Posted by: Dr. Y. | April 30, 2011

Samori Touré: African Leader and Resistant to French Imperialism!

Samori Toure holding the Coran

Samori Toure holding the Coran

One of the great kings, and fighters of African freedom was the great Samori Touré. Over 100 years ago, Samori Touré was captured by the French and deported to Gabon where he died of pneumonia.

But who was Samori Touré?

Well, Samori Touré was born in 1830 in Manyambaladugu (some texts mention Sanankoro instead), a village southeast of Kankan in present-day Guinea. Samori was a great warrior who fought imperialism in the 19th century such as many leaders today. He refused to submit to French colonization and thus chose the path of confrontation using warfare and diplomacy.

Until the age of 20, Samori was a trader. After his mother was captured in a slave raid by the king Sori Birama, he offered to serve in his army and excelled by his military prowess and skills.

Samori Touré had a vision of unity for the Malinké people, and thus started organizing his empire using traditional and innovative methods. He effectively organized Malinké chiefdoms into a single state under his authority, at the core of which was the army. He managed to increase loyalty to the state in the Malinké people who now thought as one united people… this intensified their allegiance to him. His state was well-organized and efficient. Samori’s army was powerful, disciplined, professional, and trained in modern day warfare. They were equipped with European guns. The army was divided into two flanks, the infantry or sofa, with 30,000 to 35,000 men, and the cavalry or sere of 3,000 men. Each wind was further subdivided into permanent units, fostering camaraderie among members and loyalty to both the local leaders and Samori himself. Talk about African organization and discipline… this was really a strong army! His empire reached his apogee between 1883 and 1887, and he took the title of Almami or religious leader of a Muslim empire.

"L'Almami Samori Toure" de Khalil Fofana

"L'Almami Samori Toure" de Khalil Fofana

Samori Touré created the Mandinka empire (the Wassoulou empire) between 1852 and 1882. His empire extended to the east as far as Sikasso (present-day Mali), to the west up to the Fouta Djallon empire (middle of modern day Guinea), to the north from Kankan to Bamako (in Mali); to the south, down to the borders of present-day Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote d’Ivoire. His capital was Bisandugu, in present day Gambia.

In the 1850s, slavery being abolished, European powers decided to establish colonies in Africa, and could not tolerate strong states like the Mandinka empire, and strong leaders like Samori Touré. These African leaders had to be crushed!

In 1882, at the height of the Mandinka empire, the French accused Samori Touré of refusing to comply to their order to withdraw from an important market center, Kenyeran (his army had blockaded the market). They thus started war on him. This was an excuse to start war! From 1882 to 1885, Samori fought the French and had to sign infamous treaties in 1886 and then 1887. In 1888, he took up arms again when the French reneged on the treaty by attempting to foster rebellion within his empire. He defeated the French several time between 1885 and 1889. After several confrontations, he concluded several treaties with the French in 1889.

Stamp from the Republic of Guinea

Stamp from the Republic of Guinea

In 1890, he reorganized his army, and signed a treaty with the British in Sierra Leone, where he obtained modern weapons. He re-organized his army so as to stress defense, and employed guerilla tactics.

In December 1891, French forces overran the major cities of the Mandinka empire, leaving death and desolation in their wake (sounds familiar? Côte d’Ivoire April 2011). These incursions into Touré’s empire led to exodus of the entire nation eastward. In 1893, Samori moved his capital east from Bisandugu to Dabakala. In 1894, the French assembled all their troops in western sudan (Senegal, Mali, Niger, etc…) to fight Samori.

Capture of Samori

Capture of Samori

Between 1893 and 1898, Samori’s army retreated eastward, toward the Bandama and Como (in modern day Cote d’Ivoire), conquering huge territories in the northern part of modern-day Cote d’ivoire. He led the scorched earth tactic, destroying every piece of land he evacuated. Although that tactic cut him from his new source of weapons in Liberia, he still managed to delay the French. He formed a second empire, and moved his capital to Kong, in upper Cote d’Ivoire. On May 1, 1898, the French seized the town of Sikasso and his army took up positions in the Liberian forests to resist a second invasion. This time Samori’s army fought valiantly but was no match to the power of the French arsenal. Samori forced to fight a total war against a foreign invader, and fighting against all odds, was captured on September 29, 1898, in his camp in Gué(lé)mou in present-day Côte d’Ivoire. He was exiled to Gabon where he died two years later on June 2, 1900.

Samori Touré was a warrior, a fighter, an empire builder, and one of the greatest African military leaders ever seen… he fought and won against the French army several times before his capture.

Interestingly enough, over 50 years later, the grandson of Samori, Sekou Touré, was the only one to say ‘NO’ to France, and to General De Gaulle: they preferred freedom over slavery under the European master… that was in Guinea!

