French Colonialism Unmasked: The Vichy Years in French West Africa

By Ruth Ginio | Go to book overview

Conclusions

Ah! Seigneur, éloigne de ma mémoire la France qui n’est
Pas la France, ce masque de petitesse et de haine sur le
Visage de la France
Ce masque de petitesse et de haine pour qui je n’ai que haine
—mais je peux bien haïr le Mal
Car j’ai une grande faiblesse pour la France

Léopold Sédar Senghor

In this extract from a 1945 poem entitled “Prière de paix” (A Prayer for Peace) Senghor, according to the Nigerian author Wole Soyinka, places himself as God and offers mercy and forgiveness to the colonizer-sinner. Soyinka even goes as far as to describe the poem as the confession of a “strange—one would almost say perverse—love affair.”1 Without probing the nature of Senghor’s personal relations with France, this poem and especially the quoted extract reflect a more general issue that is at the basis of this book. When the Vichy period was over, the Free French who took over FWA continued to assert to the Africans (as they did when they diffused their propaganda from the British colonies) that the Vichy regime represented a false face of France—a repressive, racist, and authoritarian face that was in fact a mask covering France’s real visage: the republican, egalitarian, and democratic one.

But in fact for the Western-educated elite in FWA it was not so clear after the war which of these two faces was the mask. For many the Vichy period actually exposed the real face of France and the fact that colonialism was necessarily racist. But as Senghor declared in his poem,

-183-

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French Colonialism Unmasked: The Vichy Years in French West Africa
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - French West Africa and Its Place in the Vichy Colonial Idea 1
  • 1 - Setting the Stage for Vichy 3
  • 2 - "A Source of Pride and Greatness" 11
  • Part II 23
  • 3 - Vichy Settles In- Administrative Changes and Continuity 25
  • 4 - Spreading the National Revolution in FWA 33
  • 5 - "Thinking Big" 59
  • Part III 87
  • 6 - Vichy and the "Products" of Assimilation 93
  • 7 - The Vichy Regime and the "Traditional" Elements of African Society 117
  • 8 - Vichy Colonialism and African Society 153
  • Part IV 159
  • 9 - Vichy Colonialism 161
  • 10 - Vichy''s Postwar Impact 173
  • Conclusions 183
  • Notes 191
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 231
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