anyway isolated in the comité directeur to which he had simply been co-opted on becoming a deputy and on which he was the only non-Conakry member. As such there could never be any question of a majority for him against Touré.) But a properly elected comité directeur might well transform the situation, resulting in the election of men like Pleah Koniba and thus in Touré's loss of control. The leadership, for its part, took the demands for a Congress as a sign that it had not yet established full control over the Party apparatus and thus it was less enthusiastic than ever about the prospect of a Congress. Ideally it wished to delay a Congress until its control over the apparatus was complete — that is until there was no longer any demand for a Congress.
The 1956 election was thus also a landmark in PDG organisational history, for after it the leadership threw itself energetically into a tremendous drive to re-organise the PDG. There is no doubt that it was an essential task. All over Guinea there were large numbers of PDG members grouped in a multiplicity of different or formless Party organisations. Contact between Sections and with the leadership, so long on an informal basis, had become chaotic as the PDG became a mass party. Discipline was lax and a number of different Party lines were followed. In some areas the Party was still organised on an ethnic basis. Moreover, the 1956 and later the 1957 elections submerged the Party in a tidal wave of new membership applications as large numbers of the hitherto uncommitted, the conservative and even the downright reactionary sought to scramble aboard the bandwagon.
The massive task of re-organisation launched in 1956 had, however, a double purpose and effect. A rigorous form of democratic centralism was implanted which not only consolidated and gave structure to the PDG's massive support, but also increasingly subordinated it to the central leadership. Localised clusters of power and influence such as ethnic associations were broken up. The Women's and Youth Sections of the Party were split off from the rest of the body and given their own chains of command and communication. Innumerable comités, sous-sections and sections were created while others were re-organised. Rigid lines of discipline and authority were established, emphasised and re-emphasised. Thus as the PDG moved into a more openly revisionist phase it equipped itself for the first time with the tight structure and tough discipline of a revolutionary party. Mamou itself was little affected by the re-organisation — it was already a model Section in most respects. But it was becoming increasingly clear that the Section could not maintain its dissident position indefinitely.
The next chapter in the Conakry-Mamou division came with the November 1956 municipal elections. The PDG was determined to take the fullest possible advantage of the structural reforms introduced under Deferre's loi-cadre — of which the creation of municipalities was one. In effect this meant that the PDG aimed at a clean sweep in the municipal elections in the face of competition from two opposing parties, the Bloc Africain de Guinée (BAG) and the Démocratie Socialiste de Guinée (DSG). PDG success was virtually assured in all the municipalities save that of Mamou where the Almamy himself announced his candidacy as a BAG Independent. The PDG was so determined to win the elections that a number of local alliances were made with the DSG, the more radical of its opponents, against the BAG, the party of the chiefs. At Mamou, however, Conakry insisted that an alliance be offered to the Almamy against the DSG — a step which thoroughly compromised the PDG's position in the anti-chief struggle as well as the position of the local Mamou Section. In the event, the Almamy declined the offer, won his ward easily but saw his supporters defeated in all the other wards. The triumphant PDG-controlled council elected Saifoulaye Diallo as mayor and Pleah Koniba as his deputy.
The 1957 elections predictably provided further occasion for Mamou-Conakry friction. It was clear that the PDG would win an overwhelming majority of the sixty seats in the Territorial Assembly, but again the comité directeur was much exercised by the problems posed by the question of the choice of candidates. If each local Section were allowed to choose its candidate(s) (constituencies having from one to four seats, depending on size), there was a danger that regional or even ethnic considerations would influence their selection. Moreover, in the spirit of the détente with the Administration, Touré wished to parachute a sprinkling of sympathetic Frenchmen into PDG strongholds. This move would certainly be resisted, by local Sections, now in sight of the fruits of victory after so many years in the wilderness. And, of course, the PDG leadership was concerned that the elections should not produce an Assembly to the Left of itself — a potent and alarming possibility now that the leadership had moved so far into the Centre. The problem was delicate, for the Party would never tolerate the straightforward dictation of candidates by the central leadership. Accordingly a complicated system was devised whereby a slightly enlarged version of the comité directeur chose twenty-three candidates and the local Sections chose thirty-seven.
The obvious candidates at Mamou, which had two seats, were Saifoulaye Diallo and Pleah Koniba. This was ruled out, however, on the principle of opposition to the habit of multiple office-holding. Moreover, Mamou absolutely refused to accept the comité directeur nominee for its second seat, regarding him as an opportunist. Ultimately Mamou again got its way and nominated both of its own candidates, Bela Doumbouya and Alioune Dramé, both of whom were duly elected. Inevitably this opened the dam gates and other Sections clamoured for the same privilege to be allowed them. Firmly though the leadership resisted these demands, it found its already difficult position made impossible by the concession made to Mamou. Ultimately it chose only eight, not twenty-three candidates and it was difficult even to get any of them accepted. When Touré went to speak in favour of one of the parachuted colon candidates he actually suffered the unique indignity of being booed by a mainly PDG crowd. At Dalaba, some thirty miles from Mamou, the PDG leadership had opportunistically nominated Tierno Ibrahima Bah, one of the most powerful and least popular chiefs in Guinea. The local Section grudgingly accepted this — on condition that the candidate's election campaign take the form of extensive auto-criticism sessions in every village of the constituency 14.

