New York, Cambridge. Cambridge University Press
The Futa Jallon region of the modern state of Guinea (Conakry) has a rich and important history. It is the, most mountainous area of the western Sudan and, indeed, it is in its hills that the two great rivers of West Africa — the Senegal and the Niger — have their source. The two dominant ethnic groups are the Fulbe and the various Mandinka groups known collectively as the Jallonke from whom the region gets its name. The Jallonke agriculturalists invaded and settled on the plateau of the Futa between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries animist Fulbe pastoralists followed but, preferring to graze their livestock on the higher hills, did not seriously clash with the Jallonke. In the seventeenth century Muslim Fulbe, coming from either Macina or the Futa Toro, defeated both the Jallonke and the animist Fulbe and imposed their suzerainty over the area exacting tribute and taking slaves from the defeated tribes. Despite their great numerical inferiority they succeeded in imposing themselves as the dominant political force in the region in the course of the century. A further grouping which deserves comment were the Jakhanke, a clerical group belonging to the Soninke people, who settled in the Futa in the eleventh century and founded the town of Touba which acquired a reputation as a centre for Islamic learning, attracting visitors from all over West Africa 1.
Towards the middle of the eighteenth century the head of the Futa state (who took
the title Almamy) 2, Karamoko Alfa, organised the Futa into seven provinces or diwal each of which had its
own chief and which together formed the Futa Jallon federation which lasted more
or less successfully until the French conquest. When Karamoko Alfa was forced to
give up through ill health in 1751, the ‘Council of Elders’ elected
a relation, Ibrahim Sori Mawdo,
to be almamy as Karamoko Alfa's son, Alfa Saalihu, was too young. This decision
led to disputes between the two families known henceforward as the Alfya and Soriya.
The dispute was eventually settled by an arrangement whereby an almamy was chosen
from each family, the two of them taking it in turn to reign for a period of two
years at a time. This original system lasted a remarkably long time and it was not
until 1888 that it finally collapsed. Whilst it survived the Futa constitution was,
in David Robinson's
words ‘a triumph of balancing’. Thierno
Diallo, a Guinean historian, described the period when the system worked properly
as the ‘most glorious of nineteenth century Futa history’. Marty,
although less enthusiastic, argued that the Futa federation was a more impressive
state than those of either Ashanti or Dahomey 3.
However, by the last quarter of the century the Fuuta was in serious decline, and the central authorities were increasingly vulnerable to pressure both from within and from outside the federation. Above all the intense factionalism of the ruling families which had always been one of the striking characteristics of Futa politics provided the ideal opportunity for French intervention. The timetable for the final collapse began in 1886 when the almamy designate of the Soriya family, Mamadu Paathe, was ousted by his younger brother, Bokar Biro, who shared power with the Alfya almamy, Almaami Ahmaadu, until 1895 when the regional chiefs of the Futa rebelled. During this time the French had been signing treaties with the various almamys of the federation but this diplomatic pressure was not sufficient to bring Bokar Biro to terms. A year after the regional chiefs rebelled against the central authority, the French, too, decided on the useof force. In 1896 Bokar Biro was defeated and killed in a battle against an alliance of the French and regional chiefs.
In 1897 a Protectorate Treaty was signed in which France agreed to recognise the
heads of the two ruling families of the Futa, Umaru
Bademba for the Alfya and Sori Illili for the Soriya, and to respect
the original constitution of the federation. However, the latter promise was soon
neglected as the French decided to divide the Futa into two administrative provinces,
Timbo and Mamou, under the leadership of Sori Illili and Umaru Bademba respectively.
The chiefs who had fought alongside the French were similarly rewarded with recognition
of the ‘permanent’ quality of their chiefships 4.
By the end of the nineteenth century the Futa was undoubtedly in a state of crisis. There were several strands to this crisis: economic, political and religious changes resulting from the growing influence of the French and the simultaneous collapse of central authority within the Futa combined to create what Lamine Senneh has called ‘a crisis in authority’ as various groups jostled for the power and authority once held by the almamys. At the turn of the century, Sanneh suggests, the two main contenders were the French and a new religious dlite based on a rural network within the Futa of radical Muslim communities composed of disaffected peasants and freed slaves 5. However, the French, whilst recognising that the situation in the Futa was certainly fluid, appear to have been satisfied that the old structures were still sufficiently strong for them to recognise and make use of existing chiefs. Writing to the Colonial Minister to report on his recent visit to the Futa, the Governor-General explained his policy of indirect rule and respect for the status quo. In Timbo he was met by a delegation of chiefs, who, he said, all expressed themselves enthusiastic supporters of the French:
I would even go as far as to say, he continued, that if I had pressed them it would have been easy to make the Malinkes, who constitute the base of the working population of the Fouta say ‘Free us from the Foulahs’, to make the Foulahs say ‘Free us from the chiefs’, the chiefs say ‘Free us from the almamys’. But the moment is not ripe for such a radical social revolution and I believe that we should govern the Fouta Djallon with the social organisation that we found there. Without in appearance changing the actual institutions we will remain the only masters of the country through the intermediary of the almamys who can only remain in power thanks to us and who will succeed in place of us in doing the police work necessary to maintain the tranquillity of the populations and the security of the roads 6.
That such a policy involved turning a blind eve to despotism cannot be doubted. For example, Alfa Yaya who was confirmed as chief of Labé, Kade and Gabu after the defeat of Bokar Biro enjoyed two years of absolute rule.
During these years, Marty later wrote, when Alfa Yaya was the uncontested master of Labe he earned himself the reputation of a prize tyrant and bandit which has perhaps been exaggerated. Like all African potentates, Alfa Yaya didn't hesitate to cut off a few heads and to seize the goods of his victims but at the same time he introduced order and tranquillity into the country, encouraged agriculture and kept war outside his frontiers. These procedures of summary justice … the very product of the feudal organisation of the Fouta should be judged with the indulgence required of the surroundings.
Furthermore, tax receipts between 1898 and 1903 increased from 250,000 francs to
over a million — and for this the French would forgive anything, as Marty admitted: ‘We
were very happy with the financial results and we didn't attempt to discover by what
methods … the tax was collected’ 7. Umaru
Bademba, who had been made sole almamy of Mamou, appears to have gone too far
even for the indulgent French administration: ‘His countless exactions, his
abuses of power and his acts of cruelty were such that he had to be deposed in 1900’ 8.
However, the wisdom of using the existing chiefs soon came to be doubted. The accession of Frezouls, a Radical Republican, to the Lieutenant-Governorship of Guinea in 1904 played a part in this change of heart 9. Certainly in the case of Alfa Yaya it was reported that he felt vulnerable as a result of changes in Conakry 10. But Alfa Yaya's unpopularity with the French was, it seems, as much due to his claim to one-tenth of all tax receipts and to suspicions that he was intriguing with the Portuguese, who, under new boundary arrangements, had been given control over a large section of Labe, as it was to the arrival of new Radical Republican ideals in Conakry 11.
In October 1905 Alfa Yaya was arrested on charges of plotting against France and sentenced to five years internment in Abomey 12. How much can this be imputed to Frezouls' Republicanism? Frezouls was not the first person to clash with Alfa Yaya. As early as 1896 de Beeckmann, the administrator who had been given the task of drawing up the treaties with the chiefs of the Futa-Jallon, was accused by Cousturier, the Governor of Guinea, of pursuing a personal attack against the chief of Labé 13.
Nor was Frezouls exactly consistent in his treatment of the chiefs of the Futa. In the same year that Alfa Yaya was deported, Umaru Bademba, the deposed almamy of Mamou, was made chief of Dara, Teliko and Pale Sara (?) 14. So one should be wary of imagining that the arrival of a good Republican as Lieutenant-Governor of Guinea automatically spelt the end of an era for the chiefs of the Futa. In practice such changes as occurred in chlefship depended on a host of factors which combined to form the political make-up of the colony, of which the chiefs were themselves an important part andnot just the more or less passive victims of changing ideological currents in Paris or even Conakry.
In purely ideological terms Radicalism, in any case, was probably not as important as the ideas held by the administration on religion and race. Such ideas were particularly strong in relation to the Fulbe of the Futa Jallon. Early European travellers were struck by the fairer skins, fine features and apparently higher social and political organisation of the Fulbe. In the early nineteenth century the French explorer, René Caillié, had, for example, been very impressed but he added that ‘The Foulahs are proud, suspicious and liars’ 15. These same characteristics of, on the one hand, an apparently superior intelligence and, on the other, of a passion for intrigue and an abhorrence of work continued to impress European observers. By the first decade of the twentieth century early ethnologists had drawn up a hierarchy of African ethnic groups, and although opinions differed about the exact ordering and about what criteria should be used for judging, all agreed that the Fulbe came at the top of the black African races 16.
