anm document

Various reports on forced labor deaths (1936-1937)
in ANM S 139 fonds recents

© 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.

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STIN Service de Santé, "Résultants de la visite d'incorporation du Cercle de Ouahigouya le 12 Mars 1936 à Markala" (Markala, September 28, 1936)

An unusually high number of recruits from Ouahigouya got sick or died along the way to Markala. The original contingent had 300 men, but by the time of this inspection, there were only 275. 37 had already been discharged, mostly as "malingre" (sickly or puny). One died en route to Markala.

Most likely, this was because they had already marched 600 kilometers since February 10, 1936. All had lost weight, and each weighed between 50-60 kilograms (110-130 pounds). The following table compares data from Ouahigouya with other interior cercles:

Item Ouahigouya Ségou Mopti Nara
Total number of recruits 298 200 390 80
Rejected on arrival at Markala 37 11 50 5
Rejected during first three months 4 1 4 1
Hospitalized in first three months 38 10 10 3
Died in first three months 1 0 2 1


Adjoint à l'Inspecteur Local du Travail et de la Manoeuvre Le Houx to Gouverneur du Soudan Français, "Enquête sur un accident mortel survenu à Kiembara, cercle de Tougan, le 13 Decembre 1936," n°1 (Koulouba, January 26, 1937)

Eight men were killed in a landslide while digging laterite for road repair between Ouahigouya and Tougan in Upper Volta. There were 300 men at work at the time of the accident, but despite standing orders, the surveillants had broken them up into three separate work crews and left these men unsupervised. Seven were dead at the scene and the eighth died in the dispensary at Tougan the next morning.


Adjoint à l'Inspecteur Local du Travail et de la Manoeuvre Le Houx to Gouverneur du Soudan Français, "Analyse: Acheminent des travailleurs de la 2ème portion recruités en Fevrier 1936 à Ouahigouya," n°2, (Koulouba, February 1, 1937)

This 11-page document was the result of an investigation into the poor health of 300 workers recruited from Ouahigouya for the STIN at Markala. It describes in great detail how they were recruited and transported to Markala.

Recruitment took place in different cantons at roughly the same time, around the end of January. All able-bodied men received a number, then numbers were drawn, first for the 1èr portion (active military service) and then for the 2ième portion (forced labor). All received smallpox vacines, but due to a shortage of other vaccines, only the men from the 1èr portion received typhoid, TAB and pneumonia vaccines. 212 men were chosen for the 1èr portion and 300 for the 2ième portion. Four men were unable to accompany the other 296 of the 2ième portion because they had pneumonia, so two were sent home and two were sent to Ségou with the Bamako-Ouahigouya camion postal (mail truck).

Each man's orders were written in triplicate. His copy was held by the surveillant until they reached Markala. The other copies went to the Commandant du Cercle and colonial capital (Bamako, in this case).

On February 10, they walked from 8h00 to 13h00, arriving at Zzogoreba, 28 kilometers from Ouahigouya. The local chief had food prepared in advance (378 kilograms of millet, 90 kilograms of meat, 6 kilograms of salt) and they slept under a large hangar (shelter). The next day, they hiked from 6h00 to 12h00 and reached Kiembara, 22 kilometers away, where they slept in 4 large banco buildings. On February 12, they went to Djimou and received food prepared in advance.

On February 13, they walked from 6h00 to 10h00 and reached Toucan, 95 kilometers from Ouahigouya, but they were in bad shape. Five men were hospitalized for pneumonia.

On February 15, they walked all morning for 32 kilometers until 12h00 and reached Gassan where they stayed in 8 round houses at the campement (camp ground). The next day, 292 men reached Koury in the subdivision of Nouna. On February 21, they reached Kolokan, where one man died.

On February 26, they reached San at 9h00. They spent a day in the camp de passage des tirailleurs. Six men received medical attention for respiratory infections (4) or foot injuries (2). They were placed on requisitioned donkeys to continue the trip.

By February 28, 13 men were hospitalized including a garde de cercle de Toucan. One died. Doctors were interviewed later for this report, but said that they were unaware of widespread sickness because they had no orders to inspect the recruits, only to treat those who asked for medical attention.

Besides the long distances covered on foot, close sleeping quarters probably facilitated the spread of infectious diseases.