BECK index

West Africa and the French 1700-1950

by Sanderson Beck

West Africa and Slavery 1700-1800
Bornu and Hausaland 1700-1950
Segu 1700-1787
Futa Jallon and Tukulor 1700-1950
Guinea and Ivory Coast 1849-1916
Dahomey, Togo and Cameroun 1700-1918
French West Africa 1900-50

This chapter has been published in the book Mideast & Africa 1700-1950.
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West Africa and Slavery 1700-1800

West Africa to 1500
West Africa and Slavery to 1700

More than six million African slaves were transported to the Americas during the 18th century when prices rose steadily. The French built the Saint Joseph fort at Galam in 1700. These western-most ports were used for transporting slaves before the larger slave markets were developed in the Gulf of Guinea and Angola. The war chiefs strengthened their control and exploited the slave trade. Lat Sukaabe Fall (r. 1695-1720) of Kayor monopolized the sale of slaves and firearms and took over the crown of Bawol. His reforms attempted to integrate the marabouts into his political system by making them government agents. French desire to control the gum trade provoked a war in 1717 that lasted ten years in Wolof. The French supported provincial chief Malixuri in his rebellion against Wolof brak Yerim Mbanik in 1724. After mediation failed, Malixuri lost company support and was defeated. Yerim Mbanik increased his power, and his brothers Aram Bakar (r. 1733-57) and Naatago (r. 1756-66) expanded Wolof hegemony, especially over Kayor which had suffered civil war. Naatago kept raising the price of slaves, and in 1758 the English took over Saint-Louis. That year the French also abandoned Fort Saint Joseph at Galam. The English helped Kayor damel Makoddu Kumba Jaaring to recover his territory from Wolof in 1765. After Naatago died, British Governor O’Hara supplied arms to Moors in order to overcome Wolof power and to take more slaves. In six months of 1775 the English took more than 8,000 slaves from Wolof alone; the price of a slave in Saint-Louis was reduced to a piece of cloth.

In Futa Toro the violent climate of the war chiefs stimulated Bubakar Sire to appeal to Morocco for troops (Ormans) in 1716, and from then on they had to pay a grain tax. Power struggles led Samba Gelaajo to seize control with help of the Gaidy Ormans in 1725; but he turned from the Moors to the French and traded slaves for weapons. Later Samba was forced into exile but used his Orman army to return in 1738. The Moors dominated Futa Toro as one ruler followed another. Finally the Torodo party, led by Sulayman Baal, won a military victory at Mboya and ended the annual grain tribute to the Moors.

Because Governor O’Hara was taking so many slaves, in 1776 the Torodo party banned all English trade with Galam. That year Sulayman Baal died and was succeeded by ‘Abd al-Qadir ibn Hammadi, who was chosen for his religious learning to establish a theocracy. He defeated the Moors and made them pay tribute, overcoming the Denianke and distributing land to Torodo leaders. In 1786 he invaded Trarza, killing their emir Ely Kowri. ‘Abd al-Qadir implemented land reform in Futa Toro about 1790. Kayor damel Amari Ngoone Ndeela (r. 1790-1809) renounced the previous submission to Futa Toro and killed ‘Abd al-Qadir’s envoy. ‘Abd al-Qadir organized a military expedition with nearly 30,000 people to colonize Kayor; but Amari Ngoone’s scorched-earth strategy left them thirsty and weak. ‘Abd al-Qadir was taken prisoner but was magnanimously released by Amari Ngoone after he promised not to invade again. ‘Abd al-Qadir invaded Wolof in 1796 and forced the burba of Jolof and the brak of Waalo to become Muslims. However, when he intervened in Bundu and wanted to attack the Bundu-Ka’arta alliance, he was deposed by the Jaggorde opposition at home. He formed an alliance with Gajaaga and Xaaso but was killed in 1807 by the Bundu and Ka’arta forces.

Large slave-hunts by the powerful Kaabu stimulated Fulbe and Mande marabouts in 1725 to revolt in order to gain security. The marabouts, led by Ibrahima Sambegu, declared it a jihad and defeated the non-Muslim Jallonke cattle herders; his nephew Ibrahima Sory smashed the pagan drums of Timbo. The Futa-Jallonke led the resistance and formed an alliance with Sulimana’s ruler Ayina Yella (r. 1730-50). After conquering Jallonke, Susu, and Pullis, in 1747 nine Muslim chiefs combined the Fulbe and Jallonke to form the theocratic Confederation of Futa Jallon under the leadership of Sambegu, who was given the titles Karamokho Alfa and Almamy. After he died about 1751, the army commander Ibrahima Sory used the excuse of jihad and an alliance with Yella-Dansa (r. 1750-54) of Sulimana to attack Farabana in 1754 and procure slaves. After Tahabaire became king of Sulimana, they attacked Farabana again the next year. This provoked a slave revolt, and some fled to Bundu, where they fortified Koundie. When Sulimana defected from the Fulbe and Jallonke alliance in 1762, Sory was defeated at Balia by Sankaran’s King Konde Burama. The Jallonke withdrew their support from the Fulbe, who reacted by beheading all the Jallonke chiefs of Sulimana in Futa. Tahabaire joined Konde Burama, and they took over Timbo and burned it in 1763. Tahabaire attacked Fugumba in 1767 but was driven back; yet he pillaged Limba, taking and selling 3,500 prisoners.

Sory fought back and eventually defeated Sankaran in 1776, becoming almamy. When the council of ‘ulama (clerics) in Fugumba challenged his authority, Sory went there and beheaded those who opposed him, replaced them with his supporters, and moved the council to Timbo. So many slaves were held in Futa Jallon that several slave revolts broke out. In 1785 Mandinka slaves massacred their masters and burned the stores of rice. Sory influenced Bundu and the region, ruling Futa Jallon until 1791. Six years later his son Sadu was assassinated by supporters of Karamokho’s son. The marabouts themselves had become a slave-holding class.

Bornu and Hausaland 1700-1900

Bornu, Hausa, and Songhay to 1700

Bornu’s wars in 17th century probably contributed to a series of famines that continued in the 18th century.When his brother al-Amin overthrew him in 1721, Agg-Abba fled to Adar. Agg-Abba ruled the refugee Itisen and founded their capital Birni-n-Adar, where he died in 1738. Bornu was ruled by Dunama ibn ‘Ali and Muhammad ibn Hajj Hamdun, who besieged Kano for seven months during the reign of Kumbara ibn Sharefa. Bornu mai Hamdun ibn Dunama emphasized piety and learning, beginning the influence of ‘ulama in Bornu that was continued by ‘Ali ibn Hamdun (c. 1750-91). ‘Ali fought off Tuareg attacks over the salt mines of Bilma in Kawar; but after an Ahirawa attack on Bornu in 1759, he allowed Ahir to engage in the Bilma trade. The Mandara rebellion eventually led to the routing of the Bornu army about 1781. Bagirmi, led by Muhammad al-Amin (r. 1751-85), also threw off Bornu hegemony and made Islam the state religion. When his successor ‘Abd ar-Rahman Gwarang (r. 1785-1806) married his sister, Wadai’s ‘Abd al-Karim Sabun used this as a pretext for attacking Bagirmi. Wadai under Jawda (d. 1795) invaded Bahr al-Ghazal, causing migrations and famines. Gobir also revolted against Bornu about 1785.

Muhammad al-Amin ibn Muhammad al-Kanemi was born in the Fezzan to an Arab mother and a Kanembu father. He studied Islam in Murzuk and Tripoli and went on a pilgrimage with his father who died in 1790. Al-Kanemi settled in Ngala to teach, but he was also a military leader and was called to support Mai Dunama. He had written to al-Bukhari and Goni Mukhtar, questioning the wisdom of their aggression. He argued that people should be taught Islam not by war and that to kill Muslims in a jihad is worse than to tolerate the practices of unbelievers. Justifying his action as defending legitimate authority, his Bornu army defeated and killed Goni Mukhtar, enabling Dunama to return to his palace two months after his father left. Al-Kanemi returned to Ngala, and Dunama rewarded him with slaves. Ibrahim Zaki captured the capital again the next year but soon had to retreat. The nobles lost their faith in Dunama and forced him to abdicate to his uncle, Muhammad Ngileruma, and a new Bornu capital was built at Birni Kafela. Al-Kanemi gained the fief of Ngurno before he agreed to attack Zaki.

By the end of 1808 the Muslims captured Zaria. The Bornu mai complained that the Fulani were emigrating from his territory. Most peasants remained neutral as the Muslim reformers fought a revolution to replace Hausa aristocrats. Shaykh Usman established a caliphate at Sokoto and sent governors and judges to implement Islamic law (shari‘a) in the provinces. By 1810 they had conquered the Hausa states and brought those influenced by Bornu under their Islamic government. In 1812 he divided the caliphate into east and west, and after his death five years later the Gwandu emir controlled the western region.