The classification was both ‘scientific’ (i.e. based on observation of physical characteristics) and moralistic for although the Fulbe were regarded as being beautiful and clever (Fulbe women were particularly recommended as native wives for French administrators for both these reasons) 17, there was also a sense in which they were seen to be too clever for their or anybody else's good. Frobenius was the least equivocal of the moralisers as he drew a sharp distinction between the state-forming but lazy ‘Hamitic’ peoples and the non-state-forming but hard-working ‘Ethiopic’ peoples 18. Others made similar judgements. Tauxier, for example, writing in a journal pioneering the ‘method of observation’ in the infant social sciences declared that:
The Foulah is cunning and two-faced; superficially he will show a deferent, even obsequious submission to the French authority, but inside be will be determined to do nothing that he is commanded to do. He makes a lot of promises but keeps none of them. By contrast the ordinary Black obeys and once he has promised, keeps his word … In short, the Mande makes less objections to our authority and gives us better services…. The Foulah is more intelligent and scholarly as a result of the superiority of his blood and the nordic [sic] influence … He is more authoritarian and knows how to command in his family and in his state. This Foulah who is so intolerant of our authority, is very authoritarian in his own home … It is this quality which has made the Foulah capable of founding a small empire in the Fouta Djallon and which has made them dominate politically and militarily over their Mande neighbours 19.
In a history of Guinea, published in 1911, the author described the pre-colonial administration of the Futa Jallon in the most unflattering way:
The shameful exploitation of the people became the principle of an administration which had forgotten that its primary task was the defence of the tribe. To this abuse of power the Peuhl replied with perfidy, lies and inertia all of which he considered as qualities. Intrigues, armed struggles and assassinations became increasingly frequent … Thus Dochard could write of the feudal inhabitants of the Fouta Djallon in 1817 that ‘their distinctive character is cunning and two-facedness’ 20.
The ability of the Fulbe to form states commanded respect from the French but their admiration was qualified by their insistence of, on the one hand, the near anarchy of the states and, on the other, of the Machiavellian virtues by which the state was created. Witness a monograph on the history of the cercle of Timbo written in 1908:
During all this history of the Fouta Djallon … anarchy ruled supreme. As a result of circumstance however, and partly due to the influence of an advanced religion, customs and traditions established themselves which finished by giving this society an organisation which was less rudimentary than those of other native peoples. Moreover there was nothing surprising in this; less primitive than most of the Blacks, intelligent and double-dealing, as lazy as he is proud and greedy the Foulah was bound to reserve an important place in his life for political affairs 21.
The Fulbe were also generally described as being fervent Muslims. Paul Guébhard,
whilst the interim commandant of the cercle of Timbo, wrote that ‘The greatest
part of the existence of a Foulah is passed with the Coran in his hand, whether as
a child bleating out verses, or as a talibe [pupil] … or finally as an old man
thumbing through the yellowing pages of the family book in between the hours of prayer’ 22.
Another French administrator wrote that;
All travellers to the Fouta have been struck by the depressive influence that religious practice seems to have on the Peuhl. Go to the mosque when the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer. You will see the natives going there walking slowly, muscles languid, back bent, shoulders hung and head low. The expression on the face is fixed, the eye is dull and the mouth (Oh, that mouth!) always open. It seems as though the blood has been drawn from their veins …
Look at them pray. Whether they say the words out loud or whether they whisper them … not a muscle on their face moves. And when they tell their beads nothing can disturb them from their imperturbable gravity of thought. Truly they give the impression of being saintly men 23.
Some suggested that this attachment to Islam constituted a threat to the French.
Captain Normand, writing in 1902, warned that ‘The marabout is slowly creating
a force which can only be hostile to us and which to my mind will always be a worry
for the future of French Africa. For let us not forget the words of Bugeaud: “Boil
up the head of a Christian and the head of a Muslim togetherfor a week, the stocks
will never mix” 24.
However, it should be said that the Fulbe of the Futa Jallon were not invariably accused of religious fanaticism. Another essay written soon after the establishment of French rule noted that although music and singing were rare in the Futa this was not so much a result of fanaticism but rather of the puritanism of the Fulbe character. ‘Respectability’ the author argued was one of the distinguishing features of a Fulbe village 25. According to the official guidebook to Guinea produced for the 1906 Marseilles colonial exhibition, the Fulbe of the Futa were not in the least bit fanatical in their religion, and the author was pleased to note that the almamy openly drank wine and alcohol and enjoyed talking religion with Christians. 26
Finally a word should be said about the way in which the political organisation of the Futa Jallon as a whole was regarded by the French. The existence of a military and religious aristocracy of a minority ethnic group, the Fulbe, alongside a subordinate and often completely enslaved population who performed all the manual labour, not unreasonably reminded contemporary observers of what can loosely be called feudal society. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that they likened it to the pre-1789 situation in France — Marty, for example, entitled his chapter on the nineteenth-century Futa Jallon, the ‘Ancien Régime’. A positivist view of history demanded that there should be a ‘third estate’ to secure the progression of society from the absolutism of the Fulbe aristocracy to a more just system based on self-determination. However, in the absence of an obvious candidate for the ‘third estate’, the French took it upon themselves to play the part, and the most explicit statement of such a doctrine is to be found in Ponty's politique des races circular. As we have seen in 1897 the French — or at least the Governor-General — did not think that the time had come to introduce a social revolution into the affairs of the Futa Jallon. Ten years later official policy had changed — though as has been emphasised this did not necessarily mean that all chiefs of the Ancien Régime were out of a job — far from it. Nonetheless there existed at this time a very special sense of the mission civilisatrice — more fundamental than the construction of schools, hospitals, etc. — which related to the wish to engineer a social revolution in Africa, to bring in other words 1789 to the Futa Jallon.
This has been a lengthy but necessary introduction to the events of 1909-11. Two main themes should be emphasised. Firstly, whatever may be said of the anarchy of the pre-colonial Futa Jallon, it was a powerful and well organised state which the French had never conquered but which they had been able to control only by entering into the local power struggle against Bokar Biro. The loyalty and the value of their alliances were as a result far from certain, and, indeed, the French were very suspicious of many of their allies, especially Alfa Yaya. Secondly, there existed a whole string of stereotypes, which contained elements of reality but which, like all stereotypes, ultimately confused rather than illuminated.
As early as 1899 the government in Guinea had been alerted to the possibility of an Islamic uprising. Noirot, the resident in the Futa Jallon, warned the Governor that Tierno Ibrahim, the wali of N'Dama 27, who had been given an important position by the Senegalese administration, was causing Alfa Yaya trouble in Labé and that in the tradition of al-Hajj Umar, Ma-Ba Diakhu and Mahmadu Lamine, he was planning to wage Holy War against the French 28. Again in 1900 the Governor was worried by rumours of Islamic rebellion in Kankan, rumours that were especially worrying in view of the labour difficulties on the recently started Conakry to Niger railway 29. However, the administration must have been reassured in 1903 by answers it received from commandants de cercle to questions it had sent out concerning the state of Islam. Almost without exception the local commandants replied that Islam was not a serious threat to the French 30.
However, in March 1909 a French administrator, M. Bastié, was killed in an ambush and as a result the French became less complacent about Islam. The murder had a traumatic effect on the Europeans in Guinea. Marty described it as ‘a unique event’ in the history of the colony 31. At first it was assumed that the murder was committed for personal reasons as Bastid was a man of violent temperament, disliked the Fulbe and was willing to take bribes. However, personal vendetta was ruled out as a motive for the murder, which quickly came to be seen as an act inspired by religious fanaticism as suspicion fell on a marabout, Tierno Amadou Tijani, a member of the religious community (missidi) in the village of Gomba 32.
The person most responsible for this line of argument was Mariani, the Inspector of Muslim Education, who happened to be on a mission in the Futa Jallon at the time. In particular he accused Tierno Aliou, the wali of Goumba of master-minding an anti-French conspiracy throughout the Futa Jallon. Born around 1820, Tierno Aliou was an elderly man and apparently nearly blind when the Bastid murder took place 33. He was born in the province of Ditinn in the Futa Jallon and was initiated into the Shadhiliyya — a brotherhood of North African origin which ‘emphasised in devotional exercises the cultivation of inner resources alongside involvement in secular affairs’. It had been introduced into the Futa by ‘Ali le Soufi’, a Fulbe from Labe, and in the nineteenth century it was the brotherhood with the largest following in the Futa. However by the beginning of the twentieth century it had lost ground both to the Oadiriyya and to the Umarian Tijaniyya 34.