Deviation and Exclusion

The 1957 elections were a triumph for the PDG but once again the leadership had been embarrassed by Mamou. Further trouble between the two was inevitable. Hitherto the disputes between them had been concerned with the methods and principles by which the PDG should pursue the conquest of power. Now it had power, or at least was sharing it with the Administration. Touré's hesitation to accept office in April 1957 was doubtless influenced by consideration of probable future difficulty with Mamou and what the Section represented more generally within the PDG. Having taken power Touré was less inclined to brook opposition than before, especially since he now came under strong pressure from the Administration to curb the more radical of his followers. In particular, loose talk about « independence » — tolerated thus far by the Administration as an unfortunate piece of rhetorical demagogy — must stop. Soon after April 1957 a steady trickle of expulsions from the PDG for « indiscipline » began.
Touré's position was difficult. The elections meant that he was now faced not only with a swollen Party apparatus but with a new counterleadership group, the fifty-six PDG deputies, all claiming to speak in the movement's name. Touré's response to the situation was firm and unequivocal:

We know that every process of growing-up has its own particular difficulties. Struggles for influence and personal discontent resulting from jealousy or the failure to understand some decisions may well lead to a new attitude among some of our comrades. Vigilance and firmness will make it possible for us to discover this state of mind at its source and —if need be — to put such-minded individuals in a position where they can do no harm … All those who deviate from the Party line … must be denounced without mercy … We will sacrifice detractors and splitters to save the common hopes placed in the PDG. SUPREMACY MUST RETURN INCONTESTABLY TO THE MOVEMENT'S POLITICAL LEADERSHIP whose decisions and instructions must be scrupulously observed by all elected members at every level 15.