Bornu’s Ngileruma was disliked for his strict laws, and al-Kanemi was offered even more land to support the return of Dunama. Al-Kanemi then had a new town built at Kukawa. He campaigned against rebellious Fulani and used Fezzani troops. Dunama formed an alliance with Baghirmi’s sultan east of Lake Chad against al-Kanemi, who intercepted his letter and killed Dunama. After 1819 al-Kanemi ruled Bornu as Dunama’s young brother Ibrahim was under his influence. Bagirmi was defeated in 1824 after ten years of fighting. In 1826 al-Kanemi drove the Fulani leader Muhammad Manga to Kano, invading the Sokoto caliphate until he was defeated by Yaqub of Bauchi.

Al-Kanemi governed Bornu with six Arab advisors and was succeeded in 1837 by his eldest son Umar. Mai Ibrahim instigated Wadai’s Sultan Muhammad ash-Sharif to invade Bornu. Umar learned of it and had Ibrahim arrested. The Wadai army killed many top Bornu officials, and Umar fled to Kukawa. Sultan Muhammad at Ngurno approved the appointment of Ibrahim’s son Ali as mai; but Ali was defeated and killed, and the inhabitants of destroyed Birni Kafela fled. Thus in 1846 the Kanemi dynasty in Bornu ended after a thousand years. The descendants of al-Kanemi’s council of six had fiefs with titles; but their functions became ceremonial. Umar relied on his vizier al-Hajj Bashir. In 1853 Umar’s brother Abdurrahman took over the government for a year, killing al-Hajj Bashir but allowing Umar to live in Kukawa. After Umar regained the throne, Abdurrahman revolted again and was put to death. Umar began to rely on Bashir’s assistant Laminu Njitiya, who governed until he died in 1871. Slavery flourished in Bornu; by 1870 there were three thousand royal slaves, but some of these held high offices. Some slaves even owned their own slaves, and those called kachella became a standing army in Bornu.

In 1883 Abdurrahman revolted against his brother Umar and forced him to abdicate. The Shuwa challenged the Kanuri and became dominant in Bornu. The Kolaks led by Yusuf (r. 1874-98) developed industry in Wadai and attracted craftsmen from Kano. In 1908 the French decided the conquer Wadai and seized its capital at Abeshr the next year, replacing the Sultan with a prince, who was deposed in 1912. During the famine of 1913-14 the marabouts organized resistance. During the heavy recruiting of 1917 four leaders were arrested in November, and the Senegalese troops massacred many of the upper class in Abeshr.

Sokoto was relatively peaceful, and the wazirs Ibrahim Khalifu (1859-74) and ‘Abdallah Bayero (1874-86) had the most influence. Emir ‘Abdallah was deposed for starting a war without authorization, and Muhammad Bello bin Ibrahim was installed at Kano in 1886. Bagirmi allied with Bornu and overcame Wadai, gaining sovereignty over both under Aburahmani Gaurany (r. 1883-1918).

In 1893 Bornu was conquered by Rabah al-Zubayr, who was from the eastern Sudan and had served in the Egyptian army. He commanded the private army of the slave-trader Zubayr Pasha. Rabah marched his army west and defeated Wadai before conquering Bagirmi and Bornu by burning Kukawa and founding his capital at Dikwa. With help from the Bagirmi the French army defeated and killed Rabah on April 22, 1900. His son Fad-el-Allah escaped with 3,000 followers into British territory. The French restored Abubakar Gabai, a descendant of the Kanemi dynasty of Bornu, killed Fad-el-Allah, and demanded $80,000 from Abubakar. Later the British accepted Abubakar on the throne of Bornu provided he would not pay the remaining $6,500 to the French.

Kano’s ruler Mohamma Sharefa dan Dadi (r. 1703-31) imposed seven new taxes to pay for military forces. After Kumbari dan Sharefa (r. 1731-43) put a tax on scholars, many Arabs left Kano for Katsina, which, as the wealthiest commercial city in the region, welcomed foreigners. Poet Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman al Barnawi composed the Shurb al-Zulal (Drinking of the Sweet) that distinguished what is permissible from what is forbidden according to Islamic law. He also criticized illegal taxes, greed, and perversion of justice. Kano’s ruler Baba Zaki (r. 1768-76) was unpopular for exploiting the nobles and forcing them to fight as soldiers. Sacrifices of cattle to the Qur’an did not end in Kano until the reign (1781-1807) of Al-Wali.

In the 18th century Gobir with help from Zamfara and Ahir replaced Kebbi as a regional power. Ahir attacked Gobir and Zamfara while competing with Bornu for northern trade routes. Zamfara raids on Kano stimulated Kanawa vassals to build walls around their towns. Gobir under Babari (r. 1741-69) fought several wars against Kano early in his reign. Then Gobir went to war against Zamfara and finally sacked Birnin Zamfara about 1762. Babari fortified Alkalawa and made it his capital; but his son Dan Gudi (r. 1769-71) was killed fighting the Tuareg. Zamfara’s sarki Maroki went to Kiawa and in alliance with Katsina continued the war for fifteen years against Gobir’s sarki Bawa jan Gwarzo (r. 1771-89). Bawa plundered Katsina territory but died after the defeat at Dan Kashe. His son Ya‘qub dan Bawa also died fighting Katsina at Kiawa in 1795. This ended Gobir’s war with Katsina, but Ya‘qub’s successor Nafata (r. 1795-1802) turned to conflicts with Zamfara.

Usman dan Fodio (ibn Fudi) was born in 1754 and studied for a year with the radical Jibril ibn ‘Umar of Agades, who had to flee from persecution by Tuareg aristocrats because of his subversive preaching. As a Fulani scholar and Qadiriyya Sufi, Usman wrote books to explain Islam to Fulani pastoralists, composed poems in Fulfulde, and preached to Hausa peasants. He challenged the moral positions of Gobir’s King Bawa and struggled for freedom of religion. Shaykh Usman called for reforms, and his Fulani community became an alternative to oppressive Gobir rule. He did not claim to be the coming mahdi but his forerunner. Usman met with Bawa at age thirty and then moved from the Zamfara region to Degel in western Gobir, where his growing community became independent of the Alkalawa government. By 1785 he had persuaded Bawa to reduce his taxes. Gobir’s King Nafata rescinded the rights they had won and banned the Fulani turbans and veils about 1796. After raids captured Fulanis as slaves, Usman approved carrying arms for defense.

Usman helped Nafata’s son Yunfa become the next king of Gobir in 1801, but Yunfa’s resistance to Usman’s reforms led to conflict. Yunfa summoned Usman dan Fodio and tried to shoot him with a pistol; but it backfired and wounded his own hand. After proscribed Muslims used force to liberate some captives, Yunfa expelled Usman and his community from Degel. Like the prophet Muhammad, they emigrated and began a jihad from Gobir to Gudu in February 1804. In his book Bayan Wujub al-hijra Usman wrote,

Seeing to the welfare of subjects
is more effective than a large number of soldiers.
It has been said that the crown of a king is his integrity,
his stronghold is his impartiality and his capital is his subjects.
There can be no triumph with transgression,
no rule without learning (fiqh) of the law
and no chieftaincy with vengeance.1

Shaykh Usman sent letters to Hausa’s rulers in 1804, asking them to reform; now he tried to negotiate, but Hausa’s leaders rejected his offer. Those supporting Shaykh Usman were driven out of Alkalawa and villages. During a famine the Muslims gained the support of pastoralist Fulanis against Tuareg raiders. Because they did not have fire-arms, the Muslims used poisoned arrows despite Islamic law. Usman’s brother ‘Abdullah criticized vainglorious worldliness and other departures from Islamic law. Fulani Muslims combined with those from Zumfara and Katsina, and on their fourth attempt they captured Alkalawa and killed Yunfa in 1808. Muslims already controlled Katsina and Kano.

Umar ibn Abdur sent his brother Sambo from Bornu to Gobir for a jihad flag as allies of Shaykh Usman, and they took over Hadejia and attacked Auyo. When Galadima Dunama tried to stop this, Ardo Lerlima revolted and joined his cousin Abdur to drive Dunama from his capital at Nguru. In Deya of Bornu scholars al-Bukhari and Goni Mukhtar led Fulani discontent and ravaged the region. Bornu’s mai Ahmad wrote to the jihad leaders that he was a Muslim leader, and Usman’s son Muhammad Bello answered the letter by asking the Mai to join the jihad. However, Ahmad was already fighting with his son Dunama against Lerlima, who was killed. Ibrahim Zaki marched on Bornu’s capital at Birni Gazargamu, and the forces of Goni Mukhtar forced Mai Ahmad to flee eastward, where the aged ruler abdicated to his son Dunama.

