Sekou Touré was an important figure in the Pan-African movement and in the struggle for the liberation of Africa. He was the first President of Guinea, leading the People’s Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) as they successfully struggled for Guinea’s independence from France. Touré also played a significant role in supporting independence movements in other African countries, including that of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) led by Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, that of the PAIGC led by Amilcar Cabral in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, and that of the led Congolese Nationalist Movement (MNC) led by Patrice Lumumba.
Amilcar Cabral, the founder of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), was influenced by Sekou Touré’s political ideology and his uncompromising approach to the African struggle for independence. Cabral saw Touré as a mentor and an example of a successful revolutionary African leader who was committed to the liberation of his people.
Touré’s approach to independence was based on the principles of re-Africanization and scientific socialism, which emphasized the importance of independent economic development, social justice, self-reliance and the end to all forms of foreign domination. When then president of France Charles de Gualle threatened Guinea with the withdrawal of all aid should the masses of Guinean people vote for their independence, Touré famously declared “Guinea prefers poverty in freedom to riches in slavery.” The masses of Africans in Guinea went on to vote overwhelmingly in support of an end to French rule.
Cabral was also a proponent of re-Africanization and scientific socialism and saw them as a way to empower the people of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Like Touré, he believed that African people needed to wield a revolutionary conception of our culture as a sharp and endlessly adaptable weapon of liberation that could be used to struggle relentlessly “until unconditional victory against our oppressors.”
In addition to their shared political ideology, Cabral and Touré had a close personal relationship. Conakry, the capital of Guinea, served as the headquarters of the PAIGC throughout their national liberation struggle and Touré and the PDG provided military, political, and educational support to the PAIGC throughout their struggle for independence. In the liberated zone of Conakry, Cabral and the PAIGC were able to train PAIGC cadre, mobilizers, military personnel, and youth. They were able to forge strong diplomatic ties with revolutionary states like the USSR, China, and Cuba with which the PAIGC was able to secure aid in the form of weapons, military training, and technical advisors. When the Portuguese attempted to invade Conakry, overthrow Sekou Toure, and assassinate Cabral during their botched Operation Green Sea, it was the military forces of the PDG who repelled the invaders.
Despite misguided present day attempts to disclaim him and deny his influence, Sekou Touré’s ideological and political leadership formed part of the foundation that led the successes of not only the PAIGC but numerous anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles across Africa throughout the 20th century. Touré’s relationship with Amilcar Cabral demonstrates why it’s so important to get into spaces with and build principled unity with veterans – they help bring revolutionary ideology into focus.