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Samory Touray: A great African general who once defeated the French colonial army in West Africa

Resistance against domination and oppression is a trait always exhibited by oppressed people. In other words, revolution is imminent wherever oppression is the order of the day.

Such was the heroic trait that embodied the character of Samory Touray, a gifted anti-colonialist commander, religious leader and administrator who vigorously fought to prevent the French ambitions of building an empire in West Africa.

Samori Touré was born in the 1830s in the Milo River Valley in present-day Guinea Conakry. Touré would later become a well-known leader, training and commanding a growing and disciplined army that enabled him to establish his authority over different parts of Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast, Mali, Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 19th Century.

Following the senseless partition of Africa in the 1884 Berlin conference, French imperial forces in West Africa began encroaching on the Mandinka kingdom. However, with an army between 40, 000 to 65,000 soldiers the forces of Samory Toure defeated the French troops in 1885 in Bure, Niger. His battle against the French earned him the title “The Napoleon of Africa”.

Despite the fearless nature of Samory Toure’s forces and initial success against France, the French troops including those stationed in Senegal at the time, in 1891, France attacked Toure and succeeded in seizing a large part of his kingdom to the French.

This latest attack by the French against Samory Toure and his men came as a surprise because, after several confrontations with the French, Touré in 1889 signed peace treaties with the French forces only to be ambushed two years later.

Throughout his battle against the French agenda of establishing an empire in West Africa, Samory had relied on the English for the supply of weapons. However, in 1898 when he was forced to move to Liberia, the British refused to supply him with weapons.

To strengthen his strategy, Samory moved to Upper Ivory and established a new capital for his Kingdom called Kong. This strategy would prove futile when the French forces on 1 May 1898, continuing pursuing their agenda of weakening Samory, seized the town of Sikasso, north of the new capital forcing Toure and his men into the forest of Liberia to avoid a second invasion.

Weaken by several factors, including famine and desertion, the French seized Toure on September 29, 1898, and sent him into exile in Gabon until he died in 1900. Ahmed Sekou Toure prominent pan African nationalist leader and Guinea’s first President was claimed to be Samory Toure’s great-grandson.

Samory Toure! A great warrior king! Empire builder and hero of the resistance against the French colonization of West Africa undoubtedly gave it all for the freedom of his people and left marks so much desired of freedom fighters. Till death seized him, he never gave up.

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