History of the Fouta Jalon

The Fulbe people consider themselves relative newcomers in Guinea, West Africa. In the 15th century, the Fulbe began to migrate into the mountainous region of west and central Guinea, known as the Fouta Jalon. The region was first organized as a separate political entity as a result of the Fulbe jihad (Muslim holy war) in the late 1720s. As a Muslim theocratic state, the Fouta Jalon dominated both central and coastal Guinea until it came under French domination in 1897.

The Fulbe have great pride in the leaders of their past. Karamoko Alfa led the war which brought the region under the control of the Muslim Fulbe. He was a powerful leader and the first ruler of the newly founded state. Those who succeeded him became known as Almaamis. Alfa Yaayaa, a strong leader from Labé, is still hailed as a leader of the resistance movement against the French, against whom he worked until his arrest and subsequent exile in 1905.

The descendant of another resistance leader, Ahmed Sekou Touré (1922-1984), followed in his ancestor’s footsteps by also resisting French rule in Guinea. Touré led the labor party, Parti Democratique de Guinee (Democratic Party of Guinea) to declare independence from the French community in 1958. Guinea was the only French colony to vote “no” on the referendum put forward by Charles de Gaulle to keep these colonies in the French West African community. As a result, Guinea was cut off from financial aid and other assistance programs from France. In the midst of isolation, Guineans developed a strong national identity. Meanwhile, Touré garnered support from the Soviet Union and other communist countries. As the years passed, Touré did not allow for presidential elections nor did he allow for the formation of any other political parties. Though he began as a political hero, Touré deteriorated into a brutal dictator and began facing opposition from various groups. Nevertheless, Touré continued to rule Guinea until his death.

Within weeks of Touré’s death, the military took control of the government and established the Second Guinean Republic with Lansana Conte as president. In the early 1990s, many changes were undertaken to help Guinea institute a multiparty, democratic government. Presidential and parliamentary elections have taken place in 1993, 1998 and 2003. Conte continued to serve as president, having won each of these elections.  In 2009, Conte died leading to a period of political instability.  In 2010, Alpha Conde was elected president of Guinea and has led the country since then, winning reelection in 2015.

When Guinea opened up to the outside world following Touré’s death, it was a poor, undeveloped country despite its vast, untapped resources. Now, twenty years later, Guinea has advanced, but remains poor and under-developed. The Fulbe maintain that Guinea will one day rise to overcome the obstacles of its past and gather strength from its heritage.