The Trial of Mamadou Dia, Dakar 1963. Part I

Senegalese paratroopers guarding the street leading to the Palace of Justice during the trial of Mamadou Dia. Dakar, december 1962. (Photos courtesy Dakar-Matin, Senegalese Ministry of Information, and Photo Bracher, Dakar) — BlogGuinée
Senegalese paratroopers guarding the street leading to the Palace of Justice during the trial of Mamadou Dia. Dakar, december 1962. (Photos courtesy Dakar-Matin, Senegalese Ministry of Information, and Photo Bracher, Dakar) — BlogGuinée

Whereas the coups d’etat plague affected the African political landscape for decades, Senegal has avoided state takeover and government downfall, whether military-staged or civilian-led. As a result, it has gained the reputation of a beacon of democracy on the continent. However, the republic of Senegal was not immune from the domination of single-party rule.  Indeed, the Parti démocratique sénégalais (PDS) remained firmly in control, again, for decades, despite challenges from opponents like Abdoulaye Wade. Worse, in 1960 (the collapse of the Mali Federation), and in 1962 —discussed here—, the political class experienced deep, but non-violent crises. In the second case, irreconcilable differences broke out between the three main political leaders: National Assembly President Lamine Guèye, President Leopold Sedar Senghor, Prime minister Mamadou Dia. The dissensions led to the arrest and trial of Prime minister Mamadou Dia along with three of his cabinet members (Valdiodio Ndiaye, Ibrahima Sarr, Alioune Tall), on charges of attempting a coup d’état. The late American anthropologist and political scientist, Victor Du Bois, was present at the trial. He gives us a first-hand account of the court’s proceedings. In the end the Haute Cour de Justice convicted and sentenced Mamadou Dia and his three co-accused to heavy prison terms.

Read also The Emergence of Black Politics in Senegal: 1900-1920

Tierno S. Bah

Victor D. Du Bois
The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part I: Background of the Case.

American Universities Field Staff Reports. West Africa Series, Vol. VI No. 6 (Senegal), pp. 1-8

Dakar, July 1963

On May 7, 1963, the trial of Mamadou Dia opened in Dakar.
The former premier of Senegal and four of his ministers were being tried on charges arising from an attempted coup d’état last December 17. On this day the Avenue Pasteur leading to Dakar’s starkly modern Palace of Justice was crowded with chattering, gesticulating Senegalese making their way in small groups up the sun-drenched street. Lines of cars, sleek Citroëns and Mercedes, crawled toward the waiting soldiers who guarded all approaches to the building. Cars with the “CD” plates of the diplomatic corps were waved through; the others were stopped until their occupants produced the red invitation cards to show that they, too, had been invited to witness the drama which was to unfold that day.

For the foreign observer, already cynical about the quality of African justice, the sight of hundreds of soldiers with Tommy guns slung over their shoulders was not reassuring. Their presence seemed to detract from the claims of the Senegalese government that this would be an open and impartial trial worthy of a free democracy.

Running the gantlet of troops that lined the corridor to the courtroom, visitors were asked again and again to show their red cards. The final test came at the door of the courtroom itself, where a Senegalese lieutenant scrutinized each arrival’s credentials.

Inside, the situation was a little better. The 50-odd soldiers, grouped in a solid phalanx at the rear of the chamber, somehow did not seem quite so conspicuous. On one side of the long rectangular room-where the jury would sit in an American court- were members of the press, a majority of them foreigners. Opposite sat representatives of the diplomatie corps. In the middle were about 40 rows of seats for the witnesses and for grave-faced functionaries who were important enough to have been invited to the trial.

At the head of the courtroom, well elevated, stood a horseshoe shaped table of polished mahogany behind which were high-backed leather chairs for the judges. Sorne five yards in front of the judges’ table stood the symbolic bar of justice; behind it were the benches for the accused; and behind them, were desks from which the defense attorneys would plead their case. Far to the rear of the room, back of the soldiers , crowded two hundred or so ordinary citizens of Senegal.

It was strange to see Mamadou Dia sitting on the prisoner’s bench. It was difficult to believe that this man who had been a leader in Senegalese politics for the last 14 years and had held the second highest office in the land was on trial for an attempted coup d’état.

How did it happen and why? Origins of the Conflict

The reasons are as complex as Senegalese politics itself. Vested financial interests, local power rivalries, and entrenched privilege all played a part. The conflict, at least initially, was not so much between Dia and President Léopold Senghor as between persons lower on the political scale—men who used Dia and Senghor as shields behind which to fight their private battles and to defend their own interests.

Central to the conflict was Dia’s plan for the gradual socialization of the economy and the institution of reforms in the social sector. Both programs threatened established interests. A more immediate cause, however, was the growing estrangement over the past year between members of Mamadou Dia’s govemment and certain deputies in the National Assembly who were critical of Dia’s policies. This estrangement reflected a deeper crisis: the alienation of party from parliament.
Although in theory Senegal is a multiparty state, in fact the ruling Union Progressiste Sénégalaise (UPS) holds such preponderance of authority that it is the only real power in the land.
Of the 80 seats in the National Assembly, the UPS controls 79.
The deputies to the Assembly are nominated by the party and as such are theoretically its agents in parliament. However, many of the present deputies are men of substance whose positions of prominence date back to the colonial period. These men feel relatively little obligation toward their party. They feel even less obligation toward the younger party militants, who today occupy many positions of authority in the party’s lower echelons and who are eagerly waiting to replace them in their jobs .

These younger rnembers of the UPS are the most dynamic element in the party. They are also the group most desirous of pushing the economie and social changes in the direction envisioned by Mamadou Dia. The parliamentarians, on the other hand, are allied with the conservative interests in the country: the urban bourgeoisie, the European business community, the Marabouts (Muslim religious leaders), and local oligarchs. Many, with important financial intere sts in the sale and transport of peanuts (Senegal’s principal crop), have much to gain from keeping economie and social conditions as they are now. Viewing any change with misgiving, they have tended to act as a brake on the socialist programs advocated by Dia and by the younger party militants.

Differences between party and parliament were evidenced by their taking opposite sides on the issue of socialisrn and on the role to be accorded private enterprise . These differences were also manifested in frequent and sometimes bitter struggles in regional politics and over political appointments at every level. Each side sought to reinforce its standing by placing as many of its own men as possible in positions of power.

Aware of the dissension within the party, President Senghor tried to mediate between the two sides. But his role as arbiter was impossible to maintain, for neither side was willing to accept it. Senghor’s own position was ambivalent. Though sympathetic with Dia and his aims, he was impatient with Dia’s reluctance to stamp out corruption in high places, particularly among some of his own ministers.
Moreover, Dia’s attempts to curb the influence of the powerful Marabouts threatened to jeopardize the President’s own cordial relations with this important element of his political support.

Thus dragged into the controversy, the President unwittingly became the symbol of the anti-Dia forces. Although he had not summoned them, around him rallied all the conservative elements in the nation. Against the wishes of both opponents, it became a contest of Dia vs. Senghor .

Prelude to the Attempted Coup d’État

The National Council, highest organ of the UPS met at Rufisque on October 21, 1962. Several days before, rumors of an open rift between President Léopold Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia had circulated widely, but a communiqué issued at the end of that meeting categorically denied any such rift. A certain malaise was nevertheless felt to exist within the ranks of the party, and it was decided that special delegations should be sent to various subsections of the UPS to allay it.

On November 12, 1962, Mamadou Dia reorganized his government. The most important innovation was his assumption of the Ministries of Defense and Security.

  • Valdiodio N’Diaye, former Minister of the Interior, became head of Finance
  • Ibrahima Sarr, former Minister of Public Functions, became Minister of Development
  • Joseph M’Baye, former Minister of Rural Economy, replaced Alioune Tall as Minister of Commerce
  • Tall was named Minister of Information.

On December 14, 1962, the real crisis began. On the afternoon of that day, Théophile James, a deputy, deposited with Lamine Gueye, President of the National Assembly, a motion of censure against the Dia government signed by himself and 40 of his colleagues. Accompanying the motion was a statement by the deputies denouncing the “fetters to the free exercise of parliamentary prerogatives” which, they claimed, the Dia government had fastened on the Assembly. They declared that the “state of emergency law,” which had been in force in Senegal since the breakup of the Mali Federation in order to better assure national solidarity, had become an excuse for suspending the provisions and defeating the purposes of the Constitution and “an instrument of blind repression.” The signatories where therefore withdrawing their support from the government.

Because of the impending governmental crisis, an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers was called on Saturday, December 15, 1962, to discuss the impasse between the government and the Assembly. But no solution was found acceptable to both sides. The cabinet itself was split over whether, in view of the state of emergency still legally existing in the country, the deputies had the right to file a censure motion at all. Part of the cabinet supported Prime Minister Dia’s view that the deputies could not do so; the rest of the cabinet sided with the Assembly, arguing that they could. Because it was impossible to reach agreement, Prime Minister Dia suggested to President Senghor that the Supreme Court be asked to decide the issue. Senghor rejected this proposal.

The next day (December 16, 1962), the party’s Political Bureau (the UPS’s highest executive body) met in an effort to resolve the crisis. But again no compromise was reached between the Dia government and the parliamentary group sponsoring the censure motion. It was decided, therefore, to convoke a special meeting of the 300-member National Council of the UPS at Rufisque on December 20 to settle the issue. In the meantime, the Political Bureau ordered the deputies to withdraw their censure motion, and President Senghor, approving the Political Bureau’s decision, personally appealed to certain influential deputies to withdraw their signatures. The deputies, however, fearing that they would not be backed by the National Council, yet equally certain that they could carry the censure motion in the Assembly, refused to obey the Political Bureau’s orders.

The Events of December 17, 1962

At 9:30a.m. on December 17, the heads of the various commissions of the National Assembly met to set the hour at which the Assembly should convene to consider the censure motion. At this meeting the Dia government was represented by lbrahima Sarr, Minister of Development. It was decided that at 10:00 a.m. there should be a meeting of the Political Bureau of the UPS and the parliamentary group sponsoring the censure motion.

10:00 a.m. First Mamadou Dia, then President Senghor arrived at the National Assembly for the proposed meeting. Dia explained briefly to Senghor that he saw no point in remaining, since the deputies had already decided to disregard the Political Bureau’s orders and proceed with their deposition of the censure motion. Dia then left; President Senghor himself departed a few minutes later.

Shortly thereafter gendarmes and police arrived and ordered the heads of the parliamentary commissions to leave the building. Lamine Gueye, President of the National Assembly, insisted that the parliamentarians’ debate should not be disturbed, but his protest was disregarded. Again the deputies were ordered to evacuate the Assembly at once. In the meantime the building had been surrounded by gendarmes, presumably taking orders from Dia. As the deputies filed out of the building, four of them, including Fofana Abdoulaye, a former minister, Ousmane N’Gom, Vice-President of the Assembly, and two others active in pressing for the censure motion, were arrested and taken to central police headquarters . The other deputies followed Lamine Gueye to his home near the President’s palace. Once there, Lamine Gueye, as President of the Assembly, dispatched a message to the President of the Republic reporting what had taken place. He asked the President, as “guardian of the Constitution,” to authorize the Assembly to hold an extraordinary session in his house to consider the censure motion.

Meanwhile, Dia forces had taken control of Radio Senegal and of the Administration Building, seat of the national government.

10:00 a.m.-12:00 a.m. President Senghor, forced now to choose between backing Dia and supporting the Assembly, decided on the latter course. He authorized the Assembly to meet at Lamine Gueye’s house. He also issued a requisition order, assuming direct command of the nation’s armed forces. A company of parachutists stationed at Rufisque was summoned to Dakar to protect the President’s palace.

1:00 p.m. Prime Minister Mamadou Dia at this time seemed still to have the upper hand. The Dakar police and gendarmerie had put themselves under his orders . Even the Senegalese Chief of Staff, General Fall, declared that he would respect Dia’s authority as Minister of Defense (in effect, disregarding the President’s requisition order).
Alioune Tall, Minister of Information (and a Dia supporter), announced over Radio Senegal that measures had been taken in agreement with the Secretary-General of the UPS (i.e., President Senghor) to prevent certain deputies (signers of the censure motion) from subverting the government. Tall promised that at eight o’clock that evening, the Prime Minister would address the nation.

The parachutists from Rufisque had now arrived in Dakar and surrounded the presidential palace, displacing the police and gendarmes previously sent there by Dia. It was announced shortly afterward that General Fall had been stripped of his command and replaced by Colonel Alfred Diallo, chief of the parachutists. By this time Dia and his ministers had barricaded themselves on the ninth floor of the Administration Building. Outside, Dia’s gendarmes continued to mount guard.

By 3:00 p.m. the Administration Building was surrounded by parachutists under the command of Colonel Diallo. Both the gendarmes and the parachutists, anxious to avoid bloodshed, held their fire. Left to themselves while their officers conferred over the situation, the troops within a remarkably short time were smiling, snapping their fingers, and patting each other on the back.

At 5:00p.m. the deputies convened at the house of Lamine Gueye. Some 40 members of the National Assembly were present, among them five ministers who had chosen to resign from the Dia government rather than follow him. All those present, including Boubakar Gueye, sole deputy of the opposition Bloc des Masses Sénégalaises (BMS), voted in favor of the censure motion, which was carried. The Assembly then proposed to authorize the President to submit a constitutional amendment to popular referendum. The amendment would do away with the office of prime minister and establish a presidential regime. This proposal was unanimously approved and President Senghor was immediately notified of the Assembly’s action.

At this moment it was announced to the deputies that parachutists had surrounded Radio Senegal in Dakar. In the meantime the radio station at Rufisque had passed into the hands of President Senghor’s paratroopers. Under orders from Joseph M’Baye, Dia’s Minister of Commerce, all telephone lines leading from the President’s palace were cut. Senghor, fearing that the direct confrontation of the opposing forces might lead to bloodshed, ordered the paratroopers to withdraw from the Administration Building, where Dia and his ministers still remained barricaded.

At 8:00 p .m. President Senghor attempted to address the nation. After a few minutes his voice was cut off the air and that of Mamadou Dia was heard. Then Dia, too, was cut off. It was evident that within Radio Senegal itself there were partisans of both sides.

By 3:00 a.m. of the following day (December 18, 1962), the entire capital had learned of the Assembly’s vote and of Colonel Diallo’s appointment as commander of all forces in the Dakar-Rufisque area. It was now clear that the coup d’état had no chance of success. Accordingly, the chiefs of the gendarmerie and of the Dakar police went to the President’s palace and placed themselves under his direct orders. Mamadou Dia, abandoned by the few forces that earlier had supported him, left the Administration Building. With the four ministers still loyal to him, he returned to his home in the Medina. Throughout the early hours of the morning, Radio Senegal, now firmly held by Senghor forces, broadcast the full text of the President’s earlier message.

