webGuinée / Etat & Société

La première décennie du régime PDG

Claude Rivière
Guinea: The Mobilization of a People

Ithaca. Cornell University Press. 1968. 260 p.

Chapter 3

Building a Revolutionary State

The first breach in France's over-all colonial policy had been made. In Paris, Le Figaro's commentator wondered if « Guinea would become a people's democracy, » and stir up the world's illusions: « Behind Sily, the elephant mascot of the PDG, appears the snout of a bear. » And a few days later, Le Figaro commented that « Sékou Touré has placed a revolutionary red bonnet on the kinky hair of the Guinean Marianne. » 1
Knowing that his country's decision was considered by France as secession, the head of the young republic nevertheless sent a cable to the former Metropolitan power urging it to make cooperation agreements with Guinea and to grant it protection. He did this even though the French administrators and technicians had been asked immediately after the referendum to return to their country. Some of them had destroyed equipment before they left, others had carried away their files, and the soldiers at Dalaba had set fire to their barracks. Despite pressure from France, combined with the inducement of compensation to expedite the departure of French nationals, some of those under contract with the local government - including one-third of the teacher - stayed on, in order to help the country whose potential they knew take its first steps. Some private individuals also remained to salvage as much of their property as they could.
To make an example of Guinea for the African countries of the Community that had shown fidelity to France (and whose leaders would have found the encouragement of Guinea's dissidence incomprehensible), Paris suspended all financial aid provided to Guinea by the FIDES except the fund for improving the aluminum port of Fria.
Guinea was so irritated by the French attitude that it became exceedingly meticulous and suspicious in its dealings with all whites. Statues of former governors were pulled down and carted away. However, before giving vent to his ill humor, the Guinean president made conciliatory gestures both locally and on the international scene. At a meeting organized by the Chamber of Commerce on October 4, 1958, he said: « Our determination to be independent should not be interpreted as a desire to break off relations with France. » 2 His feigned good will, compared with what B. Ameillon calls the « obstinacy of General de Gaulle, » 3 enabled Sékou Touré to achieve three objectives:

  1. first, to obviate a sudden disruption of Guinea's economy by reassuring businessmen, while at the same time pursuing a policy of « positive neutralism » generally favorable to the socialist countries and nationalistic regimes of Africa
  2. second, to discourage vindictive moves on the part of the French government by appealing for sympathy to the French public - attributing the Franco-Guinean conflict to such classical causes as lost opportunities, psychological errors, and the like
  3. third, for the purpose of enhancing his own prestige, to court world opinion by claiming that Guinea had been ostracized because it was the sole member of overseas France that dared to challenge General de Gaulle.

Fernand Gigon, in his Guinée, Etat-pilote, 4 has given a lively and colorful description of the merrygo-round of missions and delegations from all countries that came to Guinea, the beating of drums to incite voluntary labor, the club of cronies that constituted the cabinet, and the ideological choices of « homo africanus. » Perhaps the euphoria of independence inspired an outlook that took into account only the immediate future. In any case, Guinea's policy was already determined, even if reviving the national economy was proving to be difficult.
On the domestic front, total unity was essential for consolidating the new power. This was facilitated by the unanimous support given it by all the Guinean parties prior to the referendum. The BAG and MSA were immediately integrated into the PDG, and their respective leaders became ministers in the new Guinean government. The diverse fortunes of those leaders culminated twelve years later, when all of them had been physically liquidated. For the time being, the most pressing task was to strengthen the nation as much as possible by providing it with adequate institutions and reorienting its economy. The politico-administrative organization and the economic revolution will be examined here; the country's social transformation will be taken up in another chapter. However, to understand the direction taken by Guinea politically and economically, one must first consider the man responsible for it and the ideological model he followed.

