Ruth Schachter Morgenthau
Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa
Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1964. 439 p.
The African Social Setting
Though French contact with West Africa goes back to the seventeenth century, colonial rule really began only at the end of the nineteenth. Not until the beginning of the twentieth century was it firmly established: in 1904, for example, the federation of Afrique Occidentale Française became a legal entity 1. The usual official indication that the phase of conquest had ended and colonial authority was assured was the transfer from military to civil administration. Though technically this took place in 1920 for Mauretania and in 1922 for Niger, even afterwards on occasion the military took over in the Saharan regions. Thus French authority did not last very long in West Africa. Yet it did set the immediate conditions of the “colonial situation” 2 in which political parties were born.
Except in Senegal, all French-speaking West African parties were born after July 1943, when the Gaullist governor-general, Pierre Cournarie, took over the administration from the Vichy supporter Pierre Boisson. Educated Africans everywhere demanded changes in the pre-war system of autocratic French colonial rule. Their sharpest complaints were against the policy of forced labour, the indigenat or special colonial system of justice, and the poverty accentuated by the war-time paralysis of the economy.
The term travail forcé covered several different legal categories of compulsory work: travail publique obligatoire, defined as “village works, sanctioned by the customs of the group concerned, which are part of the normal obligations of community life” 3, prestations, or tax in labour for public works, generally levied through the chiefs and redeemable in cash; and military conscripted labour, or the deuxième contingent of the colonial army, used to carry on public works 4. From 1919 universal military training was on the statute books for French West Africa. Only a very small proportion of the eligible men could in fact be drafted for ordinary military service in the premier contingent. Others were placed in the deuxième contingent and set to construction of public works 5. Laws forbidding vagrancy, allowing requisitioning of porters, providing for employment of tax defaulters, and allowing local administrators to imprison and subject to forced labour those who broke the law, gave additional legal bases for requiring every able-bodied African to work as and where officials determined.
Indigénat regime: inspectors check the latex collected by native Rubber Gatherers. Cameroon, 1941.
The forced-labour system had its defenders, who claimed that future generations would be grateful for the work accomplished 6. That it had its abuses was recognized before the war by some French Catholics 7, and by the Popular Front parties. Marcel de Coppet, named governor-general of French West Africa, under the Popular Front, recorded his opposition to the system 8. So did Léon Blum 9.
Chiefs were known to take revenge on their enemies when they drew up the lists for the prestations. Women and children were put to work in some areas, as well as the men. Short-term service frequently meant that little or no provision for health, nutrition, housing or transport was made. Punishments were often harsh. In the sparsely settled territories, like Niger, Mauretania, and parts of the Soudan, most of the drafted workers did their labour service near home, and if they were fortunate, near hospitable relatives who spoke the same language. But from the more highly populated Upper Volta, parts of the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Soudan, forced labourers frequently had to work far from home, in a strange climate, at unfamiliar tasks, under managers and among workers who did not speak their language, know their customs, or even their names. Forced labourers at times had to travel more than five hundred miles, at their own cost, from the recruiting centres to their place of work, e.g. from Bobo-Dioulasso to Gagnoa in the Ivory Coast territory 10.
The most severe system of forced labour existed where Europeans required the largest labour force, particularly in the fertile forest zone of the Ivory Coast, where European planters and timber merchants had settled. European organization of the timber industry started early in this century in the Ivory Coast; European cocoa planting started about 1920; coffee planting after 1930; banana planting about 1933. The forest zone had a low density of population, about nine to the square mile. Europeans had to import labour to cut trees, plant cocoa, coffee, or bananas, from the more populated northern Ivory Coast, Guinea, and most of all from Upper Volta. Official estimates were that about 190,000 Upper Volta men went into forced labour brigades between 1920 and 1930 11, representing between a third and a quarter of the able-bodied men of the population of some three million 12. The Europeans hired recruiting agents who bargained with northern chiefs for men and transported them to the plantations. Already before 1925 forced labour, which by law was required to be used only for limited periods of time and for public works, was in practice placed at the disposal of European plantations and other private enterprises. The rare French administrator who opposed this as illegal, such as Governor Brunot of the Ivory Coast, was quickly transferred 13.
The decree of 25 October 1925 14 regulated the flow of labour from the poor northern savannah regions to the more fertile south. This decree recognized both that European planters needed African labour, and that the administration who did not need to pay wages and planters who did, were competing with each other for labour. The decree fixed conditions for recruitment and employment of African labour on European plantations, and required administrative authorization for recruiting. Soon the administration not only authorized, but also stated how and where workers were to be recruited and stationed, and how much pressure could be used on Africans to obtain the authorized number of workers. The distinction between forced labour for public works and free labour for private enterprises disappeared; “workers were drafted by the administration and attached to an enterprise; only after they finished their period of forced labour could they freely choose, if they wanted, a new employer” 15.
Payment for free labour, regulated by the administration, was extremely low; 1927 salaries for men were 2 francs a day for 3 months, and 2.50 francs a day afterwards, while women received 1 franc a day for 3 months, and 1.25 francs afterwards 16. Only half was paid during the period of work, and the rest after the contract time had expired, in order that workers should not run away. The terminal half of the salary more often than not went to the administration as taxes, or to chiefs in repayment of debts 17. In law, workers were to receive food and housing. This was not really enforced, and “all depended on the goodwill of the planter, who could count on the indulgence of the authorities.” 18
The migrant labourers worked during the southern harvest season, which in their homes was usually the dry season; at the end of the harvest, they returned home to cultivate their own fields. Since labourers rarely stayed more than six months with the same employer, whether the administration or a European entrepreneur, employers had little incentive to know personally or to care for the workers. “The whip and the stick were therefore in current practice.” If any died, “the climate or change of surroundings was blamed … and if the administrator heard of it, the whole thing cost 300 francs.” 19
Obviously this system brought Africans great hardships and gave them little incentive for work 20. Many have not forgotten their experiences in this period, and still tell of the flight of their families, sometimes of their villages, to escape labour levies. President Houphouet-Boigny said after the war:
One has to have seen these used-up workers, skeletons covered with sores, wandering or in the fields; one has to have seen assembled for recruitment these thousands of men, their whole bodies trembling before the medical inspectors; one has to have watched the distracted flights from the chefs de village or chefs de canton into the bush; one has to have read the eyes of planters forced to abandon their own land to work for starvation wages; one has to have seen the long lines of men, women and children, brows furrowed, march silently along the road to the fields; one has to have seen the recruiting agents, the modern slave traders, crowd people heedlessly in trucks, exposed to all climates, or Jock them into baggage cars like animals; one must have lived, as chief, through the poignant, heartrending scenes, when old women ask for their sons, their only source of support, orphans ask for their fathers, women weighed down by children for their husbands, their only providers, to understand the drama of forced labour in Ivory Coast 21.
Until 1937 the system had many abuses, but they reached a new height afterwards and during the Second World War, when for many reasons the number of workers available decreased appreciably. Africans had started plantations in the Ivory Coast in their own right, and were competing with the administration and European entrepreneurs for labour, especially after world prices rose in 1936-7 22. Africans who needed to earn tax money and wanted to escape forced labour went to work instead in British colonies, particularly the Gold Coast. There are no exact pre-war figures, though officials estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Mossi farm labourers who would ordinarily have gone to the Ivory Coast went instead to the Gold Coast in 1944 23. Some planters, both European and African, were drafted into the army, and the administration tried to maintain the abandoned European but not the African plantations. Goods, machinery, replacement parts, gasoline, and other imports became scarcer as the war continued and the communication system collapsed.
The administration increasingly used force to make Africans work harder and compensate for the deterioration of the money economy. Labour was conscripted to build defence installations along the Gold Coast frontier. It was not unusual for a village to be encircled, and for men to be taken from the villages under military guard to do the work the administration thought necessary. By 1944 the forced labour system had almost broken down, since the vicious circle of brutality and flight gradually meant that less and less men were available, and less work was done 24.
The indigénat was another important source of African resentment against the pre-war political system. The indigénat referred to the special provisions in the penal code which permitted governors or French administrators to take speedy punitive action against African “subjects” 25. As codified in 1924 the indigénat in some cases authorized deportation, imposition of individual or collective fines, and dispossession by simple administrative decision. The powers granted under the indigénat were invoked by administrators to punish persons who moved without authorization from one territory to another or who attended meetings of more than twenty-four men. The extreme provision of the indigénat, applicable in Cameroun, allowed imprisonment for up to ten years 26. In West Africa, however, the usual provisions of the indigénat in the late thirties stated that administrators could imprison for not more than fifteen days, and exact fines of no more than 100 fr. (1939) 27.
