Political Reports (1911-1916)
|Notes © 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.|
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Bandits equipped with rapid-fire rifles staged a series of raids in the vicinity of Nioro at the beginning of February. Police from Kayes had to patrol the road to Nioro in March to restore order.
The Moor chief of the Meschdouf, Ely Ould Mohamid, was received by French administrators at Koulouba. This was good for tranquility in the Sahel.
Timbuktu was placed under civilian authority on January 1, 1911.
The Songhai people of the region of Timbuktu showed little interest in cultivating crops. Instead, they preferred to live from what they can gather.
Salt prices were high in Tombouctou because merchants were holding their stocks out of the market.
The dredging of the canal at Kabara has produced a large port (250 meters of docks) for Timbuktu.
There were threats to the French rule in the Sahara from Turks and Senoussistes in Libya.
"Un goum provisoire de 50 hommes a pu être recruté" ( a military unit of fifty men was recruited) without difficulty from among the Kountas (desert dwellers). They made an expedition from Bamba to Taoudenni and back via Timbuktu. There is optimism for future military collaboration.
Bandit raids were more numerous than usual for this time of year. The bandit leaders were "un fils d'Abidin" (a son of Abidin) and Khalifa Ould Méhémed, "fils de l'ancien chef des Bérabiche" (son of the former chief of the Berabiche nomads).
Captured bandits were sent to the prison at Tahoua.
The population of Timbuktu in 1907 was 7,000, and by 1912 it was 12,000. The author (Lt. Gouverneur Ponty), called it "une ville en plein développement économique" (a town in the midst of economic development).
In the fourth quarter of 1912, 1,560 African men were drafted into the French military service.
There were more raids by groups led by Mohammed Mahmoud Ould Sidi Laqal and Sid Ahmed Ould Arbi, and counter-raids led by Sidi Mahmoud Ould Sidi Moktar between Nioro and Kayes. Finally, Capitaine Aubert surprised Laqal and Arbi at Akreijit on November 12, 1912, wounding Laqal and killing 17 of his followers. Afterwards, December was quiet.
The Compagnie Mehariste du Tidikelt saw action northeast of Timbuktu.
35,000 barres of salt were collected during the winter salt caravan.
In 1913, the French constructed a "télégraphe sans fil à Timbuktu" (radio transmitter at Timbuktu) for communications with the post at Bandiagara. At first, it was difficult to get Africans to work on it (as runners?) but that once they understood "des avantages" (the benefits, presumably including wages), they came in huge numbers. The author also pointed out that "les Habé n'hésitent pas à franchir de grandes distances lorsqu'on leur promet des salaires avantageux: c'est ainsi que depuis la pacification nombre d'entre eux émigraient jusqu'en Gold Coast où les attirait l'espoir de gains considérables" (the local people travel long distances to obtain good salaries, even as far as the Gold Coast).
There was too little rain in the Sahel, so people moved south, especially around Timbuktu. As a result "ce mouvement de population, qui avait d'abord inspiré certaines craintes, a eu des effets plut“t heureux. Employés en grand nombre au service des transports et à l'exécution des travaux publics, ces émigrants ont pu aider par des envois d'argent ceux des leurs que leur sexe ou leur „ge reteniaient dans leur pays d'origine" (this population movement, which caused concern at first, turned out to be advantageous, since the migrants find work in the transport service or on public works, and send their wages back to those who were unable to migrate because of age or gender).
In the region of Bandiagara, the Habé people seem to be leaving the cliffs in order to live in the valley.
NOTE: I did not record any notes for this report. It is included here so that researchers will know of the report's existence.
The French saw no sign of unrest in Haut- Sénégal-Niger due to the holy war declared by the Cheikh ould Islam in Constantinople, or as a result of activity by Ottoman agents in Libya.
Africans contributed 81,000 francs to a fund for war victims as of December 31, 1914. 5,000 Africans had been drafted as of October 1.
Nevertheless, a few "illuminés en mal de mahdisme" (believers of messianic Islam) have taken advantage of the shortage of administraters to resume raiding. The author asserts that these people have absolutely no influence within the Muslim community.
The Marabout Bokary Torompo was inciting unrest near Yorosso. when an inspection tour by the Adjoint des Affaires Indigènes arrived in the area at the beginning of November. Members of the inspection team were threatened on November 6 by the people of the village of Nampéla, which had prepared for an engagement by sending away their women and children. The inspection team, led by the Adjoint, M. Emérit, captured a fortified "soukhala" and held out there until they were relieved by the Goum de Koutiala, aided by African auxiliaries from surrounding villages.
Overall, there is increased activity by bandits in the Sahel.
Timbuktu is basically quiet, but the author mentions one incident. A marabout named Amet Alamine from N'Gouna, former chief of the Kel Antassar, went to the camp of the Oulliminden (Tuareg) and claimed that all of the French had been killed in a big battle. The Tuareg started to rally for war against the remaining French, but the arrival of a section of tirailleurs from Gao, and the section méhariste de Tahoua, calmed things down. The leader of the Oulliminden, Fihroun, and others were arrested.
Vigorous military recruitment during the previous trimestre has prompted defiance from Africans. Resistance was especially strong among the "milieux fétichistes" (non-Muslim population). The worst rebellions took place among Bambaras of Bélédougou and the south of the Cercle of Goumbou. There was also trouble in the north of the Cercle of Bamako at Nonko. In addition, several marabouts are attempting to rouse the people of the Niger Bend, but with less serious results.
Lt. Gouverneur Clozet calls this a simple assassination rather than a political event, but thought it was worthy of mention. On March 22, 1915, a patrol of goumiers led by a "caporal de tirailleurs" was sent to the well of El Mämor to look for pastures suitable for a peloton mehariste (detachment of camel-mounted soldiers). When approached by a large group of Kountas, the goumiers killed their corporal. Lt. Duperray was able to capture all but a few of the murderers.
In summary, the situation is not terrible, but the inhabitants are already weakened by last year's famine, the plaque of epizooties and the knowledge that European markets for their products are cut off.
Political resistance quieted down after military recruiting was temporarily suspended. However, there was still resistance to a chief who sought escapées from the draft in the village of Karé Manguel near Samorodougou. Other incidents of resistance were reported near Hombori and Dori. Howevr, there were no bandit raids in the Hodh or near Timbuktu.
The second quarter of 1916 was the period of highest tension in the colony. The nomad leader Fihroun escaped, and the Oulliminden (Tuareg) revolted. A revolt started in Haute Volta (Upper Volta) in April. The French respond by burning dozens of villages.
The report continues with descriptions of revolts in Bobo Dioulasso, San, Koutiala, Bandiagara (April 1 to June 29), Djenné (less severe than in Bandiagara), Ouagadougou, and Gourma.
The revolt of the Oulliminden led to a battle on May 9 that resulted in a total French victory. 50 nomads were killed, and 286 children and 404 women were captured.
A French detachment was attacked by rebels near Gao on May 24.
On July 11, 1916, the government issued an order for the Désarmament des indigènes (disarming Africans) that led to the following confiscations. 3,500 weapons were confiscated in Koutiala, 18,444 in Bobo Dioulasso (includes muskets, hachets and bows & arrows). Unfortunately, arms continue to arrive via the Gold Coast.