Sékou Touré and the PDG's Ideology
Sékou Touré, the son of a poor peasant, who came to emulate his reputed ancestor, Samori, was raised in a Muslim family and married a Christian mulatto. At one time a modest government employee, he was later described by his party as « the supreme revolutionary authority. » After studying Marxist doctrine, he gained through his own efforts an intellectual independence which made him unique. Sékou Touré molded his life dialectically by reconciling contradictory theories and formulating his own synthesis from them. He did not belong to the group of pioneers of more or less aristocratic origin, or to that of the activist teachers at the William Ponty normal school, but should be classified among the revolutionary trade unionits.
Born in 1922 at Faranah, Sékou Touré grew up as an enfant terrible. After finishing primary school, he was admitted to the Georges Poiret Vocational Training School at Conakry in 1936. Dropped from that school the next year because of poor grades, he continued his studies by correspondence. At the age of eighteen he was employed by the Compagnie du Niger Français. The following year, when he was working as an assistant in the postal service, he passed an examination that gave him clerical status. As of 1945, he was general secretary of the union of employees of the postal service and helped to found the Guinean branch of the CGT. Having successfully competed for admission to the financial services, he entered the treasury administration in 1946. He became general secretary of its employees' union and a founding member of the RDA at the constituent congress of that movement. Dismissed from the treasury service for his political activities, Sékou Touré devoted himself exclusively to trade unionism. After being named general secretary of the Guinean sector of the CGT in 1948, he established contact with its French leaders, Benoit Frachon and Louis Saillant. Two years later he became general secretary of the Coordinating Committee of the CGT unions of French West Africa and Togo.
Feeling ill at ease within the French Communist Party, the RDA broke away from it in 1950. Although Sékou Touré publicly supported the stand taken by Houphouet-Boigny, he continued to follow the Communist Party line within the framework of the CGT. At the same time, by hinting that he might join the CGT-FO, he established relations with the leaders of that labor federation in Senegal.
It was during this period, when his role on the local and federal levels was growing in importance, that Sékou Touré became politically ambitious and began to hope that someday he might be elected to Parliament. After becoming general secretary of the PDG in 1952, he was encouraged in such aspirations by the growing benevolence of Bernard Cornut-Gentille, High Commissioner of French West Africa and advocate of a policy of salvaging and utilizing the RDA. By this time, Sékou Touré had already got rid of some competitors, notably Madeira Keita, his rival in the PDG secretariat, whom he had persuaded Cornut-Gentille to transfer to Soudan. Without Cornut-Gentille's protection it might perhaps have been harder and slower for Sékou Touré to win popular acclaim. His popularity was shown by his election to the territorial assembly from Beyla in 1953, as well as by the showdown of a two-month-long strike at Conakry.
At the same time that he created the CGTA, Sékou Touré's political career was furthered by his election as deputy to the French National Assembly in 1956. Moreover, on November 18, 1956, he was elected mayor of Conakry. During the next year he garnered more honors as well as heavier burdens - as founder of the UGTAN, vice-president of the government council of Guinea, and vice-president of the RDA. He was expelled from the RDA post in September 1958, the very month when the independence of Guinea brought him the presidency of the new republic.
Those who have been close to Sékou Touré entertain no doubts as to the sincerity of the campaign he led and of the austerity of his life style -qualities which he has tried with little success to inculcate in his aides. Although he did not emulate Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah, his former model and eventual protégè, by calling himself the Redeemer (Osagyofo), he took pride in his work, as he did in his «philosophy.» No one would dream of pointing out to him that he had made mistakes, or simply that he might be fallible - on the part of an ordinary citizen, this would be taken as impertinence; from a minister, indebted as he was to Sékou Touré for his post, it would be inadmissible; and from a foreigner it would be considered as meddling in the state's internal affairs. It is generally believed that the touchiness and obstinacy of the head of state have greatly restricted Guinea's margin of maneuver and compromised any chance of its resuming relations with those who have recently become its adversaries. Moreover, Sékou Touré's constant preoccupation with a possible attack by the imperialists, and his obsessive fear of a domestic counter-revolution, apparent on every page of his book Défendre la révolution, 5 could hardly promote fraternal cooperation with other states. At every turn, their leaders risked being accused of helping imperialism, or tolerating neocolonialism, or trying to undermine Guinea internally, either by giving asylum to Guinean emigres or by plotting to wreck the Guinean revolution. Sékou Touré's permanent fear of counter-revolution explains his many appeals for vigilance and firmness.
Sékou Touré was self-educated, though any resulting intellectual handicap was outweighed by his youthful ambition and determination. After having tried to give form and substance to the concepts of Marx, Jaures, and Nkrumah, Sékou Touré evolved a strongly pragmatic system of thought. Its logic might be defective, but it was dynamic because it derived from his powerful intuitive sense and an open-mindedness in making judgments.
In the author's view, however, Sékou Touré's strongest point was his remarkable tactical ability. Impulsiveness, fantasy, and caprice undoubtedly played a part in the decisions made by this man who controlled the republic's destiny. Yet one cannot deny his mastery of the art of reconciling a theoretical ideal and the realistic social evolution of a people still weighed down by traditions, or the skill with which he tempered firmness with concessions, or his astuteness in accepting what was traditional insofar as it did not hamper the development of new policies. The priority which he gave to the practical over the theoretical accounts for the revisions made in operating the political system, as well as for those made in basic economic doctrine. His balanced policy, during the first years of independence, was to promote the interests and aspirations of each of the nation's groups, at the same time as he imposed on the country a rational plan for orderly growth. Later, because of some blunders, the interests involved proved to be so contradictory and divergent that Sékou Touré perforce resorted to authoritarian measures and forceful methods. Because of this, his initial flexibility was obscured, and the impression was created that Sékou Touré was no longer listening to his people and had finally become a despot. As a matter of fact, he was practicing two contradictory and competitive forms of government. There is no doubt that his exercise of power became progressively harsher, yet it cannot be denied that the head of the Guinean state took advantage of every opportunity to disguise the arbitrary nature of a decree. He knew how to utilize successive periods of social fervor, which recurred as regularly as malaria, for the purpose of trying out a new remedy - all the while knowing that the «patient» would fairly soon put it on the back of the shelf. At these times, the people expressed thanks to their temporary healer, even though they must have been fully aware that his release of stocks of rice and textiles on the eve of major holidays was merely bait.
Insofar as he uses oratory as an instrument of political action, Sékou Touré's speeches disclose his strategy to those who grasp its essence, which is that of the African rhetorician whose aim is to influence opinion abroad and to persuade his own countryman of what he wants them to believe. The world view on which his thought is predicated stresses certain general ideas as they relate to news and current events. He argues by analogy and glosses over the gaps in his thought so as to disguise its sophistry. In the long run, it is more by the firmness of his arguments than by his verbal excesses that he is persuasive.
If one can make an honest judgment that distinguishes between the plan for economic development and that for social change, without ignoring the relationship between them, one must admit that Guinea, in the person of Sékou Touré, had a resource which in and by itself was worth a revolution.
Although such men as Madeira Keita and Saifoulaye Diallo may have influenced the formulation of the PDG's ideology in its early stages, it is evident that the final statement of this ideology was above all the brainchild of the Guinean leader who had been trained in three schools of thought - those of Africa, the West, and Marxist socialism. The basic aim of Sékou Touré's socialism or noncapitalist approach (for it was not until 1962 that the term « socialist path » was used), is to alter the relationship between human beings. This is to be done by decolonizing their viewpoints and attitudes, and by creating a new man freed from a system of capitalistic exploitation and participating with all his strength in the development of his nation. Here nationalism transcends socialism, just as support for the regime has priority over promotion of the revolution. As preached by Sékou Touré, 6 the revival of authentic African values was not to be achieved through négritude, which he regards as a form of abdication and a tacit admission of the white man's superiority 7. Rather, the revival was to come through the restoration of African culture by renewing popular art forms, relating formal education to life, fostering literacy in the national languages, and glorifying African heroes. In this way it would serve as a moral and spiritual bulwark for a hybrid society passing through a period of crisis.
Behind this loyalty to Africa - first strongly expressed in the preamble to the constitution - lies the conviction that renewal can be achieved through action, the content of thought, and the structure of institutions. History is conceived as leading to the future rather than as clinging to past events. It upgrades the struggle against colonialism, depicted as the classical means of effecting cultural alienation, and plays down intertribal wars. Nor was there any question of the class struggle until 1967, for in a newly independent country the contrasts between social classes should not be artificially aggravated. Furthermore, it was assumed that such differences would disappear in a revolutionary and democratic state through the action taken by a single party - the party of all the people 8.
The PDG ideology offers its own method of interpreting sociohistorical realities. This method delves deeper than the Party's political doctrine, whose slogans (unity and dignity) and whose aims (industrialization and autonomy) have a profound appeal for Africans. The Party's ideology goes beyond a synthesis of its objectives and basic themes (such as revolutionary action, positive neutralism, African unity, national independence, democratic centralism, social justice, and priority to production and African culture), which sometimes suffice to dazzle and guide the masses and to lessen their centrifugal tendencies. The method adopted by the PDG analyzes phenomena at three different levels - those of the Party line, of its organization, and of human beings 9. By drawing such distinctions, blunders can be camouflaged. All criticism in any form of the three- and seven-year plans, of state-controlled trading, or of educational reforms can be blamed on individuals and, in part, on the organizational structure. Accordingly, mistakes result from a compromise between the ideal and unalterable circumstances. On the other hand, the Party line, as the president's brainchild, is always correct and just. In Sékou Touré's view, its absolute validity is guaranteed by its objectivity and by faith in his own oracular powers.
In its contentious and optimistic aspects, this vigorously propagated ideology undoubtedly meets basic African psychological needs. Its aggressiveness, formerly expressed in the conflicts between clans and tribes and then damped down by colonization, revived in the struggle for independence. Thereafter it was sublimated through an ideology vehemently opposed to imperialism, colonialism, and neocolonialism. At the same time as it freed the Guineans from their chains, this ideology assured them that after the revolution succeeded they could look to a happy future in a prosperous nation free of any class struggle. Its lack of realism and verbiage added to the seductiveness of this ideology by satisfying the African taste for sheer oratory. New words and concepts gained currency and became stereotypes: puppets, revolutionary thought that continually outran itself, sudden qualitative changes, climax of an historical process, organized and informed producers, and the like. They served as verbal tools for those who felt they must engage in public speechmaking to demonstrate their fidelity to the Party, and for those who required prefabricated ideas to give themselves the illusion of thought. This writer believes that the true interpretation of the PDG's ideology and the explanation of its hold on the population can be found in its sublimation of the Guinean's frustrated desire for dignity, its projection of his basic ego, and the escape it offers him into a new and apparently rational kind of mythology.
Potent as the effect of this ideology may be, it is but one of the means used to promote national integration, and it is one not used by many African nations. On the other hand, an administrative organization and political institutions that regulate the exercise of legislative, executive, and judicial powers are absolutely vital for the effective functioning of any regime.