These administrative disciplinary powers existed over and above the normal provisions of the native penal code, applicable to the “subjects.” Me Lamine Guèye attacked it by citing this example:
« We pass two men fighting with knives. We say to ourselves ‘These gentlemen have matters to settle. This does not concern us.’ We continue on our way. If we are French citizens, it is not a crime for us to take no interest in the fight. But if we are ‘subjects,’ not intervening—even at the risk of being stabbed—makes us liable to 5 years imprisonment and 5 years of exile 28. »
Nor were the native courts dealing with civil and criminal cases independent of the administrators. In the first-degree courts of the subdivision, and in the second-degree courts of the large administrative unit, the cercle, the local French administrator presided over proceedings. These native courts could inflict the death penalty, or penal servitude for life. “It hardly needs great imagination to realize what Africans thought of this system.” 29
The absence of outlets to express African protest or political aspirations was another major source of grievance against the pre-war colonial system. Africans had no access to political power or responsibility, no right of assembly or freedom of speech. Outside of the “old communes” of Senegal 30 no African parties were permitted. In the countryside, among illiterate peasants and herdsmen, there was little expressed desire for, and little knowledge of modern representative institutions. There were, however, many sporadic indications of protest.
There was periodic unrest among the nomads of Soudan in the northern regions of Niger and Mauretania, where French control was uncertain even after the First World War. To escape forced labour levies, occasionally the entire population of villages took flight. Observers estimated that hundreds of thousands abandoned their villages in the Ivory Coast, which then included most of Upper Volta 31 . Villagers showed their discontent by refusing to furnish requisitioned goods, resisting expropriation of land, not paying taxes, and rejecting the authority of officially appointed chiefs.
There is a special background to these controversies about “chiefly” authority. French colonizers redrew the boundaries of local administration with little reference to pre-European political frontiers. French administrators directly responsible to a governor commanded each of the 188 cercles of French West Africa, where they were assisted by members of the regular civil service. They had further auxiliaries in the African chiefs, members of the commandement indigène composed of some 2,200 cantonal chiefs and their subordinates, 48,000 village chiefs 32. Most of these official chiefs were distinguished from the regular, mobile civil service by being illiterate and serving only among their kinsmen. They were appointed and dismissed by the European administrators, had no tenure, and their income was precarious. Of them, Governor Deschamps says:
The French do not have, as do the English, a superstitious regard for monarchy; nowhere did they consolidate the power of the chiefs, by granting them tribunals or autonomous treasuries. The chief is not considered a potentate, but rather a useful administrative auxiliary. The cantonal chiefs (in the subdivisions of the administrative districts or cercles) are appointed only to transmit orders and to collect taxes. The French administrator does not shrink in the least from personal contact, and instinctively practices direct administration. He is the “commandant,” the “king of the bush,” whose very presence creates a new political unit 33.
Since it was official French policy to rule directly rather than indirectly, the official chiefs were not necessarily men with a traditional claim to chieftaincy. Often villagers preferred other leaders to the official chiefs. Conflicts over chieftaincy resulted, and these multiplied as tension mounted in the countryside.
Religious protest movements sprang up. An illustration among Muslims was the spread of Hamalliya, particularly in the Soudan. The administration suppressed the Hamallists 34, deported some leaders in the twenties and thirties, and unwittingly helped spread the doctrine 35. By 1937, however, French Popular Front leaders “took a less hostile view of Islam”, and came at least to tolerate Hamalliya 36. Religious protest among the Christianized coastal peoples of the Ivory Coast and Dahomey took the form of the separatist Harrist movement, which was said to have baptized 120,000 in the Ivory Coast in 1914-15 37.
Yet a further example of village protest was the Nana Vo movement which flourished in 1934 in the traditionally “anarchic” Bobo region of Upper Volta 38. “Nana,” in the language of the Bobo's, means “taking without paying.” “Vo” means “end.” The people of the region resisted “the arbitrary requisitioning of food and animals by the chiefs, with the agreement of the administration.” 39 Incidents took place, especially around Bobo-Dioulasso, Dedougou, Boromo, Tougan, and Koutiala, and French control was reasserted only by the use of force. (The official inquiry concluded that the Bobos were encouraged in their protest by the White Father missions.)
Such unco-ordinated, largely spontaneous protests in the countryside multiplied during the war when officials harshly applied the indigénat and forced labour laws and the economy deteriorated. Before the war there were almost no industries, even for partial transformation of local agricultural and mining exports. African peasant growers earned some money income from peanuts in Senegal and to a smaller extent in Soudan and Niger, from coffee and cocoa in the Ivory Coast, from rice in Guinea, Soudan and Niger, and from vegetable oils in Dahomey and the Ivory Coast. This money-used for taxes, for the purchase of imported manufactured goods, and for the redemption of some villagers from forced labourlost its value during the war. The necessarily regular banana transport and therefore trade, disappeared. Under Vichy, the AOF economy, controlled by the administration, furnished some crops and raw materials to France. After the North African landing in November 1942, however, even this trickle of trade with France stopped until the Liberation 40. Crops remained stocked locally, imports were almost unobtainable. Salaries, where paid, had little meaning because money had hardly any purchasing power. Workers deserted villages and fields 41. The Algiers government, in control of West Africa in 1943, requisitioned new commodities, such as rubber, which required a large labour force. Richard-Molard left the following graphic record of the war effort demanded of African colonies by the Free French:
One cercle is required to produce so many tons of liana rubber, even though no liana grows in the territory. The native is therefore forced to travel on foot, sometimes over long distances, to buy rubber elsewhere, regardless of cost. He must sell this to the commandant at the official price, which is several times lower than the purchasing price, in order to escape the hand of “justice.” Another cercle is ordered to produce honey. None is available. The commandant is punished for telegraphing his superiors “Agree To Honey. Stop. Send Bees.” 42
Thus the points of friction multiplied during the Second World War between villagers and those in authority: the French administrators or their African associates, the chiefs, the police, the army and the gardes de cercle. In 1941 Prince Adingra, traditional leader of the Brong on the frontier of the Ivory Coast and the Gold Coast, went with his people to the Gold Coast to escape the Vichy administration 43. In 1943 the cluster of Bobo, Lobi, Dafing, and Gourounsi peoples in the Western region of what is now Upper Volta again rioted against the administration, and were subdued with considerable force. By 1944, in spite of heavy pressure, villagers were not paying taxes, not appearing for forced labour service, and made fewer and fewer compulsory crop deliveries. Smuggling increased across international frontiers, for example near Man and Danane in Ivory Coast, and Nzerekore in Guinea, both close to the Liberian frontier. Agricultural produce found its way to the black market 44. There
a piece of percale costing officially 195 francs, cost 600 francs from the dioula and was resold at 1100 to 1200 francs by itinerant pedlars … 45
In the Kankan region of Guinea, a religiously inspired rebellion, directed by the Muslim leader Lamine Kaba, led to violent clashes in 1945-6. Incidents about successors to chiefs—such as those between 1942 and 1947 in Abengourou, on the Ivory Coast 46—took place in many other regions.
Under the pre-war colonial regime, since no political parties yet existed, Africans used traditional and neo-traditional institutions to express both political protest and aspirations. To some extent, therefore, the traditional African social, economic, and religious institutions were the forerunners of the political parties and other modern organizations which took over these tasks after 1945.
Although traditional and neo-traditional African forms of organization often expressed village discontent, these institutions did not of themselves change into modern political parties. Nor can it be said that the unco-ordinated incidents, which multiplied during the war, were specifically directed against the lack of freedom to organize or to acquire political power. The work of enlarging the scale of political units, of generalizing from individual local grievances, of expressing these in modern terms, of demanding changes in the colonial political system, was carried out by educated African town dwellers. Their associations were the immediate forerunners of African political parties.
As the war ended, the Africans educated in the schools introduced by the French persistently spoke up for reforms. After 1945 the French governntent made concessions to these demands and Africans decided to use the legal channels to present their candidates for elections. During some fifteen years in which roughly 1,500 seats in representative institutions above the local level were filled by successive popular elections, the vast majority of the candidates were literate. Africans reasoned that their representatives had to be equipped to deal with the Europeans, their language and their institutions.
They had learned to read and write before 1945, when educational facilities were still very limited, and less than 5 per cent of AOF's school age children were actually in school 47. They began their formal political careers right after the war, and in the fifties and sixties achieved top positions as deputies, ministers, party leaders and trade unionists. As the colonies moved towards independence, not only the formal institutions of government, but parties and other modern organizations often changed their labels and other specifications. Yet the educational facilities expanded far more slowly, as did, therefore, the size and composition of the educated group. Regardless how often persons holding office were replaced, these always came from the tiny minority of educated people.