Usman dan Fodio’s son Muhammad Bello became Sokoto caliph in 1817. ‘Abd al-Salim led the Arewa tribe in revolt against him, but he was defeated in January 1818 and died of his wounds. Maradi’s sarki Dan Kassawa (r. 1819-31) often attacked Katsina. The jihad overcame Zamfara by 1821, and in 1826 Bello attacked Konya and Magariya in Gobir. The Muslims defeated the Kebbi about 1831 when their Sarkin Karari was killed; his son Ya‘qub Nabame was kept as a hostage at Sokoto. The Muslims defeated the Gobirawa and their Tuareg allies at the battle of Gawakuke in 1836. Bello fought 47 campaigns in the twenty years before he died in 1837. His successor Abubakar Atiku campaigned against Gobir every year until he died in 1842. That year Gobir’s Sarkin Mayaki founded a new capital at Tsibiri.

Sokoto and Kano forces under ‘Ali ibn Bello (r. 1842-59) struggled for years against Maradawa raids. The caliphate suffered a defeat in 1849 after Ya‘qub Nabame was released and led a Kebbi revolt. In 1848 Emir Bukhari of Hadejia refused to obey a summons to Sokoto and fought a war against the caliphate for about fifteen years until his death, causing devastation, famine, and much slavery. Caliph ‘Ali increased taxes in Zaria, and in 1855 he deposed Sidi Abdulkadir of Zaria for insubordination. Damagaram under Tenimu ibn Sulayman (c. 1851-84) became a threat to the caliphate because he had 6,000 guns and forty cannons. Caliph Ahmad al-Rifa’i (r. 1867-73) deposed Zaria’s emir ‘Abdullah for disobedience in 1870. Ahmad made a truce with Sarkin Kebbi ‘Abdullah (r. 1863-80), though it was broken in 1875. Caliph ‘Umar bin ‘Ali (1881-91) of Sokoto tried to maintain administrative control of the empire.

The new Muslims tended to restrict the roles of women to the household, and having up to four wives plus concubines, they produced more children. Usman dan Fodio had 37 children, and his son Bello had 73. The women were well educated, and Usman’s daughter Nana Asma’u (1793-1864) became a renowned poet, scholar, and teacher, writing in Arabic, Hausa, and Fulfulde. Many of the pagan captives enslaved were women and girls. They were taught Islam, and emancipating slaves was encouraged. Muslims’ beliefs placed more value on generosity than wealth, and inheritances were divided among many relatives. The jihad was fought between the elites over religion and power rather than against peoples, though the peasants were often caught in between. In Masina cattle had to be protected from raids by the Bambara and Tuareg.

In 1880 the British Secretary of State expressed the hope that they would get to the Hausa country via Lagos before the French did. Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain wanted to colonize the thirty million Hausas, and on June 14, 1898 the British gained a favorable border with the French between Nigeria and Dahomey. The French took Say in 1897, and Captain Cazemajou was received by the Sultan of Zinder in 1898 and then murdered. Captain Voulet and Lt. Chanoine left Dakar in November 1898 with a well-armed mission to Lake Chad. In 1899 Voulet and Chanoine tried to present themselves as Hausa chiefs to create an empire. They promised to liberate slaves but put them to work as bearers, and they allowed extraordinary pillaging and cruelty. Word came back, and Lt. Col. Klobb was sent to take command; but Voulet killed him, causing a mutiny of sharpshooters who turned to Lt. Pallier. Voulet would not yield, and they killed him and Chanoine. Lt. Pallier led them in the conquest of Tessoua and Zinder, killing its Sultan Ahmadou in battle. They set up a young sultan over a reduced territory and moved to Lake Chad and to Nguigmi at the eastern edge of French West Africa. The Tuareg of Niger opposed the French.

Segu 1700-1787

Whenever the soldiers elected a new Pasha in Timbuktu, they were given gold collected from merchants. The pashas were replaced more frequently, and between 1660 and 1750 there were 86 pashas. Pasha Mansur (r. 1716-19) tried to make the soldiers dependent on him, and he appointed Sudanese slaves as governors at the expense of the arma and made friends with Arab nomads and the ‘ulama. When the slave governors became tyrannical, the ‘ulama joined with the arma and replaced Mansur, who had accumulated 1,500 ounces of gold. The arma elected a Pasha in 1766 who held the office until his death in 1775; but then Timbuktu had no pasha for eighteen years. During famines and pestilence the people suffered because the troops were fed first. In 1794 the ethnic clans chose a Pasha, and his successor made the office hereditary.

Influence of the Masasi dynasty in Segu declined under Souma (r. 1697-1712). Mamari Kulibali became Biton, the leader of his ton (association of boys initiated together) and began pillaging. The booty was used to buy captives; others fleeing persecution joined Biton as slaves (ton-dyon). Kong gave them Wattara gold for their services, and then the Macina Fulbe helped Biton fight off the Kong about 1725; Biton Kulibali reduced the heavy tax burden of the Kong people. In 1739 local chiefs appealed to the Joola (Dyula) state of Kong led by Famagha Wattara, but Segu was rescued by Bambara’s ally Fulani of Fuladugu. Biton defeated the Marki rival capital at Kirango in 1740. When clan leaders rejected his invitations, he had them murdered. Biton Kulibali also made the free men of the ton his slaves. He had palaces built in Macina and Jenne, and in 1751 he conquered the Mali capital of Niani and made them pay tribute. Since Biton’s fleet and cavalry protected the Niger Bend from Tuaregs, even the pashas of Timbuktu paid tribute. When Ka’arta ruler Fulakoro was besieging Murdia, Biton answered their appeal by defeating and imprisoning Fulakoro, who died in captivity.

Biton Kulibali died in 1755 and was succeeded by Dekoro, who was so cruel that he was assassinated after two years, as the ton tried to restore its egalitarian society. His brother Bakari tried to impose Islamic law and lasted only fifteen days. In the next nine years three military leaders were assassinated. Ngolo Diarra (r. 1766-90) had been a slave of Biton and made others pledge fealty to him. The Masasi had moved to Ka’arta after they were defeated by Mamari in 1754. They regained power under Deniba Bo (r. 1758-61) and Sira Bo Kulibali (r. 1761-88) by conquering villages and taking their supplies. Sira Bo established his capital at Guemu and made the Marka tributaries. In 1777 the Dabora faction was expelled, and the Masasi made the Diawara pay tribute. Under Desekoro (r. 1788-99) they attacked Segu during the turmoil following the death of Ngolo Diarra, razing Nyamina in 1792; but four years later Monzon retaliated by destroying Guemu and regaining most of the territory taken by Sira Bo. Khasso plundered Desekoro’s people and sold them as slaves; but Desekoro fled to Guidimakha, gathered 800 warriors and attacked Khassonke villages. The Masasi made Dioka their capital and seized 2,500 slaves owned by Joola merchants to rebuild their strength. Segu and Joola merchants exported many slaves to the French, and Segu was also a main source of grain for the Niger region.

Ngolo Diarra’s son, Monzon Diarra (r. 1790-1808), expanded the Segu empire by taking over Ka’arta and others in the west. The pressures on the nomadic Fulani (Fulbe) increased under Da Monzon (r. 1808-27). Ahmadu ibn Hammadi (1775-1844) taught for twenty years near Jenne before he led a jihad that won a major victory at Noukoma in 1818. The trouble began when an Ardo’s son was killed for having insulted Ahmadu’s students. Bambara (pagan) rulers tried to suppress the movement, but Ahmadu was able to organize a massive Fulani army against the Ardo’en and took over Masina from the Bambara. Ahmadu created an Islamic state and appointed emirs, who were responsible to a council of forty. Military service was required of men, although some, such as traders and smiths, could pay a tax instead. Unlike Usman dan Fodio, Ahmadu did not abolish the caste system. A new capital was established at Hamdallahi, and prosecutor Samba Bubakari enforced the laws strictly. Masina’s influence extended to Timbuktu; but after Ahmadu died in 1844, the Tuareg there asserted their independence. Masina’s army commander Balobbo marched to Timbuktu while Shaykh Sidi al-Bekkai of the Kunta family negotiated and got the garrison disbanded; Sansirfi was reinstated as governor of Masina. Ahmadu Seku’s reign (1844-53) was fairly peaceful; but after he died, Balobbo took control by getting the young Ahmadu mo Ahmadu (r. 1853-62) elected.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the Tuaregs dispersed in the middle Niger region. In 1653 the Aulimadan forced the Tadmakka out of the Adrar. The Aulimadan began raiding, and in 1680 they took Gao away from the Moroccan forces (arma) for eight years. Then the Aulimadan moved south, and their leader Kari Denna became a vassal of the Moroccan pasha Hamad ibn ‘Ali in Timbuktu. His successors were similarly installed by pashas in 1715 and 1741. The arma used the Tadmakka as mercenaries; but in 1737 the latter led by Ag-Moru defeated the arma and established Tuareg control over Middle Niger. After their great leader Ag-Moru died in 1755, the Tadmakka suffered internal conflicts.

