His Master's Voice: Mass Communication and Single Party Politics in Guinea under Sékou Touré

By Schmidt, Elizabeth | African Studies Review, December 2006 | Go to article overview

His Master's Voice: Mass Communication and Single Party Politics in Guinea under Sékou Touré


Schmidt, Elizabeth, African Studies Review


MEDIA Mohamed Saliou Camara. His Master's Voice: Mass Communication and Single Party Politics in Guinea Under Sékou Touré. Trenton, NJ.: Africa World Press, 2005. xvi +217 pp. Index. $24.95. Paper.

Focusing on party politics and mass communication in Guinea, this book examines the regime of the Parti Démocratique de Guinée (PDG), which led Guinea to independence in 1958 and governed the country until it was overthrown by a military coup in 1984. Camara posits that the PDG and its charismatic leader, Sékou Touré, strove to build a noncapitalist African society that was free of foreign political, economic, and cultural domination. It championed "the people" as its source of sovereignty and legitimacy. Having come to power through democratic elections and claiming Guinea's independence on the basis of a popular referendum, the PDG was, in its early days, the embodiment of popular democracy. However, plots fomented internally and externally rendered the party increasingly intolerant of dissent, and by the late 1960s the PDG regime was engaging in systematic repression of its real or imagined opponents. Despite its enormous coercive powers, the state was unable to sustain itself by repression alone. Rather, Camara argues, mass communication, political propaganda, and ideological indoctrination were the forces that preserved the regime for twenty-six years.

After briefly exploring the evolution of the PDG's political philosophy and the stages in the nation's political development, Camara's study focuses on the regime's use of mass communication to indoctrinate and mobilize its followers. Assessing the impact of state-run radio, television, print media, and film, Camara argues that these standard forms of mass communication had limited impact. A relatively small percentage of the Guinean population was literate in French and had access to these expensive, urban-based media. The PDG therefore relied on other forms of mass communication to deliver its message.

Camara argues that the population was mobilized primarily through mass education, religion, sports, and culture. Music and dance associations and party griots helped popularize PDG ideals. Women's, youth, and religious organizations promulgated the party's message. At the local level, the party regularly held mass meetings in which party directives were presented and discussed. These forms of mass communication had been key to mobilization during the nationalist period, and they remained critical to party organization after independence. …

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