French-speaking West Africa: From Colonial Status to Independence

French-speaking West Africa: From Colonial Status to Independence

French-speaking West Africa: From Colonial Status to Independence

French-speaking West Africa: From Colonial Status to Independence

Excerpt

Elspeth Huxley is reported to have written a letter, in 1959, in which she said that 'trying to write a book about Africa nowadays is like attempting to photograph a horse race with an ancient camera: the subject is moving so fast that you are lucky if your film shows more than a blurred shape'.

This erratic vision is certainly all that is vouchsafed to anyone who studies the independent West African states formerly under French rule. These states are Senegal, Mauritania, Mali (known as Soudan until 1959), Niger, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Dahomey, Upper Volta and Togo. And in them, as Smith Hempstone has pointed out, 'is taking place the great experiment of African freedom'.

With the exception of Togo--at first a German protectorate, then from 1922 a French mandate governed under the terms of the League of Nations agreements, and from 1946 to 1959 a United Nations Trust Territory administered by France--all these states were from 1904 to 1959 local units of the federation known as 'l'Afrique Occidentale Française' (A.O.F.). They were termed 'colonies' under the Third Republic and 'overseas territories' under the Fourth. By means of the referendum on the Fifth Republic's proposed constitution, in September 1958, these territories opted--with the exception of Guinea which voted for total independence--for membership of the French Community and were declared to be 'Autonomous Republics'.

In December 1958, Senegal, Soudan, Upper Volta and Dahomey agreed to form the federal state of Mali. A federal constitution was drawn up in Dakar in January 1959 . . .

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