The products of the pre-Liberation educational system were locally educated; practically none had ever been outside Africa. In French, unlike British West Africa, there existed almost no university graduates in 1945. The handful of exceptions came almost exclusively from Senegal, and primarily there from among the pre-war “citizens” living in Dakar, Saint-Louis, Rufisque, and Gorée. Only among this comparatively privileged community could some select families point in 1960 to as many as three generations of educated men. Among the “citizens” most who had acquired pre-war French university degrees were trained as veterinary surgeons—for example the novelist and Socialist mayor of Rufisque, Ousmane Socé Diop. The grammarian and poet, Léopold Senghor, and the doctor of Jaw, Me Lamine Guèye—both naturalized pre-war “citizens”—were also among the Senegalese exceptions.
These men apart, only in the late fifties have any significant number of French-speaking West African graduates returned from their universities in France or in the post-war University of Dakar. They were at their books while their countrymen were passing through the important first phase of the struggle for political power. Armed with their degrees and ready for jobs, they found filled the most important political posts in government, in parties or in other modern institutions. Most had to content themselves with second-level posts in the civil service. Some, indeed, were in the peculiar position of working under African ministers who were contemporaries and had failed secondary school or college entrance examinations. The failure had left the locally educated men free to take part in the first crucial years of political activity after 1945; and so to become “founding fathers.”
What were they like? Part of the answer is to be found in the educational system of pre-war French West Africa, which trained people to occupy subordinate positions in the administration. Practically none had ever been out of Africa or had university degrees; practically all were the first of their families to learn reading and writing in a language other than Arabic; their degrees were local, without equivalents elsewhere; their instruction was always in French 48.
Those who managed to go from the local village or nomad school to the regional (rural) or urban primary school, and from there respectively to technical schools or to the few existing upper primary schools, had through approximately eight years of successful study achieved the right to be very junior clerks, or assistants to teachers or technicians. Those from the upper primary schools who also managed to win one of the few coveted places in the principal federal secondary school, the Ecole Normale William-Ponty, had won their way to the “nerve center, the most solid link which joined the évolués of the French West African colonies.” 49
The high political, civil service, and commercial posts which graduates of Ponty occupied after 1945 demonstrate that calling that institution the pre-war Oxford of French West Africa is no exaggeration 50. But at the time the students were not trained to lead. They were trained by the state, free of charge, to be “qualified auxiliaries” 51 to European superiors, according to a “clearly defined policy of limiting more advanced education to demand” 52 for more clerks, teachers, and medical assistants. Practically all upper primary and secondary school graduates had to work for the administration. This was because of the terms on which their study was subsidized, and because African resources were still unexplored, the economy was largely stagnant, and the few operating European trading firms were unwilling or unable to offer Africans jobs. Therefore practically all except those who could plant cocoa or coffee in southern Ivory Coast or profit from the peanut trade in Senegal saw no alternative prospects than in the civil service to earn the income or enjoy the social status which their education made them want. Certainly none were willing to return to subsistence farming, at least partly because producing crops, which was compulsory in pre-war elementary and primary schools “disgusted pupils forever, and inspired in them a holy terror of work on the land.” 53 Pupils in one three-class school in Ivory Coast during 1937 had to plant a hectare of coffee trees, without money or tools, though at the time 50,000 francs was considered the necessary capital investment for preparing a hectare of virgin forest for coffee production 54.
Thus the very large majority of the principal post-war leaders were civil servants by profession, dependent on the administration for their income. Only in Senegal, until 1952 the richest territory in AOF, were there a number of exceptions 55. The laws of eligibility for office did not disqualify most African civil servants-clerks, medical and veterinary assistants, state school teachers-from running for office. Indeed, had they been disqualified, it is difficult to see where alternative educated candidates might have been found to fill political offices.
Few places at the secondary schools meant that many able candidates fell by the wayside, including those who temperamentally could not survive the rigors implied in the official slogan of “discipline, work, and perseverance.” 56 Very roughly, the total number of Ponty graduates from all territories between 1918 and 1945 can be estimated at less than two thousand, of whom about a third were trained as medical assistants (African doctors) 57. Few places, and difficult examinations, meant that territories with more and better primary schools—Senegal and Dahomey—filled a disproportionately high number of Ponty places, while the poor territories, Mauretania, Niger, and Upper Volta, filled very few. Standards were lower at the younger and less influential normal schools, Frederic Assomption at Katibougou 58 in Soudan, at Dabou 59 in Ivory Coast, the girls' normal school at Rufisque 60, and the professional technical schools. These instructed a few hundred more administrative auxiliaries. The mission schools, tightly controlled by the state, modestly increased the numbers of advanced primary or secondary school graduates, especially in southern Dahomey and the Mossi region of Upper Volta.
Until 1945 this was the framework for the AOF system of education for “subjects.” It gave only locally recognized degrees which gave access only to the lower ranks of the civil service. Metropolitan degrees were pegged to the higher ranks, and few Africans had access to schools meeting metropolitan standards. Only Europeans could attend the primary schools “opened in the larger cities for the children of European civil servants.” 61 “Citizens,” mainly from Senegal, had access to Lycée Faidherbe founded in 1920 at Saint-Louis, or to the classes which became in 1940 the Lycée Van Vollenhoven at Dakar. Elsewhere in AOF there were no lycées until 1945, when the secondary school courses at Bamako's Terrasson de Fougeres were up-graded, and gradually each territory built at least one lycée.
The common training of educated Africans gave to many an ambivalent outlook towards the policy of assimilation 62, on which pre-war colonial policy of the French Left was theoretically based. Privately most condemned assimilation, which in their eyes included the assumption that Africans had little if any civilization, while France alone had a culture. Most protested energetically when schools used textbooks teaching Africans of “our ancestors, the Gauls,” and exclaimed ironically, “what was the good Lord doing, making blond Gauls produce Blacks?” 63 Some in their spare time became serious writers, poets, and playwrights, students of African dance, legend, poetry, history, and language. Among them were active leaders of the RDA like Bernard Dadie and Coffi Gadeau from Ivory Coast 64; Keita Fodeba and Ray Autra from Guinea; Modibo Keita and Madeira Keita from Soudan; and Boubou Hama from Niger. Most attended Ponty during the years that Charles Béart, a Popular Front appointee, was director of the school. He and the director of studies, Ouezzin Coulibaly, encouraged Ponty students to develop African culture through the use of French forms. They called this “double assimilation,” then also advocated by Léopold Senghor studying in France 65. Ponty students carried their preoccupation with African culture—which was their reaction to the assault French education made on African values and customs—into the field of politics after the war. From this assault stemmed their later interest in négritude (Senghor) and the personalité africaine (Sekou Toure). More than their English-speaking neighbours French-speaking West Africans have persistently emphasized developing their own cultural tradition. The Présence Africaine group established in Paris in 1947 was dedicated to this task. At meetings and in the pages of a journal, it assembled Ponty-trained artists and the first generation of African university students who shared passionate concern with a cultural as well as a political African renaissance 66.
Even before the war few Africans believed possible, or desirable the ultimate goal of “assimilation,” that Africans act and think like Frenchmen. But many considered useful the implied corollary of that goal, that Africans and Frenchmen have equal rights. Those attending Ponty lived near Dakar, observed with a mixture of envy and resentment the rights which the African “citizens” had, and learned to emulate the dexterity with which the “citizens,” in order to maintain and increase their privileges, manipulated French generalizations about equality. The educated pre-war “subjects” pressed for concessions: as students, to argue for the then unattainable chance to study in France; as civil servants, to press for professional advancement. They were encouraged when Popular Front ministers introduced some cautious reforms in this direction. Then cultural organizations of the educated urban Africans were given somewhat wider scope; rudimentary trade unions, especially among teachers, were permitted; a few more “subjects” became eligible for French citizenship as the conditions of acceptance were somewhat liberalized; there was even talk of abolishing forced labour, and of revising the indigénat. They were encouraged even further into half-believing equality between Frenchmen and Africans possible, by the lessons absorbed from the handful of eager young French Socialists, and the more influential French Communists, who took jobs as civil servants or teachers in Africa during the thirties. The educated Africans carried the habits of thought and expression learned before the war into their post-war political careers. Chafing under the limits set on their careers by the pre-war educational system of AOF, educated Africans pressed in 1945 to have it more closely aligned with that of France. This background may partly explain the time-lag between their post-war political demands—which, prior to 1957, did not explicitly include independence as the primary goal—and the postwar demands of British West African leaders. For a few years after the war, some educated French-speaking Africans were uncertain whether independence in fact provided the emancipation they sought.