Al-Mukhtar al-Kunti (1729-1811) united Qadiri factions into a zawiya (religious) group that renounced arms and pillaging. His diplomatic skill brought Kunta’s religious influence over the Arabs, Berbers, and Sudanis. After the death of the uncompromising Barabish leader Muhammad ibn Ruhal, al-Kunti won over Walad Suliman, and this alliance with the Barabish protected Kunta’s commercial interests. Al-Mukhtar al-Kunti mediated various disputes for the Aulimadan, Tadmakka, and the arma by using his spiritual power (baraka). He criticized the Tuaregs for expropriating Muslims’ wealth and tried to remove superstitious customs of Berber and Sudanic paganism. Al-Kunti preached and wrote extensively, uniting the estranged branches of the Qadiriyya order. The Aulimadan were re-established in Gao by 1770, and in 1787 they imposed tribute on the arma of Timbuktu and spread their power.

Futa Jallon and Tukulor 1700-1950

In 1799 when Abdulay Bademba was made almami, Futa Jallon began an alternating rule every two years between the families of Alfaya and Soriya. In 1810 the Soriya almami Abdul Gadiri was sent into exile; but four years later he returned and killed Abdulay Bademba and ruled for eight years until his death in 1822. After about five years of civil war, Abdulay’s son Bubakar became almami and ruled Timbo for twelve years. Another civil war erupted when Bakari refused to yield after his two years.

The Muslim reformer al-Hajj ‘Umar Saidu was born in Futa Toro as an aristocratic Tukulor (torodo), and he was brought up in the Qadiriyya brotherhood. After visiting Saint Louis he went on pilgrimage to Mecca in 1825. He joined the Tijaniyya Sufi brotherhood, and authorities in Hijaz appointed him Tijani leader for West Africa. On his return he toured Bornu and spent six years in Sokoto, where his daughter Mariam married Muhammad Bello. After Bello died in 1837, he left there, wealthy in slaves and property. ‘Umar gained support in Masina but was imprisoned briefly by the ill fama Cefolo in Segu. After returning to Futa Toro, he settled in Futa Jallon near Timbo and taught Tijaniyya doctrines. In 1844 ‘Umar helped resolve the civil war in Futa Jallon by restoring the biennial rule agreement. His disciples traded in guns and gunpowder with the British and French. In Ka’arta the Jawara (Diawara), who had been driven out of Nioro, revolted in 1843 against the taxes and oppression by the Massassi, who eventually won the civil war in 1850.

During the Napoleonic wars France had lost control of some settlements to the British, but they had regained them in a treaty signed in 1817. France banned the slave trade the next year, and in 1819 the French made a treaty with Walo to exclude the Moors from the gum trade. In 1830 a Kayor blacksmith named Diile led a revolution for egalitarian Islam that took over the country in a few weeks; but the French governor in Saint Louis sent forces that defeated them and hanged Diile. To stop the Trarza Moors from ravaging their country, Walo made an alliance with the Moors in 1833; but the French got the Moors to renounce it in 1835. The French had established trading posts at Bakel in 1820, at Dagana the next year, and at Merinaghen in 1822; posts were added at Lampbar in 1843 and at Senodebou in 1845.

Al-Hajj ‘Umar visited Senegambia in 1847 and assured the French that he would prevent wars that harmed commerce. He won people over with Tijani promises of glory, and in 1849 he founded Dinguiraye before destroying the hegemony of Tamba in 1852. Al-Hajj ‘Umar helped create a new Muslim empire of Tukulor, and he influenced Alfa Mamadu, who led the Joola (Dyula) religious revolution. In Senegambia the Tukulor took over Jallonka, Bambuk, Bondu, and Khasso. In 1848 Senegal was given the right to elect one of the twelve colonial representatives in the French Chamber of Deputies. The French Second Republic had appointed Protet governor of Senegal in 1850, and he enforced laws to protect the gum trade. In 1854 he sent Louis Faidherbe, who succeeded him that year, to build a post at Podor to wage wars. Similar posts were built at Medine in 1855, at Matam in 1857, at Saldé in 1859, at Aéré and Ndiagne in 1866, and at Klur-Mandoumbe-Khary, Khaoulou, and Talem in 1867.

By 1854 ‘Umar was demanding tribute from the French as the price for trade. He wrote a letter to the French governor that year which said,

The whites are only traders:
let them bring merchandise in their ships,
let them pay me a good tribute
when I’m master of the Negroes,
and I will live in peace with them.
But I don’t wish them to erect permanent establishments
or send warships into the river.2

Local tribes were caught between these two dominating powers. In 1855 ‘Umar defeated the Massassi and sent a message to Masina; but they chose to fight the Tukulors, and their eight-year war began the next year at Kasakary. In 1855 Governor Faidherbe made a commercial agreement with Khasso’s King Sambala and his chiefs, promising to defend them from ‘Umar’s invasion, and the French annexed Walo the next year. The war over Senegambia between the French and Tukulor began when al Hajj ‘Umar besieged Medine in 1857. After three months Faidherbe relieved the fort in July, and ‘Umar marched on from Bundu and Futa, urging people to migrate with their families and cattle to his Muslim state in the east. He returned to Futa with 40,000 people two years later.

‘Umar worked to convert the two remaining pagan kingdoms of the Bambara at Segu and Ka’arta. He established his Tijani community on the upper Senegal River between Futa Jallon and Ka’arta. His Fulani troops used guns against the Bambara armies. In September 1859 he left Nioro to invade Segu, preaching and using the two cannons they had captured from the French. Although Segu had been fighting off attacks from Masina for years, Segu’s ruler ‘Ali Monzon took refuge in Masina as the Muslim army entered Segu in 1861. The next year ‘Umar marched on Masina, and Ahmadu’s grandson Ahmadu mo Ahmadu agreed to end pagan practices to become a part of the protectorate. After Kunta’s Chief Sidi Ahmad al-Bekkai at Timbuktu supported the revolt by Balobbo at Hamdallahi, in 1862 ‘Umar marched on Masina and Hamdallahi and fought Ahmadu mo Ahmadu, who died of his wounds in the battle of Tyayawal. ‘Umar’s forces even captured Timbuktu. However, the coalition formed by al-Bekkai and Balobbo defeated ‘Umar’s army in 1863. After eight months of siege, the Tukulor army broke out; ‘Umar fled and died in February 1864.

‘Umar’s eldest son Ahmadu Seku Tall (r. 1864-90) struggled with relatives over the inheritance and made a treaty with French envoy Mage in 1866, though he opposed French posts along the Niger and in his territory. That year the new French Governor Pinet-Laprade rejected the treaty. Ahmadu Seku kept the agreement and asked the French for two cannons. The civil strife subsided by 1869 as Ahmadu Seku consolidated his power. Col. François-Xavier Valiere (1869-76) was appointed the French governor to be more diplomatic and to encourage commerce.

In 1872 the communes of St. Louis, Gorée, and Dakar began electing their municipal councils, and Rufisque later became the fourth commune. In 1879 the citizens in Senegal began electing a deputy to the French National Assembly. French forces invaded the Tukulor empire in the 1880s, and Ahmadu Seku signed the Treaty of Gouri on May 12, 1887, turning the Tukulor empire into a protectorate of France. In September the French began to apply the arbitrary indigénat law code to French West Africa; officers could punish natives without giving them a trial, and there was no effective appeal.

Kayor’s damel Lat Dior N’Goné Latir Diop fostered the cultivation of peanuts and Islam, but in 1871 the French took over Kayor. During the early 1870s Ahmadu Seku Tall proclaimed himself almami and made the Tukulor warriors accept Islam. Lat Dior turned against Ahmadu and defeated the Tukulor with French help in 1875. Lat Dior was recognized as tegne of Baol, and he imposed Tijani Islam, abolishing the caste system. On September 30, 1879 he signed a treaty with Briere de l’Ilse, approving the Dakar-St. Louis railway across Kayor. In October the main Kayor chiefs rose against him led by his nephew, Samba Laobé; but Briere de l’Ilse sent Commandant Boileve, who mediated the conflict in January 1880. Captain J. S. Gallieni created the Upper Senegal Military Command and went to Segu to negotiate a treaty with Ahmadu Seku on navigation of the Niger River and commercial privileges with Tukulor. The French did not get all they wanted, but the railroad went through. The French persuaded the anti-Tukulor Bambara that they opposed the Tukulor and only wanted trade.

In 1881 the French signed a friendship and protection treaty with the Futa Jallon, but their imperialism stimulated Kayor, Futa Toro, and Wolof (Jolof) to form a defensive alliance against them. In November 1882 Lat Dior sent a letter to Governor Servatius warning him he would oppose the railway construction. Lat Dior prohibited his subjects from growing peanuts, and he ordered those living near the French posts to move to the Kayor heartland. Col. Wendling with African riflemen from annexed territories invaded Kayor in December, and Lat Dior fled to Baol. In August 1883 his nephew Samba Laobé Fall succeeded him and permitted the railway. Lat Dior continued to fight the French with guerrilla war, but the railway opened on July 7, 1885. When the French killed Samba Laobé in October 1886, Lat Dior returned and was killed with 82 others while battling the French on October 26. The French annexed Kayor and divided it into six cantons.