Touré went on to stress that the new deputies must be rigorously subject to the authority of their local Sections and through them to the comité directeur. They were not autonomous leaders. They must send no letters, telegrams or other communications of a political nature without their Sections' countersignature. The Sections must keep a careful watch on them and on the activities of the trade union and youth organisations.
The leadership's problems were not confined to internal Party matters. Apart from the BAG and DSG there were several tradidonally independent groups-the students, the teachers, and the railway workers who formed nuclei of resistance to absolute PDG authority. Mamou appeared the natural rallying point to these three groups and in the summer months of 1957 they all held their annual Congresses there, all of them critical of the new PDG government. The students accused the régime of having sold out to the French and demanded ‘immediate independence’. The railwaymen condemned the ruthless subordination of the trade union movement to PDG control. The teachers found fault with the régime's educational policies.
It was the teachers' Congress (held 6-9 August) that most alarmed and outraged the régime. The teachers were a key group, making up a large proportion of the territory's entire intelligentsia and providing many cadres for the PDG, BAG and DSG alike. Their Secretary-General, Koumandian Keita, who enjoyed an almost universal respect among Guinean intellectuals, was not only the President of the BAG but also a personal enemy of Sékou Touré. For the PDG leadership the fact that the teachers, most of whom were PDG members, should vote massively for motions critical of the régime advanced by Keita was bad enough. That Mamou should harbour and encourage such elements was intolerable. Moreover, the teachers threatened a strike of unlimited duration on the most explosive of their demands — the reinstatement of one of the union's members, Ray Autra.
Ray Autra had been a PDG founder-member in 1947 and, with Madeira Keita, its co-leader in the most bitter period of its struggle up to 1951. He had then been transferred by an irate Administration to Dahomey (where he became Secretary-General of the Dahomean RDA). It was his departure to Dahomey and Madeira Keita's to his native Soudan that had opened the way to Touré's assumption of the PDG leadership. Now, in 1957, Ray Autra returned to Guinea, rejoicing in the triumph of the Party he had helped found. On his return to Conakry he had announced his intention of holding a meeting on the question of independence. The PDG leadership, furious at this initiative, forbade the meeting. Accordingly he had returned to hold his meeting in the friendlier atmosphere of his home town, Mamou.
Ray Autra quickly became an embarrassing thorn in the side of the PDG leadership. He was perhaps the principal public opponent of the practice of multiple office-holding. This had become a fairly general theme of criticism of the régime, particularly since the 1957 elections. The fact was that many PDG leaders and militants, taking advantage of their Party's triumphal forward match, were simply adding new functions to their old Party jobs. Critics pointed out that this was bound to lead to conflicts of interest between one function and another (an allegation usually denied in a shower of rhetoric about the totally unitary nature of Party, trade union and government) and that it was a flagrant denial of Party principle for its leaders to act like so many pluralist medieval bishops, drawing several salaries and seeking to extend their personal bases of power without ever surrendering their former functions. While there were many to whom such criticism applied, no one was unaware that Sékou Touré himself was the chief pluralist offender. By mid-1957 the offices he held included that of :

In the circumstances Touré tended not unfairly to regard attacks on multiple office-holding as attacks on himself.
Ray Autra's attacks on the two highly sensitive issues of independence and pluralism had quickly drawn the régime's wrath, and the classic colonial weapon of the administrative sanction was used against him. Worse, he was left in doubt as to whether he had been dismissed from his functions altogether. It was thus hardly surprising that the teachers' Congress, alarmed by this action of Guinea's first African government, rose in protest.
The PDG comité directeur took a strong line. A special communiqué 16 condemned the teachers' protest and warned them that by taking up Koumandian Keita's cry of « black colonialism » they had stepped beyond the pale:

The experience of these last weeks shows that the chosen terrain of the anti-RDA elements in Guinea is trade unionism … these enemies of the people turned trade union leaders are trying to catch the sympathy of the young who are often ignorant of the ambitions that motivate them and sometimes allow themselves to be deceived by circumstantially revolutionary proposals … This succinct analysis … enables one to grasp the true meaning of the Teachers' Congress at Mamou … These phenomena are far from fortuitous. They have not developed by chance … Immediately after the seizure of power by a revolutionary mass movement the right wing groups adopt slogans more to the Left than those guiding the victorious Party … Without thereby abandoning its fundamental principles, the leaders of our Party Sections must understand that the content of the PDG's political activity can no longer consist solely of demands … And just at the moment that we are passing from the « DEMANDS FIRST » stage to the stage of « PRACTICAL ACHIEVEMENTS FIRST », the anti-RDA clan is moving from its platform of « LOYAL COLLABORATION » [i.e. with the Administration] to that of « IMMEDIATE INDEPENDENCE ». It must be emphasised that in the course of these mutations an important fraction of the anti-RDA group has joined the PDG and that we must expect to lose a minority of discontented intellectuals who will leave to serve as cadres in new « pseudo-revolutionary » movements 17.