As the war ended, this elite had many reasons for discontent. They were among the most intelligent and able of their countrymen, self-made men to a large extent. Their achievement of education probably involved more effort than the attainment of a Harvard degree by an immigrant American slum dweller during the depression. They were touchy about the limited status attached to most of their diplomas which had no equivalents outside AOF, and gave them no access to top posts even in AOF. The discriminatory practices under Vichy emphasized how precarious, indeed, were their subordinate positions. In Ivory Coast, for example, “Natives were not tolerated in hotels run by Europeans. In the stores, counters for coloured customers were well separated from European counters.” 67 Summary executions for suspected sabotage were not unusual; only Africans were executed for resistance to Vichy 68. Racial discrimination under Vichy affected the African 'citizens' as well. An amusing illustration was the requirement that Africans, presumably 'citizens', had to sign declarations stating that they were not Jews. “As if they could not see,” remarked Lamine Gueye 69. By comparison with metropolitan soldiers, colonial soldiers had lower salaries, stricter discipline and fewer material benefits. Their anger was expressed at Tiaroye, Senegal, where they rioted, in December 1944. Many were killed before order was restor.:ed, and the case of the Tiaroye veterans became an item in the long list of African post-war grievances 70.
The educated Africans pointed to the discrepancy between the promises of assimilation and the reality of conditions in Africa. The fall of France, the change-over to Vichy, and the further change to the Free French profoundly affected their belief in the power of France. “It was hard to know on which side true patriotism lay.” Ivory Coast notables, accustomed to sending dutiful messages of loyalty to the French government, sent a note to Petain which labelled the Allied landing in North Africa an “unqualified aggression.” 71 Generally, however, educated Africans favoured the cause of de Gaulle, at least in part because the local Europeans, preoccupied with French authority and prestige, were generally pro-Vichy. At the same time, educated Africans learned of events in Asia, Europe, and elsewhere, and gathered determination to force changes. Their daily contact with the misery of their relations in the countryside helped keep this determination fresh.
The educated Africans had formed some associations before and during the war. Some of these associations were the “anodyne pre-war groupings” whose object was recreation, sport, African history and art, and carefully apolitical education 72. Most organizations of this type, where permitted by officials, had to be patronized by French citizens; all were closely controlled. Politics were forbidden and violations of this rule led to swift official reprisal. African civil servants who proved mildly disturbing to the administration were transferred to posts isolated in the Mauretanian or Niger desert. Nevertheless, most of these organizations either directly, through discreetly conducted discussions, or indirectly provided regular channels of communication among educated Africans on political matters.
These associations were safety-valves for discontent among the educated, similar in function to religious or economic protest movements among villagers in the same period. The performance among the elite of an historical play, based on the resistance of the warrior chiefs Samory Touré or al-Hajj Umar Tall to European penetration, was comparable to the ceremonial retelling of the same story by the griots at village celebrations.
Prior to 1945, these associations provided the only modern political training ground for educated Africans. When the first African elections were suddenly called in 1945, these organizations either became the nuclei of political parties, or furnished the candidates for office. Their historical importance is reason for examining them rather more closely. There were urban cultural associations:
- the Foyer France-Sénégal in Dakar
- the fluctuating Dahomey coastal creole groups, publishing newspapers like the Voix du Dahomey since the end of the First World War 73
- Art et Travail 74
- Espérance 75
- Foyer du Soudan 76 in Soudan
- the Association de Défense des Intérêts des Autochtones de Ia Côte d'Ivoire
- the Union Fraternelle des Originaires de la Côte d'Ivoire
- the Association Fraternelle des Originaires de Ia Haute Volta in Abidjan
There were in most territories regional and ethnic groups, usually led by an uneasy alliance of the chiefs and the educated. Some flourished in Ivory Coast:
- the Ideal among the Malinke Muslim peoples of Odienne, in 1949- 51 was used as the basis for the Entente des Independants de Ia Côte d'Ivoire, a party supported by the administration against the RDA 77
- the Association des Originaires de Gagnoa among the Bete, was later the basis of the small Socialist nucleus in Ivory Coast 78.
Similar groups were in Dahomey:
- the Groupement Ethnique du Nord Dahomey was the basis of the Mouvement Démocratique du Dahomey (later Rassemblement Démocratique du Dahomey), the party in northern Dahomey which supported President Hubert Maga
- the Groupement des Fon d'Abomey became one of the comités electoraux which organized the constituante elections in Dahomey, and later joined the Union Progressiste Dahoméenne.
The graduates of mission schools maintained cultural and social activities in organizations like the Catholic Association des Anciens Séminaristes of Ouagadougou, or its Dahomey counterpart. Rudimentary professional organizations also existed. As early as 1933, an African trader tried to organize the Ivory Coast African planters to defend their interests. But the authorities joined their disapproval to that of the European settlers, and the organization gave few other signs of life than the name Coopérative des Planteurs de la Côte d'Ivoire 79. Eleven years later, in 1944, the far more successful Syndical Agricole Africain came into existence, and gave birth to the Ivory Coast RDA. Benefit and friendly societies existed among African civil servants, such as the Mutuelle des Fonctionnaires in Ouagadougou. After November 1942 there were also the various patriotic resistance associations: in Ivory Coast, Croix de Lorraine and Combat. Europeans anxious to cleanse themselves of Vichy associations joined these groups more eagerly than African civil servants, who joined only because pressed to do so, and left as soon as racial lines between Africans and Europeans were tightly drawn during the municipal elections in August 1945 80. The Comités d'Etudes Franco-Africains (CEFA) in Dakar, Abidjan, Bobo·Dioulasso and Bouaké belonged to the same “patriotic” category, though by 1946, most CEFAs were dominated by Communist sympathizers.
For the most part, these associations existed as separate territorial entities, and had few relations with similar organizations in other territories. In addition, modern channels of communication among the African elite in the various territories existed prior to 1945, which later facilitated the creation of interterritorial parties—above all, of the Rassemblement Democratique Africain. These links were of three related types, based on the state schools, the civil service, and the activities of the French Communist Party.
The officially recognized Association des Anciens Elèves et Amis de l'Ecole William-Ponty was not itself very significant. From 1939 on, Ponty graduates had sought official permission to found this Association. No doubt because Ponty graduates were regarded as potentially dangerous agitators, permission was not granted until 1944. The statutes were accepted by the administration, on condition there be no professional trade union, political, and religious activities or discussions 81. The Association had to be patronized by “numerous high officials; its cradle was filled with so many flowers that it became a tomb.” 82
Ponty ties which later proved politically significant were informal. They had their source in the modest aims which led the Guinea Fulani students, for example, to create the Voix du Montagnard, to help each other with their studies, leisure activities, finance, exploration of African history, with “overcoming their shyness.” This little ethnic association was the basis of the Guinea Amicale Gilbert Vieillard, created in 1943 to “modernize the Fouta Djallon.” 83 The Amicale became the nucleus of the Guinea Socialist party, which in turn could never overcome its exclusive ethnic origins and appeal to all Guineans.
Other politically significant ties had their origins in the informal personal and group relations among the Ponty students. From among the Ponty graduates, came most of the post-war parlementaires and a very large proportion of the rival post-war party leaders. Underlying their temporary post-war differences of party loyalty, was a basic identity of outlook. At Ponty, students took pride as Africans—not merely as Bambara or Baule tribesmen, as Senegalese or as Ivory Coasters—when a colleague distinguished himself as a scholar, artist, or sportsman. A large proportion of these outstanding Ponty graduates assumed party office within the RDA. The first in a class was called major; his standing among his peers was comparable with that of a man who has a “first” from Oxford. Interterritorial political director Ouezzin Coulibaly (d. 1958) was a major at Ponty; so were Guinea RDA leader Diallo Saifoulaye and Ambassador Diallo Telli and Mali RDA leader Modibo Keita. The respect which their future political opponents acquired towards them at Ponty, remained strong even during periods of intense political rivalry.
