Jeanne Martin Cissé

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Jeanne Martin Cissé (6 April 1926 – 21 February 2017) was a Guinean teacher and nationalist politician who served as ambassador to the United Nations and in 1972 was the first woman to serve as President of the United Nations Security Council. She served in the government of Guinea as Minister of Social Affairs from 1976 until the 1984 military coup.

Early life and education

Martin Cissé was born in Kankan, Guinea, on 6 April 1926, the eldest of seven children.[1] Her father (Darricau Martin Cissé), P.T.T. employee for French colonial administration, was Malinke with Soninke origins (with her paternal grandmother) and her mother (Damaye Soumah), midwife, Soussou[2] . She attended the École Normale d'Institutrices de Rufisque in Dakar, Senegal, where she trained to become a teacher.[3][4]


Martin Cissé was one of Guinea's first female teachers and was assigned to the girls' school in Kankan in 1944. She became a member of the Union Madingue in 1946. She met future President Ahmed Sékou Touré, then a PTT trade unionist, and joined the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain in December 1947. She lived in Senegal with her husband in the 1950s and represented the Senegalese Democratic Union at the Congress of the International Federation of Women in France in October 1954.[5] After Guinea's 1958 referendum, she returned to Guinea where her husband became chief of staff to the Minister of Health in the new Republic of Guinea.

In 1959, Martin Cissé was a delegate to the congress of the West African Women's Union in Bamako, which sought to maintain a pan-African women's movement. She was Secretary General of the Pan African Women's Organization from 1962 until 1972.[5][4] She was elected to parliament in 1968 and joined the Central Committee after her husband's death in 1971.[3] She was the first woman Vice-President of the National Assembly of Guinea.[6] She was Secretary General of the African Women's Conference until 1974 and was a delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in Geneva and to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

In 1972, Martin Cissé was appointed as Guinea's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Guinea was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and she became the first woman to chair the council.[6] She was also elected to chair the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid.[7]

Martin Cissé returned to Guinea in 1976 at the request of President Touré, who appointed her as Minister of Social Affairs and a member of the Democratic Party of Guinea Politburo.[3][4] After Touré's death in 1984, she was arrested along with numbers of other political leaders and detained for 13 months before being released without charge.[8] After the failed coup attempt of Diarra Traoré in July 1985, she left Guinea, moving first to Senegal and then to the United States. In 1988, she joined the International Committee of Solidarity for Women and Children in Southern Africa. In 2004, she was a member of the International Association of Francophone Women.[5] In 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush sent a message of congratulations on Martin Cissé's 80th birthday, acknowledging "her courage and her work".[9]

Martin Cissé's biography, Daughter of the Milo, was published in 2008.[10] In 2014, South African President Jacob Zuma awarded Martin Cissé the Oliver Tambo Order to acknowledge her role as a leader and model in the struggle for women's rights in Africa.[11] She has, however, been criticized for trivialising the crimes of Touré, under whose regime up to 50,000 people were killed.[12][13]

Awards and honors

Personal life and death

In 1946, Martin Cissé married Mohamed Camara, a police inspector whom she did not know. He died in a car accident later that year when she was three months pregnant.[5] In 1948, she married Ansoumane Touré, one of the founders of the Guinea Democratic Party. He died in Camp Boiro prison in 1971 after being arrested in the aftermath of Operation Mar Verde. Martin Cissé had six children.[6] She lived in Baltimore, Maryland, United States.[3]

Martin Cissé died on 21 February 2017.[16][17][18]


  • "Woman, the first teacher". Prospects – Quarterly Review of Education. 5 (3). 1975. 
  • International Solidarity with the Struggle for Liberation in South Africa. 1976. 
  • "Family Problems in Africa". Guild Prac. 37: 23. 1980. 
  • La fille du Milo (in French). Présence Africaine. 2010. ISBN 9782708708020. 


  1. ^ Chiri, Ruwa (1972). "Madam Cisse: A sister at the UN" (PDF). Afrika Must Unite. Vol. 2, no. 14. 
  2. ^ Barthélémy, Pascale (2010). Africaines et Diplômées à l’époque coloniale (1918-1957). Presses universitaires de Rennes. p. 14. 
  3. ^ a b c d Camara, Mohamed Saliou; O'Toole, Thomas; Baker, Janice E. (2013). Historical Dictionary of Guinea. Scarecrow Press. pp. 79–80. 
  4. ^ a b c Serbin, Sylvia; Rasoanaivo-Randriamamonjy, Ravaomalala (2015). African Women, Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. UNESCO Publishing. p. 65. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Sheldon, Kathleen (2016). Historical Dictionary of Women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 175–176. 
  6. ^ a b c "A Woman Presides the Security Council". Le Monde (in French). 2 November 1972. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  7. ^ "Jeanne Martin Cisse". Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. August 1976. p. 6. 
  8. ^ "A trenton of dignitaries of the Sékou Touré regime are released". Le Monde (in French). 17 May 1985. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  9. ^ Fofana, Maimouna (12 November 2008). "INFO GCI: Hadja Jeanne Martin Cissé en Guinée". GCI (in French). Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  10. ^ "Jeanne Martin Cissé publishes her memoirs". Jeune Afrique (in French). 2 June 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  11. ^ a b Camara, Amara Moro (23 April 2014). "Militante anti-apartheid : Jeanne Martin Cissé sera décorée le 27 avril par Jacob Zuma". Guinee News (in French). Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  12. ^ Sidibé, Mohamed (28 March 2013). "Déclaration choquante de Jeanne Martin Cissé". Guinee Actu (in French). Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  13. ^ "'Mass graves' found in Guinea". BBC News. 22 October 2002. 
  14. ^ Black World/Negro Digest. 26. Johnson Publishing Company. April 1975. pp. 29–30. 
  15. ^ "La militante anti-apartheid guinéenne Jeanne Martin Cissé décorée dimanche à Pretoria". Le Jour. 23 April 2014. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  16. ^ Government Communication Unit (21 February 2017). "ACTUALITÉS Décès de Jeanne Martin Cissé : Communiqué du Ministère de l'Action Sociale, de la Promotion Féminine et de l'Enfance". Le Rassembleur (in French). Retrieved 22 February 2017. 
  17. ^ Freland, François-Xavier (February 22, 2017). "La Guinée endeuillée par la disparition de Jeanne Martin Cissé, figure de l'indépendance et des droits des femmes". Jeune Afrique. Retrieved February 22, 2017. 
  18. ^ "Guinée : décès de Jeanne Martin Cissé (Présidence de la République)". Guinée Matin. February 21, 2017. 
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