Although a compromise was reached in the immediate case of Ray Autra (he was re-instated but transferred to Boké, down on the coast), an impasse had been reached in a more general sense. The Party leadership had made it clear that, with its assumption of power, times had changed. The tone of its riposte showed that it regarded its critics as little better than traitors. There was to be an end to concessions.
The Mamou Section had watched these events closely and disapprovingly. Touré was clearly distorting the true picture of events and his behaviour suggested that he might even be hoping to provoke a split in the Party 18. A long letter was now sent to Touré, setting out their complaints. There were, they said, disturbing signs that power within the PDG was becoming centralised and personalised in Touré himself, with distinctly dictatorial possibilities apparent. Not only had he accumulated too many offices but, they noted, comité directeur directives often arrived signed by him alone, despite the leadership's own ruling against such practices. Secondly, Mamou disapproved of the fact that Touré was so often away in Paris, Dakar and Abidjan. Who, they asked, was paying for all this travel? 19
The most important point in the letter, though, was the claim that the PDG had given birth to a « bourgeoisie des élus » which was inexorably betraying the years of austere and principled struggle. PDG leaders had always laid a populist stress on the need for militants to learn from the masses and stay close to them; they were, for example, forbidden to accept gifts even from supporters. This had been tellingly contrasted with the « insulting wealth » which the chiefs had derived from the exploitation of the peasants and the handsome favours received by reactionary politicians from the Administration. Now, however, Mamou pointed out, the new PDG deputies were all drawing salaries of 125,000 cfa francs 20 a month and the PDG Ministers were drawing 200,000 cfa. It was true that they had to pay a special levy on their salaries into Party funds, but this made little difference in fact. Election to their new positions had wrought a complete transformation in their style of life. Deputies and Ministers alike were becoming a group of house-owning, car-owning, well-dressed men. Worse still, continued the letter, these men showed an arrogant insensitivity in their demands. At a time of national effort and sacrifice to achieve the PDG's ambitious social and educational goals every Minister was apparently thought to require a large Mercedes and a chauffeur for his official duties.
Mamou awaited anxiously and in vain for Touré's reply to their letter. They were informed, however, that while Touré regarded the letter as a personal attack against himself, he also believed this was strictly a Party, not a personal matter. So he had put it before the comité directeur for its consideration. At the end of September 1957, having waited almost a month, they had still received no reply. At the beginning of October — the beginning of the school year — the teachers launched their threatened strike, supported by and-government demonstrations by pupils and students. Simultaneously, and doubtless acting in concert with the teachers, Mamou launched a manifesto of their complaints to the PDG in general. Determined to gain the wider support which they knew was latent for their cause, they spent 25,000 cfa on telegrams publicising their position to other PDG Sections, to Houphouet-Boigny and other RDA leaders, and to the French Communist leaders, Maurice Thorez and Jacques Duclos. They also produced a special brochure setting out their case which they circularised to the Mamou region's seventy-seven comités de base.
While it was clear that Mamou's actions were planned and premeditated 21, the Section's ambitions were relatively modest and its tactics maladroit. The hope was that a PDG Congress would be summoned at which the Mamou manifesto would be the main topic for discussion. This was always extremely unlikely. No Congress could be held without the agreement of the leadership and it was highly improbable that Touré would ever give way to any amount of internal Party pressure in this respect if the result might be a hostile or even difficult Congress. Moreover, Mamou's own behaviour, which involved the infringement of numerous Party rules, as well as the Section's apparent collusion with the teachers ensured that any such Congress would be bound to begin with a denunciation of Mamou's methods, whatever it thought of Mamou's manifesto. Neither Thorez nor Duclos could help Mamou while it was unlikely that Houphouet would wish to. The only hope of success for Mamou lay in the possibility that it could obtain the firm support of a significant number of other regional Sections of the PDG. One is left with the ineluctable impression that the Mamou Section was still acting and thinking in terms appropriate to the PDG of the early 1950s or before when the PDG had operated on the base of a tiny elite of militants. Informal contacts, appeals to principle, Party camaraderie and melodramatic gestures had been the standard currency of the period. Unfortunately, they were simply out of date in the era of the disciplined mass party that the PDG had become. True, Mamou had forced the leadership into concessions before, but the Section simply failed to realise the importance of the organisational revolution in the PDG being effected even as they gained these concessions. The extent of Mamou's failure was to be an exact measure of the extent of the transitional process at work in the PDG.
Nevertheless, an extremely dangerous situation had been created for the leadership. In particular Mamou must be cut off from the other Fouta Sections, for it was here, where the anti-chief struggle had been most bitter, that the most radical Sections were to be found. Messages of support for Mamou had arrived there almost immediately from Labé, Pita and Dabola 22. The same afternoon, however, denunciations of Mamou came in from the very same Sections. The leadership had begun to isolate Mamou.
Touré now cabled Mamou that he was on his way up there to discuss the differences between them 23 cold welcome was prepared. The local PDG women, always and everywhere in Guinea Touré's strongest supporters, decided not to receive him at the station. The rest of the population was kept uninformed of the impending visit for fear they might organise a substitute reception. Touré duly arrived — and had to carry his own bags into the town. A momentous meeting took place where the Mamou manifesto was furiously debated. Finally, at 5 a.m., after nine hours of debate, a unanimous vote of confidence in the Sectional leadership was passed. « Then he (Touré) got up and said simply, « Alors, au revoir ». And we just said « Au revoir » and he walked down to the station and left. We hadn't even offered him a meal. »
On his way back to Conakry Touré stopped at Kindia. After a tremendous reception he held a public meeting where he announced the exclusion of the entire Mamou Section from the PDG. In addition Pleah Koniba was individually expelled. The whole of the Party was instructed to have no further contact with Mamou.