Underlying the post-war political controversies among educated leaders-in addition to their common intellectual background—was a fund of intimate common personal experiences. That at Ponty an RDA leader saved the life of an IOM man; that as students RDA Ivory Coast leaders learned to have confidence in the integrity of a Progressiste leader 84, facilitated the quick transfer of partisan loyalties which occurred periodically among French West African party leaders after the war. Since 1956, for example, the dominant mass parties absorbed smaller former rival parties in the various territories, many parties merged, or changed names and forms of organization. Rival educated leaders—who only recently spoke of and acted harshly, even violently towards each other—became allies. The illiterate supporters of these post-war leaders, however, found speedy transfer of support from one party to another far more difficult to achieve. They had no common intellectual background or experiences ; their party loyalty was shaped largely by their loyalty to their ethnic unit or sub-unit. For many villagers, for example, the choice of membership in a particular party was largely determined by the fact that their group's traditional enemies supported a rival party. When educated party rivals became reconciled, their rural supporters were frequently unable to do the same, and remained divided by the controversies—about .kinship, land, water supply, cattle, religion and so forth—which had contributed to their initial choice of parties.
On these occasions, some educated African leaders used with great skill the intellectual tools—partly derived from their modern studies, and little developed in traditional modes of thought—which enabled them to acquire “objective knowledge of the forces determining their social organization and actuating their social behaviour” 85 They used this knowledge in order to build parties capable of harmonizing historic differences, and of embracing wider social units than had existed previously. The most successful mass party leaders both analyzed and devised party methods to strengthen the points which hostile villagers or illiterate townsmen had in common. Mainly within regional and ethnic parties, however, some educated African leaders did not hesitate to employ techniques which they knew reinforced traditional enmities.
Like Ponty, the lower state schools, whether vocational or not, also instilled African, as against ethnic values and links, and equipped students with the tools which they used to build analytical knowledge of their own societies. The political importance of the Bamako upper primary school, Terrasson de Fougères, and the Conakry vocational Ecole Georges Poiret was illustrated when the products became the founders and leaders of the Soudan and Guinea sections of the RDA 86.
While the state schools helped to weaken ethnic and historical antagonism, they also created new cleavages among the educated elite. Many of the pupils of the lower secondary and upper primary schools had themselves competed for scarce Ponty places. Bitter competition and rigid discipline meant that many failed, and resented those who succeeded. This resentment of the less towards the more educated later acquired political importance in some territories. In Guinea, where Ponty graduates had little alternative but administrative politics, most joined the various officially sanctioned regional and ethnic political groups. Therefore with very few exceptions, the Guinea RDA was led by products of the lower state schools, who accused the Ponty graduates of betraying the masses, and called them the valets of the administration. In Ivory Coast, however, Ponty graduates took the lead in the RDA, as well as in rival parties. There the RDA Ponty graduates found alternatives to administrative employment in farming. In Soudan, Ponty graduates also took the lead in the two most important rival parties, usually in the Parti Progressiste Soudanais if they were the clients or kinsmen of officially recognized chiefs, and in the RDA if they were not 87. Consequently the resentment of the less towards the more educated in Ivory Coast and Soudan never assumed political importance comparable to that in Guinea. This group resentment can be compared to the attitude of the “Standard VII Boys” who built the CPP of Ghana 88.
The second kind of territorial and interterritorial ties were among Africans in the civil service, composed essentially of graduates of state schools. According to French practice, the civil servants were frequently transferred from one territory to another. They thus gained wide experience of the Federation's problems, and built up relationships and common interests which made them a relatively cosmopolitan group. The growing tendency of the mobile civil servants to think federally, rather than territorially or ethnically did not, however, have much influence on politics at the grass roots. An unusually large proportion of the pre-war civil service posts were held by educated Senegalese, but their attempt to plant socialist parties outside of Senegal was unsuccessful even though they were sometimes helped by French civil servants. There were no obvious political consequences to the fact that many Dahomeans also held civil service posts outside their territory. Senegalese, Dahomeans, and others, when they were “strangers”, depended for political status outside of their territories upon the support of the indigenous territorial politicians. This was even more true for the mulatto civil servants, who as pre-war “citizens” occasionally achieved high administrative posts. At the grass roots level, militants often accused Senegalese, Dahomeans and other “strangers” of having acquired positions and values which separated them from the masses.
The educated civil servants who had the greatest post-war popular political success were the native educated Africans; the clerks, Ponty trained medical assistants, and most important, teachers. More teachers were members of party executives and representative assemblies, than men of any other single occupation 89. Teachers had the advantage of close contact with the people. The teachers began to think in federal terms and to develop a strong sense of their collective interests as early as 1937, when they formed the first French-speaking West African trade union, led by Ouezzin Coulibaly (d. 1958) and Mamadou Konaté (d. 1956). The ties which linked civil servants across territorial frontiers naturally affected parties at the level of leadership, rather than of local organization. The African civil servants who became successful RDA leaders in the various territories knew and had confidence in their professional colleagues in other territories. This facilitated the expansion of the RDA.from one territory to another. It also led many RDA native leaders to use their authority to secure acceptance of '“trangers” as RDA leaders or candidates 90. For example, the RDA controlled territorial assembly of Ivory Coast elected the former administrator Gabriel d'Arboussier, a mulatto , councillor of the French Union in 1947. In 1957, the RDA of Niger elected him territorial councillor and grand councillor 91. Ivory Coast between 1946 and 1957 elected a native of Upper Volta, Ouezzin Coulibaly, deputy twice and senator once. To a lesser extent, the same generalization could be made about the Senegalese BPS leaders. In 1957 one Senegalese Minister was Me Boissier-Palun, a mulatto from Dahomey, and the first vice-president of the Senegalese Territorial Assembly was Me André Guillabert, also a mulatto.
The third kind of modern territorial and interterritorial links were created by the French Communists. Before the war, a handful of Left-wing organizations existed in France, in which Africans met with Negroes from other parts of the world, and with French marxists, especially Communists. The Ligue de Ia Défense de la Race Nègre was probably the most influential of these; as early as 1930, publications of the Ligue were seized by the police at Grand Popo, Dimbroko and Grand Bassam 92. Other organizations were the Centre de Liaison Anti-imperialist, founded in 1939; the Union des Travailleurs Nègres; the Comité Universel de l'lnstitut Nègre de Paris; and the Rassemblement des Peuples Colonisés. The first president of the Rassemblement, in 1937, was the Algerian nationalist, Messali Hadj. These ephemeral groups in Paris left some traces in Africa, especially on these who read the occasional publications. Their influence was indirect, however, for in French West Africa all but a few Senegalese “citizens” were locally educated, and had very little contact with the political or intellectual life of Paris until after 1945.
Far more important were the ties which the Communists built in Africa, in the Groupe Social of Senegal organized during Popular Front days, and in many other territories during and immediately after the war. These ties were based primarily upon the schools, the civil service, African urban organizations, and to some extent the colonial armed forces. Initially these ties were the scaffolding for the interterritorial RDA and the trade union movement. Since the Popular Front, French Communists, “progressives” and their sympathizers had taken jobs in the administration, as teachers, technicians, and officers of the colonial military regiments 93. Among the schools where Communists taught were Ponty and the upper primary and vocational schools of Dakar, Conakry and Bamako. French Communists worked among the colonial sailors stationed in Senegal. From these posts, the Communists befriended the men they considered potential leaders from among the educated Africans. The Communists won the trust of Africans by behaving in ways that Africans had never seen Europeans behave. They were personal friends and comrades, rather than superiors; they taught political ideas and doctrines which strongly attracted Africans who had had little access to any acceptable alternative political education.
The Communists encouraged the formation of Groupes d'Etudes Communistes (GEC). Immediately after the French West African administration became responsible to the provisional de Gaulle government at the end of 1943, GEC's flourished in Dakar, Abidjan, Conakry, Bamako and, for a brief time, existed in Bobo-Dioulasso 94. The GECs, “although not organisms of the French Communist Party, nevertheless had direct links with it, and organized the Communist elements living in tropical Africa.” A restricted number of Africans, under the guidance of French Communists, studied '“Marxist-Leninism”. The writers studied were principally Russian or French. The writings of Asian Communists, not to mention Asian nationalists, received little attention. The GECs also considered “the social, economic, and political situation of the territory”, and “a common strategy and tactics for fighting against colonialism within the mass organizations (political, trade union, cultural, etc.) of the territory” 95.
In French-speaking West Africa, as in other underdeveloped areas the Communists faced the problem of leadership; they recognized that for the most part the modern elite was the “national Bourgeoisie.” 96 The position taken in the GECs was that
The cadres of the movement will necessarily have to be furnished largely by the intellectuals who have risen out of tribal and feudal cadres. It is necessary to take into account the preponderant influence which these leaders exercise on the African masses; without them, it would be difficult, and in many cases even impossible, to penetrate the masses or even have access to them. … It remains for the workers, peasants and honest intellectuals to remain at the base of the movement. Once the masses are reached, we must organize them and eventually lead them away from the tribal and feudal leaders who are hesitant; when necessary we must force these leaders to obey pressure from the masses 97.
