Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine


The Sekou Toure Bubble Bursts!

The charade was played out right to the end. Ahmed Sekou Touré the revolutionary founder of the nation was seen off in grand style. They swore loyalty to his immortal ideas.

They waited until the last of their exalted guests had departed after heaping embarrassingly fulsome praise on their departed leader; they must have been wondering whether their visitors were talking about the same person that they had known and managed to exist with for 20 years. Suddenly there was no need for the elaborate lie to be maintained. The voice of the Revolution became Radio Conakry, as simple as that.

The surprising thing in the events unfolding in Guinea is not the military take-over but the ease with which the elaborate Sekou Touré structure had crashed without the slightest whimper.

For years, "the people" were supposed to have so identified themselves with the "revolution" that they were ready to defend it to the last man. The People's Militia was supposed to have been so properly organised that reactionary elements had no chance of "subverting the revolution", cadres could be counted upon to come out in their thousands to demonstrate their support and scream threats to "self-exiled dissidents who were in the pay of imperialists and write for Jeune Afrique. The slogan-chanting cadres all seem to have lost their fervour and in spite of years of protestations, the works and ideas of Sekou Toure appear to have been buried with him.

The lesson is quite clear: terror and repression do seem to bring out loyalty from the people but such loyalty is only skin deep and a reign of terror does not become a revolution simply because people shout themselves hoarse with "REVOLUTION".

But there is a real danger that if the newly established 18-man military Committee of Reconstruction does not keep a level head, the baby will be thrown out with the bath water.

The people of Guinea have never known a free democratic society and thus there strictly has never existed any such thing as the committee is proposing to restore, it will have to be built up and nurtured. Just as wealth is more difficult to manage than poverty, freedom is infinitely more difficult to manage than slavery/repression.

If, indeed, the soldiers keep to their word of allowing freedom and democratic institutions to flourish in the country, they will soon discover that people will want to test that promise, they will want to challenge official pronouncements and they will want to enjoy the unaccustomed atmosphere.

The many political prisoners that are being released and the even many more Guinean exiles who would be trooping back into the country will all be wanting to be given special privileges and there will be a profusion of claimants to the title of "opponents to the dictatator Sekou Touré". The heady atmosphere will lead some those who have genuinely suffered and some opportunists and turncoats to urge persecution of the until-recently-persecutors.

Some people will want all traces of Sekou Touré to be wiped off from Guinea but that is where all the Guinea people will have to be careful. Sekou Touré was a reality he had his undoubted place in the history of Guinea and Africa even if that was exaggerated out of all proportion but any attempt to pretend or decree out of existence the man who led the country for 26 years will be as naive and shown eventually to be as hollow as the "revolution" that Sekou Touré himself claimed to have started and nurtured into adulthood.

Thus far, the noises that are coming out of Conakry seem to suggest that the soldiers are aware of this fact and will give their late President his place and not fall into the mistake that Ghana fell into in 1966 when another clay-footed giant of African politics was destooled from his pedestal and the good was thrown out with the evil in the coup against Kwame Nkrumah. Ghana has never recovered from that.

It will remain now a matter for historians to speculate over about whether Sekou Touré's political aides could ever have managed to make the needed reforms let alone ease the grip of their departed leader on the country. Many of such people obviously would have no credibility with the people having been part of the machinery that helped to keep Sekou Touré in power for so long and having been tainted themselves with the blood of the thousands that died in the jails.

Doubless, many such people are going to claim that they in fact played no significant roles or were powerless to influence their satanic leader, but it will be a measure of how seriously one should take the promise to "restore democratic institutions" if Guinea's leaders of yesterday are not treated by Sekou Touré's methods.

The exiles who lived miserably for years and in fear of their lives and the political prisoners breathing the air of freedom will not readily see the wisdom of treating their former tormentors according to the law, but if they succumb to the temptation of exacting their vengeance they would only destroy the principles for which they had suffered and possibly replace themselves with another group of Guinean exiles and political prisoners

The long-suffering people of Guinea deserve a break and there will never come a better opportunity than this. Dismantling the fairy-tale Sekou Touré empire might very well prove to be the easiest part of the task that faces Guinea today. Unlearning the ways of 26 years is sure to prove an awesome task and since it took the military to burst the balloon, the Guinean people might discover that when soldiers play the role of saviours/redeemers they tend to not only enjoy their new-found status, they exact payment from the country.

talking drums 1984-04-09 The military - servants or masters Guinea's post Sekou Toure coup