Samori's empire
Samori’s empire

Please check out the work of Pr. Yves Person on who wrote a book on Samori Touré, BlackHistoryPages, and this article published by the New York Times in 1898 about the Capture of Samori Toure by the French. According to the New York Times, Samori, “for nearly 13 years, was the most dangerous antagonists Europeans had had to deal with“. I could not find a good map of Samori’s empire anywhere… so I made my own based on all the boundaries and main cities conquered and his capitals: Bisandougou, Kankan, Bamako, Sikasso, Kong, Dabakala, Guelemou, etc… some of the cities may not be the same today (or even exist after 100 years), particularly the city of Dabadugu: Samori Toure defeated the French at Dabadugu, was it the city of Dabadugu near Kankan, or was it the city of Dabadugu near Nzerekore? I used Google map and made my own, respecting all the information found in all the different books and atlases I read. This is the entire kingdom, without taking into account the first and second empires. If you have further information, I will be happy to hear more.


  1. This is the right weblog for anyone who wants to seek out out about this topic. You notice so much its almost onerous to argue with you (not that I actually would need…HaHa). You undoubtedly put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Nice stuff, simply great!

  2. this article is in fact a master piece, however marred by the neglection of convincing causes of the ultimate failure of Samori against the French

    • the neglegancy of causes of his failure is overshaded with his victory to a larger extend………im just saying

  3. Thank you for your compliment and also for pointing out what could be improved. The subject of why Samori lost the war and failed against the French will then be the subject for another post.

    • What is refreshing about this piece is presenting the story from an African perspective. Good job!

  4. I love African history so much.R.I.P. Samori Toùre

  5. its been great reading your articles over one of africa’s greatest leaders…Samouri Toure

  6. fabulous

  7. He
    is great , A great leader. my name is Yusupha Camara.

  8. Thank you ,thats my email below Samory Toure was GREAT

  9. samory toure is a very great leader even though his parents were traders he walked in their foot steps and tried to become a trader but he only did it until he was 20 years old

  10. nice article and a quick reminder of the great kingdoms,our history is our heritage

  11. Repose en paix grand père :),

  12. A great man in the world

  13. he was a great man

  14. thank you for this stuff it really helped me.

  15. this is by far the most well-written account i’ve read on samouri toure..i had been searching for ages when i finally came across this page..thank you for a well detailed and on-point account of this great i can write my assignments easier

    • Thank you for visiting my blog. I am glad you appreciated this article on Samori Toure. I am glad it could be of help to you, for your assignments.

  16. wow thats great .i also learned a lot concerning samori toure able leadership and holding the state together .thats awesome ,keep it up

  17. thank uw so much fo the effort……….,.,.

  18. thank u uncle Samori you did your level best

  19. great piece..need a lil mo work on why he failed ultimately

  20. a truly great piece however mre required on tactics used by samori in defending mandinka during the eight yearwar othawise gd job!

  21. get me the responses of Samoure toure

  22. […] sowed, and arms factories were installed in all corners of the region.  However, just like with Samori Toure, or Behanzin, the French did not respect the ceasefire.  In 1857, after only three years, they […]

  23. […] the introduction of Islam from the Futa Jallon Empire. They were the scene of the struggle between Samori, the French & British over Guinea and Sierra Leone and in the 19th century the park area was the […]


  25. As a history teacher i find it great. Pliz u can analyze why Toure was defeated and his impacts for his defeat

    • Toure was defeated because he was unable to direct the caravan routes after 1891, He was weakened by natural calamities like drought, also the system of divide and rule was used

  26. Good stuff

  27. i found dis piece helpful in treating Toure as a pre-colonial african personality.

  28. […] we tend to think that our leaders were all weaklings, but we had real kings and real leaders like Samori Toure, Behanzin, Ranavalona I, Amanishakheto, Beatrice of Congo, and Nzingha who fought the foreign […]

    • i love samori’s spirit of figthing,if african leaders can be this strong,we shall have economic freedom

  29. This is the greatest leap in African Historiography. This is the aspect of History that I call OUR OWN. It is a representation of our very selves from our own perspective.
    uhuru Africa!!!


  31. Samori was one of the best patriot, nationalist, warrior during his time. We cannot find any leader of his type today in Africa.

  32. […] Sofas get their name from the warriors of Samory Touré – one of Africa’s great king’s who during the 19th century fought for African freedom […]

  33. He is real the legend of Africa history,we consider him on our forthcoming development as he made an early contribution as he fight against European imperialist,like other African leaders Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta ,and Kwame Nkurumah both fight the same for African independence which we celebrate now

  34. samoure toure was a man of inspiration

  35. So well described. I had learnt about this great man in school and was admirative. Ur full story here gives me even more details and conforts me in my praise. More interestingly just discovered the fact on Sékou Touré, just amazing. Thanks to keep the spirit alive!!!

  36. was this samori of a man got no name, did his parent name him samori?????????????

    • Of course, his name was Samori! His grandson was Sekou Toure.