The triumph of the leadership

It was now that the newly disciplined and organised PDG apparatus was put to the test. It responded monolithically. Motions of support for the comité directeur and denunciations of Mamou rained in from Sections and comités throughout Guinea. A Party Control Commission under Oumar Dramé, Touré's most trusted righthand man, was dispatched to chastise and bring into line those Sections which had earlier faltered. A few « renegade » individuals were read out of the Party, but otherwise there was no resistance. The transcripts of the Commission's hearings show Dramé as a formidable aparatchik, hectoring, bullying and threatening 24. The hearings all ended with the errant Sections passing unanimous votes of self-criticism and penitence. Mamou's isolation was quickly completed. The Section received none of the usual Party directives and circulars and their attempts to contact other Sections met a wall of silence. Their letters received no reply and when they sent out envoys they returned intimidated and maltreated. Mamou defiantly announced that they no longer recognised the authority of the PDG comité directeur and relapsed into stubborn silence.
Organisation apart, three factors facilitated Mamou's isolation.

At length the Mamou Section, realising that mere silence could only prove a sterile course of action, contacted Conakry with a request for a meeting. A long haggle now began. The PDG leadership was determined that Mamou must come to Canossa at Conakry, while Mamou wanted negotiations at Mamou, or, failing that, at Kindia as a half-way house. The leadership was determined and this time it was Mamou who had to give way.
A delegation of twenty-seven militants led by Pleah Koniba, together with a number of Party women and, as an interlocuteur valable, El Hadj Mouctar, a famous marabout, left for Conakry by train. (Local transporteurs had refused to take them by road for fear of being stoned en route.) Arriving at Conakry they found that a form of massive retaliation for their treatment of Touré at Mamou had been arranged. Not only the station but the entire city-centre was deserted. The Party women lost heart at this and announced that they would go no further, upbraiding the men for their defiant attitude. The delegates dispersed to seek lodging with friends but there was no food or welcome anywhere and Party cars circulated in the town surveying the intimidated delegates.
The tired, hungry and dispirited delegates gathered that evening at the PDG headquarters where a long séance, presided over by the doyen of the PDG, Abdourahamane Diallo, began. A select leadership team consisting of Touré, his brother Ismael, and two of Touré's most unswerving followers, Lansana Diané 26 and N'Famara Keita 27 refused to discuss the substantive questions raised by Mamou. Rather, debate was centred on the ethics of the Section's actions. Perhaps because of El Hadj Mouctar's presence, the discussion was theological rather than ideological. Whether they were Christians, Muslims or marxists, claimed Touré, they had broken faith with the principle of democratic centralism. The delegates had placed their last hopes in Saifoulaye Diallo; he had been silent in the affair till now. They cast appealing glances at him now, but he sat aloof and silent throughout at the back of the room.
The séance continued with the marabout defending Mamou and Touré quoting back from the PDG statutes, the Qur'an, the Bible, Marx and Lenin. At dawn there was a short recess for prayers but the marabout's nerve was broken. He forgot the lines of the prayer and, angrily rounding on the Mamou delegates, denounced them as false Muslims. He was, he said, convinced by what Touré had said and he left them, refusing them his blessing.
The séance continued for another twenty-four hours with only a short break. The delegates dispersed and struggled back to Mamou in twos and threes. The leadership had failed to persuade them to pass a motion of self-criticism, but they had been thoroughly intimidated and demoralised. They had failed to get their substantial grievances discussed at all and had had little food, less sleep and no allies at all 28. Indeed their own delegation was now badly split. They returned to Mamou to find that a number of fonctionnaires who had provided the Section's intransigent middle-level cadres had been transferred away or subjected to other administrative sanctions. It had been clear in Conakry that whatever happened Pleah Koniba was forever beyond the pale. Thus when he now continued to stand out his erstwhile supporters began to see his unbending resistance as merely a means of gaining himself companions in perdition. The Mamou municipal council took the lead by forcing him to resign as deputy mayor.