Having got involved in the political in-fighting of the mid-nineteenth century Futa, Tierno Aliou moved from the centre of the Futa and around 1880 settled in Kindia where, bringing men and cattle, he was welcomed. His first contacts with the French date back to 1885 and from the start he was on best of terms with the Europeans in Conakry. He then moved, with French permission, to Gomba where he attracted a large following especially from amongst the Hubbu. The Hubbu movement in the Futa Jallon was a direct challenge to the central authority of the Futa state. Composed mainly of ex-slaves and disaffected peasants many of whom were recent converts to Islam and living in rural Islamic communities such as the one directed by Tierno Aliou in Goumba, the Hubbu explicitly denounced the corruption of the Futa aristocracy 35. It is not surprising, therefore, that with such followers Tierno Aliou was regarded with intense suspicion by the almamys. The local almamy of Timbo was particularly hostile and intrigued with the neighbouring Sussu against him. However, benefitting from his French alliance, Tierno Aliou was able to beat off the Sussu attacks, and the last decade of the nineteenth century was something of a golden age for the zawiya (a Sufi centre, meeting place, lodge or seminary) of Gomba. The miside constructed by Tierno Aliou 36 and his followers became a religious centre for lower Guinea and in a monastic atmosphere the daily routine in Goumba was dedicated to prayer and agriculture. From 1900 onwards Tierno Aliou was acknowledged as a saint hence the name by which he was most commonly known, the wali of Gomba.
The fact that he enjoyed good relations with the French seemed to be proven once again when he quickly handed over his disciple, Tierno Amadou Tijani, whom the French had identified as the murderer of Bastié. However, Mariani saw only fanaticism and intrigue at work in Goumba. A week after Bastié's murder he warned the commandant of Kindia that:
Although the people of this country are very docile, unfortunately they all become dangerous and incapable Of reason when under the pretext of religion they are encouraged to wage Holy War against the infidel. Now the marabout of Gomba is a past master at egging men on. On leaving my residence yesterday he didn't stop shouting ‘Allah Akhbar’ in a loud voice as if he was leaving for Holy War. Three times a day the vaults of the vast mosque echo with chants in honour of the prophet. I haven't come across anything like it elsewhere in AOF. To conclude, I tell you, something is going on in the miside. The Ouali's intentions may momentarily change but he must be closely watched. You must be careful of such a man agitating in such a fanatical environment where everybody obeys him blindly 37.
The following day in another letter to the commandant of Kindia he regretted that
the French ‘had foolishly allowed a sort of theocracy to develop in missidi
… Death alone will rid us of this astute saint who is already very old and it's
only after his death that we can seriously go about reducing the prestige and influence
of his successors’. However, such prudence was not necessary outside the missidi
and in other areas Mariani concluded ‘It is up to us to ruin his good reputation
completely’. Such warnings were also telegrammed to the authorities in Conakry
and Dakar 38.
In the wake of the Bastié murder, Liotard the Lieutenant-Governor of Guinea, decided to send Bobichon, the Inspector of Native and Political Affairs, on a tour of the cercles of Ditinn, Timbo, Labé and Yambering. Bobichon agreed that the miside of the wali of Goumba was a centre of religious fanaticism, but he maintained that the murder of Bastié was the isolated act of a fanatical individual for which Tierno Aliou could not be held responsible. He further emphasised the uneasy relations based on fear and mutual suspicion which had developed between the French and the religious leaders of the Futa since the murder of Bastié. Liotard issued a circular to the local commandants asking for more information on the state of Islam and forwarded Bobichon's findings to Ponty, adding that he agreed with Bobichon's analysis, although he also stressed that Islam was more fervently practised and better organised in the Futa Jallon than in other parts of AOF 39.
Mariani, however, continued to be very preoccupied with the question of Islam in the Futa Jallon. In two letters written at the end of July to the Governor-General he again stated his beliefs and fears. There was, he argued, no real danger in Guinea or anywhere else in AOF of a serious pan-Islamic revolt organised by the brotherhoods but, nonetheless, Islam could be a nuisance in the hands of certain individuals. ‘In this time of social changes’ he said, ‘one would be wrong not to try and discover the political, economic or religious reasons which can lead men such as the ouali of Goumba into becoming or attempting to become at once a temporal and a spiritual chief’. According to Mariani, Islam was on the increase in Kindia as the Bambara and Sussu were forsaking their ancestral religions. Any satisfaction which the French may have felt about the moral and social conversion to Islam soon went when ‘entering the miside one realises with what little regard we are viewed by the natives who only have as much respect for us as the wali chooses to allow’. Mariani concluded that there were two imperatives: to create a medersa in Labé and to give more power to traditional chiefs to act as a counterweight to the likes of the wali of Gomba 40.
Mariani's analysis of the social situation in the Futa struck a chord with the administration in Dakar. On the advice of Fournier, the head of the Bureau of Native Affairs, Ponty wrote to the Lieutenant-Governor of Guinea about the issues raised by Mariani. He argued that what was happening to the Muslim populations of Guinea was similar to the pattern elsewhere in AOF where, he said, the French were attacking the position of certain privileged minorities who lived at the expense of the masses. The Muslim question was therefore a social question which required a great deal of thought and attention. A month later Ponty wrote again to Liotard to emphasise his view: ‘To maintain in the Fouta Djallon the hegemony of the Peuhl race is’ he argued, ‘to maintain with all its inconveniences the existence of the kingdom of the almamys’. France needed to fight the alliance of the aristocracy and the marabouts, and the most effective weapon available to the French was to eradicate slavery, the basis of the aristocratic and maraboutic wealth. Deprived of their wealth the Fulbe almamys would no longer be able to maintain their political hegemony, and each race would become its own master. Islam had been the only factor which had been able to unify the almamys but it was, said Ponty:
Islam based on slavery and we cannot allow it to prevail. The Islam which we protect, without actually helping its propaganda, is the modern Islam which does not permit tyranny and which abolishes captivity 41.
All this was of course a familiar argument of the Ponty administration and was the
essential feature of the stereotype of the « mission civilisatrice » discussed above.
Superficially attractive, both as a description of the state of affairs and as a
prescription for the remedy of social inequality, it was as we shall see deeply flawed
in both respects.
Islam continued to be a major preoccupation in 1910. In April the political report from the cercle of Mamou warned of ‘A veritable clerical peril which has found a well prepared terrain in the hostile dispositions of the Foulah leaders, discontented by our intervention’. The marabouts —led by the wali of Gomba— were all in regular correspondence and often read out each other's letters at Friday prayers. Even if the contents of the letters were not subversive they were still dangerous simply because, the argument ran, the native Africans held the written word in such reverence: ‘The letters open the door toexcitement or crime, to insurrection, to the preaching of Holy War. That's why one cannot be too careful about maraboutism and even if it is true that black Muslims, even the Foulah are not fanatics, the same cannot be said of the professional marabouts’ 42. Ponty warned the Lieutenant-Governor of Guinea that ‘The example of two or three major Mauritanian marabouts whose very real services to us are known throughout AOF, should not delude us about the temporal role that certain religious notables, profiting from what they imagine to be weakness in our part and which in reality is tolerance, would like to play, ‘serving as intermediaries between us and the mass of natives’ 43. In his instructions to Guy, the new Lieutenant-Governor of Guinea, Ponty spoke of the reported maraboutic activity in the cercle of Mamou and continued:
We must put an end to this Islamic clericalism, which is a vulgar deformation of the Muslim doctrine. Responsible for the assassination of the administrator Bastié, it will cause a lot of damage if we leave it free. Of course, we shouldn't imagine that it will cause a generalised movement against the French but it does increase the natural suspicion of the native. Through the contagiousness of the fanaticism it inspires it could, if we don't take it seriously, cause numerous local troubles 44.
