French Colonial Administration | Characteristics, Causes, Features, Assimilation Policy

Historical Context In the administration of West African colonies, France unified them into a loose federation headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. Dakar housed the appointed governor general, who oversaw the federation. Driven by the belief in the superiority of French civilization and the perceived inferiority of African civilization, France implemented the Assimilation policy.   The Assimilation […]

Historical Context

In the administration of West African colonies, France unified them into a loose federation headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. Dakar housed the appointed governor general, who oversaw the federation. Driven by the belief in the superiority of French civilization and the perceived inferiority of African civilization, France implemented the Assimilation policy.

 

The Assimilation Policy

The Assimilation policy aimed at imposing French culture on West African culture, superseding traditional ways of life, traditions, customs, beliefs, and institutions with advanced French counterparts. This policy was predominantly applied in the four communes: Dakar, Goree, Rufisque, and Saint Louis.

 

Characteristics Of The French Colonial System (Assimilation)

  1. Centralized administration
  2. Direct rule
  3. Division of West Africans into citizens and subjects
  4. Restricted education with few schools established
  5. Central administration based in Paris
  6. Absence of political parties and associations
  7. Non-recognition of chieftaincy institutions
  8. Disregard for African culture
  9. Arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of Africans without trial

 

Causes Of The Failure Of The Assimilation Policy

  1. Cultural differences between the French and West Africans
  2. Reduction of traditional chiefs’ powers
  3. Financial burden on the people of France
  4. Opposition from French intellectuals against equality with Africans
  5. Success of the indirect rule system in Nigeria prompting a need for flexibility
  6. Impacts of the Second World War leading to the abandonment of assimilation
  7. Unpopularity and objections due to forced labor and imprisonment without trial
  8. Strong attachment of the African people to their culture
  9. Division of Africans into two classes contributing to the failure of indirect rule

 

Shift To The Policy Of Association

In response to the failure of assimilation, France abandoned the policy and adopted the Association policy, resembling the indirect rule system.

 

Features Of The Policy Of Association

  1. Respect and recognition of people’s culture
  2. Abolishment of forced labor
  3. Recognition of traditional political institutions
  4. Abolishment of dual citizenship
  5. Permission for freedom of political association
  6. Granting each colony the freedom to develop autonomously
  7. Greater use of French personnel than Africans

 

Comparison Between British And French Colonial Administration

  1. Britain employed an indirect rule system, while France adopted direct rule.
  2. Britain did not federate its West African colonies, whereas France did.
  3. Britain showed respect for local languages and cultures, unlike France.
  4. Britain recognized and respected traditional rulers; France did not.
  5. Britain encouraged mass education, whereas France restricted access to education.
  6. Britain allowed political associations in its colonies; France opposed and suppressed them.
  7. British indirect rule allowed each colony to develop independently; France did not.
  8. While Britain permitted the development of parliaments and assemblies in its colonies, France did not allow such institutions.

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