Pr. Kaba: history and ideology

Titled “Guinean, Mr. Kaba, Comes to Washington Bearing Half-Truths, No Truths, and Innuendo”, Magbana’s blog t hits the nail on the head regarding M. Lansine Kaba’s groundless and misleading opinions. It articulates and confounds the assertions of the scholar. And it justifiably points out the performance of the panel’s co-chairs, calling it an insult to the intelligence of his educated audience. Obviously, Pr. Kaba’s stance violates the  principles of the profession of historian. It runs counter to academic ideals and standards of objectivity, impartiality in the discovery of knowledge, in this case that of Guinea’s colonial and postcolonial history.

Prof. Lansine Kaba
Prof. Lansine Kaba

Obviously, Mr. Kaba is free to choose his political affiliation and to support his preferred candidate in the second round of the presidential election, schedule for November 7. It’s his right to campaign actively for Alpha Condé. After all, he had, himself, a short-lived political career as the of his own back in the 1990s.

However, as a teacher, a researcher and an author, he is duty bound to clearly separate history from ideology. Wearing the mantle of professor on the lecture circuit, he owes it to himself to seek the truth and speak it to his audiences and readers as much as possible. And he should bear in mind that, like any human being, he can’t have his cake and eat it. And no one can run and scratch their feet simultaneously. Mr. Kaba must choose side: either tell the Truth or tell Lies. The two options are exclusive of each other. Unfortunately, when it comes to Guinean politics, it seems that Pr. Kaba would like to have it both ways. Consequently, he has placed himself squarely on the wrong side of history. To gain insight and reverse course, he should read the Report of the International Commission of Inquiry mandated to establish the facts and circumstances of the events of 28 September 2009 in Guinea. Headed by Mohamed Bedjaoui, elder Algerian statesman, veteran of African nationalism, revered law professor and great legal mind, his panel unequivocally condemns Sekou Toure’s regime, which “quickly deteriorated into a violent, repressive dictatorship.”

Lansine Kaba’s trouble stems from a peculiar double standard: on one hand he denounces the despotism of Sekou Toure and, on the other hand, he admires him for qualities that are more imaginary than  real.
Hence Mr. Kaba’s deceptive discourse which puts him in an intellectually untenable and unenviable position.

The latest of manifestation of his duality occurred November 1st during a discussion on democracy in Guinea, at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, DC.
One thing Magbana’s piece points out unmistakably, is that Pr. Kaba wittingly failed his audience. For instead of engaging in an open, constructive and fruitful dialog with participants, I learned that he dismissively ignored a valid question raised by a Guinean lady. However, based on the negative public reaction, it is safe to say that participants gained nothing from Mr. Kaba’s presentation.

While I empathize with Magbana’s disappointment, I am not surprised at all by the views stated by Lansine Kaba. He served an old dish of his to an unsuspecting and captive public. And since no transcript of the presentation is available, I will refer to a speech titled “Le pacte national”, which Mr. Kaba delivered in Philadelphia on October 1st, 2005. That short paper summarizes the political philosophy of the professor. It is a laundry list of the author’s artificial and inaccurate  viewpoints on Guinea. And it contains no less than 48 points of disagreements between Pr. Kaba’s position and my own.  I shall try to refute each of his distortions as concisely as possible. However, whenever necessary, I shall emphasize my rebuttal with the required details.
Let’s start!

Misstatement n° 1

Pr. Kaba wastes no time and writes in the first paragraph:

… the end of Almami Samori Touré’s saga, builder of empire who resisted coloniale invasion and who worked intelligently to unite Guinea’s four natural regions.