Specifically French attention was directed at the missidi of the ageing wali of Goumba whose every action was now being ascribed a sinister ulterior motive. Marty wrote later that ‘The most ordinary and benign statements of the marabout were interpreted in a tendentious way’ 45. Yet there was really very little evidence that Tierno Aliou had moved from his lifelong position as a supporter of the French. Indeed, M. Sasias, the commandant of Kindia who at the end of 1910 was sent to investigate the missidi of Goumba admitted that:
I have never had the proof that he has acted against us or that he took part whatsoever in the assassination of M. Bastié … The Foulah of Goumba seem absolutely tranquil, and the ouali whose body is covered with ulcerated wounds finds it impossible to leave his house or even to get up. His health is very poor and in the missidi every one expects him to die soon. Certainly no one has been able to give me information as to his intentions but I doubt that having been in such pain for so long he has thought about stirring up agitation amongst the Foulah of this and of neighbouring cercles.
But Sasias added as a qualification: ‘It seems that he is surrounded by six
or seven thousand men, all well armed and ready to march and that he possesses large
numbers of weapons. Finally I have seen for myself the swiftness with which the smallest
orders are carried out’ 46. Sasias made a further visit — taking
all his family — and again found the wali apparently loyal to the French. In
July the assistant administrator of Kindia, Roberty, went to investigate rumours
of arms purchases and reported that the wali was friendly but suffering from bronchitis
and a thigh wound that wouldn't heal 47.
However, French anxieties increased as the year drew on and the date of Alfa Yaya's return from exile drew nearer. The administration in Conakry would have preferred to have postponed Alfa Yaya's return, but to each of their letters making this request Ponty replied that a postponement was not possible for legal reasons 48. It should be remembered that 1910 was a year of serious economic and political crisis in Guinea. The collapse of wild rubber deprived the colony of a major source of wealth. French traders' resentment was focussed on the Lebanese community whose political attitudes were also suspected by Ponty and Guy. It is against this background of widespread anxiety and uncertainty that the fears relating to Alfa Yaya and his son Aguibu should be seen 49.
In December 1910 Ponty was in Guinea, and Tierno Aliou was summoned to appear before the Governor-General and Guy in Kindia, but he refused. Just as Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba's refusal to pay his respects to the Governor had been interpreted as a sign of open revolt, so too was Tierno Aliou's action interpreted in the most sinister way possible 50. For Marty, too, it represented a turning point: ‘It is at this moment and at this moment only that I would place the abandon by Tierno Aliou of his traditional policy of friendship and collaboration with the French. The latter abandoned him and even let it be understood that they were about to deal with him very severely’ 51. Certainly from December events developed rapidly.
By chance Mariani, who had been chiefly responsible for sowing doubts about the loyalty of the wali of Goumba in 1909, was once again on a mission of inspection in the Futa Jallon and once again he painted a disturbing picture of the situation. Sensibly he recognised that one of the major problems was lack of contact between the French administration and their subjects: ‘In general’ he wrote, ‘the population of the Fouta, indeed the population of Guinea hardly know us at all’ 52. That Mariani contributed to a better mutual understanding is doubtful. He was disturbed by the fact that his porters carried him from town to town singing the praises of the Prophet Mohammed 54. On another occasion he argued that:
In adopting the Muslim religion the Blacks of Guinea have in large measure renounced the amusements of their ancestors and since I left Kindia I have very rarely heard music being played . .. Only exceptionally in the isolated hamlets do the Foulah still enjoy themselves and the youngsters take pleasure in disturbing the peace of the household with their joyous songs … Above all it is the sound of the muezzin and the recitation of prayers which troubles the silence of the Fouta night.
Mariani was also distressed to learn how popular Samori still was after his stay
in Kankan 54. The following month he reported to Ponty that 'The
action of the marabouts is seldom favourable to us and those amongst them who would
like to help us in our efforts would gradually lose their prestige if they did so
… I do not see in the loyalty to us of which some give proof anything other than
a desire to obtain a few advantages 55.
Mariani, however, had an axe to grind. As Inspector of Public and Muslim Education he was a firm believer in the importance of French secular education and of the medersa. Just as his frequent polemics against the mission schools should be seen as part of the campaign for secular schools, so too should his tirades against the Muslim leaders of the Futa Jallon be seen as a means of highlighting the urgent need for a medersa in the Futa Jallon. The medersa was proposed as the only solution to a problem (i.e. the spread of Islam) which French negligence had already allowed to go too far. Having visited the cercles of Pita and Ditinn, Mariani concluded that ‘Unable to eradicate Islam we should try to channel it, and the present moment would seem to be the most opportune to create a medersa’ 56. However, Ponty and Mariani could not agree on a suitable location for the new medersa, and the scheme was forgotten 57.
Despite official misgivings Alfa Yaya returned to his native Guinea in December of 1910 and swore an oath of loyalty to France. In return he was accorded a pension and allowed to reside in Labé. At first the administration thought that the ex-King of Labé would not cause any trouble but when his son, Modi Aguibu, returned from exile at the end of the year Alfa Yaya's attitude appeared to change. In January he protested at not being reinstated as chief of Labé and he was suspected of getting in contact with leading marabouts and chiefs from neighbouring Sierra Leone and to be plotting against the French. So, early in February, Alfa Yaya together with his son Modi Aguibu and his counsellor, Umaru Kumba, were all arrested. Alfa Yaya was shortly afterwards sentenced to a ten-year prison sentence in exile. As Guy explained to Ponty, Alfa Yaya's return in 1910 was a major political event in the colony:
His return preoccupied not only Alfa Yaya's family but also the aristocracy of the entire country, who anticipated it eagerly. The Foulahs saw in their ex-chief a power whom they could use as a counterweight to our authority. For his parents and friends he was a protector. The notables found in his return yet another element for their perpetual intrigues. The marabouts, despite taking care to disguise their opinions favoured him and it is certain that it is on them that Alfa Yaya's party would rely, in order to recover their sovereignty 58.
Ponty reported to Paris that:
Alfa Yaya, blinded by his religious fanaticism and his feudal mind learnt nothing from his contact with us in Dahomey … It is therefore of the highest political importance for us to eject from the Fouta Djallon all the militant elements liable to obstruct the work of emancipation that we are undertaking in this country. Given the nature of Islam in the Fouta, the excessive credulity and social nervousness of the Peuhl and the existence of links between Muslim groups from one end to the other of AOF, the presence of Alfa Yahia and his son Aguibou, not just in Guinea but even in AOF, would enable his partisans to maintain their secretive agitation … A moral embarrassment would continue to weigh down upon the populations who are quite willing to rally to our cause if we protect them against their credulity 59.
Thus the peculiar logic of the French vision of the civilising mission spiced up
with more general anxieties about the international situation, particularly the course
of events in Morocco, was leading to a situation in which conflict between the French
and the former ruling élite of the Futa Jallon would soon be inevitable.
Soon after Alfa Yaya and Aguibu were exiled for the second time, M. Pherivong, the Inspector General of the Colonies who also happened to be in Guinea on a mission, published a lengthy report containing his views on French policy in the past towards Alfa Yaya and the marabouts 60. Pherivong went back to Bastié's murder describing how French suspicions came to light on Tierno Aliou. He criticised Liotard for not having instructed Bobichon to look specifically for the responsibility of religious elements in Bastié's murder — Bobichon, it will be recalled concluded that the murder was an isolated act of religious fanaticism and not part of an orchestrated campaign against the French. Luckily, according to M. Pherivong, Mariani was in the area at the time and he could not believe that the murder was a simple act of fanaticism. Mariani pointed the finger at the ageing wali of Gomba. Seemingly innocent actions now took on a sinister light. It was recalled that shortly before the murder, Tierno Aliou had asked for permission for armed men to assemble in Gomba in order to go elephant hunting — permission which had readily been granted at the time — but it was now realised that the elephant hunt was a ruse, a cunning way of assembling armed men in order to attack the French. Tierno Aliou denounced Amadu Tijani, the man suspected of killing Bastid, but this again was simply in order to fool the French. Tierno Aliou was always the first to pay his taxes but he did so out of cunning not loyalty. He refused to go and pay his respects to the Governor-General in Kindia and through his disciples, who worked as interpreters and secretaries in the French administration, he was able to spy upon the French and keep one step ahead of their moves. Pherivong noted that ‘If all the other karamokos are of the same metal one can see with what dangerous men the administration, whose only auxiliaries are of dubious loyalty, has to deal’. The situation was exacerbated by the return of Alfa Yaya. Almost immediately he started organising the import of arms and soon fifty guns a day were reported to be pouring into Guinea from across the border with Upper Gambia in Senegal. The arms were hidden by the marabouts:
who were said to have formed an association which was designed to combat the French influence, whose final demise had long been prophesied, and which would profit from the return of Alfa Yaya to realise its goal. Secret meetings called by emissaries from Touba were said to have been held as far away as Rio de Nunez to persuade the Muslims to fight. But they refused. All the documents agree on the fact that Guinea was being worked by Islamic propaganda.
