Ahmed Sékou Touré

Transforming Paradigms, Integrated Histories of Guinea

by Saidou Mohamed N’Daou (Author)
©2021 Monographs XXII, 322 Pages


This book is different from existing works on Ahmed Sékou Touré and the Guinean Democratic Party (PDG) and their struggle for national independence. Its uniqueness stems from the fact that all the chapters focus on the Guinean traditions of struggle over memories between the elites and the subordinates, highlighting the independent initiatives of the latter. Other books on Ahmed Sékou Touré are primarily based on their writers’ political or social history perspectives. This is the first study that equally integrates political and social history to address the theoretical and methodological issues of identity and construction of identity as necessary for understanding the roles of the elites and the subordinates in their struggles for access to power and resources in colonial and postcolonial Guinea. In this book, Saidou Mohamed N’Daou provides equal space for the initiatives and interests of the elites and the subordinates. Ahmed Sékou Touré used the ideology of the PDG as a mirror reflection of the social changes that he and his party intended to create. N’Daou argues that one must displace the ideology of the PDG from the center to understand Ahmed Sékou Touré's personality, his role in Guinea’s independence and his leadership of the PDG as well as expand the analytical space to allow other voices to be heard. N’Daou reaches this goal by discovering Ahmed Sékou Touré’s first order of knowledge, another unique feature of this book.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Advance Praise
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Acknowledgments
  • General Introduction
  • Part I From the Ideology of the PDG to Ahmed Sékou Touré’s First Order of Knowledge (Theoretical and Methodological Implications)
  • Introduction
  • 1 Ahmed Sékou Touré: Formative Years and the Issue of the First Order of Knowledge
  • A. Historical Context: The Emotional Factor (1922–1952)
  • B. Historical Context: The Intellectual Factor
  • 2 Transforming Paradigms: Intellectual Immersion, Creativity, and Self-Individuation
  • A. Marxist Studies in Guinea, Creativity, and Self-Individuation
  • B. Liberal Studies in the United States, Creativity, and Self-Individuation
  • C. Acquired Knowledge on Text and the Construction of Identity: Impacts on the Understanding of the PDG and Ahmed Sékou Touré’s Personality
  • 3 Ahmed Sékou Touré: Numinous Selections (Metaphilosophy and Its Ideological Forms of Expression)
  • A. Numinous Selections and Their Elite’s and Subordinate’s Meanings
  • B. Metaphilosophy: Numinous Selections and Interpretation
  • 4 Critical Review of Theoretical, Contextual, and Organizational Issues
  • A. Critical Review of Theoretical and Contextual Issues
  • B. Structural Organization of Part II of the Book
  • Part II Ahmed Sékou Touré: History of Guinea or Histories of Guinea? (Illustrative Chapters of the Integrated Approach):
  • I. Precolonial Guinea
  • 5 Subordinate Groups and Their Struggle over Memories: A History without the Griots (Professional Storytellers)
  • A. Background
  • B. Men’s and Women’s Accounts of the “Simbara-Uyukha War”
  • C. Young People’s Subversion of Elders’ Ideology and Authority
  • 6 The Elites of Groups of Villages’ Struggle over the Memories of the 1871 Foton War in Precolonial Sangalan Federation
  • A. Sangalanka’s Shared Worldview: The Elite’s Politics of Culture
  • B. Politics of Memories and Elite’s Struggle for Power over the Federation of Groups of Villages
  • C. Negotiated Political Outcomes: Sangalan Federal and Autonomous Local Powers
  • II. Colonial Guinea
  • 7 Urban Colonial Guinea: Competition over the Memories of the Strike of 72 Days : (Ahmed Sékou Touré and Aissata Mafory Bangoura)
  • A. Background
  • B. Strike of 72 Days: The Elite’s Perspective and Political Interests
  • C. Strike of 72 Days: Women’s Independent Contributions, Independent Public Space
  • D. Strike of 72 Days: Shared Representations, Shared Experiences, and Shared Goals
  • 8 Postcolonial Socialist Guinea: Competition over the Memories of Sundiata Keita (Niane’s “Sundiata” as Ahmed Sékou Touré and Conrad’s “Sundiata” as Fakoli)
  • A. Introduction: Niane and Conrad
  • B. An Analytical Reading of Niane’s Text
  • C. An Analytical Reading of Conrad’s Text
  • D. Two Perspectives on the Mande Past
  • 9 Postcolonial Socialist Guinea: Struggle over the Memories of Almamy Samory Touré’s History (“Almamy Samori Touré” as Ahmed Sékou Touré, “Karamoko Lamina” as Dialonka)
  • A. Introduction
  • B. Background
  • C. Almamy Samori Touré and the Wasulu Empire: Metaphors for Ahmed Sékou Touré and Postcolonial Socialist Guinea (1968–1982)
  • D. Almamy Samori Touré and Karamoko Lamina: Resistance as Symbolic Negotiation of Identity (1968–1982)
  • 10 Histories of Dress and History of Guinea from 19th to 20th Century (Not Only of Ahmed Sékou Touré and the PDG)
  • A. Precolonial Clothing Traditions: Clothed Bodies, Social Identities, and Boundaries
  • B. Colonial Clothing Traditions: Clothed Bodies, Social Identities, and Social Boundaries
  • C. Postcolonial Clothing Traditions: Clothed Bodies, Social Identities, and Social Boundaries
  • General Conclusion
  • Appendix: Ahmed Sékou Touré: Numinous Selections
  • Bibliography
  • Index


