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De Gaulle
Case Study: Guinea Conakry

The passage towards independence of Guinea and Algeria was traumatic in different ways. Algerian nationalists had to fight a bitter war against French white settlers and the French army.

Other French colonies - Togo, Senegal, Mali, Benin, Haute Volta (later Burkina Faso), Cote d'Ivoire, Chad, Central African Republic, Gabon and Mauritania - accepted the French umbrella, and arrived at independence relatively smoothly.

Madagascar's path to independence was violent. It underwent a major insurrection in 1947 which slid into a guerilla war in the course of which over 90,000 people were killed by the French.

By 1956, all French colonies in West Africa had internal self-government and majority rule. But this related only to domestic policy as France retained controlled over military and foreign affairs as well as economic planning.

In 1958, President de Gaulle offered a choice to Africans in West Africa: "Oui" or yes to a partnership with the French which was essentially paternalistic, or "Non" which meant total independence and the breaking of all links with France, and all support.

Guinea alone under Sekou Toure voted for a total break with France. Guinea and Sekou Toure paid the price for saying no. The French left en masse, depriving the country of all technical expertise and worse, removing all key government files, even ripping out office telephones. Sekou Toure responded defiantly. To general applause in the black Diaspora and the Eastern bloc he brought the country to independence in 1959.