The French Communists opposed the immediate creation of an African Communist party and cited Stalin's Colonialism and the National Question to explain that in a country where the national bourgeoisie bas not yet divided into revolutionary and conciliatory wings, the task of the Communist elements is to create a single national front against imperialism. They explained further that
If there is no Communist Party in tropical Africa, this is no index of a lack of confidence in the African Communists; this is not because Africans are not sufficiently évolués and educated to be able to organize a Communist Party. This is simply because such a party would not suit the kind of battle which the Communists have to wage at present in tropical Africa 98.
There were several less publicized reasons. First, the French Communists did not think the limited Marxist education and experience of African GEC members sufficient for the creation of an African party. The few Africans judged ready for membership cards were allowed to join the French CP. The French Communists never stated that they expected Africans eventually to have a separate party. On the contrary, their words implied that they expected Africans and Europeans to continue working within a single party, controlled from Paris. Second, the French Communists knew and favoured only their own slow centralized methods for building a Communist party. But they did not want to follow this process exclusively, for fear of losing precious opportunities to lead in postwar Africa. Thus they hoped through the GECs to inculcate French CP techniques and ideological standards, and to attract the loyalty of the most able African leaders. They hoped that these Africans would in turn influence, and eventually dominate, the nascent modern mass organizations. Third, they were aware of African sensitivity to European control. Most African GEC members did not hesitate to state their desire to run their own affairs, and to point out that the French Communists were woefully ignorant of African political conditions. The French Communists tried to counter latent “nationalist deviation” by arguing that colonialism was the source of African misery, that the trusts caused colonialism, that the trusts were powerful because of their position in France, that consequently the only sensible course for Africans was to ally with the French Communists, who attacked the trusts in France 99. They also used another, more sophisticated argument. They claimed that if France were to leave immediately, economically backward Africa would but fall victim to British or American imperialism. This would be far worse than French imperialism, for in Britain and America the “democratic progressive forces” were “particularly feeble”. The powerful French “democratic movement”, however, could help to emancipate Africa 100. The French Communists also hoped that the formally unattached, educational framework of the GECs would help to overcome African sensitivity to outside direction, and thus hasten their acceptance of the French Communist position.
French Communist action influenced the origin of African parties in numerous ways. By organizing and indoctrinating some of the most able African leaders, the GECs left an imprint on African political terminology. By teaching the duties of the vanguard of the revolution, the Communists deepened the sense of mission to lead the masses which many educated Africans already had. By familiarizing Africans with developments elsewhere, through press, missions, courses, discussions, conference, and opportunities for travel, the Communists increased African awareness of international events. Travel included African attendance at French and international political, peace, trade union, youth, student, women's, and other conferences. By teaching about Communist forms of organization and political action, the French Communists influenced the structural forms of the African parties, especially the RDA. In France, the Communists drew as many of the elected African representatives as they could into study courses, some at the Ecole des Cadres. By reporting facts and opinions and urging identical policies, the Communists hastened the process of consolidation and co-ordination of the geographically scattered modern African associations. They also did this by training GEC members to work simultaneously, or in turn, in parties, trade unions, youth, and other organizations.
This GEC practice of rotating leaders as conditions demanded, was well suited to dealing with the fluid characteristics of modern African associations in 1945. The associations frequently changed names; there was brisk competition as men who had been peers sorted themselves out into of some sort of a hierarchy. Rivals negotiated almost continually with each other, and with the representatives of the numerous existing ethnic groups; frequently the lines separating the members of one organization from those of another were hardly perceptible. The Communists encouraged the existing scattered African organizations to unify into a “single national anti-imperialist front”, soon baptised the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain.
The absolute amount of aid was not great. But not much was needed to make a difference. Previously there had been a void. Subsidized stencils, typewriters, and mimeographing machines made possible the wide circulation of documents, issued both from Paris Communist headquarters and locally, and dealing with territorial, French and international questions.
By 1946, the RDA newspaper Réveil was printed in Dakar, one of the first African party papers 101. That the RDA founding Congress took place in October 1946, less than a year after the first African elections were held, was at least partly due to Communist resources and to the Communist supported system of communication.
In three other ways, the French Communists influenced African parties in their formative stages, but indirectly also contributed to the subsequent African rejection of French Communist tutelage. First, by preaching the need for solidarity between the “oppressed colonial peoples and the working classes of France”, the French Communists opposed, and thus postponed the growth of African pro-independence nationalism. Instead, so long as the French Communist party wanted to appear to be like other parties in France—which worked within the French parliamentary and party system—they urged African support for the French Constitution and the French Union.
There exists in France a powerful democratic movement; thanks to the alliance of the progressive forces of the metropole with those from overseas, the present Constitution was voted, which contains undeniable progressive elements … These acquired gains are not negligible, and Africans should use them by waging their fight against imperialism through fighting for the preservation and the application of the principles of the Constitution. This is why the Communists of Africa favour the maintenance and implementation of the French Union within the framework of the Constitution 102.
This stand, and the Communist declaration that African emancipation could result only when France was controlled by the Communists, contained the implied major premise that the interests of the French Communist Party took precedence over the interests of African political organizations.
Second, by encouraging their African sympathizers to consider traitors those who opposed the Communists, the French CP for a time superimposed on Africa the divisions of French and international politics. This meant that Africans, still struggling to create a measure of unity among different, often quarrelling ethnic and religious groups, had to deal locally with another, imported source of conflict.
Lastly, the Communist connexions of African leaders lent substance to the charges by French colonial officials that the anticolonial movement in Africa was Communist inspired. Subsequent history showed the fact was rather that the French Communists were benefiting from, and trying to catch up with, existing African postwar unrest.
The many changes taking place right after Liberation in administrative practice, in the economy and in the institutional framework, stimulated rather than reduced unrest and political activity in French West Africa.
Purges of Vichy supporters led to a break in the continuity of French administrative practice, and increased African awareness of instability within France. New men who rose through the Resistance movement took over high posts. An example was the nomination in 1943 of Ivory Coast Governor Latrille, whose policies in favour of the African rather than European planters were unprecedented. Partial resumption of international trade and transport meant that people again travelled, farmers earned money, traders recommenced their rounds. News and ideas travelled more freely. The presence of some American Negro troops in Dakar aroused lively interest. African war veterans returned to the towns and villages, and recounted their experiences abroad. Though the number was con siderably less than the 173,000 who had served in the First World War 103, nevertheless quite a few had been abroad. In 1938 there were 30,000 in France, Syria, and North Africa and 15,000 in tropical Africa; in 1939 a special draft added 12,000 more 104. Upon their return many were disinclined to follow the lead of village or cantonal chiefs.
The reforms resulting from the Brazzaville recommendations of 1944 105 raised African expectations, and increased the tempo of African political activities. This rather than relief of the accumulated tension, was the immediate result of the reform of the indigenat 106; the end to the worst abuses of racial discrimination 107, wider permission to organize trade unions and the creation of minimum standards for African workers 108, the measure of freedom of assembly which per· mitted the creation of political organization 109, the plan for the pro· gressive elimination of forced labour; the proposed expansion of educational facilities. The reforms, particularly the introduction of elections in Africa, precipitated the creation of parties 110. The new representative institutions offered incentives which, though restricted and at first imperfectly understood, allowed African discontent to crystallize through party forms. The likelihood of violence was reduced as the holding of elections encouraged African leaders to express their grievances and achieve their ends with legal rather than clandestine under· ground movements.
Partly before and specially after 1955, when officials relatively honestly administered elections, the reforms made possible fairly orderly transfer of political power to educated Africans who had some popular support. The transfer took place soon after, or while mass parties were forming.
This does not mean, of course, that the reforms caused the forces which crystallized into parties. Though, as French African institutions became progressively more Africanized and elections took place frequently, these became in turn stimuli to which African political organizations responded. On the whole, however, times of elections or institutional change coincided only partly with the periods of extraordinary social and political stress and activity in French tropical Africa. During these waves of political action—1944-6 in most territories, 1948-51 in Ivory Coast and Senegal, 1954-6 in Guinea, 1956-9 in most territories—mass parties were usually reorganized and strengthened, though not necessarily born. The reforms prior to independence were adopted according to a French political timetable, while the waves of political activity in French Africa were produced, increasingly, by dynamics of African politics.
