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lesson Note
Subject: Government
Topic: French Policy of Assimilation And Association
Lesson Objectives: by the end of the Lesson, the learners should be able to:

  1. Discuss French Policy of Assimilation and Association.
  2. State the characteristics of each policy of administration;
  3. State reasons for the failure of these French system of administration.
  4. State the similarities between French and British System of administration.

Lesson Summary/Discussion

French Colonial Administration In West Africa
As Nigeria had from the British, countries like Senegal, Ivory Coast
(Cote d’ivoire) Niger Republic, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and others had a fair share of colonial experience from the French. France administered her West African Colonies through a Governor-General. The Governor-general operated
from Dakar, Senegal which was the headquarters of French colonial
administration in West Africa. As a loose Federal system of govermment, the French government initiated the policy of assimilation.

The French Policy of Assimilation
The policy of assimilation refers to the French colonial system of
administration that advocated the replacement of African culture and tradition with that of French. This was based on the belief that the French culture was superior and civilized to Africans which was regarded as inferior and backward.
The people of West Africa were therefore urged to adopt French laws, religion mode of dressing and communication to the neglect of their own.

Characteristics of the French Policy of Assimilation
1. The policy advocated the substitution of African culture and tradition with that of French.

2. The policy was a direct form of administration as French citizens were on West African soil to co-ordinate the policy.
3. The West African French colonies were brought together and viewed as an extension of French government and territory.
4. The policy recognized and made use of educated elite.

5. The rules and regulations used to govern the colonies were made in Paris which served as the base for centralized administration.
6. Formation of political parties and associations were not allowed.
7. There was limited education as only the French authority could establish
Schools which were tailored to achieve the assimilation of African culture into French.

8. There were two categories of people, the citizens and the Subjects. The Citizens were those that accepted French ways of life and lived in the four communes of Senegal i.e. Dakar, St. Louis, Refisque and Goree. The
subjects were those who rejected the French ways of life.
9. The Africans that were accorded citizenship were elected into the French National Assembly.

On assessment, the policy of assimilation was a partial success as it
Succeeded in transforming the ways of live of the citizens especially in the major towns to that of French. But in other places especially the interior parts of the colonies, the policy was a failure linked to the factors explained below:

Reasons for the Failure of Policy of Assimilation

1. Strong Passion for Culture and Tradition: Majority of West Africans had strong passion for their culture and tradition and as such, the French found it difficult to convince them to totally abandon their ways of life.

2. Well-organized traditional system at the interior parts: “The traditional rulers had a firm grip of their kingdoms especially at the remote parts of the territory and when the policy was imported into those areas, the traditional rulers and the people refused to buy it.
3. Criticisms from French scholars and intellectuals: Some of the scholars and intellectuals of French origin atiacked the execution of the policy as it elevated some Africans to an equal status and rights with them. Moreover, French merchants perceived that the policy would enable West Africans to be potential market rivals.
4. Maltreatment of Undeducated Subjects: The uneducated Africans who were regarded as subjects were treated with humiliation and disdain.
5. The attempts made to “Frenchy West Africans were regarded as an
imposition of imperial culture, hence it was strongly resisted.
6. The ways and manner in which the chiefs were recognized and treated does not go down well with the subjects and this made them welcome the policy with cold arms.

7. The introduction of an implementation of indigenant policy which allowed French administrators to arrest and detain Africans without trial coupled with the use of forced labour contributed immensely to the failure of the assimilation policy.

The French Policy of Association
The eventual failure of the policy of assimilation necessitated the
introduction of the policy of association. The policy of association refers to the French colonial system of administration that recognized and cherished the culture, tradition, institution and ways of life of the West Africans. The inability of the French administrators to assimilate those at the interior parts called for the introduction of the policy of association which was more acceptable to the people.

Characteristics of the Policy of Association
1. The policy respected the culture, tradition and identity of African people.

2. The dual citizenship that existed under the policy of Assimilation where citizens and subjects was abolished.
3. There was greater regional autonomy as more powers were given to regional councils.

4. It was an indirect administration but it made use of French administrators to govern the colonies instead of traditional rulers.
5. More French personnel were used than Africans.
6. The Africans could not get access to good education as the establishment of schools was solely in the hands of French authority.

Similarities Between British and French System of Colonial Administration
1. Both British and French had governors at the apex of the colonial
administrative structure.
2. The governors had absolute powers over the colonies.
3. Both colonialists tried to impose their colonial administrations.
4. Both of them used forced labour.
5. The British and French used European officials in their administrations.
6. The French and British projected cash crop agriculture in their administrations.
7. Both of them influenced the culture and tradition of their colonies.
8. The two systems eventually granted political independence to their colonies.

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Take a quick test for this lesson!

  1. Explain the terms ‘Policy of Assimilation and Association’.
  2. what are the characteristics of each policy of administration?
  3. What are the reasons for the failure of these French system of administration.
  4. State the similarities between French and British System of administration.

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