The Political Regime
From the early days of the Guinean republic, the PDG politburo quickly showed its preference for those institutions that would confirm the state's sovereignty. As its two main stays it chose the constitution of November 10, 1958, slightly modified by the law of October 31, 1963, and the Party statutes. Drafted in ten days and comprising fifty-three articles divided into twelve sections, the constitution is remarkably succinct.

In regard to most of the specified rights, except those relating to social assistance, education, and nondiscrimination, one has only to assume the exact opposite of the constitution's provisions in order to grasp the reality.
The executive power is exercised essentially by the president of the republic, who is the head of

Sékou Touré was elected

His prerogatives (listed in Articles 23-27) are extensive; it is he who

Deputies to the national assembly (75 until December 1974, and 150 thereafter) do not carry on political campaigns but are elected by universal suffrage for five years from the single list drawn up by the Party 10. Their legislative role is reduced to voting the budget (Art. 16) and the laws (Art, 9) which are initiated and drafted by the head of state alone. Most legal measures are promulgated by decree, 11 so the assembly's functions are as minimal as its two annual sessions are brief. The only laws passed concern the ratification of international treaties, taxation, and public finances. Moreover, there is no genuine debate nor, a fortiori, any control over the budget as laid down in the constitution. Moreover, the assembly is not empowered to handle the expenditures for equipment that are financed by foreign loans, the national banking system, or subsidies from abroad. Nor can the deputies exercise control over the budgets of state enterprises or those of the administrative regions. Questioning the policy of the president of the republic remains merely a theoretical privilege, for it lacks any practical application. Furthermore, it is in the annual Party congresses and not in the assembly that the president, in a marathon speech, discloses his policy. Everyone knows that the only authority other than the president's is held by the National Politburo. The weakness of the assembly as a rubber-stamp body led Bernard Charles to conclude that the men drafting Guinea's constitution « borrowed from the American system everything that concentrated power in the hands of the president, while ignoring all the checks and balances designed theoretically to prevent a strong regime from becoming a dictatorship. » 12 Inasmuch as no Supreme Court or economic and social council has been created, the regime has neither judges nor advocates. One minister remarked that by initialing the budget, the state civil servants were charged with defending the revolutionary truth, but no more than that.
That the constitution could not be amended and was full of loopholes seems to have caused Guinea's leaders little concern, whereas the Party's statutes have been revised several times and abound in precise details. Although in theory Guinea could have a multiparty system, the PDG monopolizes all the political, judicial, administrative, and technical authority, controlling all the state functions and public affairs. It directs the state's policy and even manages its operations. The Party's general secretary is at one and the same time prime minister and president of the republic. The National Politburo (Bureau Politique National or BPN), the Party's highest authority and its executive organ, handles all questions involving appointments to the bureaucracy, the management of state enterprises, the delimitation of administrative regions, economic planning, international relations, and the like. It supervises the justice dispensed in the people's courts, assesses direct taxation, and controls prices as well as the commercial agencies.
To carry out its multiple tasks, the Party is provided with a strongly hierarchized structure. As of 1974, the country's 29 administrative regions were identical with the Party's federations. Their 220 arrondissements correspond with the same number of federation-controlled sections. All of Guinea's 4,000 villages have their Pouvoir Révolutionnaire Local (PRL), which constitute the Party's base, replacing the former village or urban district committees. At all levels except that of the village, the congress (composed of sectional, federal, and national congresses) represents the highest political authority: conferences are held in the intervals between the congress sessions. It is in these congresses and conferences that the Party's political line is defined, proclaimed, or ratified, and it is there too that the Party leaders are elected. To be elected to the PRL directorate, a candidate must have been an active Party militant for three years. Candidates for election to sectional managing committees are required to have carried on such activities for five years. Members of the federal bureau are chosen from among the heads of sectional committees, and those of the BPN are elected from among members of the federal bureaus.
The very uniqueness of the single party and the osmosis between the political and administrative functions were justified by the need to preserve the revolution's dynamism, make the anticolonial struggle effective, and economize on cadres in a country so underdeveloped as Guinea. At the same time, this situation helped to reassure those Guineans who were concerned about their nation's instability. The Party, which claimed to reflect the collective Guinean viewpoint, tried to inject a militant spirit into the entire population. If one can accept the PDG's claim to being the «gauge of Guinea's public health,» then it can be considered successful as a mass or national party. Its dues-paying membership rose from 300,000 in 1955 to 800,000 in 1959 and to 1.8 million in 1962.