Towards the end of November the comité directeur cabled Mamou saying they had been « intoxicated » and requesting them to receive a mission of « disintoxication ». Mamou submissively accepted this proposal. Oumar Dramé, heading the mission, held a series of public meetings in which he mercilessly harangued and insulted the Section's leaders and obtained the requisite unanimous motions of self-criticism. Finally, Saifoulaye Diallo was charged with the delicate task of installing a new Sectional leadership « composed of mediocre but reliable militants » 29. The new Section was headed by a penitent Aboubakar Doukouré.
With the collapse of all resistance it became clear to Pleah Koniba that there was no alternative open to him other than leaving Guinea 30. He left in a mood of considerable bitterness, passing through Dakar where he made a strong and depressing impression on the Guinean students there.
Now that « left deviationism » had been so thoroughly crushed, the comité directeur felt able at last to hold the long-promised Party Congress in January 1958. It was a triumphal occasion for the leadership and furnished striking evidence of their organisational grip on the Party. The reconstituted and « disintoxicated » Mamou Section was formally re-integrated into the PDG but there was no discussion of their now-retracted grievances. Touré did, however, give a private explanation to the new Mamou leadership accompanied with fresh reproaches for their foolishness. It was true that he had had to go to Dakar fifty-four times in 1957, he said, because there he had the ear of the Governor-General and could do more for the PDG and Guinea there in this way. While he was away, he continued, it was often necessary for him to dispatch Party circulars and directives in some haste under his own signature alone, but these always had to be ratified retrospectively by the comité directeur. Finally, it was simply untrue that all the PDG deputies were Mercedes-owners; those that needed cars had them but that was all. These not very satisfying explanations were accepted by the docile new Mamou leadership.
The comité directeur's control of the Party was perhaps most dramatically illustrated by its handling of the other potentially explosive issue at the Congress. Throughout the Congress tension mounted as the moment approached for the election of a new comité directeur; for many, indeed, this was the Congress's main purpose. By a skillful last minute re-arrangement of the agenda Touré was allowed to hold the floor for most of the Congress's final session. Using his personal authority and his control of the platform he was able to insist that the leadership election should be conducted on a list basis.
He himself would head a list consisting of the old comité directeur members with only two or three new members. No other list was proposed and anything too closely resembling an election was avoided.


The interest and significance of the Mamou « deviation » is several-fold. In general terms it represented a familiar enough phase in the development of radical mass movements in the Third World. The purging or subjugation of the Left wing by the leadership on its attainment of power has been a common phenomenon at least since Mustapha Kemal's crushing of the Turkish Communists in the 1920s. As far as Guinea is concerned the point is simply to establish that despite the radical and Left-wing aura which has surrounded the Touré régime since independence, this phenomenon did occur in Guinea too, though here the process was really completed by the « teachers' plot » of 1961. In fact the Mamou exclusion not only prefigured the 1961 events but was far more dangerous to the leadership since this was the last occasion when opposition to the leadership had an organisational base within the PDG. In 1961 too there were strikes by teachers and their pupils and even some of the same personnel were involved. Koumandian Keita, the teachers' leader, was this time jailed for seven years and Ray Autra for six years. Again a small group of radical intellectuals were hopelessly out-stripped by the strength of Touré's popular hold and the Party organisation. And again the hopes of the « comploteurs » that Saifoulaye Diallo would intervene to soften the blow were disappointed.
The Mamou case naturally represented a landmark of some significance for all the personalities involved in it, but they were diversely affected.

Above all the Mamou split represented a tremendous victory for the PDG leadership and what it represented. In this context it represented two things, the power and virtues of organisation and the dominance of the PDG by a lesser-educated and petit-fonctionnaire group.