At 9:00a.m. the deputies returned to the National Assembly Building, which was restored to them. Now numbering 55, they voted unanimously in favor of the amendment, filed with the Assembly the previous day, which would abolish the office of prime minister. They also granted Mr. Senghor full powers to govern the country pending the change-over to a presidential form of government.

That afternoon President Senghor broadcast from his palace an appeal to the Senegalese people to maintain their national unity. In the evening, a detachment of paratroopers went to Mamadou Dia’s house in the Medina with an order for his arrest issued by the High Court of Justice . Warrants were also issued for the arrest of the four ministers who had stuck by Dia. When Mr. Dia heard that the warrant for his arrest had been signed by Doudou Thiam, his former Minister of Justice, he at first told the arresting officer that he refused to follow him. But Mr. Tall, Dia’s Minister of Information, pleaded for a moment to talk with the Prime Minister. He succeeded in convincing Dia that further resistance was futile and that he owed it to his people and his friends to go along peaceably. The Prime Minister consented, thus averting a possible tragedy, and the five men were taken to a private villa where they were put under guard. Mamadou Dia’s contest of power with the National Assembly had failed.

Next, The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part II: The Proceedings in Court, May 7, 1963

The Trial of Mamadou Dia, Dakar 1963. Part II

From left to right, former Prime minister Mamadou Dia and Ibrahima Sarr, his former Minister of Development and a co-defendant at their trial by the Haute Cour de Justice. Dakar, 1963. (Photos courtesy Dakar-Matin, Senegalese Ministry of Information, and Photo Bracher, Dakar) — BlogGuinée.
From left to right, former Prime minister Mamadou Dia and Ibrahima Sarr, his former Minister of Development and a co-defendant at their trial by the Haute Cour de Justice. Dakar, 1963. (Photos courtesy Dakar-Matin, Senegalese Ministry of Information, and Photo Bracher, Dakar) — BlogGuinée.

As explained in the previous article, Senegal’s political class was unable or unwilling to settle their differences within the legal framework. Back then, in December 1962, the country was still ruled by emergency laws stemming from the collapse of the Mali Federation in 1960. In a winner-take-all struglle for power, two rival camps faced each other. On one side stood the president of the republic,  Leopold Sedar Senghor, backed by the president of the National Assembly, Lamine Guèye. The  rival camp was headed by the Prime minister, Mamadou Dia. He lost his case and was arrested. Accused of plotting a coup d’état, he stood trial—along with his four co-defendants— before the High Court of Justice in May 1963. This paper continues the series of three articles published by Victor Du Bois, who attended the hearing.

Read also The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part I: Background of the Case.

Tierno S. Bah

Victor D. Du Bois
The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part II: The Proceedings in Court, May 7, 1963.

American Universities Field Staff Reports.
West Africa Series, Vol. VI No. 7 (Senegal), pp. 1-13

Dakar, July 1963

At nine o’clock in the morning on May 7, 1963, the trial of the former Senegalese prime minister, Mamadou Dia, got under way. The defendants were Dia and Ibrahima Sarr, Valdiodio N’Diaye, Joseph M’Baye, and Alioune Tall, former Ministers of Development, Finance, Commerce, and Information respectively in the Dia government.

A command barked out by a sergeant at arms called the soldiers in the courtroom to attention. The audience stood as the judges of the High Court entered the chamber.

Of the seven men sitting as judges only one, Ousmane Goundiam, a member of the Senegalese Supreme Court, who presided, was a magistrate. The others were deputies designated by the National Assembly to serve as judges in the present trial.

The state’s case was argued by a specially appointed procureur général, Ousmane Camara. Dia and the other accused were defended by French attorneys, who flew in from Paris, and by three Senegalese, among them, Abdoulaye Wade, the brilliant head of legal studies at the University of Dakar.

Three of Dia's codefendants: from left to right, Valdiodio N'Diaye, Alioune Tall, and Joseph M'Baye, respectively former Ministers of Finance, Information, and Commerce in the Dia government. Behind them are seen four of the French attorneys for the defense. (Photos courtesy Dakar-Matin, Senegalese Ministry of Information, and Photo Bracher, Dakar) — BlogGuinée.
Three of Dia’s co-defendants: from left to right, Valdiodio N’Diaye, Alioune Tall, and Joseph M’Baye, respectively former Ministers of Finance, Information, and Commerce in the Dia government. Behind them are seen four of the French attorneys for the defense. (Photos courtesy Dakar-Matin, Senegalese Ministry of Information, and Photo Bracher, Dakar) — BlogGuinée.

The Case for the Prosecution

The charges against Mamadou Dia were seven:

  1. That he had ordered the expulsion of the deputies from the National Assembly Building
  2. That he had ordered the arrest of four deputies without legitimate cause or warrant
  3. That he had had the telephone lines to the President’s palace cut to prevent the President’s fulfilling his constitutional functions
  4. That he had ordered an attack on the President’s palace
  5. That he had sought to raise an armed band
  6. That he had assumed unauthorized command of the armed forces against legitimate authority and in disregard of a requisition order signed by the President under Article 24 of the Senegalese Constitution 1 and
  7. That he had perpetrated acts against the liberty of individual citizens.

Two separate but related issues, crucial to the substance of the charges, occupied the attention of the prosecution during the trial. The first concerned Mamadou Dia’s violation of the Constitution; the second, the thorny issue of party-government relations. Ultimately, the latter reduced itself to the basic question: “Which was the higher authority in the land—the party or the Constitution ?”

The prosecution’s position on the first issue, namely Mamadou Dia’s violation of the Constitution, was quite clear. In ordering the expulsion of the deputies from the Assembly, arresting four of their members, and cutting off telephone communication with the President’s palace, Dia had exceeded the limits of his constitutional authority and had trampled on the rights of parliament. His isolation of the palace clearly impeded President Léopold Senghor‘s exercise of his constitutional functions.

To the prosecution, Dia’s countermanding of President Senghor’s order requisitioning the nation’s armed forces and his issuance of another requisition order, placing the nation’s armed forces under his own command, constituted usurpation of presidential prerogative and illegal assumption of military authority. Furthermore, Dia’s continued exercise of command over the gendarmerie and the Dakar police force, even after his government had been officially overthrown by the Assembly’s vote of censure, amounted to raising an armed band against legitimate state authority (i.e., the President).

The charge of perpetrating arbitrary acts against the liberty of individual citizens was based on Dia’s arrest of the four deputies and the detention by his followers of the head of the central telephone exchange, an action taken to facilitate isolation of the President’s palace.

Much more complex was the second issue, whether the party or the Constitution was the higher authority in the land. Yet this issue had to be raised by the prosecution, for the defense’s entire case rested on the claim that Dia’s actions were both legitimate and understandable in the light of the doctrine of party supremacy supposedly in force at that time in Senegal.

The prosecutor challenged the validity of this doctrine. He did not hesitate to point out that the Senegalese Constitution nowhere spoke of the party, much less accorded it the supremacy now imputed to it. What was more, the rules of the UPS themselves did not claim for the party a position superior to that of the nation’s Constitution. “How can you claim that any law or doctrine can be put above the Constitution, the source of all legality in the country?” he asked the defense. The point was difficult to refute.

The prosecutor emphasized that although deputies are in theory agents of the party, inasmuch as it is the party which names their candidacy, they also as deputies have obligations to the Constitution. “The question,” he said, “adds up to this: ‘Does one have the right to violate the Constitution if one has permission from the party?’ Or, looked at another way: ‘Can deputies respect the Constitution without the express permission from the UPS ?‘” “If the party is really supreme,” he inquired, “why is it that it did not change the Constitution and specifically make the state and the party a single entity? Since it did not change the Constitution, the party should now respect it.” Insistently, the prosecutor contended that the Senegalese Constitution could not be changed at will to suit the particular circumstances of the moment. It must be accorded a genuine inviolability.

The High Court of Justice which judged Mamadou Dia. Seated at the center of the judges' table is Ousmane Goundiam, President of the High Court; to his immediate right, Théophile James, the deputy who authored the vote of censure against the Dia government. Dakar 1963. (Photos courtesy Dakar-Matin, Senegalese Ministry of Information, and Photo Bracher, Dakar.) — BlogGuinée
The High Court of Justice which judged Mamadou Dia. Seated at the center of the judges’ table is Ousmane Goundiam, President of the High Court; to his immediate right, Théophile James, the deputy who authored the vote of censure against the Dia government. Dakar 1963. (Photos courtesy Dakar-Matin, Senegalese Ministry of Information, and Photo Bracher, Dakar.) — BlogGuinée

The Defense’s Reply

The defense’s reply to the prosecution’s charges rested mainly on the assertion that Mamadou Dia had not attempted a coup d’état. His actions had been warranted by the political tensions at the time. They were “conservation measures” (“mesures conservatoires”) aimed solely at preserving the status quo until the party’s National Council should have an opportunity to express its judgment at the Rufisque meeting scheduled for December 20, 1962. Mamadou Dia emphasized that it was he, not Senghor, who had asked for the meeting of the National Council.
“Had the Council backed the deputies who wanted to present the censure motion,” he said, “I would immediately have tendered the resignation of my government.” On such a crucial question, he insisted, the party had a right to express its view; and the deputies, as its agents, had an obligation to respect it. But the deputies were unwilling to wait for the Rufisque meeting. They refused to withdraw their censure motion even after the party’s Political Bureau had asked them to do so. lt was this obstinate refusal on their part to acknowledge the primacy of the party and submit to its discipline that prompted him (Dia) to have the deputies expelled from the Assembly. His only intention was to prevent them from filing a motion of censure until the party had had a chance to discuss the matter.

The defense further contended that the deputies had no legal right to file a censure motion because Senegal technically was still in a state of emergency and governed by emergency laws in force at the time, under which no motion of censure of the existing government could be proposed. Under the same emergency laws, the defense continued, the Prime Minister had the legal authority to arrest anyone suspected of subversion against the state, even deputies and other officers of the national government. And Mamadou Dia’s testimony before the court indicated that subversion was what he saw in the deputies’ censure motion:

Yes, I took certain measures once I was informed of the development of the political situation. When I heard that the censure motion was about to be taken in abnormal conditions, I found myself confronted with a plot directed against the government. It appeared to some persons to be absolutely necessary to change this regime. The plot was directed more against our institutions than against our government. This plot was aimed at destroying the party. It was organized subversion.

Dia declared that once it had become clear to him that President Senghor would side with the deputies on the question of the propriety of the censure motion during a state of emergency, he had requested the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of this motion. But the President refused to refer the matter to the Court, even though the Senegalese Constitution specifically provided for such arbitration in cases of conflict between the government and the Assembly 2. According to Dia, Senghor preferred instead to have the party’s National Council decide the question at the Rufisque meeting. Thus, it was the President and not he who had violated the Constitution.

The defense insisted, moreover, that the testimony of the witnesses indicated that President Senghor had requisitioned the paratroopers from Rufisque before 10:00 a.m. on December 17, that is, before the deputies had even been expelled from the Assembly. Under the Constitution then in force, it was the Prime Minister as chief executive who was responsible for the armed forces, especially since Mr. Dia was also acting Minister of Defense at the time. Again, therefore, it was Senghor who had overstepped the limits of his authority.

To disprove the prosecution’s charge that Dia really intended to overthrow the government, the defense pointed out that Dia sympathizers had control of the radio stations at Saint-Louis and Ziguinchor but did not use them to incite the people to rebellion. No attempt was made to raise an armed band against the President. Although numerous messages of sympathy from various parts of the interior reached Dia, none were broadcast over the national airwaves, even on December 17 and 18, 1962, when the Dia forces had effective control of radio facilities in Dakar. Dia said:

« I had a majority of the armed forces on my side, but I did not use them because I wanted at all costs to avoid a direct confrontation of force. It was to keep Senghor from so doing (i.e., ordering such a confrontation) that I had the telephone lines to the palace cut. What I asked, what I begged of God that day, was that Senegalese blood not be spilled. My prayer must have been heard for no Senegalese blood did flow. »

Speaking not so much for himself as on behalf of the four ministers who were being tried as his accomplices in the alleged coup d’état, Dia insisted that they were merely obeying the orders of their Prime Minister, and therefore should not be held at fault at all:

« I am not going to plead. I am going to explain. For six months we have heard only one version of the facts in the press, the radio, etc.—that of the accusers.
I am not a plotter . Consequently I have no accomplices. The friends who are around me are men who were faithful to their Prime Minister. They are men who are faithful to an ideal, a program we entered into with others…
When one undertakes a coup d’état, one does not let the chief of staff go off on a tour of inspection 3. One does not take three days to discuss the political situation with the party. One does not undertake to speak with the nation’s chief magistrate in an effort to find a peaceful solution to political problems…»

Dia spoke at length of the harmony which heretofore had existed between the party and the government because the primacy of the former had always been tacitly accepted. He said:

« If it were to be done over again, I would do the same thing to protect the party, the nation’s institutions, and the country. »

Then a murmur ran through the courtroom as Dia, looking directly at the judges, said:

« You do not have the real plotters before you.… »

The Prosecution’s Closing Statement

The prosecutor’s summation before the Court was brief. He recapitulated the events of December 14-18. Next, he conceded that the evidence brought out at the trial did not warrant retaining the charge against Dia that he had ordered an attack on the President’s palace. Accordingly, that particular charge against the defendant would be dropped.

Further, evidence of direct, overt complicity on the part of Ibrahima Sarr in the attempted coup d’état was so insubstantial that the prosecution was willing to withdraw all charges against this defendant.

Even so, an attempt against the security of the state had still been made. In expelling the deputies from the National Assembly and ordering the arrest of four of them, Mamadou Dia had flagrantly violated the Constitution. Yet the prosecutor recognized an element of innocence in Dia’s actions:

« I do not doubt that the former Prime Minister acted completely in good faith even when he committed the crimes against the Constitution for which he is being tried here today. At the time, he thought he was doing the right thing. But between what he thought was right and the law there was a gap, and what he did constituted a grave crime. »

Citing the words of Lamennais that “the holiest of causes becomes impious when one resorts to crime to make it triumph,” the prosecutor nevertheless felt that the High Court should consider extenuating circumstances in judging the former prime minister :

« During a certain time it seems that by a curious combination of factors due to his own personality, and the influence of those around him, the accused thought that the party, the nation, and Mamadou Dia enjoyed such intimate communion that one could not touch one without disturbing the others. In his soul and in his conscience he must have thought, “How can one be a good Senegalese when one is against Mamadou Dia?”

