Ivory Coast Table of Contents
Captain Louis Binger. Engraving from Louis Gustave Binger, Du Niger au Golfe de Guinée ,1892.
Maurice Treich-Laplène. Engraving from Louis Gustave Binger, Du Niger au Golfe de Guinée ,1892.
French expansion in Africa during the last quarter of the nineteenth century was so rapid that it was difficult to find enough administrators to govern the growing number of possessions effectively. For a brief period, therefore, the French adopted a system of indirect rule using indigenous leaders as their surrogates. The local rulers, however, exercised authority only by sanction of the French administrators. Those rulers who refused to submit to French directives were deposed and replaced with more cooperative ones.
With the consolidation of French power in West Africa at the end of the nineteenth century, French officials increasingly assumed direct administrative powers, and they reduced local rulers to the level of low-ranking civil servants. In 1895 France grouped the French West African colonies of Côte d'Ivoire, Dahomey (present-day Benin), Guinea, Niger, French Sudan (present-day Mali), Senegal, Upper Volta, and Mauritania together and subordinated their governors to the governor of Senegal, who became governor general. A series of additional decrees in 1904 defined the structure of this political unit and organized it into French West Africa (Afrique Occidentale Française--AOF; see Glossary).
France divided the individual colonies into districts known as cercles, each of which was governed by a district commander (commandant du cercle) who, because of poor communications between the cercles and the colonial governors, exercised his responsibilities with relative autonomy. Within a cercle, the commander ruled through a hierarchy of local rulers, whom he appointed and could dismiss at will. He was advised by a council of notables (conseil des notables) consisting of these local rulers and of other individuals appointed by him.
Most of the inhabitants of the colonies were subjects of France with no political rights. Moreover, they were drafted for work in mines, on plantations, as porters, and on public projects as part of their tax responsibility. They were also expected to serve in the military and were subject to the indigénat (see Glossary), a separate system of law.
Data as of November 1988