Mariani, said Pherivong, explained how the marabout network functioned, but his warnings
were not taken seriously until the return of Alfa Yaya in December 1910 and the appearance
of fresh evidence of an Islamic conspiracy. Pherivong concluded therefore that the
unrest of February 1911 was without doubt a continuation of the unrest of March 1909.
Guy wholeheartedly agreed with the conclusions of the Inspector and in the space made available for his comments on the report, he restated in the clearest and most unequivocal terms the way in which his administration viewed the situation in the Futa. It is worth quoting at length for it summarises many of the themes discussed so far in this chapter:
Indeed [wrote Guy], it is not a question of isolated acts perpetrated by the members of the Foulah aristocracy who regret the disappearance of their former power, but rather it is an organised movement in which are involved all the karamokos and the marabouts of the country, whose boundaries unfortunately are not just those of French Guinea … and if one wants to go back to the mysterious sources of this permanent conspiracy one should recognise the commands which the Muslim prophets receive from Mauritania and from even further afield, Morocco and Tibesti. The generosity we showed towards the ouali of Goumba at the time of Bastié's assassination has made this redoubtable and hypocritical chief into a powerful enemy who thinks to deal as an equal with the Governor-General, and consents, whilst biding his time before showing his true colours, to execute his orders on condition that he doesn't have to enter into direct relations with him. Such a situation cannot carry on without giving the population of the Fouta Djallon … the impression that we are afraid of them and that we do not dare to act. Indeed, the population of the Fouta Djallon have never been easy to handle because they have never been made aware of our strength and they have never seen our soldiers. Our policy which since the beginning of our installation has consisted of obtaining their submission and getting them to pay taxes through the intermediary of a big chief, grossly overpaid for his services and assured that all his crimes would go unpunished, has been a disastrous policy. Acting thus we have gained time but there comes a time and that time is now when appetites reveal themselves and ambitions stir and when uprisings are prepared in the shadows.
I therefore believe that the Fouta should be occupied militarily, that the leaders of this movement should be arrested without weakness, and then when we have struck down the leaders that we should penetrate not just the country but the souls of the natives as well by means of the doctor, schoolteacher, roads and railways and finally by means of a more numerous and active administration than exists today in this almost unknown country. In doing so we will avoid the pain of having at a certain moment, perhaps not so far away, to repress a full-blooded revolt against our poorly understood and mistrusted authority 61.
Recruitment of schoolteachers and doctors could only be increased slowly, but Guy
was already poised to strike the first blow for the French Revolution in Guinea by
arresting the chiefs of this ‘permanent conspiracy’ in the Futa Jallon.
The time of pussyfooting with hypocritical marabouts was over, now there was going
to be a bit of action.
On 7 March, Guy gave the following instructions to Captain Tallay of the Seventh Company of the Second Regiment of tirailleurs:
The Fouta Djallon is a mountainous area inhabited by natives of the Peuhl race, known under the name of Foulah in the colony. This population is Muslim and its religious faith, its hope in the definitive and imminent triumph of the laws of the Prophet and, in consequence, their aversion — often even their hatred — for Whites who do not have the same beliefs, are all carefully nourished by numerous marabouts whose influence is sometimes considerable.
Since Alfa Yaya's return, Guy continued, the situation had progressively deteriorated
to the point that it was now necessary to arrest the ringleaders, namely Karamoko
Sankoun and Ba Gassama in Touba and Tierno Aliou, the wali of Goumba. From Guy's
subsequent description of the wali it appeared that his health had improved dramatically,
for this man who had recently been described as being on his deathbed was now portrayed
as ‘an alert old man who goes horseriding daily and who would be capable of
riding fifty to sixty kilometres in one stretch if his safety depended on it’.
On 22 March, Tallay was warned that the wali was surrounded by a force of 500 able-bodied men in the miside which had been specially fortified in anticipation of an imminent attack and that, therefore, the greatest care should be taken in making the arrests. On 29 March on the eve of the planned arrest, there were three detachments of seventy-six, fifty-three and thirty-eight men camped around the miside ready to make the arrest early the next day. However, the following morning Captain Tallay decided on impulse to arrest the wali using only a small force of men, but once inside the encampment he and twelve of his men were all killed. There was then a fierce three and a half hour battle between the rest of the Seventh Company and the defenders of the miside. The battle was finally ended after a French sergeant ‘showing heroic courage’ set fire to the village which was completely destroyed. The French forces did not suffer any further casualties but over 300 of their opponents were killed 62.
It is not certain that the wali was in the village at the time of the attack 63 but a price was immediately put on his head and Sussu chiefs were employed by Guy to help the French track down the wali and his followers 64. Ponty sent Guy an extra company of tirailleurs to contribute to the show of strength and a police tour of the Futa Jallon 65. However, Ponty emphasised to the Colonial Ministry that the importance of the incident should not be exaggerate and that it was due to clumsiness and lack of caution on the part of Captain Tallay. A few days later he again played down the incident. Although he did not think that it would have a serious repercussion it was nonetheless, he said, yet another example of the problem of religious fanaticism in West Africa:
One must not forget that religious fanaticism pushed as far as the complete destruction of the personality puts in the hands of the marabouts men who obey them blindly and who are prepared, if ordered, to sacrifice themselves. Very fortunately the rivalry which exists between the religious chiefs forces them to act in isolation. There is no doubt that a suitable policy can win us the support of the least compromised. For if for the mass of the Foulahs only the religious question is at stake, for the marabouts it is really a question of ameliorating or at least of maintaining their material situation which has inevitably been affected by our domination. We can furthermore count on the devotion of the Soussou population, the enemies of the Foulah.
There should not have been any real danger of the Colonial Ministry forgetting the
problem of religious fanaticism or the official explanation of why the marabouts
were hostile to the French, for they were arguments that were regularly rehearsed
at every available occasion.
In Guinea, however, the situation was more complicated than the description given to Paris by Ponty. The deaths of the two European officers, Captain Tallay and Lieutenant Bornand, deeply worried the European population of the colony. Guy, who arrived in Gomba in the middle of the battle, and who accompanied the corpses back to Conakry reported that at the station of Kindia ‘All the European population. . . were waiting on the platform in order to show their solidarity in such painful circumstances’. The dead African tirailleurs were buried in Kindia but the bodies of the European officers were taken on for burial in Conakry where once again crowds of Europeans gathered to pay their respects 66. However, European mourning soon acquired political overtones. On 15 April a Conakry-based paper published an editorial article under the title of ‘The truth about the Fouta-Djallon affair’. Having stated that the ‘Goumba massacre is merely a tragic episode in the Alpha Yaya affair, whose beginnings take us back five years’, the article went on to comment on the succession of Lieutenant-Governors who had passed through the colony. Frezouls was praised for having exiled Alfa Yaya and for having laid the foundations of ‘une Guinée saine, grande et prospère’ but Roume, so the article ran, underestimated the ‘Foulah peril’, obstructed Frezouls so that ‘the results of the personal policy of the Governor-General are so nefarious that five years later, all our Fouta is up in arms and the commerce of the colony brought to a standstill’. Frezouls' successor, Richard [?], was dismissed as a lackey of Roume. Poulet [?], the interim successor, did not have time to realise his good intentions and Liotard had been too hesitant towards Alfa Yaya and was partly responsible for the Gomba massacre. Guy was credited with having started well and acted against the Muslims with courage 67. Guy was not, however, treated so kindly by two articles appearing in May in Annales Coloniales in which he was accused ofhaving given Tallay last minute instructions to go unarmed into the misideand so to a near-certain death 68. Similar charges appeared the following month in another Paris-based weekly La France d'Outre-Mer in which, under the heading of ‘The truth about the Goumba massacre: the balance sheet of a whimsical and arbitrary administration in French Guinea’, it accused Guy, without actually ever naming him, of short-sightedness and of having been in complicity with Tierno Aliou. The accusations against Guy were peculiarly virulent and it called for Guy's removal 69. The investigations into the ‘Goumba affair’ were causing embarrassment all round and everybody was looking hard for a scapegoat. Guy for his part was not without his supporters. The articles written in Annales Coloniales met with swift protest from, amongst others, the Conakry Comité union sportive, the membersof the Cercle de Conakry, the Conakry Grand Orient, the Conakry Chamber of Commerce and from all the members of the Commission Municipale all of whom sent telegrams in defence of Guy 70. Guy also counted Ponty, Pherivong, the Conakry paper L'AOF and August Terrier, chairmanof the Comité de l'Afrique française, amongst his supporters and claimed that the campaign against him was being orchestrated by Poulet, Bobichonand the paper Annales Coloniales 71. Guy's defence proved effective and towards the end of the year he was not only promoted but also awarded the Légion d'honneur, a sign which he took as final proof that his job was safe 72.