The Defense’s Final Word

The measured, dispassionate tones of the prosecutor’s presentation were brought into relief when the attorneys for the defense entered their final plea. In tones ranging from the theatrical gravity of Me. Badinter, Valdiodio N’Diaye’s lawyer, to the quivering Zola-like tones of Me. Baudet, Dia’s attorney, the defense attempted alternately to deny that a coup d’état had been attempted, and to justify the attempt on the rather untenable ground that “it was all a tragic mistake.” Coming on the heels of a hard-hitting, give-and-take debate with the prosecutor during four days of testimony, the lofty words of the French attorneys
defending Mamadou Dia and the four other accused had a hollow

The defendants themselves were of little help in the final battle. Valdiodio N’Diaye seemed to be the only one genuinely concerned with saving himself from conviction. The other defendants, Dia, Sarr, M’Baye, and Tall, all seemed solely concerned with justifying their actions for posterity. Sarr, apparently disappointed that the prosecutor was willing to withdraw charges against him, in stentorian voice called upon the Court to consider him as the equal, in innocence or guilt, of Mr. Dia. Just to make sure he was driving his point home, he launched into a diatribe against the Senghor government, calling it a police state; but to his chagrin he was cut short by the presiding judge, Joseph M’Baye, when his turn came to speak before the bar, shouted at the judges that he was proud to be at the side of Mamadou Dia during this crisis. Alioune Tall remained as inconspicuous in the final plea as he had throughout most of the trial.

When Mamadou Dia came before the bar he said simply:

« I have only to await calmly the judgment of the High Court. I consider that the charges which have been made against me are unjustified . However I affirm that if my condemnation will serve my country in that it prevents it from falling into ridicule, then I am ready to accept this condemnation now. But I hope that at least my friends will be spared. »

The Court’s Verdict

After an hour and a half of deliberation, the seven judges filed back into the courtroom. In precise tones, Ousmane Goundiam, President of the High Court, read to each of the accused the various charges which had been retained by the Court against him. After each charge, he read the Court’s decision 4.

Mamadou Dia was found guilty on five counts:

  1. Ordering the expulsion of the deputies from the National Assembly
  2. Ordering the arrest of four deputies without warrant
  3. Cutting the telephone lines to the President1s palace
  4. Usurping and illegally retaining military authority
  5. Perpetrating arbitrary acts against several citizens in violation of the Constitution

Ibrahima Sarr was found guilty of complicity on all counts accepted against Mr. Dia.

Joseph M’Baye was found guilty of complicity in the cutting of the telephone lines to the President’s palace.

Valdiodio N’Diaye was found guilty of complicity in the usurpation and illegal retention of military authority.

Alioune Tall was found guilty of complicity in ordering arbitrary acts against several citizens in violation of the Constitution.

The Sentence

Mamadou Dia was condemned to life imprisonment in a military fortress.

Ibrahima Sarr, Joseph M’Baye, and Valdiodio N’Diaye were
each sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Alioune Tall was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and the loss of civil rights for ten years .

Reflections on the Dia Trial

The trial of Mamadou Dia was a difficult experience for the young state of Senegal. It would perhaps have been better if it had never taken place at all; that way the nation might have been spared the agony which this trial inflicted on everyone, and Senegal would not have lost the services of one of its ablest men. But the train of events on December 17, 1962, was such that in the end the trial was the only logical conclusion to a series of actions which had gained a momentum of its own. Once Mamadou Dia took the drastic steps of expelling the deputies from the National Assembly, arresting four of them, and then barricading himself in the Administration Building, he could not retreat. And once Senghor ordered the arrest of Dia and his ministers, the only thing left was to bring them to trial. Thus the two men precipitated a chain reaction which, once started, neither could stop. Yet one cannot help pondering the “ifs” of this case. What might have happened if Mamadou Dia had allowed his government to be voted out of office and then had gone before the National Council at Rufisque on December 20 to present his case to the party; or what the situation would have been if Senghor had agreed with his Prime Minister that a motion of censure was unreceivable during the existing state of emergency.

To a foreigner witnessing this trial there were certain disturbing elements. The quality of justice, embodied in the presiding magistrate’s concern for proper respect for procedure, declined sharply after the first day. Defendants and witnesses were allowed to argue interminably with one another, with but scant attention to the Court to whom they were supposed to address all their remarks. On numerous occasions during the trial, attorneys for the defense interrupted the prosecutor’s discourse, not to express an objection to a point raised, but to deliver orations of their own. Rarely were they called to order or even given so much as a slight reprimand from the hench. At such moments one became sorely aware of the judge’s lack of a gavel.

More disturbing still were the several anomalies arising from the trial itself. With the exception of the presiding magistrate, all of the men who sat in judgment on Mamadou Dia had voted to depose the Dia government; one of them, Théophile James, was himself the author of the censure motion against Dia. Of the 39 deputies who had not participated in the censure vote, not one had been named to serve as a judge. Attempts by counsel for the defense to effect a change in the make-up of the High Court were rejected—by the High Court itself.
Thus good reasons exist for doubting the impartiality of the Court.

Then, too, there was the severity of the sentences — sentences pronounced in spite of the prosecutor’s own moderate closing statement asking the High Court to drop all charges against Sarr and to consider extenuating circumstances in judging Dia and the other defendants. Evidently the Court wanted to make absolutely sure that Dia, Sarr, Valdiodio N’Diaye, and the others would be removed permanently from the Senegalese political scene. Had the death penalty still been in force in Senegal, there is little doubt that an even harsher fate would have been meted out to Dia and perhaps to one or two of the ether defendants.

In view of these facts, it is not surprising that many who were present asked themselves, “Was this a real trial whose object was to search for the truth and then to deal justly with that truth? Or was it a bogus trial—another show trial designed for the gallery and for the foreign press— intended to prove to the world that Senegal was a free and liberal democracy? Was it simply an attempt to discredit Mamadou Dia and throw a mantle of legitimacy over malodorous political acts perpetrated by men who, afraid of Dia, wanted him out of the way at all costs? Men who, certain in advance of the outcome, were willing to stage a public trial to gain their ends ?”

These questions, in all fairness, cannot be answered by a simple “Yes” or “No.” Certainly there were disturbing aspects of this case which would have aroused the doubts of any thinking person about the quality of the justice administered. But there were also other aspects that spoke highly for the Senegalese. No one who attended the trial could fail to be impressed by the openness and conscientiousness with which such basic questions as the validity of the doctrine of party supremacy and the relations between party and government we re discussed. The defense was given every opportunity to express its point of view, frankly and without hindrance, on every pertinent issue and to cross-examine all witnesses. And it availed itself fully of this right—indeed, so much so, that at one point during the defense’s closing plea, one of the attorneys, Omar Diop, used the occasion not so much to defend his client as to deliver a slashing attack against the Senghor administration. Moreover, much to the credit of all of the Senegalese parties concerned, colonialism—the favorite whipping boy in African political trials—was never once so much as mentioned during the five days of the Dia trial.

In a part of the world where passions are easily aroused, where a trial of this sort ran the very real risk of setting off strife between different segments of the nation’s ethnic and religious communities, and where at any given moment anti-government demonstrations might have been inspired, the decision even to hold a trial took a great deal of courage on the part of President Senghor. For those of us foreigners who witnessed it, the trial of Mamadou Dia may not have fulfilled our own private notions of what constitutes justice. Nor, as far as the Senegalese themselves are concerned, may it necessarily have established the right of constitutional law over the doctrine of party supremacy. But one very important thing did emerge from this trial: a principle that even the highest personalities of a nation may be called to answer for their actions before a court of law. For an African country, groping to find its way toward a genuinely liberal democracy, this is a step ahead—a stumbling step perhaps, but also a brave and hopeful one.

1. Article 24 of the Senegalese Constitution stipulates, among other things, that “The President of the Republic is the Chief of the Armed Forces” (paragraph 7).
2. Article 48, paragraph 2, of the Senegalese Constitution, in force at the time, reads: “In the case of disagreement between the Government and the Assembly, the Supreme Court, at the request of one or the other, gives a ruling within eight days.”
3. The reference here was to General Fall, who had been away on an inspection of military posts in the interior a week before December 17.
4. The High Court’s decisions were in all cases taken by the vote of an absolute majority of its members, determined by secret ballot. The exact vote count on the various charges retained by the High Court against each of the defendants was never made public.

Next, The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part III: Aftermath of the Trial

The Trial of Mamadou Dia, Dakar 1963. Part III

Closing ceremony of the Ouakam airforce base. Dakar, 2011. The French' flag is lowered as Senegal's flag is raised. — BlogGuinée
Closing ceremony of the Ouakam airforce base. Dakar, 2011. The French flag is lowered as Senegal’s flag is raised. — BlogGuinée

This is the third and final article in Victor Du Bois‘ coverage of the trial of former Prime minister Mamadou Dia and his four co-defendants, who were accused of attempting a coup d’état. Not surprisingly,  the author’s account is clear and informative ; his analysis is balanced and adequate. However, it appears that the argumentation falls short on at least two points: the French military base in Dakar, and references to the country’s colonial and precolonial history and culture.

The French military presence

Du Bois accurately indicates that the 8000-strong military base in Dakar served as a shield to French economic investments in Senegal and beyond. And he underscores that those interests were never threatened, in either of the two major crises that shook Senegal in the early 1960s:  the collapse of the Mali Federation in 1960 and the 1962 constitutional  crisis between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary branches of the state.
But it would be naive to think that because French troops did not patrol the streets of Dakar, their officers did not participate, behind the scenes, in the eventual defeat of the Mamadou Dia camp. After all, they had all the intelligence and logistics resources at their disposal.…
Likewise, in hindsight, France’s strong military deployment in its former colonies (Senegal, Gabon, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, etc.) was a strategic response to the Soviet Bloc in the tense Cold War era. And after that rivalry waned and ended in 1990, the Dakar air force installation  remained open for ten more years. In the end, located in the suburb of Ouakam, the former Colonel Frédéric Geille base 160 closed in 2011, pursuant to a bilateral agreement signed by presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Abdoulaye Wade.

Historical and cultural backgrounds

Du Bois was a dedicated field researcher, a perceptive analyst, an elegant writer, and an articulate and empathetic thinker on the subject of African politics. He observed closely and his publications deciphered meticulously the evolution and contradictions of the newly independent states. However, he devoted less focus on the historical and cultural background that embed them—then, now and for the foreseeable future. For instance, he refers only briefly to the Muslim clergy (marabouts, a French word derived from Arabic m’rabit, i.e. sufi, spiritual mystics and warrior monks organized in fortified convents). Yet, he acknowledges their role as power brokers. But he does not outline the brotherhood system they run to wield their influence in all aspects of life in Senegal: religion, economy, culture, politics. In fact, the main brotherhood—the Mourides, founded by Cheikh Amadou Bamba—is not mentioned at all. And only a footnote is devoted to Seydou Nour Tall, who “was flown to Podor to calm potential unrest.” But the article does not  point out that the government asked him to intervene because he was the leader (Cheikh) of the Tijaniyya, Senegal’s second most influential brotherhood. Last, Du Bois mistakenly places the geographic location of the town of Podor in Casamance, i.e. in southern Senegal, bordering the republic of Gambia. Actually, Podor is the main city in Fuuta-Tooro, in the north of the country, near Mauritania. And the visit by Cheikh Seydou Nour Tall —a descendant of Alhajji Umar Tall—was important to his Tijaniyya followers in that region, where Tukolor (Toucouleurs) are predominant. Also known as Takruri, they form an important branch of the Fulɓe/Halpular civilization.

Read  The Emergence of Black Politics in Senegal: 1900-1920
The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part I: Background of the Case.
The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part II: The Proceedings in Court, May 7, 1963

Tierno S. Bah

Victor D. Du Bois
The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part III: Aftermath of the Trial, May 7, 1963

American Universities Field Staff Reports.
West Africa Series, Vol. VI No. 8 (Senegal), pp. 1-11

Dakar, July 1963

The trial and conviction in May 1963 of former prime minister Mamadou Dia and his co-defendants on charges of attempting a coup d’état dealt a serious blow to Senegalese national solidarity. The government had been set against the National Assembly; party unity had been shattered; the citizenry had been divided; and the army had been compromised. How did the Senegalese greet the outcome of the Dia affair? What position did Senegal’s large European population take in the controversy? What were the repercussions of the trial on internal politics? Viewed in retrospect, why did the attempted coup d’état fail? What effect did the trial have on Senegal’s subsequent reconciliation with Mali? And, finally, what new problems lie in wait for Senegal as a result of this crisis?

The Reactions in Senegal

Considering the risks which the Dia trial ran of inciting antigovernment demonstrations, the Senegalese, on the whole, accepted the High Court’s judgment with equanimity. A few hundred tracts denouncing both President Léopold Senghor and Lamine Gueye, President of the National Assembly, were circulated in Dakar shortly after the trial; but there were no riots in the streets of the capital, no mass movements in the Medina to protest the Court’s harsh sentences on the defendants 1. Senegalese went about their daily business. The Dia episode seemed to pass unnoticed by the majority of the people. Indeed, one of the comic-opera aspects of the entire attempted coup d’état was that even during its height, life in Dakar went on the same as usual. Vehicular traffic rolled on without interruption, the cafés were full, and crowds queued up to go to the cinemas.

In some circles the conflict between President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia inevitably was given a racial and religious interpretation. It was alleged, for example, that President Senghor acted for European economic interests, that the European element in Senegal supported him while the African population of the country was overwhelmingly behind Prime Minister Dia. It was also claimed by some that Senghor, a Catholic, was interested in eliminating Mamadou Dia from power because he was a Muslim.

Actually, the situation was quite different. Although the President was generally regarded as more permissive toward European private enterprise than his Prime Minister, in reality, he shared many of Mr. Dia’s views on the need for state planning and a balance between private and public interests. Like Mr. Dia, President Senghor was firmly committed to a socialist form of government for Senegal. Ironically enough, President Senghor found his major political support not among the Catholic element in the cities, but among the Muslim population in the hinterland, whose leaders, the Marabouts, he has always courted. By the same token, Mamadou Dia derived his support not from his fellow Muslims (many of whom regarded him with suspicion because of his belief in a reformed Islam and his determination to diminish the power of the Marabouts) but from the urban African Catholic population who looked with favor on his progressive social policies.

The European Position in the Crisis

By and large, Senegal’s European population of 40,000 remained completely aloof from the crisis. Through the French Embassy in Dakar and consular offices in several other key cities, French residents were advised by letter to refrain from getting involved in the Dia-Senghor quarrel. This advice was generally followed.
Sensibly, French military personnel stationed in Senegal (about 8,000 strong) were kept completely out of the picture. During the critical period of December 17-18, 1962, they were confined to barracks by their commanders. Not so much as a solitary French soldier was to be seen on the streets of Dakar. As neither French lives nor property were at any time threatened, there was no need for the French troops to act. The French thus showed the same sound judgment during the Senghor-Dia fray that they did during the crisis of the Mali Federation in August 1960, when they also refused to take the side of either protagonist. Had they intervened, this purely intemai quarrel might have tumed into a Franco-Senegalese conflict whose repercussions would have been felt far beyond the confines of Dakar.

