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.

121 thoughts on “Samori Touré: African Leader and Resistant to French Imperialism!

  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!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lillian Muparuri

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


  2. 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.


  3. Melyssa Minne Mac

    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


  4. kudakwashe chidziya

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


  5. Pingback: Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer, the Embodiment of Algerian Resistance against French Colonization « African Heritage

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    1. Tabitha Badless

      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


  7. Pingback: Queen Nzingha: Great Queen of Angola | African Heritage


    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!!!





  10. Ogbe Best Augustine

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


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  12. African Kelvin

    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


  13. 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!!!


  14. Pingback: Women of Africa by Sekou Touré | African Heritage

  15. Marylou

    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


  16. 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.


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  18. Pingback: Sekou Touré: Vive l’Indépendance (Time Magazine 16 Feb. 1959) | African Heritage

  19. willingmasiyandima

    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

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: 21.Feb { My Recurring Struggle With “Black” History } |

      1. 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.


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  22. TristanDTrad

    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


    1. Mariama Mariatu Bangura

      You’ve made my day! My first daughter is a Toure/Turay and the name , Samaritan Toure just came to mind a few days ago. I researched it today and found this post.
      I am happy to have read it especially when it was written from an African perspective. The thing is that, the victorious are always the people writing history and when they do, everything good is on their side and everything bad is on the opponents’ side. The bad things these people did to Africans cannot be expressed in words. Especially the so called evil French! To this day they have not given up. Still milky nhs Africans.


      1. Thank you Mariama… I am so glad to learn about your history… Yes.. there is a great need for us, Africans, to tell our stories… only then will we be stronger


  23. passy

    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.


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  27. Pingback: On the Shoulder of Giants: Samori Toure – swagher

  28. Reblogged this on African Heritage and commented:

    Samori Touré
    This post on Samori Touré has been the all-time favorite post on . I am reblogging it here, because on this 10-year anniversary of the African Heritage Blog, it has been the most viewed and loved. As you know, Samori Touré, grandfather to the African president Sekou Touré (another resistant to French imperialism – Guinea: the country who dared say ‘NO’ to France), was a leader and ruled over a vast empire which spanned big areas of West Africa from Guinea all the way to modern-day Côte d’Ivoire. He was a strong fighter to France imperialism in Africa, and opposed a great resistance to the French several times. He was eventually captured and deported to Gabon in Central Africa, where he died. This is to one of Africa’s great kings, warriors, and resistant.


  29. The greatness of African people’s past is still unknown to the public. Many were never informed about the accomplishments of their ancestors. Therefore, when they hear about the greatness of their past it sound completely “unbelievable” to them. For example, many are unaware of the fact that in the past Swahili people on the east African coast actually built large sailing vessels and sailed to China. Swahili sailors actually sailed to China and conducted trade deals with the Chinese. And this trade between the Africans and Chinese took place many centuries before the Europeans developed their own navigational skills to reach these places. For those who doubt this fact, view the article “Swahili Sailors in Early China”.


  30. elroi

    I am very happy to be one of afriacans ..All man kind must know this we are equal with anyone ,you can see the history of Ethiopia ,Ethiopians did not colonizes by europians can also see samori toure of western Africa ,Ahmed urabin phasha of Egypt ,Mohammed Ahmed Ibn Abdullah of Sudan, minilik the second of Ethiopia and others .


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