Study of the Mamou case reminds one powerfully of Stalin's tactics against Zinoviev, Kamenev and the Left Opposition or, closer to home, of the French Communist Party expelling Doriot and then isolating him in his fief of Saint-Denis. In all three cases exclusion en bloc was followed by organisational isolation and unremitting pressure to reduce the bastion. The centre's strength and its case are both based on the fact that it is the centre and that it is contrary to democratic centralist principle to defy the centre.
The second aspect of the conflict could hardly have been more clearly illustrated. Indeed, it seems possible that Touré may have viewed the entire event as merely an attempt by a masonic Ponty elite to oust him and replace him with one of their own, Saifoulaye Diallo. In part, at least, this is a useful perspective. Pleah Koniba, Ray Autra, Koumandian Keita and Samba Lamine Traoré were all thoroughly defeated 32. They suffered the indignity of being harangued by Oumar Dramé, the illiterate leader of the truck-drivers' union and organiser of the Conakry lumpen-proletariat. The only members of the Ponty elite who emerged more or less unscathed were those such as Aboubakar Doukouré (and Saifoulaye Diallo?) who were willing to make themselves reliable instruments of the ruling group.
The precocity of Mamou's embryonically Fanonist critique of the PDG leadership tempts one to give a broader social categorisation to the split. The « teachers' plot » of 1961 was again to raise the question of the growth of a new, Party and Administration-based bourgeoisie. Was then the Mamou « deviation » merely a typical example of progressiste opposition to the emergence of an ultimately reactionary Guinean national bourgeoisie? The difficulties with such an analysis are numerous. On a theoretical level, is it possible to be satisfied with Mamou's description of the well-paid deputies, or, later, Dumont's description (in his « L'Afrique noire est mal partie ») of well-paid bureaucrats as a « bourgeoisie »? The social facts may be too complex and the conceptual terms insufficiently sensitive for this to take one very far anyway. Moreover, analysis is not helped by the fact that Touré, like Stalin, is an expert in overwhelming opposition in order to steal its political clothes. Today it is Touré who denounces « black colonialism », who warns of the danger in the growth of a Guinean national bourgeoisie, and who counsels the imperative need for austerity and simplicity in the private lives of public and Party officials. Doubtless one needs a greater temporal perspective in order to be able to answer these questions. Be that as it may, it seems likely that any such analysis will have to take the Mamou case into account one way or the other. Meanwhile, on a merely populist basis, one cannot observe the contemporary Guinean situation — the Ministers with their large cars and several houses and the widespread diversion of public resources into private pockets — without reconsidering Mamou's 1957 manifesto. Doubtless, as Touré said then, Ministers do need transport. But it is doubtful whether the sentiments behind Pleah Koniba's indignant retort of « Why can't they use bicycles ? » are altogether out of date in Guinea or anywhere else in Africa today.