In Ka’arta civil war broke out in 1884 between Ahmadu Seku Tall and his half-brother, Muhammad Muntaga. An alliance led by Tukulor’s Ahmadu Seku Tall was joined by Ali Bouri of Wolof, Abdul Bokar Kan (Bubakar) of Futa Toro, and Samory Ture, who was founding the Wassoulou empire in 1878. They fought the French from 1883 until Ali Bouri signed a peace treaty with the French in April 1885.

By 1886 the Tukulor empire had divided into four parts with Ahmadu Seku Tall ruling Ka’arta from Nioro, his son Madani in Seku, his cousin Tijani governing Masina, and his brother Aguibu in Dinguiraye, which agreed to a French protectorate that year. In 1887 Ahmadu accepted a French protectorate also so that he could fight Samory. The French accused Ali Bouri of fighting with the anti-French alliance in January 1889 and made him change the treaty into a protectorate of Wolof on July 1. Major Louis Archinard attacked the Tukulor fortress of Koundian in February 1889. When Masina was conquered in 1890, Aguibu was appointed king under the French protectorate. Archinard overcame the Segu branch of the Tukulor empire in March 1890 and defeated Bassiru’s army on December 23. On the first day of 1891 he captured Nioro, which was abandoned by Ahmadu Seku Tall and his allies. King Alboury N’Diaye of Wolof tried to retake Nioro on January 3, but the Tukulor army was routed. Sultan Ahmadu lost more than 3,000 killed and captured, and he retreated to Masina, where he fought at Kori-Kori before going into exile in Hausa territory.

While Algerian Eugene Etienne was head of the Under-Secretaryship for the Colonies (1889-92), expansionist politicians formed the Comité d’Afrique Française in 1890. In 1893 bankers and merchants organized the Union Coloniale Française. They wanted to exploit African resources and came into conflict with leaders who were seeking military glory such as Archinard.

Abdul Bokar Kan (Bubakar) dominated upper Futa. He supported the French until 1890 when he gave refuge to Ali Bouri. Abdul Bokar Kan went into the bush and was assassinated by Moors in Mauritania the next year. Ali Bouri joined Ahmad bin ‘Umar at Nioro and went as far as the border of Sokoto, where he died in 1899. The Wolof lost their independence as the peanut monoculture disrupted the economy and society. In 1893 Aguibu helped the French defeat his brother Ahmadu at Kori-Kori. Ahmadu Seku Tall died on his way to Sokoto and was succeeded by Mohammadou Bassirou, who was given a village by the Sultan of Sokoto. After the Tukulor lost Masina to the French in 1893 and Timbuktu in early 1894, Bambara joined their alliance against the French. The Federation of French West Africa was decreed on June 6, 1895, but the colonies of Senegal, French Sudan, French Guinea, and Ivory Coast with their own budgets remained autonomous. In September they set up a Government-General Council to advise the Governor-General, but only Senegalese officers were included.

In 1896 the French invaded Futa Jallon and killed the almami; but they had to depose their puppet because he supported Samory. In 1897 the French signed a protectorate treaty with Futa Jallon and promised to respect their constitution, but they quickly deposed Imam Oumarou Bademba and replaced him with Baba Ahmou and reduced the imamate to only three provinces, proclaiming the others independent. When Baba Ahmou died in 1906, the French further partitioned the imamate with provincial chiefs. In 1899 Dahomey was added to the French Federation. In 1900 an open revolt was suppressed, and the leaders were executed. In 1902 the Federation’s headquarters was moved from Saint Louis to Dakar, and the Council included the Lieutenant-Governors from the five colonies. Armed resistance continued until 1906 and on the Ivory Coast until 1908 when G. L. Angoulvant became governor.

Xavier Coppolani occupied Mauritania by negotiation in 1902 and was made commissioner of the new protectorate in 1904, but Moors murdered him in 1905. The French then occupied it by force. Inspired by marabouts, a resistance movement was led by Shaykh Ma’ al-‘Aynayn, who proclaimed himself sultan and declared a holy war in 1909. However, the Shaykh died in October 1910, and the resistance dwindled down to banditry by 1912. The French governed Mauritania from Senegal’s capital at St. Louis, but it was not conquered until 1934. Mauritanians raided Port Etienne in 1924 and 1927. In 1946 the French Fourth Republic gave Mauritania its own political structure separate from Senegal. The next year a local assembly was created. In 1948 the Entente Mouritanienne became the first political party, and it was opposed by the Union Progressiste Mouritanienne.

Guinea and Ivory Coast 1849-1916

Mamadu Lamine of Soninke went on a long pilgrimage to Mecca and returned as al-Hajj Muhammad al-Amin and was imprisoned by Ahmadu Seku Tall at Segu. He appealed to the young and uprooted and got on good terms with the French by raising troops to fight pagans in the south; but there he captured France’s ally Bundu and attacked Bakel in February 1886. French forces raided his compound on March 13, and the next day 1,500 of his men returned from Bakel and fought about 600 French, who fled after four hours. This victory enabled Lamine to raise more men. In the Treaty of Gori on May 12, 1887 Ahmadu Seku Tall accepted the protection of the French who promised not to invade his territory and to remove the ban on his purchasing arms. Then the French destroyed Nioro, and Saer Mati fled to Bathurst and pursued Mamadu Lamine, who was also fighting Abdul Bokar Kan. With Mamadu Lamine opposing the French and the Fulani, Col. Frey stopped his campaign against Samory and drove Lamine back toward upper Gambia. There Gallieni pursued and killed him in December with help from Musa Molo, son of Alfa Molo, a Fulani who had set up a kingdom with Hamdallahi as the capital that was supported by the Fulani of Futa Jallon. That year Gallieni created Liberty village as a refuge for slaves maltreated by Africans, but it was used to supply the government with forced labor.

In the east Mamadu Dyué led those who rejected Tijani ideas and called themselves hubbu rassul Allah (those who love God). Almami Umaru, who accepted alternating terms, began a war against the Hubbu movement in 1849 that lasted a generation. After many victories, Umaru faced a mutiny in his army about 1865 and went to help the Alfa-Mo-Labé fight the Gabu, whose king he had killed in 1849. Kansala fell, but Umaru died on his way back to Futa Jallon and was succeeded by his brother Ibrahima Sori Dongol Fella (r. 1870-90). Ibrahima Sori Dari tried to take control but was killed fighting the Hubbu at Boketto in 1871. Ibrahima Sori Dongol did not yield power until he was forced to do so in 1875 to the new Alfaya, Amadu Dara, restoring the alternation.

In 1879 the Portuguese made Guinea a colony separate from Cape Verde and moved its capital from Bissau to Bulama. The governors Agostinho Coelho (1879-81), Pedro Ignacio Gouveria (1881-84), and F. Paolo Gomes Barboso (1884-87) each increased use of the military until Lt. Geraldes drove Musa Molo from Rio Geba in 1886. That year a treaty established the borders of the territory as the Portuguese recognized Futa Jallon as French. The colony of Rivieres du Sud separated from Senegal in August 1889, and the British accepted the Niger River as its border with Sierra Leone.

Gambia’s administrator, Dr. V. S. Gouldsbury, signed a friendship treaty with the Fulani almami in June 1880 and a year later with Dr. Jean Bayol. However, the French claimed the treaty gave them a protectorate which was recognized by the British in 1890. The Fulani state was finally conquered by arms in 1896.

Samory Ture was a Mandinka trader and became a soldier. He helped the Sisse defeat the Berete, fled to Loma, and set himself up at Sanankoro on the upper Milo in 1867. He went back to Islam and raised a private army loyal to him. They defeated the animists of Toro with the approval of Sisse by 1874 and then went to help the Tijaniyya in the city of Kankan. After conquering them Samory extended his Mandinka rule on the upper Niger from Kouroussa to the gold mines of Bure by 1878, founding his capital of the Wassoulou empire at Bissandugu. The Tukulor of Aguibu Tal stopped near Dinguiray, and the Kaba refused to support him. They allied with the Sisse, who turned against Samory and moved into Sankaran. Samory defeated them in 1881 and took over Kankan, a center of the kola nuts trade. In 1883 his Wassoulou empire expanded to Bamako, pushing the Tukulor toward Segu. He accepted the title of almami in 1884 and moved south toward Freetown to open trade routes.