The personal campaign against Guy is yet another factor which has to be included
in the Goumba affair and serves as a reminder of the omnipresence of politics — both
high and low — France and Islam are the two main protagonists in this study
but both within ‘France’ and ‘Islam’ there were a multitude
Tierno Aliou, meanwhile, having fled to the neighbouring colony of Sierra Leone, was arrested by the British authorities in the second week of April and by the end of June all the extradition formalities had been accomplished so that the wali of Goumba could be brought to trial in Conakry 73.
Concrete evidence against Tierno Aliou was lacking. A prisoner captured after the destruction of the miside was reported to have been carrying a message written by Tierno Aliou urging the murder of Europeans, and, when pressed, the prisoner also admitted that Tierno Aliou had an efficient spy network based on loyal disciples in the employ of the French administration 74. Such confessions seemed to confirm the conclusions reached in Pherivong's report in February. However, as in other attempts to prove the existence of an Islamic conspiracy, proofs were in short supply. Instead the French relied on innuendo, and chief amongst the basic suppositions behind French thinking was the belief that the Fulbe were not to be trusted. In his political report for the month of April the administrator of the poste of Touba wondered ‘What goes on in their minds? One can never say — hypocritical and cunning they know how to hide their feelings’ 75. Sasias explained how he and all his predecessors had been taken in by Tierno Aliou's show of loyalty: ‘With all the cunning of which a Foulah is capable he was able to fool the commandants de cercles, make himself appear harmless and so spread his influence throughout the region’. In retrospect Sasias could clearly see that the wali of Goumba's elephant hunt and his swift denunciation of the murderer of Bastié were mere ruses, and although Sasias was still surprised that the murderer, even when under interrogation, had never even indirectly implicated his old master in the crime, nonetheless he was now sure that the wali was ‘the true instigator of Bastié's murder’ 76.
The other basic supposition in French thinking was that there was a widespread Islamic conspiracy generally and that specifically in the Futa Jallon Islam was peculiarly hostile to the French. Thus in the April report from Touba the administrator wrote that :
The Foulah is in general very superstitious. They have a blind confidence in the gris-gris which are confected by the marabouts, who make a fortune from them. The influence of the marabout is limitless. For us he is an irreducible enemy whom we must put in a position where he cannot possibly do us any harm 77.
Guy recalled the warnings he had been given by Ponty about the circulation of Mauritanian
marabouts and the increasingly widespread dissemination of pamphlets in Arabic: ‘The
pamphlets are generally written in vague terms but all prophesy the arrival of an
unknown mahdi, and for the natives of the Fouta Djallon this, as they were
told each Friday in the mosques, could be no other than Tierno Aliou, the famous
ouali of Goumba’ 78. An article in the newspaper l'AOF gave
a melodramatic account of the events of 30 March for which the reader was given as ‘general
background information’ the astonishing fact that ‘The disciples of Cheikh
Saad Bou form a vast brotherhood in West Africa. The hatred of the white man is the
unique aim of their activities’. Tierno Aliou, the article continued, thanks
to his spy network, knew all about the plans to arrest him and so he laid a carefully
planned ambush. When Captain Tallay and his men entered the missidi, ‘All the
village shouts “Allah-ou-Akhbar” with great fervour; that's the
war hymn . . . there is a precipitous rush onto the Whites; it's Holy War. The officers'
bodies are mutilated, their mouths are stuffed with their cut-off sexual parts. The
firailleurs are also wounded horrendously’ 79.
Pherivong, still in the colony, reported to his superiors in the rue Oudinot that the recent events showed that it was no longer possible to deny the existence of an Islamic problem. He argued that the surest solution lay in the spread of the French language, ‘the best method of combatting the activities of the marabouts about whom we are poorly informed since between them and us there is no contact except through interpreters who are their own pupils’ 80.
was the insecurity of the French more obvious than in their fears about having to
rely on untrustworthy, even downright hostile, intermediaries. The role of interpreters
in the Goumba affair was an important one: it counts little in the end whether or
not the French were being spied upon — it was certainly very possible — what
really counts is that they believed they were.
The Goumba aft ir reached its climax in the trial of Tierno Aliou in September in the Palais de Justice in Conakry. Unfortunately the only records available of the case are the press reports in the Conakry paper l'AOF 81. As we have already sedn this paper was much given to journalistic flourish, often at the expense of the truth. If it is not too heretical for an historian to say so, the ‘truth’ in this particular court case does not much matter, it is the atmosphere that counts. Thus we learn that at the opening of the trial: ‘On the balcony of the Palais de Justice are the ladies, come to witness this spectacle. Despite the fact that it is morning, they are very well dressed. If the object of their curiosity was not so solemn, one could believe that one was at a revue or some sort of show’. In the next few days the prosecution based their case on the official reports from which we have already quoted. Mariani's reports, in particular, were of crucial importance. Sasias gave evidence that he had always distrusted Tierno Aliou saying that he had always considered him a stirrer. The judge consistently refused to accept evidence that pointed to the wali's innocence. On the last day of the trial the courtroom was again full — 200 Europeans including sixty ‘ladies’ — had come to hear the verdict. The Chief Prosecutor summed up his case. ‘He was’ the paper reported, ‘by turn, moving, ironical, biting and always eloquent. A merciless accuser, he put his long experience of criminal affairs at the service of the society which he represented and which he sought to defend’. M. Facciendi, the Counsel for the Defence and a young lawyer, ‘put his case splendidly. He was as eloquent as one could hope for and right to the end, right to the very last minute, he put all his efforts into saving his client. He pleaded with an energetic desire to win and truly it required an unshakeable conviction on the part of the court for it not to be convinced’. Facciendi decried the press campaign against the Fulbe and the lack of positive proof against Tierno Aliou who had paid his taxes right up to 28 March. He had only been appointed as lawyer six days before the trial began and so, arguing that his client had acted in self-defence when he saw that a whole company of firailleurs had been sent to arrest him, he demanded an acquittal. In order to dispel doubts about his loyalties, M. Facciendi ended by declaiming that ‘I am not a lover of Negroes but a lover of justice for Negroes’. He pleaded in vain, and the wali was sentenced to death.
That the trial was a mockery is, of course, beyond doubt. It is rather pathetic to think of Tierno Aliou, a man in his eighties who had spent most of the latter part of his life as a loyal and dutiful French subject, being brought to trial in the pomp and splendour of the Palais de Justice for a crime which he may not have committed and without any chance of defending himself, for anything that he said or was said on his behalf simply would not have been believed, because, as everybody knew, the Fulbe were cunning schemers and not to be trusted. It is also shocking to realise the extent of the French ‘overkill’ during their counter-attack on the miside, but such responses were common in this early colonial period 82. What was perhaps less common was to stage a full-scale European-style trial in order to judge the accused whose guilt in the nature of things was a preestablished and known ‘fact’. Why bother? Mock trials like sham elections clearly serve a basic function of providing at least an appearance of justice or, as the case may be, democracy — which the conventions of ‘civilisation’ require to be preserved.
But the trial of the wali of Gomba was more than a mere exercise of cosmetic justice
cooked up for metropolitan consumption; it was also an act of ritual. Just as the
Europeans all came to the station platform in Kindia and in Conakry to meet the train
carrying the bodies of the two dead officers, so too did they now flock to the Palais
de Justice to see that justice was being done. But the justice was emphatically not
the summary justice of the battlefield, but rather the elaborate and civilised affair
of the French judicial system. One had to dress up for it, and it was a fitting spectacle
for ladies. Lawyers pleaded their case eloquently and wittily — just like in
France. The defendant — this curious wali of Goumba — played a suitably
passive part, no unseemly outbursts or violent physical attacks on his captors; in
short, he had been tamed. And whilst Europeans may have squabbled amongst themselves
and used this incident to settle some old scores with their colleagues and compatriots,
here in the courtroom they were all united in solidarity with the dead officers,
in abhorrence of the Islamic peril and in a shared feeling of relief. The trial was
homely and reassuring, but also quite exciting really. All in all not so very different
from a good melodrama in a provincial theatre.