The elections not only channelled, they also synchronized political developments in territories where political pressure was unequal. In all the territories the first elections encouraged the rapid formation of small electoral groups aiming at filling the new offices from among their ranks. Yet Mauretania, Niger, and some parts of Upper Volta could have been and in some respects were ruled in the old paternal way some years after 1945. Elections there since 1945 certainly accelerated the formation of parties. On the other hand Senegal and Ivory Coast were in 1945 on the brink of popular explosion. There the elections also encouraged the formation of small electoral groups, but certainly did not cause the growth of new mass political movements. These already existed; the elections legalized them, and accelerated their transformation into political parties.
The reforms also strengthened the position of educated Africans in their bid for political leadership. Their bid to lead, however, had deeper causes. A consequence of colonial rule was the decline of traditional African rulers, whose power was undercut by European laws, soldiers, and administrators. The new boundaries of the territories and cercles took no account of the boundaries of traditional political units. The existence of official chiefs complicated issues of succession in each locality. Tribesmen found it to their advantage to seek the help of educated kinsmen rather than chiefs over matters which brought them into contact with the European administration. Increasingly people respected the educated minority.
The decline of chiefs and the rise of a new educated group of leaders had been taking place since the start of European rule 111. The reforms, by their nature, order and duration reinforced the process by making it possible for educated Africans to institutionalize their position of leadership.
Most people agreed that Africans who expected to participate effectively in French or French inspired institutions needed some French education. One of the main criticisms made of the candidacy of Tenga Ouedraogo, in the Constituent Assembly elections in Ivory Coast of 1945, was “his almost total ignorance of the French language, which hardly qualified him to participate usefully … in the debates” 112. (He was a functionary at the court of the Morho Naba, the officially designated paramount chief of the Mossi. He lost.) Furthermore, the new offices were open to all; none were reserved for the chiefs; only Europeans had for a time some reserved places. This is not to say that the status a man had in traditional society had no relevance for his status in the modern parties. In French Africa, as in other similarly rapidly changing societies, some of the most effective political leaders were those who derived or appeared to derive their position both from the traditional and modern systems. One example was Sékou Touré, a descendant of the warrior king Samory Toure whose campaigns were stopped by French military operations at the turn of the century 113.
The voting system also helped to institutionalize the position of leadership of educated Africans. The limited franchise of 1945 restricted the immediate organizing task of parties. Few African leaders saw this restriction, however, as other than temporary. They saw it as the not very satisfactory appetizer for the universal franchise which became law in 1957. The limited franchise, moreover, was heavily weighted in favour of the towns. Those allowed to vote, by the ordinance of 22 August 1945, included “veterans, those who had French decorations or distinctions, those who had school certificates higher than and including the primary school certificate, chiefs of ethnic groups, members of unions or professional groups and civil servants” 114. As the franchise broadened in 1951, the majority of voters shifted from town to countryside. Then, at least partly because of administrative encouragement, traditional and neo-traditional leaders seemed for a time to assume more significant modern roles. Yet subsequent history showed their position was continually declining.
While strengthening the political position of the educated Africans, the reforms also made it their task to explain to their illiterate countrymen the vote, the choice it implied, and the concept of repre· sentation. So began a process of modern political education, democratic in form, of the whole African population. With elections came a steady accumulation of political experience—on a scale wider than the traditional tribal unit—and growing acceptance for the idea that power must rest on renewed, expressed popular consent. Repeated elections maintained political activities at a high level. “The result was an unprecedented political awakening, a mobilization of groups previously untouched and inert.” 115
1. Newbury, C. W. “The Formation of the Government General of French West Africa”, The Journal of African History, vol. 1, no. 1, London, Cambridge University Press, 1960, p. 111.
2. Balandier, Georges. “La Situation coloniale: approche théorique”, Cahiers Internationaux de Sociologie, vol. XI, 1951, pp. 44 f.
3. Hailey, Lord. An African Survey, Oxford University Press, London, 1938, p. 622, quoting from the decree of 21 August 1930; see also Rolland, Louis and Pierre Lampué. Précis de droit des pays d'outre-mer, 2nd Edition, Librairie Dalloz, Paris, 1952, p. 271.
4. Hailey, 1938, op. cit., pp. 624-8; Delavignette, Robert. Freedom and Authority in French West Africa, Oxford University Press, London, 1950, p. 123.
5. See protest by Soudanese Socialist deputy Jean Silvandre, and response by the Overseas Under-Secretary, Tony Révillon, J.O.A.N., Débats, 28 January 1949, pp. 238 f.
6. A pioneer inquiry into the history and economics of labour recruitment in Africa was made by Elliot Berg in his doctoral dissertation for Harvard University, The Recruitment of a Labor Force in Sub-Sahara Africa, Cambridge, 1960.
7. An account of and a protest against forced labour by a French Catholic scholar are to be found in Joseph Folliet's Le Travail forcé aux colonies, Les Editions du Cerf, Paris, c. 1936. See also Bulletin Catholique International, 1 June 1928.
8. Delavignette, op. cit., p. 113, and Hailey, 1938, op. cit., p. 626.
9. Le Populaire, 5 and 7 July 1927.
10. Fréchou, Hubert. Les Plantations européennes en Côte d'Ivoire, Thesis typescript, University of Bordeaux, c. 1955, pp. 128 f; Berg, Elliot. “French West Africa”, Labor and Economic Development, Walter Galenson, ed., Wiley, New York, 1959,
11. Delavignette, op. cit., p. 113.
12. Berg. “French West Africa”, op. cit., p. 195. An interesting study of migration from Upper Volta is Jean Rouch's “Migrations au Ghana”, Journal de Ia Société des Africanistes, tome XXVI, fasc. I and II, Musée de l'Homme, Paris, 1956, pp. 33- 196.
13. Annex 11348 to J.O.A.N. Records, 21 November 1950, Rapport fait au nom de Ia commission chargée d'enquêter sur les incidents survenus en Côte d'Ivoire, M. Damas, 3 vols., p. 14. (Henceforth cited as Annex 11348.) Also report by Inspecteur des Colonies Maret, Bouaké, 26 May 1931 , ts. (Henceforth cited as Maret Report.) Brunot's successor, Reste, favoured use of forced labour for European plantations. He was elected a first college representative to the first Constituent Assembly.
14. Later somewhat amended.
15. Fréchou thesis, op. cit., p. 133.
16. Ibid., p. 135.
17. Maret report, op. cit., p. 5.
18. Fréchou thesis, op. cit., p. 135.
19. Maret report, op. cit., p. 16.
20. Annex 11348, op. cit., p. 2.
21. Houphouet. J.O.A.N.C.I, Débats, 23 March 1946, pp. 1028 f.
22. Fréchou thesis, op. cit., p. 136. See Figure 5, p. 168.
23. Ibid., p. 140.
24. Ibid., pp. 136-9, 182 f., and 221 f.
25 See pp. 61 f.
26. Guèye, Lamine. Etapes et perspectives de l'Union française, Editions de l'Union Française, Paris, 1955, pp. 37-8.
27. Robinson, K. E. “The Public Law of Overseas France Since the War,” Oxford University, Institute of Colonial Studies, Reprint no. 1a, p. 3; Rolland and Lampué, op. cit., pp. 294-7; Devèze, Michel. La France d'outre-mer, Hachette, Paris, 1948, pp. 76-77.
28. J.O.A.N.C.I, 22 March 1946, pp. 1000 f. See also Hailey, 1938, op. cit., pp. 290-1.
29. Guèye, Etapes et perspectives… , op. cit., p. 36.
30. See pp. 58 f.
31. Folliet, op. cit., p. 43-9.
32. Delavignette, op. cit., p. 71-84.
33. Deschamps, Hubert. L'Eveil politique africain, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1952, p. 81.
34. Grivot, R. Réactions dahoméennes, Editions Berger-Levrault, Paris, 1954, p. 145, reflects official fear of the radical tendencies in Hamallism.
35. Gouilly, Alphonse. L'Islam dans l'Afrique occidentale française. Editions Larose, Paris, 1952, p. 145.
36. Ibid., p. 140.
37. Hodgkin, Thomas. Nationalism in Colonial Africa, Muller, London, 1956, p. 107.
38. See the note, signed D.O., in Esprit, Paris, September 1953.
39. From an unpublished typescript by an eye witness.
40. See Figure 5, p. 168, and Appendix XI.
41. See d'Arboussier's discussion of inflation in Africa during the war, J.O.A.N.C.I, Débats, 22 March 1946, pp. 889 f.
42. Richard-Molard, Jacques. Afrique Occidentale Française, Paris, Editions Berger-Levrault, 1952, p. 167.
43. See d'Aby, F. J. Amon. La Côte d'Ivoire dans la cité africaine, Larose, Paris, 1951, p. 41, and Devèze. op. cit., p. 158.