Growth in the PDG membership

Year Membership

PDG membership from 1955 to 1962

Inasmuch as the population totaled some 3 million in 1962, the PDG comprised virtually all Guineans over the age of fifteen. The better to keep a tight rein on the masses, the PDG increased the number of its sections from 43 in 1959, to 167 in 1963, to 180 in 1966, and to 220 in 1974.

 Year Sections

Increase in PDG Sections from 1959 to 1974

Chart 1. Political and administrative organization of the Republic of Guinea
PDG State - Political and administrative organization of Guinea

At the eighth Party congress, in 1967, membership in the BPN was expanded from seventeen to twenty-five and a special six-member committee was set up and given authority over the BPN. Women, youths, and trade unionists each have their own organization inside the Party. By frequently convening the base or PRL committees (weekly meetings), sections, federations, assemblies, commissions, inspectorates, congresses, and national conferences, all the country's political life is kept under close supervision. Control is exercised over the Party militants' civic activity as well as the administrative cadres' competence and their ability to mobilize the masses and to maintain respect for the technical organizations, to such a degree that very few individuals can escape this network of revolutionary vigilance. The Party's supremacy over all institutions in every domain, the indivisibility of responsibilities and the lack of any separation of powers, exact from all citizens at least outward obedience. The fact that no jurisdiction is empowered to hear complaints about the abuses of power seriously impairs the Guineans' freedom to act at the same time as it checks any deviationism. This corresponds to the constraints imposed by custom in traditional society to prevent any manifestation of individualism, in the social sense of the term, under pain of death.
Whether Sékou Touré describes his regime as a « popular dictatorship » or as a « democratic dictatorship « does not alter what all observers believe to be « the fluctuation of his regime between a monocracy ruled by partisans and the personalization of power.» 13 Nevertheless, what Sékou Touré terms « democratic centralism » limits its dictatorial aspect. Theoretically, the base cells elect their leaders, discuss economic plans, and participate in their execution; the organized agencies distribute governmental directives; and the constituents can control the leaders they elect. In practice, however, there is no division of authority. The elected leader is the Party's candidate; PDG organs control every aspect of national life, censor themselves, propose themselves for meditation, and stifle many complaints.
This overpoliticization, which was simply burdensome in its early stages has now alienated the population. In 1965, Victor DuBois noted:

While it is hazardous to attribute the decline of a nation to any one specific cause, available evidence strongly suggests that Guinea's major problem was overpoliticization and the sacrifice of national planning to political expediency.
The advantages which accrued to the PDG from the intense politicization of the country - not only popular assent to its programs but also widespread popular participation - were the positive side of the coin. There was also a negative side. The plethora of base committees, 14 regional committees, sectional committees, youth and women's committees, and government councils meant a political system top-heavy with notables of one sort or another. The maintenance of this array of government and party officials demanded vast amounts of time, energy, and money. Moreover, while the establishment of party cells at the neighborhood and village levels provided a means for popular participation in government, it also created a vast bureaucratic apparatus which taxed the financial resources of the state, bogged down the decision-making process, and retarded the implementation of policy. 15

With the application of the loi-cadre of 1956, there was a general rush for the jobs in the new political and administrative organization that were handed out by the PDG. The first beneficiaries were Sékou Touré's companions-in-arms. When independence led to the precipitate departure of the French administrators and technicians, the middle-ranking cadres who had acquired some knowledge and experience in management had to take charge of most of the government services. African and international solidarity helped with this effort to put the country back on its feet as quickly as possible. Aid was given in the form of money, economic agreements, and experts, cadres, and friendly professors and technicians. The first to arrive were from the former French West Africa, the Antilles, Haiti, and even France, and after 1960 others came from the socialist countries and North Vietnam. The administrative posts were reserved for nationals, hence low-ranking Guinean bureaucrats, instructors, and clerical staff were promoted to responsible positions. The PDG, for its part, chose its top officials from among the few doctors, veterinarians, school principals, technicians, and accountants in the middle ranks. Sékou Touré described this upgrading of the civil servants as follows:

In 1958, there were barely 6,000 government servants, including members of the local cadres, in a total of 62,000 to 70,000 wage earners throughout the country. In 1965, government servants numbered 25,000. The analysis of these figures indicates that, compared with the 7,000 auxiliary employees in 1958, we had at least 17,000 in 1965, without taking into account all the unofficial appointments to the civil service made by the governors. By 1965, the number of those employed in the local cadres had risen to nearly 6,000, almost twice as many as the 3,000 thus employed in 1958. Here I am referring to shipping clerks, nurses, etc. As to the agents in the higher or general cadres, they numbered slightly fewer than 965 in 1958; by 1965, there were 4,600. The social implications of this upward evolution are easy to grasp. During those seven years, nearly 3,700 members of the local cadres were promoted to the higher ranks. Thanks to the various competitive examinations, assistant instructors, shipping clerks, nurses, and customs officials from the local cadres improved their status, and those already in the higher ranks were promoted to the general cadres. The number of those benefiting by such promotions was five times larger than the total in 1958. 16

As happened in many other African countries, the bureaucracy expanded inordinately because far too many persons had been appointed to carry out the commonest tasks. This resulted from a general policy of combating unemployment, the favoritism shown by bureau chiefs, and the employees' lack of zeal for their work. It also derived from the habit acquired during the colonial period of multiplying the number of messengers and clerks to the point where three were hired to do the work of one. While taking into account the excessive scale of these cut-rate promotions, it should also be noted that the need to measure up to their duties under pain of being severely criticized or dismissed - induced many of the cadres to train themselves for their jobs. They had to learn the rudiments of managing enterprises, how and when to import merchandise, and the difficult task of managing millions of francs honestly when they had formerly dealt only in centimes. Thus, in many cases, far more was involved than a simple rise in official rank. Furthermore, it was with this new personnel that the national economy was launched.