What then was the significance of the Goumba affair? Firstly it is perhaps the clearest example of how Ponty's politique des races could work in practice. Ponty's policy was based on the observation of profound inequalities in African societies, inequalities both between and within different ethnic groups. Such an observation was based on reality as few people today would seek to deny the existence of such inequalities in pre-colonial African societies. However, the inequalities were complicated inequalities 83 and it was these complications which Ponty and his colleagues tended to gloss over.
Nowhere was this more evident than in their attitude to the wali of Goumba. The wali's position in the Futa Jallon was very particular. He had quarrelled with the almamy of Timbo and was forced to move literally and metaphorically to the periphery of the Federation and found a new settlement away from the established political and religious centres. The following that he attracted was recruited from a wide assortment of social backgrounds including ex-slaves. The wali, himself, enjoyed excellent relations with the French for most of his life. However, the combined beliefs that the Futa Jallon was a feudal society and that the greatest obstacle to French progress in Africa was an alliance between feudal slave-owning chiefs and a religious caste more interested in its own temporal welfare than in ministering to the spiritual needs of its followers required a revision to be made of the portrait of the wali. Thus a man whose followers included many former slaves and who had quarrelled with the local chiefs and who was quite content with the French presence was now portrayed as somebody who inevitably was hostile to the French. Thus when Mariani began to sow doubts in the minds of the administration about the loyalty of the wali, conflict between him and the French became a self-fulfilling prophesy as the French, prisoners of their own republican rhetoric and blinded by their stereotypes of the Fulbe character, came more and more to suspect their erstwhile ally to the point of sending an entire armed company to arrest him. Given this treatment by a power whom he had loyally served for most of his life it is not surprising that the wali and his supporters attacked the soldiers sent to arrest him.
Secondly, the Goumba affair highlights the importance of stereotypes. In this Mariani's role was particularly important as it was he more than anybody else who, by playing on the stereotype of the Fulbe character, managed to discredit Tierno Aliou in the eyes of the French. In the end the stereotype proved more powerful than the empirical evidence, and Tierno Aliou was guilty of nothing so much as being a Fulbe marabout and all that that implied. We ourselves should be wary of type-casting the French. The French were divided amongst themselves and far from confident that their Gallic birthright would protect them against all misfortune. The deaths of Bastié, Tallay and Bornand were all unnerving experiences. Once again we have to include fear and insecurity in our description of the French psychological make-up. The good Republican liberator is clearly as inadequate as the double-dealing Fulbe.
Thirdly, it is important to note that much of French insecurity stemmed from the fact that the Futa Jallon had never been conquered and that its people had never been made aware of the reality of French force. The French always felt uneasy about their choice of intermediaries and suspected them constantly of plotting against them. It is significant that chief amongst Guy's proposals for policy reform in the Futa Jallon was a military occupation.
Fourthly, a lesson was learned from the episode, and there seems to have been a tacit admission from the French that they had overreacted. Marty's account of the whole affair is explicitly critical of the way in which both Tierno Aliou and the Jakhanke marabout, Karamoko Sankoun, were treated by the French. He ridiculed the attribution of ulterior motives to the wali's slightest gesture and thought that the French had acted clumsily in the whole affair. The violence was unnecessary, he argued, because ‘Right up to the eve of the conflict the relations and the attitude of the ouali have always born witness of his desire to return to his first loves … There are numerous facts of all kinds which suggest that even at the start of 1911 this old man of eighty years desired at bottom only his own tranquility’. About Karamoko Sankoun he wondered ‘By what chain of circumstances did one manage to make of this sympathetic marabout and conciliatory magistrate the deportee of Port Etienne?’ French fears of a St Bartholomew Day massacre instigated by the marabouts were ‘…pure imagination. Through an unreasonable sentiment of fear one wanted to capture in one sweep of the net all the Islamic notables of the Fouta’. The French were unable to discover the huge arms caches whose existence had been reported so confidently before the Goumba affair 84. To a certain extent the affair marked the end of a period in terms of French attitudes to Islam, a period characterised by exaggerated fears and belief in the ‘permanent conspiracy’ of Islam.
The wali of Goumba was the clearest victim of this understanding of Islam. Condemned to death by the judge in Conakry he died naturally of illness whilst awaiting execution on 3 April 1912. The French authorities felt cheated that he had escaped his punishment and were worried that the population of Guinea would interpret it as an indication either that the French did not dare execute him or that Allah had intervened to prevent the wali suffering the indignity of the guillotine.
2. Almamy is a derivation of the Arabic al-imam, the leader
3. Diallo, Institutions politiques, pp. 35-55; Marty, L'Islam en Guinée, p. 21; Robinson, Holy War, p. 53.
4. For history 188F-97, see Diallo, Institutions politiques; Marty, Guinée; Arcin, Histoire de la Guinée française; W. McGowan, ‘Foula resistance to French expansion into the Futa Jallon, 1889-96’, JAH, 1981, 245-61. For an account of French relations with Bokar Biro see ANSOM Guinée IV/6, Gen. Boilevé, Chargé de l'Expédition des Affaires Militaires, to Min. Colonies, 17 January 1897.
5. Sanneh, ‘Tcherno Aliou’, pp. 73-102
6. ANSOM Guinée IV/6, Gov-Gen. AOF to Min. Colonies, 18 February 1897.
7. Marty L'Islam en Guinée, p. 41.
8. Ibid. p. 22.
9. Suret-Canale, ‘Un Aspect de la politique coloniale française en Guinée’, pp. 13-19; R. Cornevin, ‘Alfa Yaya Diallo fut-il un héros national de Guinée ou l'innocente victime d'un règlement de compte entre gouverneurs’ RFHOM, 1970, pp. 288-96.
10. ANS 7 G 95, Billault, Commandant de Labé to Lt.-Gov. Guinée, 26 April 1905.
11. Marty, L'Islam en Guinée, pp. 41-4.
12. ANS 7 G 96, Frézouls to Gov.-Gen. AOF, 25 October 1905, same to same, 31 October 1905; Gov.-Gen. AOF to Min Colonies, 28 November 1905; Marty, L'Islam en Guinée, p 44.
13. ANSOM Guinée IV/6, Cousturier margin note in De Beeckman to Cousturier, 9 November 1896.
14. Marty, L'Islam en Guinée, p. 22.
15. Caillié, Voyage, vol. 1, p. 269.
16. Cf. ANSOM AP/170/3, N. Duchène, ‘Rapport à la commission extra-parlementaire et administrative pour la protection et sauvegarde des populations indigènes’. This classification went from:
See also Tauxier, Le Noir, which likewise has five catégories. At the bottom
the ‘Primitives — or the relatively Primitive, for the absolute Primitives
… where are they to be found?’; then the ‘Inferior pre-Mandingos’ — the
losers, defeated because of their lack of social and political organisation; then
the ‘Superior pre-Mandingos’, then the ‘Mande-mandingo’;
and finally, at the top, the Foulahs.
17. Barot, Guide pratique, p 330.
18. Ita, ‘Frobenius’, pp. 673-88.
19. Tauxier, Le Noir, pp. 191-2.
20. Arcin, Histoire de Guinée, pp. 98-9.
21.IFAN Fonds Vieillard (F-D) 30, M. Maillet, ‘Monographie du cercle de Timbo’, 1908.
22. ANS 7 G 68, Guébhard to Commandant de la Région du Fouta-Djallon, 15 July 1903.
23. Dupuch, ‘Essai sur l'emprise religieuse’, pp 291-2; see also M. P. Delmond, ‘Un aspect de l'Islam peuhl: Dori’, CHEAM (R), 1103, 1947, in which the author argued that the contemplative nature of the Fulbe was similar to that of the Bedouin.
24. Capt. Normand, ‘Notes sur la Guinée française’, RCBCAF, 1902, 146.
25.Machat, Les Rivières du Sud pp 293-4; on respectability see also Caillié's description in Voyage, vol 1, pp 268-9.
26. Rouget, La Guinée, p. 172.
27. On Tierno Ibrahim, see Marty L'Islam en Guinée, pp. 64-5.
28. ANSOM Guinée IV/6, Noirot to Lt.-Gov. Guinée, 26, May 1899.
29. ANS 17 G 35, Lt. -Gov. Guinée to Gov.-Gen. AOF, 30 June 1900. In two months in 1900 there were about 4,000 deserters from the workforce for the railway, whose supervisors were accused of great brutality in their methods. See J. Magolte , ‘Le chemin de fer de Konakry au Niger’, FRHOM 1968, 37-105.