By 1885 Samory reached the Limba country and extended to the east up to the Sikasso in Bagoe. He improved conditions for his Dyula relatives and the Muslims, bringing peace and imposing Islam on his empire. Samory sent an envoy to Freetown, Sierra Leone, and they sold them repeating Gras rifles. In 1885 Col. A. V. A. Combes attacked his gold mines in Bure, but the French had to retreat. Samory made the Treaty of Bissandugu with the French on March 28, 1886, and on March 25 the next year he ceded them the left bank of the Niger River up to Siguiri and accepted a protectorate. Then he marched an army of 12,000 men to Sikasso and besieged it for sixteen months, losing 10,000 men and all his horses. After Sikasso’s King Tieba signed a protection treaty with the French, Samory renounced his friendship treaty with France. He sent a messenger to Freetown, offering to cede his empire to Britain. The British finally decided that accepting Samory’s repudiation of his friendship treaty would set a bad example. In 1887 Samory’s empire included more than 100,000 square miles and was divided into 162 districts.

Because of the 1890 Brussels Convention in which Europeans decided to keep control over “all arms for accurate firing,” the British would no longer sell breech-loading rifles to Samory. Yet he made a treaty with the British in Sierra Leone in May 1890 which enabled him to obtain about 6,000 quick-firing rifles from French and British merchants in Freetown in the next three years. As he moved east, Samory burned crops and everything of value, slowing down the French. In March 1891 the French led by Col. Archinard attacked Kankan with artillery, but on September 3 Samory managed to defeat them in the battle of Dabadugu.

The French led by Humbert attacked Samory’s Mandinka empire in January 1892 with 1,300 riflemen and 3,000 porters. They defeated Samory’s selected army of 12,500 men, burned his capital at Bissandugu, and captured Sanankoro and Kerwane also. Samory lost more than a thousand top men and the French about a hundred. In 1895 Samory beat back a French column led by Monteil from the Baule country, and then he went on to conquer the Abron kingdom by January 1896. By then the Mandinkas had moved their empire to the east with the capital at Dabakal south of Kong. Tieba had died in Sikasso in 1893, and he was succeeded by his brother Ba Bemba, who supported Samory.

In March 1897 Samory’s son Sarakenyi-Mori defeated a British column led by Henderson near Wa, and two months later Samory destroyed Kong and contacted the French led by Caudrelier at Bobo. In April 1898 French cannons destroyed the walls of Sikasso and stormed the palace as Ba Bemba committed suicide. On September 29 the French finally captured Samory in a surprise attack and sent him to exile in Gabon, where he died on June 2, 1900. The Franco-Mandinka war has been called the first “modern” war in Africa, and the region’s population was reduced by about two-thirds. The Baule continued to use guerrilla tactics, but finally in November 1902 Governor François-Joseph Clozel called off military operations. The Baule population that was about 1,500,000 in 1900 fell to about 260,000 by 1911. The Guro, the Dan, and the Bete held out until 1919.

Germans established trading posts in Guinea in 1881 and annexed the Dabreka region in December 1884 and Correa in 1885, but in a convention signed on December 24 the Germans relinquished these colonies to France.

In 1887 Louis Binger explored the Ivory Coast hinterland, and by 1889 he had made four treaties establishing a French protectorate; but at Ouagadougou he contacted the Mossi empire’s ruler, Moro Naba Sanum, who refused to accept French protection. In 1894 he signed a treaty with the British that the Fanti George Ekem Ferguson negotiated for the Gold Coast Colony. By 1889 the French had control over the coastal region of the Ivory Coast, and the British recognized their sovereignty. In 1893 the Ivory Coast was made a French colony, and Binger was appointed governor. Samory fought the French until he was captured in 1898. Until 1908 the French only controlled a narrow strip along the coast.

In 1896 French forces led by Captain Voulet invaded and plundered Ouagadougou as Moro Naba Wabogo retreated. Moro Naba Sighiri signed a protection treaty with the French and forced the Mossi people to labor and serve in his army. Mossi linked the French colony of Dahomey with the Sudan. When Sighiri died in 1905, the French appointed his 16-year-old son Saidou Congo. Then they made him dependent on them. Also in 1905 the French created a hierarchy of courts run by chiefs under a European presidency in Mossi, but the local courts with the chiefs were eliminated by decree in 1912. In 1908 the marabout Alassane Moumani of Ramongohad led a revolt against paying taxes, and 2,000 men marched on Wagadugu; but they were quickly defeated, and the marabout was killed. Governor Angoulvant arrived in 1908 and imposed a methodical military occupation to disarm the people. The Africans avoided open battles, and hundreds of villages were destroyed. By 1915 the French had deported 220 African leaders, confiscated 100,000 guns, and fined people £30,000. The Baoule revolted again in 1916, and the next year the Agni gave up and migrated into the British Gold Coast.

Dahomey, Togo and Cameroun 1700-1918

Dahomey, Gold Coast, and Oyo to 1700

In the second half of the 18th century Benin opened their ports to slave trading so that they could import Brazilian tobacco, cowrie shells from the Indian Ocean, brass pans, and brandy.

Akaba ruled Dahomey from about 1680 until 1708, coming into conflict with the Weme people but increasing Dahomey to forty towns. In 1708 the Dahomey king Akaba was succeeded by his younger brother Agaja Trudo. He trained boys to be warriors by letting them witness battles, armed women as guards, and sent out spies called agbadjigbeto. In 1724 Agaja took advantage of a succession dispute in Allada to occupy the city. Two years later Oyo invaded Dahomey, and peace talks began; but in 1727 the Dahomeans led by Agaja invaded Whydah as the incompetent Huffon fled to the Popo islands. The rainy season ended the negotiations; but the Oyo invaded Dahomey again the next year, only to find that Agaja had burned and evacuated his Abomey capital. After the Oyo soldiers left, the Dahomeans returned and began rebuilding. In 1729 the Oyo army was prepared for this tactic and brought supplies and killed more Dahomeans. The Oyo army returned once again in 1730, and Agaja agreed to pay Oyo an annual tribute. Allada became the Dahomey capital for the next thirteen years, and the new kingdom of Ajase later became known as Porto Novo. Dahomey prince Tegbesu went to Oyo as a hostage, and each king married the other’s daughter.

During this war Agaja had made the slave trade a royal monopoly and executed violators. In 1725 Agaja had sent an envoy to England to say he wanted Europeans without slave ships. In 1729 he had an English fort commander executed for opposing him with Whydah collaborators. After signing the 1730 treaty Agaja negotiated with Englishman Edward Deane and agreed to cooperate with European slave traders; but all trading was to be done at Whydah. In 1732 Dahomey destroyed Jakin, and Oyo moved its trade to the east. Dahomey’s monopoly on slave trading became its main source of income, and in 1733 Agaja appointed one Yovogan for trading with all the Europeans. The death of Huffon weakened the resistance in Whydah. Agaja had some top officials executed, and others fled. These conflicts caused the Europeans to trade for slaves elsewhere, and Dahomey had trouble meeting its tribute payments to Oyo. After Agaja attacked Badagry in 1737, Oyo invaded Dahomey two years later. Agaja fled his wasted kingdom and died in 1740.

Former hostage Tegbesu (r. 1732-74) won the succession struggle for the impoverished kingdom of Dahomey. He put to death his opponents and sold their supporters as slaves. Pressed for money to pay the tribute, Tegbesu executed the rich; but he let chiefs appoint trading agents and moved the capital back to Abomey in 1743. For the next five years Oyo invaded Dahomey several times until Tegbesu renewed the 1730 treaty. He decreed that only a son could succeed to the throne. In 1751 he designated his oldest son; but the French would not let the prince go to France for an education. In 1754 Tegbesu had himself declared dead to test his new law. He found it worked and reformed Dahomey administration according to Oyo institutions. In 1763 Popo and the old Whydah attacked the Dahomean port of Igelefe, which required assistance from the English fort. Slave trading increased and made Dahomey prosperous, but by 1767 European ships were using other ports. By the time he died in 1774 Tegbesu had expelled four French and four Portuguese directors for being disloyal to him. He believed it is better to trade than to make war and helped refurbish the European trading houses. Tegbesu passed a law to make his subjects sell their slaves.

Tegbesu attacked the Mahi in the mountains and gained sovereignty over them. The mother of his son and successor Kpengla (r. 1774-89) was a Mahi. Kpengla organized war parties, and these policies removed manpower from their kingdom. In 1779 he ordered roads made thirty feet wide and put clan chiefs in charge of their construction. Kpengla’s son Agonglo found Dahomey in economic depression when he became king in 1789. He asked the Portuguese for help; but they demanded he become a Christian. After announcing he was going to be baptized Agonglo’s subjects objected, and he was murdered in 1797. After a short civil war Agonglo’s son Adandozan gained the throne; but the troubles continued until he was deposed by Gezo in 1818. The Dahomey kingdom captured slaves for sale and cultivation.

In 1823 Dahomey revolted against the Oyo, and they conquered Egbaland by 1830. Bouet-Willaumez became governor of Senegal in 1842 and signed treaties with chiefs at Grand Bassam on the Ivory Coast. Dahomey fought a war with the Egba from 1842 until 1853, when missionaries persuaded Egba to end the siege. Dahomey led by Gezo attacked Abeokuta in 1851, but European arms helped the Egbado defeat them. Then Gezo signed a treaty of friendship and commerce with Bouet-Willaumez. After King Gezo was assassinated in 1858 by a sharpshooter from Ketu, Dahomey’s army sacked Ketu. In 1864 Gezo’s son Glele (r. 1858-89) of Dahomey attacked Abeokuta, and again they were defeated; but he helped defend Badagri against the Egba.