The Decolonization and Socialization of the Economy
Moderation characterized the first economic measures taken during the months following the referendum, despite the excitement generated by the novel situation. Fully aware that local savings were nonexistent, Sékou Touré had no intention of overturning the existing structure. He kept Guinea in the franc zone, respected the commitments made with the firms mining bauxite at Kassa and Fria (where the plant was in process of construction), and retained the tax system which brought in revenues for the budget without jeopardizing investments. At the same time, however, he insisted on widening the scope of his international contacts.
By decree No. 89, November 20, 1958, an Interministerial Economic Committee was created to advise the government about reorganizing Guinea's economy. One month later, the repercussions of the French franc's devaluation on the CFA franc forced the government to freeze prices. For lack of official controls, however, this measure proved ineffectual, but at the same time, the first installment of a 10-million-pound loan granted by Ghana from its Cocoa Marketing Board funds on November 23, 1958, temporarily protected Guinea from experiencing a serious shortage of currency. This money, instead of being invested, was used to meet operating expenditures. Inasmuch as Guinea's embryonic industries were still in French hands, very little revenue could be expected from that source unless the orientation of Guinea's foreign and domestic trade were changed. As a matter of fact, such a reorientation was the prerequisite for the country's economic decolonization.
The Guinean authorities launched their economic socialization policy by eliminating private wholesale trading at the same time as they instituted currency controls. 17 Rigorous planning was initiated in June 1959, as proposed by the Marxist economist, Charles Bettelheim. His advice, with some modifications, was given serious consideration by the government, whereas the not-often-disinterested offers of aid made by many Western and Communist experts were ignored. As for the hasty suggestions made by the agronomist René Dumont after a quick trip to Guinea, 18 these were judged by the Guinean leaders as impracticable. Guidelines of the reforms proposed by Bettelheim included control over trade, currency, credit, and prices; expansion of state enterprises; nationalization of private concerns distributing water, gas, and electricity; and reforms in the structure of agriculture through the agency of cooperative societies.

The Reorganization of Trade
To apply this type of socialistic development policy, the new state of Guinea decided to decolonize rapidly the existing commercial structure and circuits. The two principal procedures followed for this purpose were

  1. the creation of a strong public sector that would have a quasi monopoly of imports and exports, a total monopoly of the wholesale trade, and a partial control of the retail trade (in which model stores would offer goods for sale at the official prices);
  2. the organization of production and sales cooperative societies, which would be allotted the major role in distributing merchandise and in selling produce at the village level.

By leaving most of the semiwholesale and all of the retail trade to private merchants, the government leaders hoped that they were taking into consideration both the potential of the public sector, in process of formation, and their revolutionary principles. Those principles admitted as desirable the accumulation of a certain degree of wealth on the part of the formerly oppressed population and small-scale merchants. As for the village cooperative societies, their function was to bring together, insofar as possible, both consumers and producers with a view to assuring the latter of a market for all their output at remunerative prices.
The nonmaterialization of projects and the frequent revisions of policy that were evident until 1964 can be explained by the urgent need to create new commercial agencies after the abortive attempt of the colonial trading monopolies to boycott Guinea's trade and by the decline in value of the Guinean franc that resulted from the flight of capital.
First of all, by requiring all the commercial and industrial enterprises to transfer their headquarters before July 1, 1959, to Guinea, where their operations could be controlled, the government attempted to repair the breakdown in the country's traditional flow of trade. Foreign capitalists were greatly disturbed by this move, which they took to be the forerunner of a policy of nationalization. An even more important move to break the monopoly of the trading companies was the creation, on January 24, 1959, of the Comptoir Guinéen du Commerce Extérieur (CGCE) to handle imports and exports.
Reorienting Guinea's trade toward the Eastern bloc required granting to the CGCE a total monopoly of commerce with the socialist countries, as well as that of the importation from any source of prime necessities such as rice, sugar, flour, cement, beer, and matches. All exports of peanuts, 75 per cent of those of palm kernels, 50 per cent of bananas, and 30 per cent of coffee shipments were placed under control. Moreover, permits for importing merchandise from the franc zone were issued by the CGCE only upon presentation of the requisite documents.
Concurrently, important markets were opened up with new trading partners (the U.S.S.R., North Africa, the U.S.A., and the United Arab Republic), at higher prices for Guinean products than those paid by France. Contracts were signed for the importation of prime necessities from new sources. In two respects the terms of these agreements were very favorable to Guinea:

In practice, however, the anarchic situation caused by burdening the CGCE with so many duties led to disarray among Guinea's trading partners abroad.
Certainly the lack of an over-all development plan that might have given trading by the state a chance of survival was a major handicap. An even more serious obstacle was the juxtaposition of the state system and the capitalist one, for the latter deliberately operated in such a way as to hinder the functioning of the former. In fact, the CGCE depended for its provisions on the good will of private enterprises. At the same time, Guinea's continued affiliation with the franc zone and the financial operations of the locally established foreign banks paralyzed state trading in its attempt to organize.
Had the government not simultaneously monopolized both foreign trade and banking, it would have risked aggravating the difficulties it was encountering at this time - the flight of capital, the reckless importation of certain consumer goods, and the expansion of private capital that escaped the controls set up under the plan. To combat the adverse effects of uncontrolled foreign trading, the government had available only such means as a licensing system (which for lack of foreign currency could neither prevent abuses nor carry out its objectives) and tariff barriers (which proved ineffectual because the industrial concerns could always grant subsidies and price reductions to their own customers).
In order to

the government issued a decree on February 29, 1960. This decree, which surprised all the banks, created a national currency, the Guinean franc (FG), at parity with the Colonies françaises d'Afrique (CFA) franc, and it also established the Bank of the Republic of Guinea When this measure came into force on March 1, 1960, it was found that the funds available, which had been estimated at about 9 billion CFA francs, totaled only 6.7 billion because most of the liquid capital held by companies and wealthy individuals had already been transferred out of the country. The French trading concerns, now unable to repatriate their large profits, closed most of their local offices. Thereafter their activities were limited to maintaining a central office at Conakry in a state of suspended animation.
Normal trading circuits were obstructed by the sudden eviction of the commercial companies and by the fact that the CGCE was burdened with too many responsibilities, so that an immediate reorganization of domestic trade was necessary. To that end, the Comptoir Guinéen du Commerce Intérieur (CGGI ) was created on May 1 1, 1960. It was empowered to

