Features Of French Policy Of Assimilation

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Characteristics / Features Of French Policy Of Assimilation

Indirect rule is a system of administratzon used by the British colonial government to govern the people through the use of traditional rulers and traditional political institutions.

The indirect rule system was introduced into Nigeria by Lord Frederick Lugard who was known to be the father of indirect rule in Nigeria.

The British officials in Nigeria formulated and enforced policies and laws through the traditional rulers who only served as intermediaries between the people and the British government.

However, the cultures and traditions of the people were respected and retained by the British authorities in order to make them more acceptable and welcomed by the people.

This system worked out well due to the cooperation of the traditional chiefs. The traditional chiefs claimed that since their cultures and traditions were not tampered with, they had no problem dealing with the British officials, but this was to some extent.

Features Of French Policy Of Assimilation

The characteristics of the French policy of assimilation may be summarized as follows:

  • The government established to implement the policy was highly centralised. There was only one constitution for France and the French colonial territories.
  • There was uniformity in administrative and political institutions. The adoption of the French local government system in the four communes typified this uniform political development.
  • The people living in the French West African colonial territories were divided into citizens and subjects. Africans could be elected into the French parliament in Paris.
  • Most of the chiefs had no traditional authority and their reign was at the discretion of the French colonial administration.
  • Assimilation had a cultural dimension, which emphasized that there were cultural differences between the French and Africans.
  • The colonial authorities exploited and oppressed the people in the French-speaking territories through obnoxious policies like the indigenat, forced labour and compulsory military service.
  • In term of economic policy, the territories were directly linked to the French market. They supplied raw materials to feed manufacturing industries in France and imported finished products from France.
  • Moreover, the railways, roads. and other infrastructures were constructed in a manner that would promote metropolitan economic interest. Thus as in British West Africa, the hinterlands were linked to the coast by railway. The various territories were also linked to one another by railway.
  • The colonial government encouraged agriculture though the emphasis was on the production of cash crops such as groundnut in Senegal; cocoa, coffee, banana and pineapple in Ivory Coast; palm oil and copra in Dahomey, coffee and citrus fruits in Guinea and cattle and date palm in Mauritania. The production of food crops was patently neglected.

The policy of assimilation was later discarded and replaced with policy of association primarily because of opposition to it in the territories.

Characteristics Of French Assimilation Policy

  • Centralised administration: France formed all its 9 colonies into a federation with the headquarters at Dakar. At the head of this federation was a Governon General. The head of each colony was a Governor. The Governors were responsible to the Governor-General while the Governor-General was responsible to the minister of colonies in France.
  • Direct rule: France ruled the colonies directly. It was believed that France had sufficient men and women, ready to take part in the administration. They expressed their desire to live and work in Africa. Moreso, France was always of the opinion that her culture and civilization were the best in the world and that her mission was to expose this culture and her rich heritage. France fought protracted wars with most of these territories before acquisition e.g. Senegal, Upper Volta, Dahomey, etc. This issue made the French authorities decide that only trusted and reliable French officials ruled these conquered areas of West Africa.
  • Dual citizenship: West Africans were divided and categorized into citizens and subjects. However, to be a citizen, the following requirements must be made:

(i) The individual has to be born in any of the four communes

(ii) Must provide evidence of good and attestable behaviour from the French colonial government.

(iii) Must have served with the French colonial government for about ten years.

  • Education was limited / restricted: Few schools were built by the French authority and as a result very few people were educated. However, more educational opportunities existed in the communes than elsewhere and even at Paris for the Africans who were ‘citizens’. These educated citizens joined the civil service and even the teaching profession and they were able to form voluntary associations. Subjects or non citizens could not enjoy this priviledge given to the citizens. A few of them may be fortunate enough to reach the secondary school level.
  • Absence of political parties and associations: Formation of political parties and associations were not encouraged.
  • No regard for traditional institutions: Recognition was not given to traditional rulers. The French administrators appointed chiefs and made them auxiliary offlcials, and they could be dismissed at will. They were mainly used to collect taxes and to obey orders.
  • Indigenat policy and forced labour: This was an obnoxious policy of the French. It was the right of the French officials to arbitrarily arrest and imprison any African for about two years without trials.
  • Cultural heritage was disregarded: France did not respect the culture of the people in her colonies. Instead, France imposed its culture on the already existing culture.
  • Absence of local assemblies: There was absence of local assemblies for Africans in their various colonies.
  • Opposition: The French merchants and intellectuals felt that this policy would create equality between them and Africans, and so there was opposition to it.
  • Financial burden: This policy placed financial burden on French citizens who in turn opposed it.
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