anm document

"Thiès-Niger 1930-1935"
in ANM S 21 fonds recents

© 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.

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Capt. Bertrand, "État trimestriel indiquant par jour l'effective total de la compagnie n°12 du 2ième portion" (Dinguira, October 4, 1930)

This is one of many quarterly reports showing the numbers of men at work and absent each day. I didn't copy down much out of these because they were so dense, but this table gives a feel for the kind of information they contain:

Date total #workers actual #workers #prisoners #hospitalized #deserted
July 1, 1930 682 557 3 56 62
July 15, 1930 682 564 3 49 62
August 1, 1930 678 481 13 71 62
August 15, 1930 673 492 7 62 62
September 1, 1930 618 374 4 75 28
September 15, 1930 585 375 5 42 26
September 30, 1930 582 449 9 91 28

This report also describes the types of work that were performed. A total of 7,962 man-days were spent on "divers" tasks like wood-cutting and hauling, loading and unloading, laying new 30-kilogram rail and removing old 26- kilogram rail, breaking rock for ballast, assorted digging and "abattage et transport à 4km avec traversée du Senegal de roniers (20 pieces)" (cutting and transporting construction timber across the Senegal River).

NOTE: There are similar reports entitled "État trimestriel indiquant par jour l'effective total de la compagnie de travailleurs du Soudan n°11."


Directeur du Chemin de Fer Dakar-Niger Chardie to Gouverneur du Soudan Français, "Rapport Semestriel sur l'utilisation des travailleurs de la 2ième portion pendant le premier semestre 1930"

As of July 15, 1930, there were two groups of workers from the 2ième portion. Group n°11 had 299 men from Bamako (95), Koulikoro (47), Kolokani (47), and Bougouni (110), all drafted in 1930. They worked at two locations; km684 and km691.5. Their headquarters was stationed at the Gare de Tintiba, km688.

Group n°12 had 683 men. They came from Kayes (262), Kita (46), Nioro (194), Nara (84), Satadougou (30) and Bafoulabé (67). 486 were drafted in 1930 and 149 in 1929. Four more were holdovers from 1929 and one more from 1928, all for disciplinary infractions.

The actual number of workers fluctuated constantly due to sickness, deaths, new arrivals and terminations. Upon arrival, new men were assigned to European military officers or railroad personnel. Then they were given two days' rations and put into boxcars for the trip to work camps. Upon arrival, they were organized into groups of 125-150 men and placed in camps located near their work sites. They built 8-man huts out of local materials and furnished them with individual isolateurs (something like a cot that kept them from sleeping directly on the ground). Surveillant stagiaires (apprentice work supervisors) were housed along with the workers, but all other classes of apprentices received separate quarters. Each camp had a kitchen area, plus a dump and trash fire, all located some distance away from the huts.

The French noted which cercles provided the best disciplined men. (JJNOTE: There does not seem to be rule for this; it varied from report to report) Kayes, Nioro and Nara men gave the most trouble because of "de punis, de máladés, de réformés et de décédés" (punishments, illness, disqualifications and deaths).

The French also set daily norms for job performance. A worker was expcted to excavate 0.75 meters of earth or soft rock to a depth of 4.5 meters (does not specify how wide), or 0.33 meters of hard rock. Men from the Middle Niger River valley consistently exceded the averages for the group. Men from the south rarely did.

It usually took from 1 1/2 months to 3 months for new recruits to adapt to the gang labor system. The Chef de Service thought this figure would be improved by recruiting more heavily in cercles other than Kayes, Nioro and Nara.

Work shifts never exceeded 9 hours, but sometimes unloading had to be done in the dark, or equipment had to be erected even during the hottest part of the day.


"État trimestriel indiquant les travaux auxquels la compagnie à été utilisée, les journées et les rendements moyens correspondants" 3ième trimestre, 1930

Other types of work performed by forced laborers included using explosives to remove hard rock, building various masonry works, and repairing tornado damage.


"Rapport sur l'utilisation des travailleurs de la 2ième portion pendant le premier semestre 1931"

Camps were bounded by "fossé" (drainage ditches). There were never any complaints about the food.

Out of all possible man-days of labor, 2,597 (1.43%) were lost to prison and 5,092 (2.8%) to desertion. Thus the average total manpower must have been 993, although the number varied throughout the 183-day semester. Another 2,883 (1.58%) were lost in the dispensary, 5,906 (3.24%) sick days, 339 (0.19%) at the hospital in Kayes. Six men died (4 of lung disease, 1 of snake bite, 1 of smallpox).

Lung diseases made up 22% of all sick claims, wounds made up another 18%, infected abcesses were 12%, malaria was 10%, and bronchitis was 9%. There were also complaints of various stomach problems, conjunctivitis, and arthritis.

The men from Nara, Kita, Nioro, Kolokani, Bougouni, Koutiala, Sikasso, and Satadougou gave the best work performance. Men from Bamako, Bafoulabé, Kayes and Koulikoro were below average.

The author thought that better officers would improve work performance.


"Rapport sur l'utilisation des travailleurs de la 2ième portion pendant le 2ième semestre 1931" n°26SG (Kayes, January 23, 1932)

A new company of forced laborers from the 2ième portion, n°13, was formed on December 30, 1931 to work near Diamou, using 330 recrutis from the Cercle de Bamako.

Deserters accounted for 5,389 lost man-days (2.92%), prisoners accounted for another 1,401 (0.75%). Reported sickness included "plaies" (wounds, 19.5%), dysentery (9.5%), bronchitis (8.5%), guinea worm (10%), and other injuries (9.5%).

There was no obvious difference in work output between men of different cercles because there were no newcomers in this semester. A fair number of former workers from the 2ième portion were hired as volunteer laborers. Some were trained to operate machinery such as the excavator-pelle à vapeur (steam shovel), locotracteur (tracked vehicle), and the bétonnière (concrete mixer).