  37. I like notes!

  38. I learn much

  39. This is usefull

  40. Am so happy to now much about Samory toure

  41. […] Leopold Sedar Senghor.  So it seems quite natural to find out that Sekou Touré, the grandson of Samori Touré, the only African president to say ‘NO‘ to France and de Gaulle, also wrote poetry.  […]

  42. A very good fact for those seeking imformation.

  43. Much respect to Samore Toure the Icon of African leader

  44. wow!it`s been enjoyable reading this article.Samori was a great man indeed.

  45. I like it

  46. yes i really enjoyed reading about this great man thanks

  47. he was really a brave man who was ready to loose because of his people

  48. Excellent blog here! Also your site loads up fast! What web host are you using?
    Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my site loaded up as quickly as yours

  49. Remarkable! Its genuinely remarkable article, I have got much clear idea on the topic of from this paragraph.

  50. Hі there, I enjoy reading all of your article. I աanted to write а little comment tо support ʏօu.

  51. Hello, I want to subscribe for this web site to get most up-to-date updates, so where can i do it please help.

  52. I do agree with all the ideas you’ve offered to your post.
    They are very convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are very quick for newbies.
    Could you please extend them a little from subsequent time?
    Thanks for the post.

  53. […] Samori Toure: African leader and Resistant to French Imperialism 2. ‘Love Poem for My Country’ by Sandile Dikeni 3. ‘My Name’ by Magoleng wa […]

  54. […] into a trading center and a refuge for scholars.   … But the legend lived on of the warrior Samory, whom Sékou Touré claims as his […]

  55. samori was not a war lord because he only could defend himself dy delaying the french

  56. I love what you guys are up too. Such clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the great works guys I’ve added you guys to blogroll.

  57. Wat a genius African freedom fighter.That’s a good eg of how a successful leader should embark on when fighting.first reorganise your territory and ensure loyalty , unity and allegiance to both your civilians and your army.Diplomacy to acquire what you don’t have from outside countries like in this case He waz given guns and artillery from Britain , then u r gguaranteed to win.I really appreciate Samori Toure’s leadership

    • Every African leader should take an example from Samori leadership then we will live as good africans

  58. Only feel words that can describe Samori.”A great Wizard in figting”

    • ..Few words@..

  59. […] Samori Ture (Guinea) – Don’t let them tell you we just allowed the Europeans to come in and colonize Africa. People fought… and it went down. […]

  60. This is very interesting
    Samori was a great African warrior lived for the defense and welfare of his people.

  61. Has more detailed ingo

  62. Am proud

  63. Am proud of his determination in fighting against French colonizers.This is what African leaders should emulate.

    • Totally agree with you. I wish we had more leaders like that today.

    • Now a days I think there is only one African leader who resist from the west all the time.the president of the Gambia yaya jammeh

      • I disagree with you, especially given that Yaya Jammeh has not spoken against imperialistic forces attacks in neighboring countries in Africa. In most cases, he has even applauded those.

  64. He was a great man

  65. […] We see brief profiles of the technologically-besieged such as Abd al-Qadir, Sheykh Mansur, and Samori Toure but most of the insights we have are related to the European descriptions of these encounters and […]

  66. Great blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your theme. Thanks a lot

  67. I wish they would teach this history in our schools. It’s an honor to be named after this great man.

    • Yes indeed! I totally agree with you Samouri! and it is quite an honor to be named after such a great man.

      • thats gud love to chat with u on facebook nd 2go.

  68. samori was the great African leader of his time, that ain’t a lie

  69. keep in memory card

  70. Please I want to know where this bisandugu is located in Gambia now a days and was it the first capital of samori toure thanks

  71. he actually opened the shut eyes of other africans who later rejected the unfair colonial rule.A GREAT RULER INDEED

    • absolutely!

  72. i wish i was in the olden days i féel so bitter about it..

    • Don’t … you are living now, and your work is for humanity… so do your best to make this era better, do your best to empower others, do your best.

  73. thanks for making the world no him first, this generation will know this great man too, I m proud becuses him is mendingo I m mendingo too.

    • Yes Musa, we should all be proud of Thomas Sankara, for his work was for humanity, and continues to work millions across the globe.

  74. great read. I always loved this man!!! one of my African heroes

  75. Samori was indeed a powerful ruler in His time and I loved His resistance since he was a man of his words. I love you Samori.

    • Thanks for your comment Passy. Yes… Samori Toure was a great and powerful ruler.

  76. […] Sofas get their name from the warriors of Samory Touré – one of Africa’s great king’s who during the 19th century fought for African […]

  77. I really want to find this out honestly

    • You should definitely read the book by Pr. Yves Person. It is very detailed.

  78. what a great leader #samori toure

  79. […] sowed, and arms factories were installed in all corners of the region.  However, just like with Samori Toure, or Behanzin, the French did not respect the ceasefire.  In 1857, after only three years, they […]

    • Thanks for linking to this article on Fatma N’Soumer

  80. PP

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