In 1883 King Tofa (r. 1874-1908) of Porto Novo requested a French protectorate that was granted. The French also extended protectorates over Grand Popo, Agoué, Anecho, and Porto Seguro, but the last two were later turned over to Germany in exchange for German recognition of French rights on the Guinea coast. In 1885 Dahomeans sacked Ketu and sent the captives to Sao Thomé as indentured labor, or they used them and others as slaves on their palm-oil plantations. Lieutenant Governor Bayol of the Rivieres de Sud tried to get Glele to stop this, but he refused to see him. After he died, his son Behanzin chose the shark as his heraldic sign and in December 1889 proclaimed himself Prince Kondo, suzerain of Porto Novo. His army of 4,000 included women warriors. He invaded Egba to get slaves for his father’s funeral.

Bayol went to the Slave Coast and in Abomey met with Prince Kondo, ordering him to hand over Cotonou. Bayol occupied Cotonou with 360 French soldiers on February 22, 1890. The Fon led by Behanzin attacked Cotonou on March 4 and were pushed back by the French with heavy losses on both sides. The French kept his army away from Porto Novo in April, and both sides retreated. On October 3 Behanzin made a treaty letting the French occupy and protect Cotonou in exchange for an annuity of 20,000 francs. Bayol wanted to occupy the entire Dahomean coast, but the French Cabinet disagreed and recalled him on April 1, 1891.

On March 27, 1892 Fon soldiers fired on the Resident of Porto Novo while he was on a gun-boat on the Ouémé River. Col. Dodds, a Senegalese mulatto, used this as an excuse and went to Cotonou in May. His French army of 2,000 moved up the Weme River and on October 4 defeated the Fon army of about 12,000, who had 2,000 killed and 3,000 wounded while the French lost only 67 men and occupied their capital at Abomey. Dodds proclaimed Behanzin deposed on December 3. Behanzin gathered an army of 2,000 in March 1893, but General Dodds led an expeditionary force that conquered northern Dahomey by December. They appointed Goutchilli to be king, and he was crowned on January 15, 1894. Behanzin was arrested two weeks later and was deported to Martinique. His brother Agoli-Agbo succeeded him in 1894 and ruled over a smaller kingdom for the French. The next year he tried to stop royal agents in the Yoruba districts, and he obstructed French tax collectors in Southern Dahomey. Negotiation with him also failed, and in 1900 he was removed and exiled in Gabon. By 1896 French troops from Senegal had linked up with those who had conquered Dahomey.

In 1895 the chief Gli-Gla in the Allada protectorate alienated his people by trying to recruit laborers for Madagascar, and three years later they revolted against him. His territory was partitioned, and under his successor, Jihento, the Tori area became part of the Whydah District.

In 1880 most of the European colonization in West Africa was along the sea coast and the navigable rivers of Niger, Senegal, and Gambia. On May 18, 1884 Germany’s Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck sent a secret cable ordering Gustav Nachtigal in Lisbon to go and raise German flags in Cameroon, Togoland, and at Angra Pequena in southwest Africa. Bismarck then used diplomacy at the Berlin Conference from November 1884 to February 1885 to gain control over Cameroun and Togo. In 1886 the French occupied the coast between Lagos and Togo, and they exerted their authority over the rest of the West African coast not claimed by Britain, Portugal, Germany, or Liberia. Togo was 34,000 square miles, but Cameroun had 192,000 and in 1911 gained another 100,000 square miles from France. Beginning in 1885 an international economic depression lowered prices on African products. Between 1905 and 1912 Togo’s external trade increased by 86% and Cameroun’s by 154%. Germans wanted to detribalize the Africans, and by 1911 they had 13,746 in schools in Togo and 34,000 in Cameroun. Yet in 1913 Germany still had only 26 administrators in Togo and 47 in Cameroun.

Soon after the Great War began, the British and French invaded Togo on August 6, 1914. They advanced toward the Kamina wireless transmitter base and destroyed it. The Germans in Togo surrendered unconditionally on August 26. The Allies captured the strategic deep water port at Duala in Cameroun on September 27 and took Buea on November 13. However, Col. Zimmerman with 6,000 German troops managed to fight off the British and French in Cameroun until the very end of 1915 when he fled to Spanish Guinea. The Fort of Mora had been besieged in September 1914, but it did not capitulate until February 28, 1916. France received larger portions than Britain of Cameroun and Togo with the cocoa plantations, and the division of Togo split the Ewe people. The British used 300,000 West African troops during the war.

French West Africa 1900-50

By 1900 the French had gained administrative control over most of their colonies in West Africa by using 8,400 mostly native troops at a cost of 12,677,000 francs. In the next ten years taxes were introduced in all the territories. In the French colonies the local chiefs were no longer the rulers, but they still knew their people better than the French officials did. Under the indigénat law an administrator could jail any African without a trial for up to fourteen days. Native religion was decreasing as Islam and Christianity spread. In 1902 the French established a Government General at Dakar in Senegal to administer West Africa, and in 1904 the French declared all vacant land state property.

Amadou Bamba was a Senegalese marabout who in 1886 founded the Muridiyya Order which was called Mourides. After Lat Dior’s death he founded the city of Touba in Senegal in 1887. Tens of thousands of pilgrims came to where Bamba lived in central Senegal. The French reacted by exiling him to Gabon in 1895 and then moved him to Mauritania in 1903 for four years. In 1910 he was allowed to return home to Senegal. In 1918 he was awarded the French Legion of Honor for having enlisted his followers in the war. He died in 1927 and was succeeded by his descendants.

Governor Gabriel Angoulvant (1908-18) wrote La Pacification de la Cote d’Ivoire, and by June 1909 he persuaded Governor-General William Ponty that only a full-scale military conquest could develop the Ivory Coast. William Wade Harris was a Grebo from Liberia who became a Methodist preacher. In 1909 he was arrested for attempting a coup d’état, and in prison he claimed he was visited by the angel Gabriel who told him to convert people to Christianity. He wore a white robe, and in 1913 he traveled barefoot through the Ivory Coast and baptized about 80,000 people, urging them to burn their fetishes. He forbade the use of alcohol but tolerated polygamy. He was expelled from the Ivory Coast in April 1915. That year the French seized more than 110,000 firearms in the Ivory Coast, which was not completely pacified until 1917.

During the Great War the French recruited 137,000 soldiers from West Africa, and less than ten percent were volunteers; estimates of the number killed range from 35,000 to 65,000. The prize-winning 1919 novel, La Randonnée de Samba Diouf, by Jerome and Jean Thiraud portrayed a young Senegalese who was captured by a village chief responsible for recruiting five men. Only one in five recruits was found fit, and an estimated 61,500 able-bodied men fled into British territories. In 1917 revolts broke out in Haut-Senegal-Niger, Dahomey, Ivory Coast, and Guinea, and they increased in 1918. That year the influenza pandemic infected Africa, killing more than 120,000 in French West Africa and 70,000 in French Equatorial Africa. Even after the war all adult males were still liable to three years military service, and all those between the ages of 18 and 50 were also subject to the prestation head tax of up to ten days of labor per year.

The educated Senegalese Blaise Diagne had married a French woman in 1909, and he gained the support of the Young Senegalese. In 1914 the four communes in Senegal elected him to the Chamber of Deputies in Paris. He was appointed High Commissioner for the Recruitment of Troops in Black Africa with status equal to the Governor-General, but he insisted on political reforms. In 1916 they passed the Diagne law confirming French citizenship for people of the communes while retaining traditional law for family issues. He was re-elected in 1919 when all municipal seats were won by Republican Socialists. After a strict governor blocked his progressive reforms, Diagne compromised in 1923 by dropping his demands.

In February 1919 the League of Nations assigned the German colonies of Togo and Cameroun to the French as a mandates. The French accepted them in May but re-annexed to French Equatorial Africa the portion of Cameroun they had ceded to Germany in 1911.

In 1917 the Récadere de Béhanzin became the first African newspaper published in Dahomey, and the Voix du Dahomey was founded in 1927. Although unions and strikes were illegal until 1937, employees of the Dakar-Saint Louis railway went on strike in 1920 and were repressed by the police. However, the military could not run the railway, and they gained a salary increase and better working conditions. Riots broke out in Dahomey in 1923, and there were disturbances during the construction of the Dakar-Bamako railway.