Although they were not directly involved, this does not mean that the Europeans did not feel strongly for one side or the other. Their prejudices increased as the time for the trial neared. Most among them, of course, were for President Senghor, whose attachment to France they well knew and appreciated. The business community, predictably enough, was solidly behind Senghor—not so much because it was persuaded of his procapitalist tolerance, as because it knew that his allies, the 41 deputies who had originally proposed the motion of censure against the Dia govemment, had interests which coincided with its own. To both, Dia’s socialism was anathema, and his removal from power was hailed as a welcome development.

Yet it would be a mistake to conclude that all of the Europeans were for Senghor. Some were for Mamadou Dia. Particularly was this so among the so-called “technocrats,” the men who had worked directly with the former prime minister in the government. At one moment during the trial the strong feeling felt for Dia was dramatically illustrated by the appearance of François Perroux, a professor of the famed Collège de France, and one of France’ s most distinguished economists. Flying from Argentina, where he was on lecture tour, to testify as a character witness, Perroux delivered an impassioned plea on Dia’s behalf, extolling his qualities as statesman, intellectual, and humanitarian. He told of Dia’s dedication to promoting tolerance and understanding between the Muslim and Christian communities in Africa. His testimony, culminating in a fatherly embrace given to Dia, visibly moved the audience in the courtroom as few other incidents had during the trial. That one gesture, wholly ingenuous, brought into relief the divided sympathies of the French. It highlighted the anguish felt by many—Senegalese and foreigners alike—at seeing so worthy a person as Mamadou Dia in such an ignoble position.

The Attempted Coup d’Etat Viewed in Retrospect

What kept many people from siding with Mamadou Dia in the attempted coup d’état was that while they esteemed him personally, they did not sympathize with the principle of party supremacy he was supposedly defending when he undertook the actions he did against the Assembly. While the “41” who originally had moved to censure the Dia government did not inspire wide confidence either, they at least had the tactical advantage of being able to pose as defenders of a principle—the rule of law—which elicited the support of many civic-minded Senegalese. Ultimately, this proved the stronger cause.

Thus one of the major mistakes of Dia’s attorneys was that they chose to justify the actions of the defendants on grounds which could not hope to compete in respectability with the prosecution’s more virtuous claim of defending the Constitution. It was not that the defense was wrong when, in near desperation, it accused the prosecution of seeking to apply in the present case legal principles (i.e., the primacy of the Constitution over the party) not in keeping with actual political realities. It was just that this argument was useless in dispelling the popular view, now firmly embedded, that Mr. Dia had gravely erred when he took matters into his own hands, had violated the Constitution, and had precipitated the crisis which had threatened to plunge the whole nation into a bloody civil war.
Another reason that this attempted coup d’état did not succeed was that it lacked one essential ingredient which any such action requires if it is to be successful: namely, a certain minimum of popular support. This the Prime Minister simply did not have. For all the admiration he quite justifiably elicited from persons abroad, Mamadou Dia was never particularly popular in his own country. Aloof, austere, contemplative, he rarely inspired the enthusiastic response from people that the far more popular President Senghor did. Though a Muslim, he did not command the following of Senegal’s overwhelmingly Muslim population.
In part, this was because he had never solicited their support on religious grounds, but it was also because he had refused to court the powerful Marabouts, the Muslim leaders, who hold the real keys to power among Senegal’s hinterland peoples.
A further reason for his lack of success was that he was the target of popular dissatisfaction. As the government’s Prime Minister, Mr. Dia had been the author of many measures which over the years had alienated him from various groups of his countrymen. Many of these measures such as the organization of the controversial Office de Commercialisation des Arachides (OCA), or the reform of Dakar’s archaic transport system, were necessary—even indispensable—in the long-range socialist plans he envisaged for his country; but they earned him many enemies . His plans to reorganize the means of collecting and shipping peanuts—Senegal’s principal crop—directly threatened the financial security of the Marabouts, and of certain deputies (among them Théophile James, one of the judges on the High Court) who had important interests in these activities.

Prime Minister Dia could not claim the support of his country’s intellectuals either. These intellectuals, especially as represented by the students in Paris and at the University of Dakar, were not any more sympathetic with Dia than they were with President Senghor, both of whom they have always regarded as little more than pro-French collaborators. Neither man, however much he talked of African socialism or négritude, had ever been invested by them with the halo of hero-worship with which they had crowned, say, Guinea’s Sékou Touré or Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, because of the latter’s extreme nationalism and vociferous anti-colonialism. Whether Mamadou Dia, in his imprisonment, will now become the hero of this militant and articulate element of the extreme left is one of the things to watch in the months ahead. But if he does, it will be for the first time. Mr. Dia fared no better among the government functionaries, although it was among this group that he probably enjoyed his greatest popularity. As Prime Minister, he was their immediate superior, and whatever improvement in social and material standing they, as a class, have come to know over these last few years, they owe primarily to him. Although many of them sincerely believed in Dia’s “Plan” for Senegal and shared his conviction that judicious planning and a careful balancing of state and private interests could raise the general standard of living of the country, in the moment of crisis they did not come forward to aid him. Considerations of jobs and security discouraged them from embarking on any such adventurous course.

The Repercussions of the Trial on Internal Politics

The most severe repercussions of the Dia trial were felt within the Union Progressiste Sénégalaise (UPS), the ruling political party in Senegal, of which both President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia were members. Once Mamadou Dia and the other defendants were out of the way, the 41 deputies who had sponsored the censure motion quickly sought to consolidate their position. Determined to neutralize completely all of Dia’s followers, they moved first against those of their fellow deputies who had refused to go along with them on the censure vote. Aboubakry Kane and four other deputies who had defended

Dia’s actions, either in testimony before the High Court or in party councils, were expelled from the UPS. Many other deputies who had also refused to go along with the censure vote suffered a comparable fate.

By exerting pressure on local party organizations, the “41” were able to deprive most of these pro-Dia deputies of the mayoralties in their home territories which served as their bases of power. The loss of other political offices quickly followed. Within a remarkably short time the mosaic of political power in the country was completely rearranged. Twenty-nine major towns throughout the country passed into the hands of men representing the interests of the “41.”
The municipal councils of ten towns which had pro-Dia mayors were dissolved. The shift in political loyalty was especially noticeable in Senegal’s key cities. In Thiès, Ousmane N’Gom, Vice-President of the National Assembly and a key figure in the “41” clique, replaced Ibrahima Sarr, Dia’s former Minister of Development, as that city’s bigwig. In Kaolack, another “41” sympathizer, Ibrahima Seydou N’Daw, replaced Valdiodio N’Diaye, Dia’s convicted Minister of Finance, as the chief political figure. In Saint-Louis, Mayor Macadou N’Diaye, who was on his way out as a political power before the Dia-Senghor quarrel, got a new lease on life and is now firmly back in power in that important town. A similar shake-up occurred in Matam, where Mayor Fodel Kane, a Dia sympathizer, was replaced by a supporter of the “41.”

The Dia Trial and the Reconciliation with Mali

One of President Senghor’s first acts after the arrest of Mamadou Dia was to announce that Senegal wished to settle its differences with Mali. The President’s now famous remark, “Nous tendons la main au Mali” (We extend our hand to Mali) was welcomed with a sigh of relief throughout French-speaking Black Africa. It meant that at last the two former partners in the ill-fated Mali Federation were ready to close the breach that had developed between them since the collapse of the Federation three years earlier (1960).

President Senghor’s choice of this particular occasion to extend the olive branch to Mali’s President Modibo Keita gave rise to much speculation. Did it mean that Mamadou Dia’s presence as “Number 2 Man” (Prime Minister) in the Senegalese government had all along impeded the normalization of relations with Mali? Was it a move on Senghor’s part to boast his popularity at the expense of his deposed Prime Minister? Was it a reaction to internal pressures?

In all likelihood it was a combination of these three factors. At the time of the Mali Federation, Mamadou Dia was Vice-Premier to Federal Prime Minister Modibo Keita 2. Few persons familiar with the facts concerning the Mali Federation would blame Mamadou Dia any more severely than Senghor or Keita for its collapse. But in the eyes of many Malians, and in those of many Senegalese as well, Mamadou Dia was always regarded as the central figure around whom the storm broke. It was he who, as Federal Minister of Defense, had vetoed Modibo Keita’s nomination of Colonel Soumaré, a fellow Soudanese, as Chief of Staff of the Federal Armed Forces—an action which prompted Keita to divest Dia of his ministerial portfolio and even to seek his ouster as Premier of Senegal, thereby precipitating the crisis.

While Dia was very interested in and worked vigorously for a reconciliation between Mauritania and Morocco and even for a settlement between France and Guinea, he concerned himself less with the problem of righting relations with Mali. Though as an economist he was sorely aware of Senegal’s dependence on Mali, as its natural hinterland market, he sought to compensate for the loss of this market not by seeking a rapprochement with Mali, but by trying to expand trade relations with other nations.

Yet it was not Mamadou Dia’s presence in the Senegalese government that all along had impeded the resumption of normal relations with Mali. Rather it was the residue of ill-feeling and mistrust remaining between the two countries from their sad experience with the Federation that poisoned relations between them. Their conflicting stands on certain basic issues of the day, such as their membership in the rival Casablanca and Monrovia groups, their different attitudes
in the Cold War, and their opposing positions on such African problems as the Algerian War, the Congo crisis, and the existence of Mauritania, all contributed to the existing enmity. It was not the disappearance of Mamadou Dia from Senegalese politics that made a reconciliation with Mali possible. It was the resolution of these basic problems.

As the leader who initiated the rapprochement with Mali, and as the Senegalese statesman who represented his country at the recent African summit conference at Addis Ababa, Mr. Senghor, of course, will reap the benefits of this reconciliation. The settlement with Mali and the resumption of normal diplomatic and trade relations which this settlement will make possible should do much to strengthen Senghor’s position in his own country.

But President Senghor is not relying on this alone to enhance his stature, either at home or abroad. He is also taking a much more active role in African and international affairs. The strong stand he has taken on Portuguese colonialism and South African apartheid indicates a desire to prove that he can be as much a nationalist as other African leaders. His plan for organizing in the near future a form of economic union around the states of the Senegal River Basin (Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, and Guinea) points to his hope of creating a Senegalese version of the successful Council of the Entente founded by Ivory Coast President Félix Houphouët-Boigny.

Internal political considerations also made it advisable to seek a reconciliation with Mali at this time. With his own party torn from within as a result of the Dia trial, a settlement with Mali might serve as an inducement to Senegal’s opposition parties to join with the UPS in forming a sort of “national union.” The Senghor forces hope that this idea will be particularly attractive to members of the Bloc des Masses Sénégalaises (BMS) and the Parti de Regroupement Africain (PRA), two parties with which they share many political views, and which have always been in favor of mending fences with Mali.

According to a new Organic Election Law, passed on June 15, 1963, in future elections each party will put up a single list of candidates. Henceforward, the voter will cast his ballot not for individual deputies or councilors but for an entire list. Thus the party whose list gets the greatest number of votes will have all of its candidates elected to office in toto. Whatever its original intention, this scheme, enacted on the heels of the Dia trial, will work to the disadvantage of the opposition parties, none of which are allowed to campaign freely.

lt can also be expected to dissuade any of the chastised pro-Dia deputies either from forming a new party, or from joining forces with other opposition groups, as such action supposedly would gain them nothing.

Still, along with the stick there is also a carrot. The carrot in this case is that the Senghor forces are said to have offered a certain number of places for deputies and even a number of ministerial portfolios to the opposition parties if they will agree to join forces with the UPS in the December 1963 elections. This would have the advantage of presenting proof of a certain “national union,” while at the same time both preserving the dominance of the UPS and cutting the ground from under the opposition.

There is some doubt that either the BMS or the PRA will be drawn into such a scheme. Although it would unquestionably give them a voice in the government—something which they do not now have—they may feel they have more to gain by continuing to go it alone and submitting their own list of candidates in the December contests. Current dissension in the rank and file of the UPS, resulting from the Dia trial,
might just give the opposition parties the chance they have been waiting for to break the UPS’s hold on the country. In either case, the reconciliation with Mali has at least provided the opportunity for reopening the dialogue with the “loyal opposition.” It also stands as one of the UPS’s most concrete achievements since the outbreak of the Dia crisis.

The Problems Ahead

The impact of the Dia trial shook the UPS to its very foundations. The doctrine of party supremacy (primauté du parti)—the mortar which had held the party’s diverse elements together—was chipped away by the prosecution’s successful claim that this doctrine was invalid in a Senegal committed to rule by constitutional law. To what extent this doctrine, which has proved so useful in the past, can again be resorted to in the future is a key question. Having so effectively gained its repudiation at the trial, the Senghor forces may find it difficult to resuscitate it at some later date.

Equally questionable will be the UPS’ s ability to survive the bitter animosities which this trial has engendered among some of the party’s most prominent members. The severity with which the “41” have dealt with the pro-Dia deputies may have gained them their immediate goal (deposing the Dia forces from power), but it is likely that their success also carries with it the seeds of their own eventual destruction. A very real possibility now exists that the dissident deputies, unless they can be reconciled with the “41” faction, will either break entirely from the UPS to form still another party or, failing that, join forces with the major opposition groups to better challenge the conservatives who new have gained control of the party—and through the party, the country. The same holds true for many of the younger, more progressive party elements who have been alienated as a result of the Dia trial.

Recognizing that his party is faced with a major internal crisis, President Senghor’s first task must be to close the breach that has developed in party ranks since the eruption of the Dia affair. To lend vigor to his call for national unity, the President has sought to minimize the impact of Dia’s departure from Senegalese political life by keeping to Dia’s program of economic and social reforms. He hopes thereby to disprove the charge that with Dia’s disappearance from Senegal’s political scene, the country’s social revolution comes to an end. But the President’s efforts have been only partially successful, for he has shawn less willingness to openly challenge the important pressure groups in Senegalese society—the Muslim Marabouts, the transport workers, and the European businessmen—than Mamadou Dia was prepared to do to see his program through.

So long as President Senghor stays at the party’s helm, he may be able to keep the conservative elements at bay, thereby preserving something of the UPS’s progressive air. But Senghor’s popularity has also suffered from the trial. Many Senegalese hold him responsible for the Dia affair. Increasingly, he is being lumped with the “41” and becoming identified with the conservatism which this group represents.
As Senghor must now himself assume direct responsibility for such unpopular measures as the government’s present austerity program, it is only to be expected that he, too, will begin to suffer some of the slings and arrows formerly directed at Dia when he acted as the government’s chief spokesman for such measures. Hence the President’s dilemma: the greatly enhanced powers which have been conferred on him as a result of Mamadou Dia1s elimination, he owes to men whose political views and economic philosophy he does not share. Yet he now needs the support of these men just as surely as they need his and require the luster of his name. Whether a working alliance can be built up between Senghor, those of his liberal advisers remaining, and the “41” will determine how smoothly the Senegalese government will function in the days ahead.