The CGCI was further required to gather information related to provisioning programs and to set the prices for merchandise.
The organizational measures resorted to during the second half of 1960 failed to remedy the prevailing trade dislocation. According to the official analysis, its major causes were

By its failure to deal effectively with these difficulties, the government jeopardized the help it might have received from the private sector, without at the same time providing for its replacement.
This deplorable state of affairs can be attributed to causes more deep-rooted than the circumstances which forced Guinea into acting precipitately. These were

The deficiencies of the cadres were due not simply to their inexperience, but even more to their pilfering, corruption, and aspirations to improve their social status. 19 The unexpected rapidity with which this last-mentioned tendency developed can be clearly seen from the data for 1961 issued by the National Statistics Office in regard to imports (by value, in Guinean francs)

Description  Consumer goods Equipment goods Total 
Program as planned 6,335,000  4,765,000  11,100,000 
Expenditures  9,402,912  6,l99,922  15,702,634 
Disparity  3,067,712  1,534,922  6,026,634 
Percentage of disparity  +48.4%  + 32.2%  +41.4% 

The fact that the goals see were exceeded by 41 per cent is the more serious in that the most notable success was registered in the category of consumer goods, especially of textiles and shoes (99 per cent) and automobiles and motorcycles (104 per cent). Inasmuch as those fishing in troubled waters profited most from the general confusion, there was a rush beginning in 1961 to enter the commercial field. This was furthered by a psychosis caused by shortages.
New developments between 1961 and 1963 followed failure of the experiments with the comptoirs. On the one hand, an accentuation of regionalism benefited the administrators of state trading companies, while, on the other hand, the Guinean private sector was in the process of absorbing the public sector. The more liberal policy inaugurated at the sixth Party congress, reflected in a 10 per cent reduction of prices, not only failed to check inflation but even aggravated the confusion and the race to make money. Exports declined instead of expanding. Farmers and merchants went to Liberia and Ivory Coast to sell their rice and coffee (two-thirds of the 1963 crop was exported) to acquire hard currency and consumer goods that were not available in Guinea.
To do away with such trading practices, a return to state controls was imperative. This was the aim of the loi-cadre of November 8, 1964, which

However, none of these measures either slowed the rate of inflation or abated the evils to which it gave rise

The seventeen specialized state organizations that had been formed to replace the CGCE and the CGCI 20 in 1961 acquired greater authority as a result of this fairly radical reform. Furthermore, by 1961 those enterprises or privately managed sectors of the economy that had failed to carry out the plan's objectives or to meet their obligations had already been nationalized. Such was the fate of the companies that had

At the outset, all the measures instituting state controls and nationalization were part of a development strategy that was to be carried out in three stages:

By then, Guinea's economy should have reached the take-off point, after which it was expected to move forward under its own momentum.

The Three-Year Plan

Guinea's first (three-year) plan was drawn up at the April 1960 Party congress in Kankan and inaugurated officially on July 1. Its objectives were

The attainment of these goals required

Of the investment funds required to carry out the foregoing plan,

« Human investment, » a form of voluntary labor promoted by the Party, was the means through which a number of projects for which no sizable investments had been scheduled were to be executed. 22
Three main themes characterized Guinea's ideology of development.

  1. The first was to mold the economy by subordinating what would be economically profitable to what was politically desirable - in other words, to nip Guinean capitalism in the bud, lest it harm national unity and the goal of equitably distributing the country's resources.
  2. Secondly, to achieve self-sufficiency by increasing production, which assumed that all creative and executive talents would be fully employed for that purpose, and that the output would be of such quality as to reduce dependence on foreign aid as quickly as possible.
  3. The final leitmotiv was to promote group participation in the drafting and execution of projects.

However, this attempt to devise and discuss activities at the various Party levels gave few positive results. Too many disparate proposals and too few qualified experts were the major handicaps to systematic and coherent planning.
At the outset, the three-year plan may have satisfied the ambitions of the country's leaders, but it bore within itself the seeds of failure. These consisted of

Often it was because they neglected to assign priorities and to respect a timetable for the execution of projects that the agricultural and industrial enterprises encountered so many difficulties in their operations. To set up

all these were gambles taken by utopian idealists and ignoramuses.
The number of haphazard activities grew in proportion to the availability of foreign aid and easy loans. They were undertaken without determining how to get maximum returns for minimal production costs, and those who wasted available funds were not punished. That no more consideration was given to economic feasibility than to the actual costs of production 23 can be accurately deduced from the following tabulation, derived from the report of Saifoulaye Diallo, Minister of State, to the Conseil National de la Revolution (CNR): April 16, 1964:

Expenditure (millions of FG)

Unit  Estimated  Actual 
P. Lumumba Printing Press  700  1,226 
Water supply and dependencies  2,100  2,552 
Conakry airport runway   690  2,126 
Equipment for regional public works  0 1,226 
Maritime shipping  500  1,446 
Kobaya Brick Factory  600  892 

Public works were undertaken without regard for planning, each government service jealously and selfishly striving to get the largest allocation of funds, and individual enterprises 23 as well as the national economy ran deficits. The result was wide spread disorder and a consequent reduction in investment funds

Its corollary was

Within three months of the plan's official completion, the state enterprises had turned over to the planning budget no more than 4 billion FG, whereas they should have contributed 5.3 billion FG from profits that had been expected to amount to 7 billion FG. It should also be noted that the loans made by the national bank to the state trading and industrial companies totaled 30 billion FG instead of the 10 billion allotted for that purpose. Dishonesty and careless management eroded the plan's funds, even if one concedes that 80 per cent of its projects were carried out. This writer might well be accused of painting too black a picture of Guinea's chaotic planning were it not for the criticisms voiced by the Minister of State, Saifoulaye Diallo, at the CNR on April 16, 1964. 24
To carry out its plan, Guinea had also counted heavily on « human investment » - that is, collective voluntary labor. To be sure, it had been a highly successful venture in 1959-1960, when the enthusiasm engendered by independence was at its peak. In those years, improvements were made in secondary roads serving the villages, town streets were cleaned up and repaired to the accompaniment of joyful songs, and schools, dispensaries, and Party assembly halls were also built. However, very few workers devoted themselves to collective farming, improvements in plantations, and a fight against soil erosion that might have increased production. Within four years of independence, the early zeal for « human investment » had been completely dissipated. In terms of money, the most favorable evaluation of such activities between 1959 and 1963 would total 3 billion FG. Guinea's more far-sighted leaders deplored the squandering of an immense amount of labor and good will on poorly conceived undertakings, some of which involved the destruction of capital. Such waste was particularly grievous where schools and dispensaries were built without teachers and nurses to staff them.