30. ANS 7 G 68, Lt.-Gov. circular, ‘Renseignements concernant le mouvement musulman’, n.d.; replies from commandants dated June and July 1903.
31. Marty, L'Islam en Guinée, p. 77, ANSOM Guinée IV/9, ‘Rapport Pherivong’, 1911.
32. ANSOM Guinée IV/9, ‘Rapport Bobichon,’ 16 June 1909.
33. Marty, L'Islam en Guinée, pp. 69-77. The following paragraph is based on this account.
34. Sanneh, ‘Tcherno Aliou’, p. 75; Marty, L'Islam en Guinée, pp 57-60.
35. Sanneh, ‘Tcherno Aliou’, pp. 96-7.
36. Miside in Fufulde means a place of prayer. Cf. IFAN Fonds Vieillard, ‘Monographie du cercle de Timbo’, 1908; ‘miside… une unité religieuse’; IFAN Fonds Vieillard (F-D) 12, Vieillard notes, ‘…Marga c'est là où on mange… C'est le marga qui est le lieu de nourriture, la miside c'est la lieu de dévotion enver Dieu’.
37. ANS 7 G 86, Mariani to Commandant Kindia, 20 March 1909.
38. ANS 7 G 86, Mariani to Commt Kindia, 21 March 1909; Mariani to Lt.-Gov, Guinée, 10 April 1909; same to same, 22 April 1909; sec also 7 G 69, Marianî to Ponty, 23 May 1909.
39. ANS 7 G 86, Bobichon, ‘Rapport sur la mission politique dans le Fouta-Djallon’, 16 June 1909.
40. ANS 7 G 69, Mariani to Gov.-Gen. AOF, 28 July 1909; Mariani, ‘Notes sur l'Islam en AOF. Les marabouts du cercle de Kindia,’ 30 July 1909.
41. ANS 7 G 86, Fournier, ‘Note pour M. le Gov-Gen. de l'AOF’, 15 September 1909, Ponty to Lt.-Gov. Guinée, 25 September 1909. For a discussion of slavery in the Futa Jallon, see Sanneh, Jakhanke, chaps. 6, 9 and Suret-Canale, ‘Touba’, pp 64-6 Touba's population fell by several thousand as a result of slave exoduses in the first decade of the century.
42. ANS 7 G 69, ‘Rapport politique, mois d'Avril, cercle Mamou, 1910’.
43. ANS 7 G 99, Gov -Gen AOF to Lt.-Gov. Guinée, 17 Octaber 1910.
44. ANSOM 5 PA, Gov -Gen AOF to Lt -Gov. Guinée, 1 November 1910.
45. Marty, L'Islam en Guinée, p. 79.
46. A SOM 5 PA Sasias to Lt.-Gov. Guinée, 14 January 1910.
47. Verdat, ‘Le Ouali de Goumba’, pp. 33-5.
48. See correspondence in ANS 7 G 97.
49. On wild rubber, see Mark, ‘Economic and religious change among the Diola of Boulof (Casamance)’, pp. 81-90. On attitudes to Lebanese, see O. Goerg ‘Echanges, réseaux, marchés’, p. 525.
50. ANSOM Guinée IV/6, Pherivong, ‘Rapport…’.
51. Marty, L'Islam en Guinée, p. 81.
52. ANS J 12, ‘Rapport de M. l'Inspecteur sur les cercles de Ditinn et Pita’, 8 December 1910.
53. ANS 7 G 69, ‘Extrait d'un rapport de M Mariani en mission en Guinée’, 21 November 1910.
54. ANS J 12, ‘Rapport de M. l'Inspecteur sur Kouroussa, 19 January 1911’.
55. ANS J 91, Mariani to, Gov. AOF, 10 February 1911.
56. ANS J 12, Mariani, ‘Rapport sur les cercles de Dittin et Pita’, 8 December 1910.
57. ANS 7 G 69, Fournier, ‘Note pour M le Gov.-Gen, 4 August 1910; Ponty to Lt.-Gov. Guinée, 25 August 1909; ‘Note pour M le Chef du Cabinet du Gov.-Gen’, March 1910. Mariani wanted the medersa in Labé, but Ponty and Fournier favoured the Jakhanke centre of Touba whose scholarly atmosphere they compared to the medieval Sorbonne.
58. ANSOM 5 PA, Guy to Ponty, 21 January 1911. See also Marty, L'Islam en Guinée, pp. 49-51.
59. ANS 7 G 97, Ponty to Min. Colonies, 7 April 1911.
60. ANS 4 G 12, ‘Rapport concernant la situation politique de la Guinée à l'époque du 25 Février 1911’.
61. ANS 4G 12, ‘Rapport Pherivong… suite donnée à la verification par le Gouverneur Guy’, 26 February 1911.
62. ANS 1 D 174, ‘Rapport d'ensemble établi par le Capitaine Lanssu de l'infanterie Coloniale à la suite de l'affaire de Goumba, le 30 March 1911’, contains a detailed account of the military proceedings, including copies of all Guy's instructions. See ANSOM Guinée IV/9, Guy to Ponty, for ‘heroic courage’ and description of battle.
63. Verdat, ‘Le Ouali de Goumba’.
64. ANS 1 D 174, ‘Rapport d'ensemble . Chef de Bataillon, Boin’, 18 July 1911, for details of police tour. The report argued in favour of a policy of divide and rule and supporting younger chiefs against older ones.
65. ANSOM Guinée IV/9, Ponty to Min. Colonies, 31 March 1911; and same to same, 7 April 1911.
66. ANSOM Guinée IV/9, Guy to Ponty, 1 April 1911.
67. ANSOM Guinée IV/9 contains collection of newspaper cuttings, including ‘L'AOF: l'écho de la côte occidentale de l'Afrique’, 15 April 1911. The article was written by the paper's editor, L. Ternaux.
68. ANSOM 5 PA, Annales Coloniales, 12 May 1911-,19 May 1911.
69. ANSOM Guinée IV/9, France d'Outre-Mer, 13 June 1911; 20 June 1911.
70. Telegrams in ANSOM 6 PA.
71. IF Terrier 5900, Guy to Terrier, 5 June 1911-,30 October 1911. See also ANSOM Guinée IV/9, Ponty to Min. Colonies, 11 July 1911, for defence of Guy against the accusations from the military.
72. IF Terrier 5900, Guy to Terrier, 30 October 1911.
73. ANSOM Guinée IV/9, Ponty to Min. Colonies, 11 April 1911; same to same, 29 J une 1911.
74. ANSOM 5 PA, Commt cercle Ditinn to Guy, 3 April 1911.
75ANS 7 G 99, ‘Rapport politique, cercle Kade, poste de Touba’, April 1911.
76. ANSOM 5 PA, ‘Rapport de M. le Commandant de cercle de Kindia sur les évènements qui se sont produits dans le Goumba Foulah…" 15 May 1911.
77. ANS 7 G 99, ‘Rapport politique, cercle Kade, poste de Touba’, April 1911.
78. ANSOM 5 PA, Guy to Gov.-Gen AOF, 8 June 1911.
79. ANS 7 G 99, ‘Reconstruction inédite du massacre de Goumba’, L'A.O.F., 27 May 1911, also gives the following casualty figures: French losses 15, Fulbe losses 1,028.
80. ANSOM Guinée IV/9, Pherivong to Min. Colonies, 14 June 1911.
81. The fact that the newspaper accounts are the sole source is confirmed by Verdat, ‘Le Ouali de Goumba’, p. 60 Verdat was a former archivist and presumably had free access to archives. The following account is based on newspaper reports 20 September 1911 — 30 September 1911 which can be found in ANS 7 G 99 and in ANSOM Guinée IV/9.
82. See for example, Weiskel, Baule Resistance and Collaboration on French suppression of Baule revoit in Ivory Coast, and J. Iliffe, A Modern History of Tanganyika, Cambridge, 1979.
83. See F. Cooper, ‘The problem of slavery’, pp. 103-25; Klein and Roberts, ‘Banamba slave exodus’.
84. Marty, L'Islam en Guinée, pp. 86, 117.
These are the archives of the federal government of AOF. Classification of documents has been in two series: the first containing all documents prior to 1920 has been indexed by J. Charpy (Répertoire des archives 7 vols., Rufisque, 1954-5) and has been micro-filmed. The second series of documents from 1920 to 1940 follows the same system of classification but the detailed list of contents can only be consulted in the library of the archives in Dakar. To date only the sub-series 2 G has been microfilmed. In the footnotes to this book the post-1920 classification codes have been identified with the letters NS.