The UPS now also faces a crisis of leadership. Thus it joins the ranks of other African states where the question of who will succeed the incumbent President poses a grave problem. The elimination from the political scene of Mamadou Dia and Valdiodio N’Diaye, two leading prospects, has significantly narrowed the range. Ousmane N’Gom, who appears to be emerging as a sort of éminence grise as a result of the Dia episode, and who therefore would seem to be a logical candidate, lacks a popular following. Moreover, N’Gom is rumored not to enjoy the President1s confidence. None of the other ministers in the present government have yet demonstrated exceptional promise. About the only real alternative to Léopold Senghor existing at the moment in Senegal is Lamine Guèye, Senghor’s once formidable political rival. Lamine Gueye still commands great respect among the nation’s electorate, particularly among Dakar’s Muslims, but his advanced age makes him an unlikely contender.

President Senghor’s chief problem at the moment is to repair the damage to national solidarity left in the wake of the Dia trial. To accomplish this he will first of all have to assert his authority over the “41” and their followers, lest he one day find that they and not he rule the country. Because of the number of people who have been alienated as a result of the trial, and because of the doubts that have been sown about the government’s willingness to pursue the Dia-initiated social and economic reforms which Senegal badly needs, a new basis of unity must be found to reconcile these individuals and to dispel such doubts. Unless this can be done, the Dia trial may not have marked an end so much as a beginning to party-government conflict.

One view which made the rounds in Dakar at the time of the Dia trial was that President Senghor wanted an open trial so that basic questions of conflict between party and government could be threshed out. If this was in fact the case, one may question the President’ s judgment in choosing a public trial as the proper means to accomplish this end. Certain political problems are more amenable to settlement in the privacy of the politicians’ smoke-filled backrooms than in the glare of the public spotlight.

We may never know just how much President Senghor himself shared the opinion of the High Court that condemned Mamadou Dia. Nor may we ever know the full story of the motives which prompted this whole sad episode in the first place. It is difficult to render justice in a political trial, and the tragedy of this particular trial was that in the end it raised more problems than it resolved. It marked an end to a fruitful partnership between two of the most brilliant leaders Africa has yet produced. If there was a winner in this trial, it was not Léopold Senghor. And if there was a loser, it was not so much Mamadou Dia as the young Republic of Senegal.

1.  At its outset the Dia affair did arouse some reaction in the hinterland. Twice during the week following Dia’s arrest, the grand Marabout, Seydou Nourou Tall, had to be flown by special government plane to Podor, in Casamance, to explain to restless Tukulor followers why Dia had been deposed from office and put under detention. The Tukulors, who number about 700,000 and constitute roughly a third of Senegal’s population, greatly esteemed Dia.
2.  Senghor, though he had not yet been named as such, was slated to become the Federation’s president.

Previous articlesThe Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part II: The Proceedings in Court, May 7, 1963
The Trial of Mamadou Dia. Part I: Background of the Case

The Entente’s Reactions to the Guinean Accusations

Victor D. Du Bois
The Rise of an Opposition to Sékou Touré
“Part IV: The Entente’s Reactions to the Guinean Accusations”
American Universities Field Staff Reports. West Africa Series
Vol. IX No. 4, (Guinea), April 1966, pp.1-18

Victor David Du Bois (1932-1983)
Victor David Du Bois (1932-1983)

Sékou Touré‘s charges that there had been a conspiracy against his government and that this conspiracy had been headed by President Felix Houphouët-Boigny of the Ivory Coast were almost universally greeted by embarrassed silence, open skepticism, or outspoken derision 1.

No African leader, including Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Modibo Keita of Mali, and Gamal Abdel Nasser of the United Arab Republic, Touré’s three staunchest friends, lent him so much as moral support. None made a statement backing up his charges, or offered to go to his aid to help defend Guinea against the conspiracy supposedly launched by the French, Houphouët-Boigny, and the other Entente leaders.

The African heads of state, all of whom had rec eived the Guinean
President’s “open letter” accusing Houphouët, showed by their shattering silence just how seriously they regarded Touré’s charges. The Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.), with which Mr. Touré had lodged a formal complaint and whose Secretary-General, Diallo Telli, was a Guinean, retained a discreet silence on the matter. The O.A.U. made not the slightest effort to initiate the investigation Touré had demanded.

Not even the Soviets or the Chinese, who in the past had always shown themselves only too eager to support anyone’s attack against the moderate African leaders, thought Mr. Touré’s charges worth the bother of a perfunctory resolution of support.

Abidjan. Meeting of the heads of state of Conseil de l'Entente in 1962. From left to right: Presidents Justin Ahomadegbe (Dahomey, now Benin), Maurice Yaméogo (Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso), Felix Houphouët-Boigny (Côte d'Ivoire), Hamani Diori (Niger)
Abidjan. Meeting of the heads of state of Conseil de l’Entente in 1962. From left to right: Presidents Justin Ahomadegbe (Dahomey, now Benin), Maurice Yaméogo (Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso), Felix Houphouët-Boigny (Côte d’Ivoire), Hamani Diori (Niger)

The Reactions of the Council of the Entente

The reactions were very different among the other French-speaking
states of Africa. With the exception of Congo-Brazzaville, whose leaders sympathize strongly with Sékou Touré, virtually all of these states greeted the Guinean charges with undisguised scorn. Of the four states which comprise the Council of the Entente—the Ivory Coast, Niger, Upper Volta, and Dahomey—Sékou Touré had accused only the leaders of the first three of participating in the plot against his government. His singling out of the President of the Ivory Coast immediately caused all of the Entente states, and also Togo, to rally to Houphouet’s defense.

The Upper Volta [Burkina Faso]

The first public reaction of an Entente member came from President Maurice Yaméogo of the Upper Volta, who was on a private visit to Paris at the time. Yameogo, who on several previous occasions had delivered virulent denunciations of Touré 2, managed to control his temper this time; but he made clear his thoughts that Touré’s accusations were nothing more than a spurious attempt to divert the Guinean people’s attention from the sad plight they had to face daily in their own country:

« The words which Sékou Touré has spoken through the voice of his President of the National Assembly are very serious in that they state that a plot has been hatched here in Paris [against his country]. I will not speak of the French [officials] whom he has accused; that is not my affair. I say that these charges are very serious because I was here in Paris and I have no knowledge whatever of any such plot. It is not our habit, but theirs [the Guineans] to do such things… Nevertheless, inasmuch as I am named [by Touré] along with my colleagues [of the Entente], I will reply to this question on my return…
…These charges are serious, as I see it, because they jeopardize the Organization of African Unity. If it is in such an atmosphere of suspicion and unwarranted accusations that we must always meet around the same table to recount such nonsense to one another, then I for one have no desire to take part in such a comedy with a lot of werewolves gathered together to overthrow one another under different pretexts.
At the moment, I am only passing through Paris. I have not yet seen my colleagues of the Entente to ask them what they think of these charges… However on my return we will no doubt meet to decide what attitude is called for in light of the Guinean accusations. Since Sekou wants to enter into a competition with the Council of the Entente, which he wishes to destroy, it will give us the opportunity of strengthening our ties within the Council and continuing the progress of our countries along the path of economic development, peace, and liberty ….
. . . We believe that the lesson which we are going to give him will serve not only him but all of the Guinean people, who understand the Guinean situation very well but are kept enchained by Touré’s dictatorial and arbitrary policies. Sékou Touré indiscriminately arrests his former friends whose only wish is to serve his interests and those of their country. Why? Because he is worried. And when a man is not sure of himself one can conclude that he has failed 3….  »


The first reaction from Niger came on November 18, 1965. Boubou Hama, the President of Niger’s National Assembly, delivered the
government’s reply to Sékou Touré:  “I personally have a great deal of regard for Sékou Touré,” he began, “but Niger has itself suffered too much from subversion to wish it on anyone else.” 4 He called Touré to task for never denouncing “that other imperialism which is much more dangerous-that emanating from China.”

A more spirited reply to the Guinean charges was made the following day by Djibo Yacouba, the Nigerien Minister of Defense and Information. After recalling that his country had always followed the progress that was being made in Guinea with great interest, Yacouba went on to say that in the past Niger had never replied to the injuries addressed to it by Guinean authorities. However, the Nigeriens, he indicated, had had enough, and he wanted the Guineans to know it:

« It was first with surprise, then sadness, and finally with profound disgust that Niger learned of the nonsensical accusations and scurrilous insults emanating from Sékou Touré and his collaborators toward certain countries, including Niger, and toward the person of President Houphouët-Boigny.
Coming from anyone other than Sekou, this deliberate attempt to sully, to dishonor the chief of state of the Ivory Coast and the venerable father of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain could only be described as ignoble and abject. Coming from Sékou Touré, it is monstrous because he [Touré] owes everything, absolutely everything, to President Houphouët-Boigny.

Everything points to the fact that Sékou Touré’s odious attitude is related to that of certain other African heads of state who conceive of the O.A.U. as an instrument of their imperialist ambitions… Like them, Sékou Touré has never been able to accept the Entente’s existence, its efficacy, its success, just as he cannot accept the creation of the O.C.A.M., the first real step toward African unity.

In bringing before Africa’s international forum a pointless debate, Sékou Touré is following a fatal logic peculiar to himself. It is a path that can only lead to ridicule and dishonor for himself and to new trials and undeserved suffering for the people of Guinea. Niger awaits the verdict of African and world opinion 5. »

Dahomey [Benin]

Although the Dahomeans, unlike the Ivoiriens, Nigeriens, and
Voltaics, were not accused by Sékou Touré of having participated in the plot against Guinea’s government, they nevertheless entered the fray on the side of their fellow members of the Entente. For them, however, the crucial aspect of the conflict was not the accusations which Guinea had leveled against the other three states, but rather the threat which such charges posed to African solidarity. Like the Voltaics, the Dahomeans felt that Sékou Touré’s recklessness vitiated whatever progress had recently been made at Accra at the O.A. U. meeting of African heads of state. In a broadcast made on November 19, 1965, Radio Dahomey stressed this point:

« Our listeners have perhaps been surprised at the silence we have observed over the last three days concerning the developments of the plot which was allegedly uncovered in Guinea.

[This silence] has not been because we are not concerned with an affair which once more opposes states which we consider as brothers. It is rather because we regret that on the morrow of the O.A.U. conference, where the African heads of state pledged themselves ( a) to resort to bilateral or multilateral discussions to resolve all differences between them or among several states of the O.A.U., and (b) to refrain from acting against any African state by press or radio and instead to use the procedures provided for in the [O.A.U.’s] Charter, we have the misfortune of seeing flames ignited once again, for what purpose we know not, by an African head of state [Touré] who we thought was one of the champions of African unity.

What good are these resolutions and O.A.U. conferences in search of African unity if we content ourselves with carelessly destroying our work? In view of all that has happened, it appears that those who divide Africa are neither “red imperialists” nor “white imperialists” but Africans themselves who have not understood, or do not wish to understand, that certain methods are tired and used up and that one makes a fool of oneself in resorting to them 6.


Togo is not a formal member of the Council of the Entente, although it has collaborated closely with it since the death of President Sylvanus Olympic in 1963 and his replacement by President Nicolas Grunitzky. For some reason, Touré did not accuse the Togolese President of involvement in the plot against Guinea, even though it was on the occasion of the marriage of Houphouët’s son to Grunitzky’s niece that the Entente leaders and Tshombe had gathered in Paris.
Bound now to the Ivory Coast’s President by ties of family as well as a common attitude on political problems, Grunitzky quickly rallied to Houphouët’s defense. In a telegram sent to the Ivoirien chief of state, and later released to the press, Grunitzky reaffirmed Houphouët’s claim that there was absolutely no connection between their visit to Paris and the plot which Sékou Touré accused them of fomenting against his country:

« On that date [in July at the wedding]. as you know, I was in Paris with you and other heads of brother states. I can testify to the fact that at no time during the conversations we had, either between ourselves or with other friends of the country in which we were, did we speak of Guinea and its government. And even if we had, it would certainly not have been to draw up ridiculous plans such as you have been accused of with such effrontery. I have known you for a long time and I know the friendly feelings you had toward President Sékou Touré.

You have always shown under any circumstances such a firm attachment to the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries that it is unimaginable, except in deliberate bad faith, that one could ever think you capable of doing such a thing.

Moreover, I am convinced that if the imperatives of the [O.A.U.’s] Charter of Addis Ababa were as scrupulously followed by certain African states as they are by the countries of the Entente and Togo, a great many misadventures could be avoided in Africa 7.

Ivory Coast

Of all the reactions, the most eagerly awaited was that of the Ivory Coast. Its President, after all, was the main target of Touré’s
imputations. Although Houphouët had been excoriated many times by Touré in the past, he had rarely bothered to answer these diatribes directed against him by the Guinean President. Such self-restraint on his part had paid off. Touré, by his behavior, merely confirmed for the outside world his reputation as an impulsive, reckless, and irresponsible demagogue. Houphouët, on the other hand, feigning to ignore completely what Sékou Touré said about him, conveyed the impression of a dignified statesman, aloof from the rough-and-tumble of African politics.

This present conflict between the two men had a deeper bitterness, a more convincing sense of finality about it, for this time Touré did not confine himself to his usual remarks about Houphouët’s being a “colonialist puppet.” His current censure transgressed certain unspoken but theretofore accepted limits of propriety. They had about them a vicious quality which could not easily be ignored or lightly dismissed. Touré made indiscreet innuendoes about Houphouët’s personal life, and accused him outright of betraying old comrades-in-arms.

Yet, even when confronted with such taunts, President Houphouët’s first reaction was to follow his previous policy of turning a deaf ear to the ballyhoo coming over the airwaves from Conakry. As Touré’s charges got worse, however, and started to cover not only the President himself but the entire Ivoirien nation as well-and, beyond it, the Entente-Houphouët’s associates and his ministers pressed him to make a formal and vigorous rebuttal. Houphouët finally consented, and on November 17, 1965, before a meeting of the country’s top civilian and military leaders, he delivered his reply to Sékou Touré:

« The Political Bureau of the Parti Democratique de la Côte d’Ivoire-Rassemblement Démocratique Africain [P.D.C.I.-R.D.A., the ruling party in the Ivory Coast] indignant—that is the least one can say—at the lying accusations and injuries which President Sékou Touré has once again addressed to me, has asked me to break the silence with which I have always greeted such poisonous campaigns in order to reply to the Guinean President.

I do so for two reasons. First, because, as I have said, the Political Bureau has asked me with insistence [to do so], and especially because innocent people are suffering in the jails of the inhuman President of Guinea, whose monstrous cruelty is known to everyone.

I am sure that you will agree with me, my fellow countrymen and ladies and gentlemen, that I cannot follow Mr. Sékou Touré in his ridiculous digressions regarding the domain of my private life.

For twenty-four years I have been responsible for a country of immense material and human possibilities, worthy of respect because it knows how to respect the dignity of others. A country which, conscious of its own backwardness but also of its potentialities, wishes, by the work of its children and in unity and not by hollow and interminable speeches, to catch up with the most advanced countries.