Reforms in the Land Regime and in Rural Development
In the first years after independence, great hopes had been placed in making rural society more dynamic. To that end, the land system was revised and collective farms and agricultural productive cooperatives were created. If one were to evaluate the results of all the ensuing measures and experiments, high marks would be given to the land regime but low grades to the cooperative societies. 25
By a series of decrees, that of October 20, 1959, being the most important, all the land in Guinea became public domain. Nevertheless, this take-over by the state was not tantamount to nationalization. Through the first of these regulations, the state regained control of the plantations, market gardens, and lodgings that had been abandoned by European officials and technicians and by one-fifth of the French planters in the general exodus that occurred toward the end of 1958. However, the land that had been so vacated was distributed to those wanting to develop or build on it, and these recipients were often the Party cadres. Those laying claim to a piece of land under customary law could confirm their title to it by registration. The aim of that provision was to prevent speculators from reaping profits from the land, as well as the possible formation of big estates. Beginning with the decree (No. 242) of October 20, 1959,, the sale and lease of plots of land were regulated. Landowners who sold, mortgaged, or gave away their property without permission from the lands service (Service des Domaines) of the public works ministry were liable to the cancellation or confiscation of their titles.
An even more drastic law was promulgated in 1961. Property owners who had let their land remain unproductive for more than three years were now required by the state to develop it for a period of at least six months. Real property not improved through cultivation or by the construction of a house would revert to the state. By laying down regulations for settling land disputes, this decree prevented high-placed chiefs from attempting to appropriate property by invoking their former status. However, this law did not apply to those who enjoyed usufruct rights on huge family domains. It aimed to foster the collective utilization of pasture land that was often nonarable, such as the Bowe area in northwestern Fouta Djalon, but there was considerable flexibility in interpreting the law.
In granting land to those who cultivated and needed it, the state was pursuing two objectives. It aimed first to give an incentive for agricultural labor, and second, to encourage the stabilization of landless peasants who had become seasonal migrants. Still another government aim was to eliminate unjustified claims to land: those receiving grants of arable land did not thereby acquire permanent rights to it. If an owner died without bequeathing his property, abandoned it, or failed to develop it, such land became state property. Thereafter the elected representative of the region in which the land was situated had charge of it. In practice, this very often gave preferential treatment to the chairman of the local Party Committee or his close relatives.
To consolidate the socialistic basis of the peasant economy, Guinea's lawmakers were not satisfied with simply declaring land to be state property. They also sought to set up communal cooperative institutions, including farming at the village level, as the first step toward collectivization. In this respect, the law was doubly innovative. First, because in traditional society land was indivisible only if it was owned by the joint family. Second, Guinean villagers did not own herds or equipment in common. The mutual aid initially provided by the age groups for the benefit of their elders preserved the right of an individual or a family to enjoy the products of their collective toil on the land allotted to them by the community.
Had these experiments not failed, it would be pointless to dwell on them at length. The government came to realize that wherever collective farms had been set up between 1961 and 1964 they were more poorly maintained and gave poorer yields than did family-owned land. Furthermore, the area collectively farmed was very limited. As the best land was monopolized by farming families, the collectively cultivated fields were those with the poorest soil. 26 In part the meagerness of the yields from collective farming could be attributed to soil deficiencies, but these could not wholly account for the experiment's failure and for the peasants' lack of maintenance and scant enthusiasm. Indeed, the experiment in collective farming suffered from its association with forced labor. This was a legacy from the past, when villagers had had to produce millet to feed Samori's mounted warriors (the sofa) and later cultivate a field for the benefit of the canton chief, and finally were forced to grow rice during World War II.
As for the Coopératives Agricoles de Production (CAP), their membership fell from 60,000 in 1962 to 34,413 in 1964, so that at most they included only about 4 per cent of the active farming population. In 1964, the total area under CAP cultivation was 2,200 ha., or one-fourth of the area farmed by the 559 CAP in 1962. These cooperatives had to contend with geographical, ecological, economic, technical, and human obstacles. They failed for many reasons, of which the most frequent was poor management. Other causes were the failure of the responsible political and administrative authorities to provide the aid they had promised, their imposition on the population by force, or their deflection from the purpose for which they had originally been founded. 27 Sékou Touré realized that in the region of Beyla, for example, the cooperatives' managing committees, on pain of being deprived of provisions, were pressured by Party leaders determined to win first place in the competition for so-called human investment. He also admitted in several National Congresses of the Revolution that the cooperative producing societies had become cooperatives of a different type. Inasmuch as the Party leaders were not accountable to the managing committees, composed for the most part of illiterate members, they were able to utilize the funds, machinery, seed, and other equipment of the Centers of Rural Modernization and to sell the societies' output for their own benefit. 28 For easily understandable reasons, other than discretion, there are no official statistics for those societies. Nevertheless, a clue to the situation is provided by the decline, over a five-year period, in exports of the cooperatives' two main products, as disclosed by the National Statistics Office:

Exports (tons

Commodity  1960 1962 1965
Bananas 55,000 44,000 37,000
Coffee 14,000 8,000 7,000

Guinea's characterized by:

[these are] only symptoms of a deeper disorder — the inflationary situation. Its dimensions can be grasped by noting the increase in the quantity of money in circulation between the end of 1960 and June 1965 - a rise from 14 billion FG to 37 billion.
Over the same period, bank deposits grew from 5.1 to 37 billion FG, and bank loans from 10 to 40 billion. However, the basic cause of the inflation itself was the country's unhealthy finances. As of September 1967, Guinea's foreign debt stood at 344 million dollars (86 billion FG) - in other words, it was four times as great as the state's annual revenues. 29