1. The research on which this article is based was financed by a generous grant from the Social Science Research Council.
2 The best existing source for the general background to this study is Trade-unionists and Chiefs, the chapter on Guinea in R. S. Morgenthau's Political parties in French-speaking West Africa (Oxford, 1964).
3. The Parti Démocratique de la Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI) was the PDG's sister party, both of them being RDA affiliates. For developments in the Ivory Coast, which offer a series of fascinating contrasts with those in Guinea, see A. Zolberg, One-party government in The Ivory Coast (Princeton, 1964).
4. For an interesting and perceptive account of how the « game » of politics developed in the Ivory Coast, see Martin Staniland, « Single-party regimes and political change: the P.D.C.I. and Ivory Coast Politics », in Colin Leys (ed.), Politics and change in developing countries (Cambridge, 1969).
5.M. Dequecker, La Guinée de la loi-cadre à l'indépendance, Conférence faite au Centre Militaire
d'Information et de Spécialisation pour l'Outre-Mer, 23 December 1959 (mimeographed).
6. The bulk of the material on which the following account is based was provided by a number of interviews held at Mamou in October 1968 with members of the comité direct- of the PDG Section there. They have been, checked wherever possible against newspaper and documentary sources as well as by further interviews with former PDG militants in Dakar and in Paris in December 1968 and July 1969 respectively.
7. This ‘last resort’ syndrome is probably commoner than is generally realised. A classic example was Colditz castle to which the Germans transferred the most persistent P.O.W. escapees in the Second World War. Colditz was regarded as totally impregnable from within and without, but by transferring all the most expert escapees there the Germans ensured a continual series of (often successful) escapes from it for the rest of the War.
8. Saifoulaye Diallo was transferred here in 1948, but then transferred again to Niger in 1950. He returned to Guinea in 1955 but spent six months in a Conakry hospital before returning to Mamou. Thus he was not a permanent member of the Mamou ‘group’.
9. Interview with Mme Sylla Tourou at Mamou, 17 October 1968.
10. These confidential messages were then translated into Arabic script for the Party by sympathetic marabouts. Placards were then erected around the town to alert the population of the intentions of the unsuspecting commandant.
11. Interview with El Hadj Aboubakar Doukouré at Mamou, 16 October 1968.
12. All three were later to become PDG Ministers. Ismael is Sékou Touré's half-brother. He and Diop were both technical students in France while Fodeba Keita was then Director of the famous Ballets Africains. The latter was executed for treason in April 1969.
13. On the nature of the anti-chief struggle, see J. Suret-Canale, « La fin de la chefferie en Guinée », in the Journal of African History, VII, no. 3 (1966), 459-95.
14. This information was received in interviews with a number of old PDG militants in Dalaba on 21-3 October 1968 and was confirmed by Prof. Jean Suret-Canale whose source, in turn, was the then Dalaba Secretary-General, Samba Lamine Traoré.
15. Liberté, no. 123, 6 June 1957
16. See Liberté, no. 127, 27 August 1957. Touré took the unusual precaution of obtaining the signature of Saifoulaye Diallo and several other leading figures on the communiqué.
17. Liberté, no. 127, 27 August 1957. (My brackets, R.W.J.)
18. This is possible, though unlikely. However, if, as seems possible, Mamou's actions had been concerted in advance with the teachers, Touré may have received intelligence of this and may, by these remarks, have sought either to head Mamou off or to prepare the rest of the Party for the severity of his sanctions if Mamou went ahead.
19. This was a substantial piece of innuendo. It was rumoured that the French Administration had stepped in to provide funds for the PDG when the French CGT stepped out. The other rumoured source of financial support was Houphouet. If so, the latter must in turn have received lavish support from someone.
20. i.e., £ 250 a month at 1957 exchange rates.
21. This seems fairly clear — Touré certainly believed it to be so. Both the brochure and the manifesto must have taken some time to prepare. While the Section's actions were undoubtedly merely a response to events as it saw them, their timing to coincide with the teachers' strike is strong evidence, at least circumstantially, both of planning and collusion.
22. Rapport de la Conférence Publique de Bissikrima, 14 Décember 1957. (Roneo sheet) (including a report of the PDG Control Commission).
23. My Mamou interviewees said Touré came alone; Dequecker says a delegation came too.
24. Rapport de la Conférence Publique de Bissikrima, 14 December 1957; Mission Politique du Comité Directeur du PDG à Dabola, 12 December 1957 (procès-verbal) and Rapport de Mission à Faranah, 25 November 1957.
25. He had played a key role in the creation and organisation of the PDG Sections at Labé, Dalaba and Dabola. He had taken up the call for a Congress to discuss Mamou's manifesto.
26. He became Commander-in-Chief of the Guinean Army until his demotion in June 1969.
27. He is today still a member of the PDG Politburo and has been a Minister continuously ever since 1957.
28. I have given particular weight to this encounter at Conakry because all the Mamou interviewees saw it as a pivotal event.
29. Dequecker, La Guinée de la loi-cadre, p. 9.
30. It seems probable that it was part of Saifoulaye Diallo's mission to persuade his old comrade to leave.
31. During the November 1968 Malian coup d'Etat, Traoré led a number of poorly armed railway workers against the military. This was the only known instance of resistance to the coup. Traoré was still in jail in July 1969.
32. They were all Ponty graduates except for Koumandian Keita, who was educated at the equivalent (though less prestigious) Katibougou Ecole Normale in the Soudan.

Facebook logo Twitter logo LinkedIn Logo