It would be bad not only in the Ivory Coast and in Africa but also in the rest of the world if the leader of this country should lower himself, even when unjustly attacked, and speak of the private life of Mr. Sékou Touré.

Therefore I will confine myself to answering two precise accusations made against me, and therefore against my country: one… which goes back to 1960 … and one, more recent, which concerns our alleged accomplices: a Guinean, Mamadou Touré, so-called “Petit” Touré; François Kamano, Director of the Social Security Department of the Ivory Coast; two chiefs of state of the Council of the Entente, Presidents Diori Hamani and Maurice Yameogo; the former Prime Minister of Congo-Leopoldville, Moise Tshombe; two French Ministers, Messrs. Jacquinot and Triboulet; and the French Ambassador to Guinea.

The First Accusation

In 1960, on the morrow of our country’s accession to independence … Sékou Touré sent me a telegram concerning a military action which was directed from the Ivory Coast against Guinea.

My first thought was to look into the activities of our own army. It [our army] knew nothing of the matter referred to by the Guinean President.

I did not stop there. Mr. Touré assured me that a small Guinean village on the border had been attacked and that a jeep had been burned. I sent investigators to the place [in question] and mobilized all of our available [party] militants to prevent all action against Guinea, a brother country… with which I wished to maintain the good relations that had always existed between Guineans and Ivoiriens.

I learned, in effect, that a handful of irresponsible Europeans of O.A.S. 8 tendencies, in complicity with certain of our opponents in the region of Odienne… had attempted this stupid action with the sole aim of causing difficulties between my country and Guinea.

We did not delay in protesting energetically to [French authorities in] Paris, who were completely unaware of the action of this handful of O.A.S. elements. Their supposed chief, one Achard, had immediately afterward left for Algiers where he joined the O.A.S. and subsequently was condemned to death in absentia.

Thus there was no action either by the Ivoirien army or people, or by French military units in the Ivory Coast.

In any case, our energetic response put an end, within  twenty-four hours, to the attack on the Guinean frontier post .…
… I then met with President Sékou Touré at the border and made a formal promise to him that in no case would anyone be allowed to use Ivoirien soil to launch an attack of any sort against his country.

This has been a constant attitude and one which Mr. Touré cannot but acknowledge.

I have always been against violence of any sort and I am not about to modify this comportment.… I have always sworn … that I would never cause anyone’s blood to be shed.

This is perhaps a weakness, but I will not change my conduct. Therefore, let no one veil the truth and make us appear as the sworn enemies of the people of Guinea.

The Second Accusation

The second accusation, more serious than the first, is against us all.

Mr. Touré swears, with a nimbleness that borders on folly, that during my visit to Paris last June [1965] with my friends Maurice Yameogo and Diori Hamani, and in the presence of the former Prime Minister of Congo-Leopoldville, Mr. Tshombe, I drew up [in collusion with] two French Ministers a plan aimed at overthrowing the government in Guinea. [Sékou Touré says] that my accomplices were Mamadou Touré (so-called “Petit” Touré), a person whom he has always presented to me as his own cousin, François Kamano, the only friend of his I actually know in the Ivory Coast, and the French Ambassador to Guinea, someone whom I know not at all.

I must make certain things clear.

If, by chance, I had had the idea (and everyone here can affirm that it is an idea that never would have occurred to me) … of organizing a plot against Guinea, I don’t think that I would have been so naive as to confide the execution [of such a plot] to two persons whom I consider unsuited for such a mission, Petit Touré and François Kamano.

But Who is Petit Touré?

… a young man who lived in the Ivory Coast for a long time, it is true; a good man, whom Mr. Sékou Touré, I repeat, introduced as his own cousin at the time when he sought refuge and support from me. He [Sékou Touré] has perhaps forgotten.

This Touré [i.e. Petit Touré]—and Sékou Touré does not mention this—was expelled from the Ivory Coast along with his relatives because of his inimical comportment toward my country at the time of his country’s accession to independence.

I did not see him again until the official visit I made to Guinea in 1962. Never at any time did I have any contact with Petit Touré other than at our meeting in Conakry in 1962.

What Sékou Touré does not mention is that he made Petit Touré, his relative, the Number One [man in charge] of his commerce, a post which this person (who had not even obtained his primary-school certificate) never would have been entrusted with in the Ivory Coast.

And this is the man whom, if I were the cynic and criminal which Sékou Touré would make me out to be, I was supposed to have backed morally and materially to overthrow his regime !

I never sent this man [Petit Touré]—either by Kamano or by anyone else—one centime to overthrow Mr. Sékou Touré.

Who is François Kamano?

… an Ivoirien who accomplished serious studies, who was a personal friend of Sékou Touré, and to whom he had given a Guinean woman to be his wife…
… This university graduate served as assistant to the Director of the Social Security Department of the Ivory Coast. After giving proof of his ability he was naturally selected to replace the Frenchman who formerly headed that department.…
… Kamano was the only Ivoirien who, at the time that Sékou Touré hurled his first injuries against me, insistently asked me not to reply to the Guinean President. Kamano had ready access to Mr. Touré. Since his arrest I have learned from his poor wife that during each of his trips to Guinea, Kamano stayed at villas normally reserved for visiting heads of state, and that he had the use of official cars of the Guinean state.

And it is through this man that I am supposed to have put C.F.A. francs at the disposal of Petit Touré !

Ladies and gentlemen, do you think the Ivory Coast would have chosen someone so incredibly naive to preside over its destiny?

If Mr . Sékou Touré wishes to deny me the credit of having any intelligence, let him at least concede me common sense …

… Does he [Sékou Touré] think that French ministers have at their disposal, and at their pleasure, funds with which to buy the conscience [of others]; that a minister of General de Gaulle’s government can allow himself to promise tens of millions to someone in order to set into motion a policy which would not have been formulated and decided upon by the chief of government himself, General de Gaulle?

Mr. Sékou Touré’s accusation concerning a plot against his country, fomented by French ministers in accord with the French Ambassador in Guinea, is so naive and absurd that it is not even worth dwelling further on the point …

… Guinea is an independent country and a brother country. There is no reason for me to go to ministers of a foreign country to solicit funds to do it harm.

What is ridiculous and coarse is to think that France would have given me thirty million francs [$120,000] which I then presumably gave to Kamano to give in turn to Petit Touré in order to overthrow Mr. Sékou Touré…

… What is the sum of thirty million francs? … Too much or too little, depending on the use to which it is to be put.

It is too much if one means to squander it uselessly on a cause which is not worth the trouble … It is too little if its purpose is to overthrow a regime as authoritarian as that in Guinea. I do not know the value one attaches to money in Guinea. In any case, such a sum appears ridiculous to us to overthrow a government.

A Collusion Between Kwame Nkrumah and Sékou Touré

… I think in my soul and in my conscience that there is a collusion between Messrs. Sékou Touré and Kwame Nkrumah in an attempt to conceal from the peoples of their respective countries and from the entire world their resounding failures in the political, economic, and human domains.

We have made very precise charges against Kwame Nkrumah. The Lagos Conference of O.A.U. [Organization of African Unity] foreign ministers took note of these accusations. Mr. Nkrumah pledged himself to take steps to carry out the recommendations of the Conference in view of opening the way for us to participate in the O.A. U. heads of state conference at Accra 9. Nkrumah did not abide by those pledges. Yet we did nothing to boycott that meeting. We could have, because we knew that the quorum [at the Conference] was a sham. Yet we said nothing. We even agreed to go to Bamako to meet with Nkrumah, knowing all the time that we could not reach an understanding with him in view of the fact that Mr. Touré had told him just a few days before to disdain us … The men whom we denounced [at the Lagos Conference] and whom Nkrumah kept away during the [O.A. U. summit] Conference, are at this moment returning to Accra.

Ladies and gentlemen, do you not find it curious, do you not find it revealing, that it was at this same moment that Sékou Touré and his accomplice, Nkrumah, wished to create a diversion by accusing’ us of subversive actions ?

Mr. Touré then arrested his own friend, Kamano, who was [in Guinea at the time] visiting his parents-in-law, and his own cousin, Petit Touré, on the pretext that I was giving him [Petit Touré] moral and financial aid.

Meanwhile, Kwame Nkrumah alleged that Mr. Busia, the main opponent of his policies, had the moral and financial support of Ivoirian parliamentarians …

President Houphouët then posed the question which, by this time, was on the minds of his audience:

Was there, in fact, a plot? I do not like to enter into the internal affairs of other states. But in view of the insanity of the attacks made against us, I ask myself if such a plot really existed.

Houphouët then produced a copy of the letter which Petit Touré
had written to President Touré on October 9, 1965, telling of the formation of his new party to oppose the Parti Démocratique de Guinée (P.D.G.):

I have in my possession a document which contains the statutes of a new political party created by, or, rather, which was about to be created by the principal accused [Petit Touré]. With a rare courage, he asks Mr. Sékou Touré, in accordance with provisions in the Guinean Constitution and with promises he himself had made, to allow him [Petit Touré] to … create a different party from his own.

And it is affirmed to me that it is members of this party [the Parti de l’Unité Nationale de Guinée (P.U.N.G.)], which was openly created, who were considered to be conspirators. Conspirators such as these, I would be happy to have by the thousands in the Ivory Coast. Thus Guinean citizens are arrested because they proclaim their confidence in the provisions of the Constitution of their country and in President Sékou Touré himself …

Houphouët then drew a comparison between the internal situation
in the two countries:

Mr. Sékou Touré, let us speak seriously. In the Ivory Coast we have important preoccupations. The construction of a young country such as ours is not easy. Our country cannot be satisfied simply with political independence, an independence which is illusory in the absence of economic independence, which is absolutely indispensable.

We have made a series of wagers throughout our country. In the economic domain we wish rapidly to satisfy all of our clothing and food needs by growing produce ourselves with the use of mechanized equipment. We wish to increase the industrialization of the country and in ten years to reach universal education; to see the disappearance of slums; in brief, to assure the happiness of the Ivoirien people to as great a degree as possible. We will seek to co- operate actively and harmoniously with all African states and also with those non-African states which can aid us without interfering
in our internal affairs.

This is a wager which we can win, but only on condition that we are at peace with ourselves and with others. This is sufficient to dissuade us from all other distractions and from squandering our efforts and funds in the organizing of conspiracies.

No, Mr. Sékou Touré, the people of Guinea have need neither of our moral support nor of our financial support to cry out their discontent …

You are a brother—a bad brother, but a brother nonetheless. I ask you one question: In your soul and conscience, what really is this entirely verbal revolution about which you babble day in and day out, and which you pretend to bring to your country?

A revolution is valued only by its substance, not by its form. Since 1958, have Guineans been better fed, better housed, better treated for illness, better educated, and more free… I emphasize the word free, than they were before your pretended revolution?

Are they producing more bananas, coffee, and other commodities than they were before your pretended revolution?

It is in the answer to this question that you should seek the cause of the growing discontent throughout your country …
… Do not rely too much on the applause [of others]. History teaches us that he who is applauded today, thanks to a sham organization, can tomorrow be forgotten in a few hours, and even scorned by the same crowd …

… No, Mr. Sékou Touré, do not try to give us lessons in humanity, because you have on your conscience the deaths of scores and scores of Guineans …

… Since independence, how many have you had assassinated? Can you own up to this without lowering your head … ?

… Two hundred thousand Guineans live in the Ivory Coast, most of whom have come here since their country achieved its independence. Knowing that an adult male usually belongs to a family comprising at least five to ten persons, these people on Ivoirian soil thus represent from one to two million Guineans who have been cut off from their families.

Despite your police regime and your gendarmes, each day your citizens continue to cross the borders in order to go to Senegal, the Ivory Coast, or the Upper Volta. All of these men and women, young and old alike, complain of the situation which is their lot in Guinea. Students, syndicalists, functionaries, peasants— all desert their country …

In his closing remarks, the President of the Ivory Coast offered a bit of advice to Sékou Touré:

« … You have been an excellent syndicalist, and even a great spokesman capable of leading the masses. Now be a statesman, faithful to principle, of course, but flexible and realistic enough in searching for the means to achieve the goals to be attained …
… Resume your dialogue with Guinean students for, like it or not, they, along with the syndicalists and the peasants, are tomorrow’s leaders. Listen to them.
Search with them for the best means, within the framework of the party, to build up Guinea in confidence and harmony. Do this in the name of Africa. Each day Guineans leave, fleeing the misery and the dictatorship which is its sad corollary. This massive exodus risks jeopardizing the still fragile economies of neighboring brother countries. Keep these people in their own country with greater justice and more realism, with less hate and facile demagoguery. Mr. Sékou Touré, hate born of jealousy takes you astray …

… This is the advice of a man who suffers from your unjustified attacks because, in spite of everything, he remembers that you were at his side in the great struggle for emancipation. With your intransigent nationalism, tempered by a bit of humanism, you can still serve the cause of African unity.
As for me, irrespective of what may happen, I am not, and never shall be, an enemy of the Guinean people 10 …  »

Once Sékou Touré had accused Houphouët, the other Entente leaders, and the French of conspiring against him, and they had answered in turn, relations steadily worsened between Guinea and its French-speaking neighbors. Words full of sound and fury, signifying a great deal, flew across West Africa like a barrage of poisoned arrows. The press and the radio in both Guinea and the Ivory Coast engaged in an exchange of vituperation designed to reach the citizenry of the other side and incite them to rise up against their leaders.

In Guinea, the hapless François Kamano “confessed” over Radio Conakry that he had done what Sékou Touré said he had done—namely, that he had acted as the principal liaison agent between President Houphouët and Petit Touré. Meanwhile, in the Ivory Coast, Philippe Yacé, President of the Ivoirien National Assembly, protested that Kamano’s “confession” was the result of his having been tortured by Touré’s police.

Sékou Touré’s renewed attacks against Houphouët were prompted by various factors. In their broadest sense, they were the beginning of a new counteroffensive by the so-called “revolutionary” bloc in Africa to regain the ground it had lost in recent months to the moderate states, whose strongest leader was unquestionably Houphouët.

But there were also more immediate causes. Touré was still smarting under the humiliating tongue-lashing he had received from President Yaméogo of the Upper Volta in June 1965. Then, conditions within Guinea itself continued to worsen. The reforms of November 8, 1964, were not working as he had hoped. Guineans were continuing to flee by the thousands, and Touré was able to do little to stop them. The growing number of exiles in the countries bordering Guinea—Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, and Liberia—was a source of constant worry to him.

It is possible, and indeed quite likely, that one of the things that prompted Touré to strike out anew against Houphouët was the hope of provoking the Ivoirian people to retaliate by venting their anger on the Guinean exiles living in the Ivory Coast. No doubt Touré recalled that just such a serious outbreak against an alien ethnic group had occurred in the Ivory Coast in 1958, and he was probably banking on the hope that it would occur again.