Refutation n°1

Unquestionably, Samori’s gifts and skills made him into the mighty ruler of vast territories and head of a powerful conquering army. However, his rise coincided with Europe’s Rush to Africa. His Empire was formed in 1875, i.e. only a decade before the Berlin Conference that split African into colonial domains through arbitrary borders. Samori fought and negotiated tp delayed the takeover. But, ultimately, European global strategy and industrial weaponry overpowered him. He was, first, forced out of his native Konya (Beyla, Kerouane), then captured in Guelemou (Côte d’Ivoire) and finally exiled to Gabon in 1898. That fate applied to his peers elsewhere in Africa: Amadou Sheykh, Abdel-Kader, Rabah, Chaka, etc.
But it is ludicrous and preposterous to claim that Samori united Guinea, as we know it today. He ruled only on the Mande area of the country: South-North from the Beyla to Kankan, East-West, from Mandiana to Kouroussa and Farana. He traded with, and often raided the Forest for slaves to be sold in exchange for guns, ammunition, cattle, … However, Samori did not rule the forest region. And he never controlled the Fuuta-Jalon or the Southern Rivers (Atlantic Coast) either. On the contrary, he maintained good economic, diplomatic and cultural relations with the Fuuta-Jalon theocratic Confederacy. He received the title of Almami from the Timbo dynasty. Undoubtedly, this gesture was more political than religious given that the recipient was a late convert to Islam, anyway. True, at the top of his glory, Samori aimed to restore Mande society identity and unity. But his brutal methods alienated potential allies. For instance, in 1887, he needlessly and unsuccessfully undertook the siege of Sikasso. He lifted the blockade after severe losses, including Kèmè Brèma, his junior brother and top general. His failure at Sikasso and French military threats, signaled the end of Samori’s First Empire. He had no option but the exodus from his native land. He moved East into Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso to build his Second Empire.
Therefore the notion that Samori unified Guinea does not withstand scrutiny. It’s a gross historical distortion and a baseless myth.
For more, please consult the two authoritative historians of Samori Touré: Ibrahima Khalil Fofana and Yves Person.

Misstatement n°2

[in 1984] the army buried the regime of the Democratic Parti of Guinea, which was known for its temerity, severity and repressive policy, but also for its work ethic and social justice, its rigorous management of public resources, in sum for its capacity to rule.

Refutation n°2

This paragraph reveals Mr. Kaba’s unacceptable ambiguity: he both praises Sekou Touré and deplores his dictatorship. However, by using such a vague term as temerity, he fails to disspel the impulsiveness, improvisation and disastrous whimsicality of Guinea’s first president
As for the word severity, it is an inadequate euphemism for tyranny, oppression and repression of the late Toure.
Then, Pr. Kaba’s lauds the dictator outright. And he grants him lofty ideals, which can be found in Sekou Toure’s lengthy speeches and books, but were not at all translated into practice. Consequently, it is misleading to praise the work ethic, social justice, and successful economy of Guinea’s first republic. Indeed, Sekou Toure’s succeeded more in betraying, destroying and ruining the country than in governing it honestly and run it and successfully.  For instance, writing in 1965, visiting American scholar Victor DuBois, notes:

Considering its earlier promise and the ideals on which it was founded, Guinea today, seven years after gaining its independence, is a sad disappointment. Its government has become corrupt and tyrannical. Its people have been intimidated into silence or driven to flee abroad from a government and a party, which they feel have betrayed them and no longer represent their interests. The leaders of the P.D.G. never understood — or if they did understand were rarely willing to admit — that the atrophy which started to afflict the country was due to ill-conceived, unrealistic planning on their part. Instead, they invariably diagnosed the trouble as political insufficiency. Sekou Toure always reasoned that the people were not disciplined or devoted enough to the cause of the revolution.
Thus their solution to the malaise, which began to spread over Guinea from 1960, onward, was to tighten party discipline, circumscribe still further the exercise of civil liberties, and urge their countrymen to be vigilant of “counterrevolutionary elements.” And for Sekou Toure and other party stalwarts, “counterrevolutionary elements” came to signify anyone who did not completely agree with them and submit unquestioningly to their dictates. (“Guinea: The Decline of the Guinean Revolution. Part I: The Beginning of Disillusionment”)

To be continued…

Tierno S. Bah

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