I took me 15 years to write this book on Ahmed Sékou Touré, the Parti Démocratique de Guinée (PDG), and the integrated histories of the elite and the subordinates (men and women, workers and peasants, young people and other social groups), seen as creative and independent history makers. In my youth, I was educated as a militant member of the PDG, committed to political history in Guinea. Later, in the United States, I became a radical anti-elite committed to social history. It is during the writing of the book that I developed a meta-philosophy that allowed me to both transcend the political and social philosophies of history and equally commit myself to each of them.

My intellectual activities were determined by the Guinean situation after Ahmed Sékou Touré’s death in 1984 and the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York in 2001. To the revolutionary memories that were built in me were added the tragedies of Camp Boiro and the uncertainties of the future. At first, I wondered about who would lead Guinea and help avoid civil war and recolonization. This question reflected my political history perspective, focusing on the initiative of the elite. My Fulbright scholarship allowed me to broaden my perspective, with a cultural sensitivity to ordinary people’s own historical roles in the negotiation for a national personality as the only guarantee of peace and solidarity, based on the respect of the lives and rights of every human being. Further, the terrorist attack ←xvii | xviii→in New York and the collective responses by both the elite and the subordinates in the United States nourished my mind with irresistible ideas about the limitations of both political and social history and the need for a unifying broad perspective.

In my quest for this meta-philosophy, which requires the integration of many disciplines, I borrowed some insights from my former teachers in the Guinean, European and American universities. I would like to acknowledge them as the builders of my spiritual nest. One of them who particularly contributed to the present work is Bruce Lincoln. He read the manuscript and provided me with insightful suggestions and encouraged me to “swim,” not to “sink,” until I achieved my goal. It is with Bruce Lincoln that I started to apply my insights on text and production of text. He will never know how much he has influenced me. Like him, two other American friends and brothers participated in the production of the manuscript. Those are David C. Conrad and Stephen Belcher. Not only did they read the book, they also repeatedly reread the various versions that I created. I value their expertise as social historians and I am thankful for their willingness to discuss the conceptual architecture of their publications with me. David Conrad provided me with the texts that bear the core ideas of his historical production. This was crucial for the writing of chapter 8. He is the second living scholar on whose published texts I have applied my meta-philosophy. The first is Marshall Sahlins and the third is Djibril Tamsir Niane. Without these scholars, I would not have been able to write the main chapters of this book. I am grateful for their intellectual openness and collaboration.