Guinea's indebtedness increased its dependence on the outside world. This became more and more obvious to those who think in financial terms and who take into account the source of and the returns on funds, and the need to repay the cost of building the small industries of which Guinea is proud. By the end of 1964, the state enterprises on which the government had founded its hopes for economic development had contributed no more than 2 per cent to the national revenues. And in 1968 they were operating, on the average, at only one-fourth of their productive capacity.
Guinea ranks very high among those African countries which have received aid from foreign sources. Between 1962 and 1965, such aid totaled 270 million dollars, or an annual average of 40 million dollars (which works out to 16 dollars per capita of the population). Of this sum, 120 million dollars came from the Eastern European bloc. It was used in part to build such more or less productive projects under the three-year plan as

In this way, Guinea became heavily burdened by debt. Between 1966 and 1972, it was committed to repay about 8 million dollars a year to China and the Eastern bloc, although an agreement made in 1967 gave Guinea a reprieve. The 80 million dollars which Guinea owed to the Western bloc was also due for repayment in annual installments of 7 to 8 million dollars. By this time, the profits Guinea received from the Fria company - the goose that laid its golden eggs - had been mortgaged, and the cost of that company's infrastructure had risen to three times more than the original estimate. In brief, Guinea's economy cannot be described as self-generating or self-sufficient, let alone dynamic.
To resolve these problems Guinea had two choices. A massive increase in production was unrealistic, given the lack of incentive other than revolutionary oratory. The alternative was a drastic devaluation of its currency, which would please the well-to-do but create hardship for the mass of the population and also have no beneficial effect on an economy only slightly oriented abroad. Because Guinea had not achieved economic independence, its political sovereignty could not be other than vulnerable. The story of Guinea's successive plots shows how pervasive was this feeling of insecurity.

1. Louis Marin, Le Figaro, Sept, 29 and Oct. 3, 1958.
2. B. Ameillon, La Guinée: Bilan d'une indépendence (Paris: Maspero, 1964), p. 86.
3. Ibid., p. 98.
4. Fernand Gigon, Guinée: Etat-pilote (Paris: Plon, 1959).
5. Sékou Touré, Défendre la révolution (Conakry: Imprimerie Nationale, 1969).
6. Yves Bénot, Idéologies des indépendances africaines (Paris: Maspero, 1969 ) .
7. Sékou Touré, La Négritude et la cinquième colonne (Conakry: Imprimerie Nationale, 1971),
8. Sékou Touré, La Révolution guinéenne et le progrès social (Conakry: Imprimerie Nationale, 1963), pp. 208-245.
9. Sékou Touré, L'Afrique et la révolution (Switzerland, 1966), p. 125
10. After independence, the territorial assembly became the national assembly, and the first legislative elections were held in 1963.
11. For example, in

Laws & decrees adopted in Guinea from 1960 to1963

12. Bernard Charles, La République de Guinée (Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1972), p. 23.
13. Seydou Madani Sy, Recherches sur l'exercice du pouvoir politique en Afrique noire: Cote d'Ivoire, Guinée, Mali (Paris: Pedone, 196S), p. 206.
14. In 1957, there were 3,500 base committees; in December 1961 7,626; and in December 1962, 10,225.

PDG Base committees 1957-1962

15. Victor DuBois, « The Decline of the Guinean Revolution, » American Universities Field Staff Reports, West Africa Series, 8, No. 7 (1965), p. 5.
16. Sékou Touré, Défendre la révolution, p. 211,
17. Journal officiel de la République de Guinée, No. 3/93 (1959), avis 326.
18. René Dumont, Reconversion de l'économie agricole: Guinée, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1961).
19. Claude Rivière, « Les Conséquences de la réorganisation des circuits commerciaux en Guinée, » Revue française d'études politiques africaines, 66 (June 1971), 74-96. « Les Mécanismes de constitution d'une bourgeoisie commerçante en Guinée, » Cahiers d'études africaines, 11, No. 43 (1971), 600-25.
20. For exports:

  1. GUINEXPORT (agricultural products)
  2. Prodex (other local products)

For imports and distribution:

  1. ENIMOB (furniture)
  2. SONATEX (textiles)
  3. Confection (ready-made clothing)
  4. EMATEC (electrical supplies)
  5. LIBRAPORT (books, stationery, office equipment)
  6. ONAH (hydrocarbons)
  7. Droguerie de Guinée (household goods)
  8. Quincaillerie de Guinée (hardware)
  9. TRANSMAT (motor vehicles, tires)
  10. ENTRAT (shipping, lighterage, handling)
  11. BATIPORT (construction);
  12. AGRIMA (fertilizer, farm supplies)
  13. DIVERMA (miscellaneous materials)
  14. ALIMAG (foodstuffs)
  15. PHARMAGUINEE (pharmaceuticals, medical and surgical equipment)

21. N'Famara Kéita, « Le Plan triennal de la Guinée, » Afrique-Documents, 55 (1961).
22. The plan comprised 171 projects divided as follows:

23. The considerable sums wasted cannot be assessed. The budget of the plan rose from 39 to 43 billion FG and then to 46 billion, of which more than 80 per cent came from foreign sources.
24. Sékou Touré, Plan septennal, 1964-1971 (Conakry: Imprimerie Nationale, 1967), pp. 60-72
25. Claude Rivière, « Dynamique des systèmes fonciers et inégalités sociales: Le cas, guinéen, » Cahiers internationaux de sociologie, 54, ( 1973 ), 61, 94.
26. Rapports 1962 et 1963 de l'inspecteur général de l'agriculture, Archives du Minisètre de l'Agriculture, Conakry.
27. Henri de Decker, Nation et developpement communautaire en Guinée et au Sénégal (Paris: Mouton, 1968), p. 171 et seq.
28. Sékou Touré, Plan septennal, pp. 260-66.
29. Sources for 1960-65: Jean Suret-Canale, La République de Guinée (Paris: Editions Sociales, 1970), p. 214; for 1967: Alain Cournanel, « Planification et investissements privés en République de Guinée » (Paris, unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Paris, 1968), ( mimeo. ) .

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