In 1919 Diagne helped the American W. E. B. du Bois to organize the first conference of the Pan-African movement in Paris to draft a Charter of Human Rights for Peoples of African Descent. Diagne presided over this and at the Brussels and Paris conferences in 1921. Diagne wanted to work within the colonial system, but Du Bois and the Americans were more aggressive, causing a split after the 1921 conference. In the early 1920s Kojo Tovalou Quénum from Dahomey published the journal, Les Continents, and criticized Diagne for recruiting African troops. Tovalou also visited Marcus Garvey in New York and aroused the suspicions of the French against the latter. Disillusioned by the French, in 1923 Diagne changed his policies and was supported by Amadou Duguay-Clédor, who became chief of the Republican-Socialists, editor of the Diagne newspaper, La France Coloniale, and president of the Colonial Council. Diagne served as Under-Secretary of State for Colonies from January 1931 to February 1932.

Between 1921 and 1932 the French recruited 127,250 men to work on the Congo-Océan railway, and inadequate food and poor health care caused many to die. Kodjo Tovalou Houenou founded the Ligue universelle de défense de la race noire in Paris in 1924; but when he returned to Africa, he was sent to Dahomey and put under house arrest. In 1927 it was revived as the Comité de la défense de la race negre by Lamine Senghor, who spoke at the founding of the League Against Imperialism in 1927 when it was attended by Madame Sun Yat-sen and Nehru. Lamine Senghor was arrested in 1929 and died in prison. In 1924 the prophetic Karnou began preaching nonviolent resistance to the recruitment for railway labor, and by 1927 they had organized 350,000 people, including 60,000 warriors. Karnou was killed in December 1928; but the revolt went on until 1931 when they were brutally suppressed by the “war of the caves.” The Compagnie Française de l’Afrique Occidentale (CFAO) had been founded in 1887. In 1927 they had 33 branches and 154 trading centers, and their annual profits ranged from 25% to 90%.

Galandou Diouf was a Wolof from Saint Louis, and in 1909 he was first elected to represent Rufisque in the Conseil Général. He was the first African to criticize French policies, and in 1910 he co-founded the Young Senegalese political club which became radical in 1912 by asking for equal pay for equal work. During the war he supported Diagne’s struggle for citizenship for the Senegalese. After Diagne died in 1934, Diouf won his seat in the French National Assembly and became his successor as the African political leader. In 1940 Diouf refused to collaborate with the German invasion of France, and he was arrested trying to flee before dying in 1941.

During the Depression in 1933 and 1934 riots broke out in Dahomey against coercion to make them pay taxes. In 1934 when the French allowed the chiefs to requisition food and animals from the Bobo of Upper Volta, the resistance movement Nan Vo rose up and had to be suppressed by French forces. Also in 1934 Léopold Sédar Senghor and Aimé Césaire founded L’Etudiant Noir, and they promoted the writing of Birgao Diop and Ousmane Socé Diop. In 1935 Diouf’s opponent, Gueye, founded the Parti Socialiste Senegalais (PSS) to challenge Diagne’s Parti Républicain Sénégalais. In 1936 the new SFIO (Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvriere) of the Workers’ International allied with the PSS, and two years later they merged to form the Federation of Senegal of the SFIO. The Depression reduced imports and exports, and by 1936 only 167,000 were earning wages in all of French West Africa. Trade unions were legalized on March 11, 1937, and by November of the 119 new unions 42 were professional associations. The next year a railway workers’ union went on strike on the Dakar-Niger line. Also in 1938 La Maison du Peuple union was organized in the Sudan, and the administration let them use a building in Bamako. The Association of the Friends of the Popular Front Government (ARP) published the newspaper Le Soudan.

In 1938 French West Africa still had less than 70,000 children in school out of twelve million people, and in poorer French Equatorial Africa there were only 20,000 in school out of five million. Only about one in ten of the school-children were girls. Ecole William Ponty in Gorée was the only institution of higher learning available to West Africans until after 1945, and between the world wars less than two thousand students graduated. Some Dahomean students wrote and produced the play, La derniere entrevue de Behanzin et de Bayol in the 1932-33 season, and in 1937 two plays by William Ponty students were performed in Paris. French West Africa had only 80,500 citizens, and all but 2,500 were citizens from having been born in one of the four communes in Senegal.

When Germans invaded France in 1940, French West Africa had 118,000 troops, but only 20,000 were trained for combat. After the armistice in France most of the African army was disbanded, reducing it to 25,000 men. The Vichy regime replaced Governor-General Léon Cayla by making Pierre Boisson High Commissioner. He had served under Marshal Pétain in the First World War, and he tried to remain neutral.

The British naval blockade caused French West Africa’s imports and exports to fall precipitously. After the United Nations Allies invaded North Africa, Admiral Darlan favored negotiating with them. On November 21, 1942, Boisson decided to join them and provided 100,000 soldiers. In December 1943 Governor-General Pierre Cournarie spoke to the Conseil du Gouvernement about France’s mission to benefit their African subjects. In January 1944 at the French African Conference at Brazzaville the Free French promised political, social, and economic reforms to end the colonial system. These recommendations were written in the Fonds d’Investissement pour le Développement Economique et Social (FIDES). Between 1943 and 1945 more than 100,000 French West Africans went to the front. In December 1944 the French army shot forty Africans, who had been in German prisoner-of-war camps, for mutinying after their demand for back pay at the French rate was denied.

Up to the year 1945 the only political participation by Africans allowed in French West Africa was in the four communes of Senegal and unofficially in the Senegalese interior. In 1943 Communists began organizing the Groupes d’Etudes Communistes (GECs).

The Commissioner for Togo called a conference on May 11-12, 1945, and all but one of the 45 Togolese and 17 French voted for autonomy for Togo. In Senegal the citizens elected the Socialist Lamine Gueye as deputy. Seven African deputies elected in French West Africa were joined by three from Equatorial Africa and Cameroun. Yet only 35 of the 586 seats in the French Chamber of Deputies were allotted to the colonies. Africans had been voting in Senegal for a century. Yet still less than three percent of the Africans there were eligible to vote. The Africans in the Constituent Assembly identified either with the Socialists of the SFIO or the Communist Party through its political party, the Mouvement Unifié de la Résistance (MUR). In January 1946 France renamed its colonies Territoires d’Outre-Mer. The Assembly finally abolished the discriminatory indigénat laws on February 20. Forced labor was abolished on April 11 by a law named after Houphouet-Boigny, the governor of Ivory Coast which included Upper Volta, where forced labor had been such a burden. Forced labor had been one of the most hated parts of French colonialism. The social reforms recommended by the Brazzaville conference became the program of FIDES on April 12, and on May 7 subject status was abolished when all Africans were declared citizens.

On September 28, 1946 the metropolitan electors rejected the new constitution because they wanted a bicameral legislature. This meant that the Overseas Territories did not get one-fifth of the seats in the National Assembly, and the governor-general would not be replaced by an under-secretary of state responsible to the National Assembly. By one vote the Commission for Overseas Territories passed recommendations that gave them freedom to govern themselves with freedom to join the French Union. However, the more conservative Second Constituent Assembly rejected these. The new constitution kept the emphasis of post-war politics in Paris, and the African political parties had to work through the metropolitan parties in France. The government of France maintained control over the Federation of French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa by keeping them governed by its civil servants. The Togolese Comité d’Unité Togolaise (CUT) and the Parti Démocratique de la Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI) managed to maintain their independence. Only 803,000 Africans could vote in the 1946 elections.

In October 1946 at a conference in Bamako 800 delegates from French West Africa and Equatorial Africa led by Félix Houphouet-Boigny formed a federation of political parties called the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA). However, Moutet, the French Socialist Minister of Colonies, persuaded the socialists Gueye, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Yacine Diallo not to attend the conference at Bamako. After Apithy and Fily Dabo withdrew, the RDA remained strong only in the Ivory Coast and Upper Volta. In September 1948 Senghor broke with Gueye and the SFIO and founded the Bloc Démocratique Sénégalais (BDS) party. In 1950 France made a Trusteeship Agreement with Togo and agreed to “progressive development towards self-government or independence.” By 1950 the RDA had 700,000 members and dominated the Ivory Coast, Mali, Guinea, Cameroun, and Chad, and it was the leading party in Volta, Niger, and Congo. In the Sudan their main supporters came from the Hamallist followers of Cheick Hammalah, who had been deported to France three times before dying there in prison in 1942. By 1950 French West Africa was 34% Muslim compared to only 4.5% Christian.


1. Quoted in The History of West Africa ed. J. F. A. Ajayi and Michael Crowder, Volume 2, p. 84.
2. Ibid., p. 402-3.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book Mideast & Africa 1700-1950.
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Ottoman Empire 1600-1907
Ottoman Fall and Turkey 1908-1950
Persia (Iran) and Afghanistan 1600-1950
Arabia, Yemen, and Iraq 1600-1950
Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan 1600-1950
Palestine and Zionism 1600-1950
Egypt, Sudan, and Libya 1600-1950
Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco 1600-1950
West Africa and the French 1600-1950
West Africa and the British 1600-1950
Ethiopia and Somaliland 1600-1950
East Africa 1600-1950
Congo, Angola, and Mozambique 1600-1950
Southern Africa 1700-1950
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