Another scholar of great influence on me and this book is the late Jan Vansina. When I met him, he was applying a similar technique to my “technique of digging words,” used for the building of identity. He calls his technique “words and things,” with a political history orientation. Vansina opened my eyes on the originality of my work on oral traditions as philosophy and helped shape my ideas. This book is based on my text method that combines my technique of digging words and the meta-philosophy that informs it.

To be sure, the determining influence is that of Allen Isaacman. He is the one who kicked the bird out of the nest, when he recognized and valued my first intuitions that led to the writing of my doctoral thesis.

Sidikhi Kobélé Keita and Djibril Tamsir Niane deserve special thanks for developing the curricula on the history of the PDG and the anti-colonialist struggle and recruiting me as a lecturer at the University of Conakry. This allowed me to participate in the displacement of French colonial history of Guinea, by working with them and creating my own research activities. Their influence is manifest in chapters 8 and 9. I first studied the “Strike of 72 Days” and the history ←xviii | xix→of Almamy Samori Touré through assisting Keita and Niane respectively. Many pictures that I am using were found at the Bibliothéque Nationale de Guinée that Keita initiated and administered as its first director.

My special thanks go to my Dialonka informants who initiated me into the “secrets” of their societies of Sangalan, Firia, and Solima and adopted me as one of their spokespeople. El Hajji Bacar Keita informed me about his strategy and tactics when he was dealing with the PDG cultural nationalist offensive in 1968 and, indirectly, provided me with the materials for my analysis of the Sangalanka’s politics of culture that subverted the nationalist elite’s reconstruction of Almamy Samori Touré’s memories.

I am grateful to my informants who provided me with their oral accounts of the “Strike of 72 Days.” The female leaders of the strike Aissata Mafory Bangoura, Nabya Haidara, and Fatou Keita were the “mothers” of our Almamya and Sanderwalia quarters in Conakry. Nabya Haidara was the “General” of the PDG amazons from whom I collected valuable information that is used in this book. The book reflects the perspectives of the members of the PDG amazons. My special thanks go all the male and female informants who participated in my individual and collective interviews, despite the transportation issues they had to overcome.

As with the Sangalan Oral Tradition, my guiding spirits were my beloved wife Joy Maria N’Daou and my mother Fatoumata Batouly N’Daou. My wife not only read the many versions that I produced for each chapter, she also constantly discussed the culturally sensitive issues related to the tragedies of Camp Boiro, insisting that the book must help put an end to any form of dictatorship, based on whatever ideological and political reasons. This did not contradict the planned outcome of the book, advocating national reconciliation and preservation of national unity. During the process of writing this book, she also continued to accept without complaint the status of “academic widow” to which my intense work has relegated her. I rightly consider this book as another fruit of my friendship and marriage with Joy Maria N’Daou.

I received financial assistance from Chicago State University, during my six-month sabbatical in 2004. The workers of the Archives Nationales de Guinée, Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire (IFAN), Archives Nationales du Sénégal (ANS), the French Archives d’Outre-Mer in Aix-en-Provence and the U.S. Library of Congress provided a generous service in collecting the necessary archival materials in the limited time available. I specially thank all these contributors.

In the process of publishing this book, I received valuable support from dedicated editors, namely: Michelle Smith, Peter Lang’s Acquisitions Editor; Ashita ←xix | xx→Shah, Peter Lang’s Assistant Editor; Sarath Kumar, Peter Lang’s Production Editor; and Elsa Peterson, owner of Elsa Peterson Editing Company. Elsa was the first to read the book and thoroughly edit it and provided me with suggestions about the use of my intellectual autobiography. Her feedback was encouraging. Her contribution was free of charge. My former students Kevin McCleish and Tammi Smith deserve the same special thanks for being early readers who gave me valuable feedback on the book. I also discussed the contents of the chapters with them around dinner at Usmania Fine Dining Restaurant (Chicago, Illinois). Another contributor is Fatoumata Diaraye Diallo who helped with collecting materials at Archives d’Outer-Mer in Aix-en-Provence (Marseilles, France).