Houphouët told the Ivoirian people that Touré’s aims in attacking
him were threefold:

  • to discredit him personally
  • to tarnish the Ivory Coast’s reputation internationallya
  • to provoke the Ivoirian people into reacting violently against the Guineans who had fled Touré’s regime, in order that these people would be forced to return to Guinea.

Houphouet made it clear, however, that these aims would not be realized:

« It is not with insults and lying accusations that Sékou Touré will put an end to the frantic flight of thousands of his countrymen to the Ivory Coast, Senegal, and the Upper Volta, or convince the hundreds of intellectuals, scientists, and technicians, which Guinea needs so badly for its development, that they should return home. 11 »

If these were, in fact, Touré’s aims in assailing Houphouët, the
Ivoirians did not rise to the bait. Steps were promptly taken to thwart them, and almost immediately after Touré’s accusations against Houphouët had become known, Philippe Yacé cautioned his countrymen against taking out their indignation on their Guinean brothers who had fled Touré’s police regime. The Ivoirian people responded to this appeal, and instead of turning against the Guinean exiles they accepted them as allies in their struggle against Sékou Touré—the man who was now their common enemy. This favorable response was due in great part to the unequivocal support which spokesmen for the Guinean community in the Ivory Coast were quick to give to Houphouët in his controversy with Touré.

The exiles, for their part, were enraged at Touré for attempting to provoke the Ivoirians to turn against them. Their rage fired them with a new will and determination to fight Touré until he and his
entourage were overthrown and their country was once again free.
They seemed to have become aware — almost as if for the first time of the strength they had in their sheer numbers. Reading the political weather signals that were flashing across West Africa—the wave of army coups against unpopular regimes—they saw that ominous-looking clouds were unmistakably beginning to gather on the horizon. The impending storm could not be far off.

1.  See  Victor D. DuBois, The Rise of An Opposition to Sékou Touré, Part III: The Plot Against the Government and the Accusations Against the Council of the Entente and France (VDB-3-’66), American Universities
Field Staff Reports, West Africa Series, Volume IX, No. 3, March 1966.

2. The most notable of these occasions was on June 18, 1965, when Yaméogo delivered a scathing rebuttal to Touré in reply to the latter’s criticism of the Organisation Commune Africaine et Malgache (O.C.A.M.). See Victor D. DuBois, The Search for Unity in French-Speaking Black Africa, “Part IV: Relations Betwee the “Moderate” and the “Revolutionary” States: The Case of Guinea” (VDB-6-’65), American Universities Field Staff Reports, West Africa Series, Volume VIII, No. 6, August 1965. 
3. Fraternité-Matin (Abidjan), November 17, 1965. 
4. Fraternité-Matin (Abidjan), November 19, 1965. 
5. Ibid. 
6. Fraternité-Matin (Abidjan), November 21, 1965.
7. Fraternité-Matin, loc. cit.
8. O.A.S. (Organisation de l’Armée Secrète), a group of French settlers in Algeria and rebellious French military who fought the revolution in 1961-62 through terrorist campaigns in Algeria and France.
9. Nkrumah agreed to expel from his country exiles from neighboring countries who were using Ghana as a base from which to launch subversive activities against their home governments.
10. Author’s translation; for the complete text, see Fraternité-Matin (Abidjan), November 18, 1965.
11. Le Monde (Paris), November 27, 1965.

Next, Part V: The Formation of a Common Front Against Guinea by the Ivory Coast and Ghana

Ivory Coast-Ghana Common Front Against Guinea

Victor D. Du Bois
The Rise of an Opposition to Sékou Touré
“Part V: The Formation of a Common Front Against
Guinea by the Ivory Coast and Ghana”
American Universities Field Staff Reports. West Africa Series
Vol. IX No. 5, (Guinea), April 1966, pp.1-14

Victor David Du Bois (1932-1983)
Victor David Du Bois (1932-1983)

The political storm which broke in a fury over West Africa during the first two months of 1966 sent reverberations across the length and breadth of the continent. On January 1, 1966, President David Dacko of the Central African Republic was ousted from power in a military coup d’état; and the powers of the presidency were taken over by Colonel Jean Bedel Bokassa, the commander of the nation’s armed forces. Then, two days later, on January 3, Sékou Touré‘s bitter enemy, Maurice Yaméogo, President of the Upper Volta [Burkina Faso], was forced to resign from office as a result of labor unrest that rocked his capital city of Ouagadougou following his decision to reduce the salaries of all civil servants by 20 per cent in order to help balance the budget. Lieut. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana, commander of the army, took over the government.

When news of these army coups in the Central African Republic
and the Upper Volta reached Guinea, President Sékou Touré and other militants of his ruling Parti Démocratique de Guinée (P.D.G.) could hardly contain themselves. Radio Conakry exulted:

« The events which have just taken place in the Central African Republic and the Upper Volta are a striking illustration of Africa’s will to decolonialize.
A great enemy of Africa [Maurice Yaméogo] has just paid the price of his treason to the higher interests of his people and his country. Yaméogo has been removed from office. So have the valiant Voltaic people decided 1. »

Scarcely two weeks after Yaméogo’ s downfall, another and far more furious tempest roared down on West Africa. On January 16, elements of the Nigerian Army mutinied against their government, spreading violence and death in the country’s Northern and Western Regions. A number of Nigeria’s highest officials, including Federal Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, and Chief Samuel Akintola, Prime Minister of the Western Region, were massacred.

The world of President Felix Houphouët-Boigny of the Ivory Coast—the world of l’Afrique modérée et réaliste as he was fond of calling it—which just a short time before had seemed so secure, so promising, suddenly appeared to be collapsing. Within the brief period of two weeks, three African heads of state with whom he was on excellent terms had been removed from power. The Organisation Commune Africaine et Malgache (O.C.A.M.), which Houphouët and other moderate leaders of French-speaking Africa had founded just a year before to check the aggressiveness of the so-called “revolutionary” states (Guinea, Mali, Ghana, Tanzania, and the United Arab Republic, i.e. Egypt) had already been weakened by the military coups that had occurred a short time before in Congo Léopoldville and in Dahomey. Now the O.C.A.M. was further shaken by the events that had taken place in the Central African Republic and in the Upper Volta.

President Houphouët himself was for a brief time menaced by internal unrest. His people became anxious and restive when they saw that he was about to implement his proposed plans to establish a dual nationality between the Ivory Coast and the other states of the Council of the Entente (Dahomey, Niger, and the Upper Volta) and also with Togo. Fearing that their country would once again be flooded with émigré Dahomeans and Togolese who would take away jobs which they felt should belong to them, Ivoiriens openly voiced their hostility toward the impending measure. For a tense day or two it even looked as if they might take to the streets.

Houphouët managed to extricate himself from this difficult situation, but only at the price of backing down and shelving the dual-nationality project. This, in turn, brought down upon him the wrath of the Dahomeans and Togolese, who saw themselves the victims of the Ivoiriens’ discontent.

The gales of unrest that swept West Africa in the early part of 1966 were not confined to the moderate states. On February 24, 1966, Africa and the world awakened to the startling news that President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana had been ousted from office in a coup d’etat executed by military and police officers. Nkrumah, who was in Peking at the time, tried hard not to show his utter disbelief at what had happened; but it was soon clear to him, to the Chinese, and to the rest of the world that this was an event of signal importance whose repercussions would be felt across Africa.

The Reconciliation Between Ghana and the Ivory Coast

One of the first acts of the new military regime which came into power in Ghana was to heal the breach that had developed under Nkrumah’s regime between Ghana and its French-speaking neighbors. Lieut. Gen. Joseph Ankrah, Ghana’s new ruler, promptly sent good-will missions to the Ivory Coast, Togo, and the Upper Volta.
The mission to the Ivory Coast was headed by William Bedford
Vanlare, a former justice of Ghana’s Supreme Court, and when it arrived in Abidjan, it was accorded an exceptionally cordial welcome by Houphouët and other Ivoirien leaders. Mr. Vanlare brought with him assurances from General Ankrah that the new government would no longer allow Ghana to be used as a base for subversion against fellow African states. As a token of General Ankrah’s good faith, Vanlare produced the leaders of the so-called Sanwi Group, an outlawed separatist movement from the western Ivory Coast. The Sanwi leaders had been granted refuge and support by Nkrumah, but after the coup, they were apprehended by Ghanaian military authorities. With Kwame Nkrumah no longer in power, and a new friendly government in his place, there was no longer any obstacle to a reconciliation with Ghana. With amazing speed, the two countries forgot their past quarrels and pledged themselves to follow a new policy of friendship and co-operation.

The Reaction to Nkrumah’s Downfall in Guinea

Nowhere was Nkrumah’s downfall taken so hard as it was in Guinea. Guinea’s leaders, and especially Sékou Touré, were stunned. They could not believe that the Ghanaian people would willfully sanction the overthrow of a man whom they and millions of other Africans had come to regard as a sort of super-hero— someone whom they had believed to be virtually invincible.

The world press and radio were full of stories reporting the joy with which Nkrumah’s ouster was being celebrated throughout Ghana. “The dictator is gone! The dictator is gone!” shouted Ghanaians as they danced in the streets of Accra. None of these stories appeared in the Guinean press, nor were they heard over the Guinean radio. Sékou Touré could not believe that the elation which surged over Ghana was genuine. It was the result of machinations by “imperialist, colonialist, and neocolonialist forces,” he reasoned, and nothing could shake him from this stubborn conviction.

More serious than Touré’s refusal to accept the genuineness of the Ghanaians’ repudiation of Nkrumah, was his determination to oppose it. Touré invited the “Osagyefo” to come to Guinea. When Nkrumah accepted the invitation and arrived in Conakry some days later, Touré emotionally proclaimed that he was resigning the presidency of Guinea in order to turn the office over to Nkrumah. Guineans heard Sékou Touré’s announcement in utter consternation. One can easily imagine them asking themselves, “Can it be true? Is he really going to give up power?”

They soon had their answer. Only a few hours after President Touré had made his startling announcement, spokesmen representing him hastened to add that the President hadn’t exactly meant what he had just said: that is, he wasn’t really resigning from office. He merely meant that henceforward Kwame Nkrumah would be considered, alongside himself, to be “Co-President” of Guinea. The fact that the nation’s constitution had no provision for such a peculiar office, nor gave the incumbent President the authority to create it, mattered little to Sékou Touré. Nkrumah, he said, would be qualified “to speak for Guinea” at all international conferences.

The “Co-Presidents” of Guinea, Kwame Nkrumah and Sékou Touré, Conakry, Feb. 1966. Photo: Information Côte d'Ivoire
The “Co-Presidents” of Guinea, Kwame Nkrumah and Sékou Touré, Conakry, Feb. 1966. Photo: Information Côte d’Ivoire

Sékou Touré took this unprecedented step entirely on impulse and without the slightest pretense of either weighing its legality or consulting his people beforehand to sound out their feelings about such a move. An announcement over Radio Conakry on March 4, 1966, justified Touré’s decision in the following words:

« President Nkrumah is more than a Guinean: he is an African, and that is why he is at home in Guinea. That is why he is assuming today, in the name of the revolutionary people of our country, the highest functions of the party and of the state. »

Without the slightest sign of embarrassment, the broadcast concluded:

« This decision, taken by the people of Guinea, is the expression of their absolute confidence in the victorious outcome of the struggle of the people of Ghana 2. »

Meanwhile, in Addis Ababa, Guinea’s roving ambassador, Mr. Abdoulaye Diallo, blandly announced to the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.) that “President Touré has done this not for the sake of Nkrumah personally, but for the sake of the people of Ghana. 3” Mr. Diallo insisted that Guinea would not attend further meeings of the O.A.U. so long as representatives of the new Ghanaian regime were recognized: “We do not want to sit next to representatives of imperialism,” he said 4. With unabashed effrontery, Diallo declared that, having received a mandate from Nkrumah, he considered himself the legal representative not only of Guinea, but also of Ghana!

Photo-op of President Mao Zedong with visiting officials from Mali and Guinea. Roving Ambassador Abdoulaye “Ghana” Diallo and Minister <strong><a href="">Mamadou Sow</a></strong>, both from Guinea, stand to the left of the Chinese leader. Beijing circa 1961. (Source: Mamadou Sow Daara family)
Photo-op of President Mao Zedong with visiting officials from Mali and Guinea. Roving Ambassador Abdoulaye “Ghana” Diallo and Minister Mamadou Sow, both from Guinea, stand to the left of the Chinese leader. Beijing circa 1961. (Source: Mamadou Sow Daara family)

Touré’s Threat to Invade the Ivory Coast and Ghana

Touré pushed his position to absurd lengths by declaring two days later, on March 6,1966, that he would raise an army of 300,000 and send it to Ghana “to liberate the Ghanaian people from the dictatorship of the military traitors 5.” Touré based his right to intervene in Ghana on the claim that a pact of union had been signed between Guinea and Ghana back in 1960. The facts that the Ghana-Guinea Union (which later was expanded to include Mali) had remained a dead letter almost since the day of its inception, that its provisions had never been implemented, and that Ghana’s
new rulers not only denounced the juridical validity of the pact but formally disengaged their country from it, made no difference to Sékou Touré. Fanatically, self-righteously, he continued to cling to the thesis that the two countries were one and the same:

« You may be certain that in the military convoys that go to aid the Ghanaian people there will be women at the side of the men, because in going to do battle in Ghana, we will be fighting on our own soil 6. »

Touré’s claim that he could raise an army of 300,000 was so unrealistic, so far-fetched, so utterly and patently ridiculous, that it taxed the credulity of even his most devoted followers . The Guinean army, at its maximum, numbered less than 8,000. The army was not particularly well trained or equipped, and, if anything, it enjoyed a poor reputation as the result of its one near-combat experience 7. Even for this small force, however, Touré would be hard put to provide adequate logistic support for any sort of offensive operation. But above all—and this Touré did not stress to his people—was the fact that between Guinea and Ghana lay more than 300 miles of Ivoirien territory. Nor did Touré tell his followers that, even if he could as semble such an army, it would be necessary either to obtain permission from President Houphouët to allow the army to cross the Ivory Coast to reach Ghana or, in the event such permission was denied, to force its way across the Ivory Coast through an aroused and hostile population.

On March 7, 1966, the two “Co-Presidents” of Guinea boarded a plane for Bamako to enlist the aid of their “brother revolutionary,” Mali’s President Modibo Keita. The trip to Bamako was shrouded in secrecy, and no prior mention of it was made in either country. On their arrival in Bamako, Touré and Nkrumah were met by President Keita who promptly whisked them off to his palace on Kolouba Hill. What happened during this meeting was not divulged. No communique was issued to the press, and Touré and Nkrumah returned to Conakry the same day. It is likely, however, that the major topic discussed was how far Modibo Keita would be willing to go in supporting Nkrumah’s return to power.