44. Afrique Nouvelle, 10 August 1947.
45. Ibid., 5 October 1947.
46. Annex 11348, op. cit., pp. 25-9.
47. Service des Statistiques d'Outre-mer, Outre-mer 1958, Imprimerie Paul Dupont, Paris, 1959, p. 189.
48. For surveys of pre-war education, see Guernier, Eugène, editor, Afrique Occidentale Française, Encyclopédie Coloniale et Maritime, tome I, Paris, 1949, pp. 267- 78, and Hailey, 1938, op. cit., pp. 1260-7.
49 From a speech by N'Diaye Babakar, president of the Ponty alumni association, the Association William-Ponty, reprinted in Genèse, the association bulletin, 1 April 1945, Imprimerie du Gouvernement, Dakar, p. v.
50. See the pride with which Ray Autra, himself a graduate of Ponty, discusses this point in “Historique de l'enseignement en A.O.F.,” Présence Africaine, February-March 1956, Paris, p. 73.
51. Dirand, A., in his report to the Congrès International de l'Evolution Culrurelle des Peuples Coloniaux, Paris, 1938, p. 35.
52. Hailey, 1938, op. cit., p. 1262.
53. Autra, op. cit., p. 72.
55. For some substantiating details, see Appendix VIII, “professions.”
56. Genèse, op. cit., p. vi. Bernard Dadié, an Ivory Coast graduate of Ponty, in his novel Climbié, Editions Seghers, Paris, 1956, described a young African's reactions to pre-war school life.
57. This estimate, given by education officials in Dakar, was confirmed by calculations based on Hailey, 1938, op. cit., pp. 1185-6, and by figures in Haut Commissariat de l'AOF, Annuaire Statistique de l'AOF, Edition 1951, tome II,
Imprimerie Nationale, Paris, 1951, p. 83.
58. Started in 1934, with 99 pupils in 1937-8.
59. Started in 1938, with 47 pupils.
60. Started in 1939.
61. See “La Scolarisation de !'Afrique noire,” Tam-Tam, Bulletin des Etudiants Catholiques en France, Paris, March-May 1955, for a discussion of the role (with supporting statistical information) of the mission schools.
62. Guernier, op. cit., p. 271.
63. See pp. 57 f.
64. Dadié. Bernard. “Misère de l'enseignement en A.O.F.”, Présence Africaine, Paris, December 1956-January 1957, p. 59.
65. d'Aby, op. cit., pp. 154-63.
66. See Béart in Genèse, op. cit., pp. 25-6, and his “Recherche des éléments d'une sociologie des peuples africains à partir de leurs jeux”, Présence Africaine, Paris, 1960.
67. For some views of post-war African students in Paris see A. Sar, I. Fofana, and K. Banny, “Esprit et situation de l'enseignement en Afrique noire”, Présence Africaine, December 1956-January 1957, Paris, pp. 71-83; and by A. Wade, “Examen critique des méthodes pedagogiques”, ibid., April- May 1956, pp. 56-73.
68. d'Aby, op. cit., p. 44.
69. Senghor's speech at the Annual Congress of the French SFIO, 20 March 1947, reprinted in l'A.O.F., 2 May 1947. Richard-Molard, op. cit., p. 166.
70. J.O.A.N.C.I, Débats, 22 March 1946, p. 998.
71. L'A.O.F., June 1947.
72. Both citations from d'Aby, op. cit., p. 42.
73. d'Aby, op. cit., p. 36.
74. See Garigue, Philip. “Changing Political Leadership in West Africa,” Africa, vol. XXIV, no. 3, Oxford University Press, London, July 1954, pp. 228 f.
75. Led by Modibo Keita, Ponty graduate, teacher, secretary-general of the Union Soudanaise (RDA); in 1956 Soudan deputy to the French National Assembly; in 1961 President of Mali.
76. Led by Fodé Mamoudou Touré, a Guinean, one of the very few pre-war African lawyers, senator from Guinea in 1955.
77. Led by Mamadou Konaté, teacher, Ponty graduate, from 1946 RDA deputy from Soudan (d. 1956).
78 Annex 11348, tome II, op. cit., p. 463.
79. Ibid., p. 465.
80. d'Aby, op. cit., pp. l 10-11.
81. d'Aby, op. cit., p. 42; Climats, 27 December 1955, no. 496.
82 A brief history is given in Genèse. op. cit., pp. 3-7.
83. Dadié, “Misère de l'enseignement en A.O.F.”, op. cit., p. 60.
84. Citations from interviews in 1956, Conakry.
85. Parti Progressiste de la Côte d'Ivoire.
86. Fortes, M. and E. Evans-Pritchard. African Political Systems, Oxford University Press, London, 1940, p. 17.
87. For substantiating evidence, see Appendix VIII, “education.”
88. For supporting statistics, see Figure 7, p. 278.
89. Apter, David. The Gold Coast in Transition, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1955, p. 167.
90. See Appendix VIII, “professions”, for supporting statistics.
91. See Appendix VIII, “ethnic origins”, for supporting figures.
92. After the referendum he became a deputy in Senegal's National Assembly, and after independence, Senegal's first Minister of Justice.
93 L'Ami du Peuple, 24 February 1930.
94. The names of some are cited in Le Rassemblement Démocratique Africain dans la lutte anti-impérialiste, pamphlet printed at Impressions Rapides, Paris, c. 1948, p. 63. (Henceforth cited as RDA 1948 pamphlet.) Among the French Communists were M. and Mme. Faure, M. and Mme. Gérard Cauche, M. Suret-Canale in Dakar; Governor Latrille's chef de cabinet Lambert, and Philippe Franceschi, elected senator from Ivory Coast in 1948; teachers Morlet and Fayette in Bamako.
95. From mimeographed report by RDA secretary-general Gabriel d'Arboussier to the RDA Co-ordinating Committee, 12 April 1949, p. 16. In Bobo-Dioulasso, a French Trotskyist, M. Robert Bailhache, exercised personal influence.
96. From mimeographed by-laws of the GEC of Dakar.
97. Vernon McKay in “Communist Exploitation of Anti-Colonialism and Nationalism in Africa”, The Threat of Soviet Imperialism, C. Grove Haines, ed., Baltimore, the Johns Hopkins Press, 1954, pp. 259-60.
98. Senegalese GEC course No. 2, mimeographed, 1947.
100. The argument is reproduced from GEC 1947 course, op. cit. The same point is made in Raymond Barbé's circulars 41 and 55 to the GECs. Barbé was the member of the French CP's Central Committee in charge of colonial questions. He became a member of the Assembly of the French Union in 1947.
101. GEC 1947 course, op. cit.
102. In Paris, the glossy propaganda journal l'Afrique was sporadically published. The French Communist press, which circulated in Africa, carried comments on colonial affairs, e.g. R. Barbé's “Les Problèmes de l'Union française” and “Où va l'Union française?”, published in the October 1946 and May 1947 issues of Cahiers du Communisme.
103. GEC 1947 course, op. cit.
104. Delafosse, Maurice. “L'Afrique Occidentale Francaise”, in Hanotaux, Gabriel and Alfred Martineau, Histoire des colonies françaises et de l'expansion de la France dans le monde, tome IV, Société de l'Histoire Nationale, Plon, Paris, 1931, p. 351.
105. Devèze. op. cit., p. 62. For a brief description of the role of ex-servicemen in Ghana, see Nkrumah, Kwame, Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., London, 1957, p. 76.
106. See p. 69.
107. Decree of 17 July 1944, and decrees of 22 December 1945 and 20 February 1946.
108. Decree of 7 January 1944 (before the Brazzaville conference).
109. Decree of 7 August 1944.
110. Decree of 11 April 1945.
111. See Coleman, James S., “The Emergence of African Political Parties”, in Africa Today, C. Grove Haines, ed., Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1955, pp. 225 f.
112. A fascinating picture of the many forces which led to the disintegration of traditional authority in Guinea is found in Territoire de la Guinée Française, Conférence des commandants de cercle, Conakry, 25- 27 July 1957, Imprimerie du Gouvernement, 1957.
113 d'Aby, op. cit., p. 56.
114. For more details, see Appendix VIII, “ethnic status”.
115. Devèze, op. cit., pp. 219-20.
116. Coleman. “The Emergence of African Political Parties”, op. cit., p. 240.