I am very grateful to my children Fatou N’Daou, Mohamed Jamal Samba Jadwin N’Daou, Beatrice-Batouly Linda N’Daou (“Next Link”), Mariama N’Daou, Hadja Bigu N’Daou and Maimouna N’Daou. My determination to excel in academia came not only from their love and moral support, but also from their own great achievements. For moral support, I specially thank my brothers Abdoulaye N’Daou and Ousmane N’Daou and all their children and my sister-in-law Joan Johnson and her children, Jessica, Jeff and Jadwin and their wives.

To all of the above, and to any I may have inadvertently neglected to name, I offer my sincere appreciation.

General Introduction

I first heard my mother talk about Ahmed Sékou Touré in 1957, proudly saying that he was her “brother,” my “uncle.” He was, she told me, struggling to liberate Guinea from French domination. My mother’s name is Fatoumata Batouly Touré; she was alluding to the fact that, as a Touré, Ahmed Sékou was related to her through a common ancestor. The stories that my mother told me about Ahmed Sékou Touré are my first memories of him. The ongoing fight between my mother’s activist group and their/Toure’s political opponents introduced me to his parti democratique de Guinee (Guinean Democratic Party), also known as the Parti Démocratique de Guinée (PDG).

In 1958, I started my formal education at a small school at the provincial town of Boke. In 1984, Ahmed Sékou Touré died on an operating table in Cleveland, Ohio (United States). During this time, I continued to participate in, observe, and study the events that characterize for me, the essence of Ahmed Sékou Touré’s historical enterprise, and eventually led to the writing of this book.

After high school, I abandoned my studies of economics and finance and decided to major in history and philosophy. In my third year at the Institut Polytechnique Gamal Abdel Nasser (IPGAN), at Conakry, I deeply felt the desire to know more than the ideology of the PDG that constituted the frame of reference for all the social sciences and humanities. I had already recognized the ←1 | 2→ideological language that Ahmed Sékou Touré was using, to both appropriate every important event of postcolonial Guinea and rationally justify the creation of his Party’s revolutionary institutions and related social activities.

The question that I constantly asked myself and held fast in my mind was: “what are the ideas that guide Ahmed Sékou Touré’s ideological productions and political actions?” My ability to learn through flashes of insight, i.e., to distinctly know, by noticing, increased with my intense immersion in my thoughts and reading of books, and my active participation in and observation1 of the Guinean social phenomena. My objective was to consciously deepen my understanding of the ideas that I initially only guessed were guiding Ahmed Sékou Touré in the production of knowledge and texts and policymaking decisions. I invested more energy on achieving this objective than on simply learning the ideology of the PDG. I gradually became a conscious participant in and an active observer of Ahmed Sékou Touré’s historical enterprise from 1973 to 1984. During this period, historical materialism was the dominant paradigm; it limited my academic objective to finding general Marxist laws that would be applied to African traditional societies.

My fieldwork materials and Ahmed Sékou Touré’s treaties on Marxism constituted primarily my sources of information. My Fulbright scholarship provided me with the opportunity to pursue my research on the history of the PDG in the United States in 1986. This research activity continued when I started to teach at Chicago State University. America constitutes a different cultural space, dominated by a liberal paradigm, emphasizing individuality. My absorption into this alternative school of thought to Marxism was challenging but rewarding. I was left to myself to satisfy my thirst for knowledge. I experienced a paradigm shift before I started to write my doctoral thesis in 1992. It integrates political history and social history as my consciously controlled intellectual instrument.


XXII, 322
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (August)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XXII, 322 pp., 12 b/w ill., 11 tables.

Biographical notes

Saidou Mohamed N’Daou (Author)

Saidou Mohamed N’Daou (PhD, University of Minnesota) is Professor of History at Chicago State University. He is the author of Sangalan Oral Traditions and co-editor of Mande Mansa.


Title: Ahmed Sékou Touré