Presidents Kwame Nkrumah, Modibo Keita and Sékou Touré: founders of l'Union des Etats Africains (Ghana-Guinée-Mali). Conakry, December 24, 1960
Presidents Kwame Nkrumah, Modibo Keita and Sékou Touré: founders of l’Union des Etats Africains (Ghana-Guinée-Mali). Conakry, December 24, 1960

That Keita was at least willing to give verbal support to such a cause was shown three days later, on March 10, when his foreign minister, Ousmane Ba, during a visit to Paris, declared that the Malian government would continue to give Kwame Nkrumah its total and unreserved support. He said:

« We are not ready to swap a man of Mr. Nkrumah’s value—a man whom even those who have little sympathy for him regard as a giant in African revolutionary thinking—for a so-called committee of liberation which is the issue of a facile action 8.

Houphouët’ s Reply to Touré’ s Threat

The war of words between Guinea, the Ivory Coast, and Ghana increased in intensity during the early part of March 1966, following Touré’s threat to attack Ghana. Both Abidjan and Accra were alive with speculation as to what would come of Touré’s threats. Although Houphouët openly expressed his doubts that Touré would carry them out, he nevertheless took all necessary precautions. Ivoirien military posts on the Guinean frontier were reinforced, and the several hundred French troops still stationed in the Ivory Coast were kept on alert. An agreement was reached with Ghana to co-ordinate the military action of the two countries in the event that either was attacked by Guinea. Houphouët in order to show Modibo Keita that he was angry with him for having given even verbal support to Nkrumah, quietly closed the border between his own country and Mali. It was a gesture calculated to remind Keita that Mali was heavily dependent on the Ivory Coast for use of its port facilities and the transit of its imports and exports.

On March 16, 1966, President Houphouët called a meeting at the
National Assembly of the nation’s civil and military leaders. At this
meeting, Houphouët openly expressed his concern that Touré was no longer sane. “We have grounds for believing,” he said, “that reason no longer inhabits Mr. Sékou Touré. Because of this fact, Mr. Touré has become dangerous not only to himself but to the martyred people of Guinea 9.” Houphouët warned Touré against proceeding with his plans to arm his people:

« When one arms an oppressed people against a pretended enemy from the outside, the people who up until then were resigned, will seize the opportune moment to overthrow the abhorred regime and punish the tyrants. Mr. Touré, more than anyone else , knows how unhappy his people are. Let him therefore arm them against Ghana and the Ivory Coast. But out of charity we say to him that he is
courting certain suicide 10. »

Houphouët scathingly denounced Touré’s reason for wishing to
start a war:

« Mr. Sékou Touré wishes to go to war with his friend Kwame Nkrumah against the new rulers of Ghana on the false pretext that the “Osagyefo,” the “saviour,” the “redeemer,” the “divine,” was overthrown only because he was away from his country … 11 »

President Houphouët then warned both Touré and his people that
they would do well to think twice before making a miscalculation that could lead to tragedy:

«… Mr. Sékou Touré and the Guinean people, who are running the risk of letting themselves be led into a fatal adventure, must realize that we Ivoiriens, although we love peace, are not pacifists ready to accept dishonor. Our dignity commands us to oppose with every means at our disposal the passage of the Guinean hordes across our country… 12 »

To drive home to Touré the point that he would be letting himself in for very serious trouble if his troops should attempt such an invasion, Houphouët stressed that the Ivory Coast was linked not only to the other Entente states but also to France by common defense agreements. And he made it unequivocally clear that he would not hesitate to invoke these agreements in the event of a Guinean attack. Houphouët also put Touré on notice that any aggression by Guinean forces would most assuredly be repelled by the Ivory Coast’s army, and that when this army counterattacked it would not stop at the Guinean frontier but carry the fight all
the way down to Conakry.

When Houphouët had finished speaking, the Prefects of the Ivory Coast’s principal regions took to the floor to reaffirm their support for the chief of state. They were followed by Colonel Thomas d’Acquin Quattara, the commander of the Ivoirien army, who expressed to Houphouët the readiness—indeed, the eagerness—of his troops to meet Touré’s forces on the field of battle. Spokesmen for the nation’s labor unions expressed their support as well. Finally, a leader of the Guinean community in the Ivory Coast assured Houphouët that in the event an armed conflict between the two nations should come about, he could count on the Guinean exiles in the Ivory Coast to take up arms alongside their Ivoirien

The first reactions from Guinea to Houphouët’s speech were predictable enough, and they were not long in coming. That very same evening, on March 16, 1966, Radio Conakry delivered another violent diatribe against the President of the Ivory Coast, claiming that at that very moment, French troops were landing in his country:

« New troops of the French colonial reconquest are disembarking steadily in the Ivory Coast. The last contingent to land numbered more than five thousand men …
… For several days now, the traitor Houphouët-Boigny has been massing Ivoirien troops all along the Guinean frontier. These troops are, of course, commanded by French officers 13. »

Touré was convinced that French intelligence agents were out to get him. This belief was reinforced by the visit to Abidjan on March 9 and 10, 1966 of Jacques Foccart, the French Minister of African Affairs and reputed boss of the Deuxième Bureau, France’s C.I.A. Although the official explanation for Foccart’s visit was to render Houphouët a visite d’amitié, the feeling was strong in some quarters in Abidjan that the real reason was to have a first-hand look for De Gaulle, to see how serious the conflict between the Ivory Coast and Guinea actually was, and to assure Houphouët of French support in the event that Touré should launch an offensive against his country. There were also some persons who insisted that Foccart and, through him, French intelligence actually were involved in the abortive plot against Sékou Touré which was to have taken place in October 1965. This view was shared by some quarters in France itself 14.

Commenting on Foccart’s visit to Abidjan, Radio Conakry charged
that the French Minister had come “to study at first hand, ways of initiating new actions against African revolution and liberty 15.”  It described Foccart as “the principal co-ordinator of the French intelligence services for subversive activities in Africa 16.”  Sékou Touré charged further that the French had drawn up a secret plan, the main provisions of which were to see to it that the present Guinean government was overthrown and that he himself was assassinated before October 16, 1966 17.

Tensions continued to rise during March 1966 following this exchange of charges. In both countries feelings ran high, and many people thought that a clash of some sort between the armed forces of the two nations was imminent. Although Houphouët had pointed out in his speech of March 16 that Touré had neither ships, planes, nor trucks enough with which to transport this “army of 300,000” to the border, it was also known that just a few days before (on March 12, 1966) the U.S.S.R. [Soviet Union] had made Guinea a gift of two AN-24 transport planes. The planes were medium-range turboprops capable of carrying fifty passengers (or fifty soldiers, as the case may be) at a speed of 500 kilometers an hour. These transport planes, in themselves, of course, were scarcely sufficient to carry out Touré’s threats of launching an all-out invasion of the Ivory Coast or Ghana. Nevertheless, the presence of the new planes in Conakry—added to the twenty planes which Guinea reportedly already possessed—gave rise to some uneasiness in Abidjan. Many Ivoiriens felt that Touré’s megalomania at this point was such that he might do anything, from dropping paratroopers in some remote part of the country in order to sabotage vital installations to attempting an air raid on Abidjan or Accra. The disquiet in Abidjan was heightened by the fact that the U.S.S.R.’s choice of this particular moment to make such a gift was interpreted in some circles as a hint that the Soviets might be preparing to back a more ambitious venture by Touré and Nkrumah, thereby opening the way to a confrontation of the major powers in West Africa.

By March 18, when nothing had yet happened, this initial uneasiness began to give way to cockiness on the Ivoiriens’ part. The National Political Bureau of the P.D.C.I. (Parti Démocratique de la Cote d’Ivoire) issued a communique which spared no words in denouncing Touré’ s empty threats:

« Mr. Brawler [Sékou Touré], the Ivoirien people, always attentive, were at the appointed place to keep the rendez-vous which you made. It did not find you there. It appears that you were detained. The Political Bureau of the P.D.C.I.-R.D.A. now knows that you are very prodigious in words but not in deeds. If, however, the idea should occur to you to train the brother and martyred people of Guinea to follow you in your insane plan, then take care that the armistice or the peace does not get signed on the other side of the border of the Ivory Coast [i.e., in Guinea]… 18

Radio Conakry replied that evening with another attack on Houphouët:

« Houphouët-Boigny, unworthy chief of state of the Ivory Coast, through a vast operation of calumny, is carrying out in Abidjan a new anti-African mission entrusted to him by French imperialism … It is to turn away the attention of the African people, and especially of the Guinean people, from the monstrous crimes of international imperialism. Houphouët is giving his French masters a new opportunity to intervene openly against the indominatable Guinean Revolution 19. »

Seeing that his bluff had been called and that neither the Ivoiriens
nor the Ghanaians showed the least sign of panic over his threats, Touré was forced to back down. At first, he sought a dignified way out by denying that Guinea had ever threatened to attack at all. On March 21, 1966, Radio Conakry in an abrupt change of tone announced:

« President Sékou Touré never had the intention of attacking the brother people of Ghana. The military measures that were taken were only destined to confront a probable aggression from imperialism 20. »

To salvage some shred of self-respect from Touré’s former position
the announcer direly warned that “the Guinean people are in a state of general mobilization to lend their support to the valiant people of Ghana and their glorious President Kwame Nkrumah so that the new regime in Ghana may be overthrown 21. »

Such explanations fooled nobody. Touré’s extravagant but empty threats, and his clumsy later attempts to deny them, made him the laughingstock of the world. Gleefully calling attention to the difference between what Touré said he would do, and what he actually did, Abidjan’s newspaper, Fraternité-Matin, entitled a lead article in one of its editions, “When the Pot Boils for Nothing.” 22

Having been warned in advance by nearly everyone (including Houphouët and General Ankrah) that he would be a fool to issue such a challenge, Touré nevertheless went ahead and boldly flung it down. Some days later, after he had already made the threat to send an army to reimpose Nkrumah, President Tubman of Liberia offered Touré a face-saving way to retreat by inviting him to come to Monrovia to discuss matters. Tubman went so far as to assure Touré that Nkrumah would also be welcome at the talks, even though Liberia had already recognized Ghana’s new military regime. However, Touré scornfully turned down the invitation. Four days later, on March 25, 1966, Radio Conakry claimed that Nkrumah’s commandos (“fighters for liberty”) were in Ghana and had already succeeded in carrying out sabotage operations against the new regime 23. The announcer made no mention of where or when the alleged operations had occurred, and neither the Ghanaian nor the foreign press reported any such incidents as having taken place.

As the new regime in Ghana consolidated its position and it became increasingly clear that Nkrumah’s chances of regaining power were dim, Touré reacted with unrestrained fury. In one of the most reckless statements of his career, Sékou Touré invited his countrymen to be prepared to massacre the whites living in Guinea in the event an attempt should be made against his government:

« If a coup d’état should occur in [Guinea] against the will of the people, they should immediately defend themselves. Without waiting, they should eliminate all of the agents of imperialism. If such a coup d’état were to occur, take your machetes and your knives at once and cut the throats of all the imperialist agents in the hotels, in houses, wherever they may be found. 24 »

Perhaps suddenly realizing the incredible irresponsibility of the remarks he had just made, and the fear and protest to which in all likelihood they would give rise among the resident European and diplomatic communities in Guinea, Touré added as an afterthought:

« Not all of the whites are necessarily imperialists. There are some who are even more revolutionary than the blacks. 25 »

During the remainder of March and all through April 1966, tension
continued to mount between the Ivory Coast and Guinea. Both countries now had troops along the border, and each had sought support from the outside world. On the side of the Ivory Coast were France, the other states of the Entente, and—now that Nkrumah was gone— also Ghana. Guinea tried to rally the “revolutionary” states of Africa to its crusade of restoring Nkrumah, but its efforts were in vain. More and more, Guinea was isolated.

Sékou Touré had crawled out on a limb and did not know how to
get back. When at least he began to realize how untenable his position really was, it was a lready too late. He had gone too far. This time he had antagonized the French, Houphouët, and other African leaders so much that probably nothing less than his own downfall would satisfy them. His backing of Nkrumah and his ranting and raving about launching an invasion of the Ivory Coast and Ghana had led these two former enemies to forget their differences and form a common front against Touré and Nkrumah, the two men who were now unquestionably their worst enemies.

Nkrumah’ s overthrow had removed the man who had been the Entente’s bitterest foe. In his place now stood Sékou Touré . Although none of the Entente chiefs of state or the French said so publicly, it was plain that the only way Sékou Touré could be dealt with effectively was to lay the basis for removing him from power by one means or another. But how was this to be accomplished? And by whom? To be effective, Touré’s removal would have to be carried out by Guineans themselves. In posing the question, the answer also became clear. The time had come to activate the tens of thousands of Guineans living in exile.

1.  Afrique Nouvelle (Dakar), No. 962, January 13-19, 1966.
2. Le Monde (Paris), March 6, 1966.
3. New York Herald Tribune (Paris edition). March 4, 1966.
4.  Agence France Presse dispatch from Addis Ababa, March 4, 1966.
5.  Le Monde (Paris), March 12, 1966.
6. Ibid.
7. Major General E. K. Kotoka of the Ghanaian army, who commanded a United Nations contingent of African soldiers sent to the Congo in 1960, said of the Guinean troops who were in Léopoldville: “They were not even capable of assuring the protection of their own embassy.” Jeune Afrique, April 3, 1966.
8. Le Monde (Paris), March 12, 1966.
9. Fraternité-Matin (Abidjan), March 17, 1966.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.
13. Le Monde (Paris), March 18, 1966.
14. The most vocal proponent of this view was the French journalist, Claude Bourdet. In reference to French involvement in the alleged plot against Sékou Touré, Bourdet wrote in Le Monde: “Like many other people in France and, no doubt, in Africa, I didn’t take seriously… the accusations made by the Guinean Chief of State … but on my return to France a friend of mine, a high functionary in whom I have the most complete confidence, certified to me that one of the heads of the French secret service in Africa, to his stupefaction, vaunted in front of him the organization of this plot and described it to him in detail, citing the number of agents sent to Africa for this purpose. The appropriate French ministers and, in particular the Quai d’Orsay, were certainly aware of this curious initiative on the part of our remarkable secret services.” Quoted from Le Monde (Paris), March 13, 1966.
15. Reuters dispatch from Abidjan, March 12 , 1966
16. Ibid.
17. Le Monde (Paris), March 29, 1966.
18. Fraternité-Matin (Abidjan), March 18, 1966.
19. Le Monde (Paris), March 20, 1966 .
20. Le Monde (Paris), March 23, 1966.
21. Ibid.
22. Fraternité-Matin (Abidjan), March 25, 1966 .
23. UPI dispatch from Abidjan, March 26, 1966.
24. Le Monde (Paris), March 29, 1966 .
25. Ibid.

Next, Part VI: The Activation of the Guinea Exiles: The Front de Libération Nationale de Guinée (F.L.N.G.)