Skip to main content

Djibo Bakary, the French, and the referendum of 1958 in Niger

  • Finn Fuglestad (a1)

This article concentrates on the events of 1958 in Niger. It tries to show that Djibo Bakary's power-base was a very weak one. This could be the reason why Djibo decided to opt for ‘No’ at the Referendum, namely that he needed command of the whole state machinery in order to crush his enemies, especially the chiefs. The French were bent on thwarting Djibo for geo-political reasons (e.g. the nearness of Algeria), but did so in a rather lighthanded way. In fact, Djibo brought about his own downfall through a number of miscalculations and blunders.

Hide All

1 Brilliant but not always accurate journalistic accounts are to be found in Chaffard, Georges, Histoire secrète de la Décolonisation, 11 (Calmann-Lévy, Paris, 1967), and in Mortimer, Edward, France and the Africans 1944–60 (Faber and Faber Ltd., London, 1969). The author wishes to thank, among others, Michael Gerrard and J. D. Fage for help with his English text.

2 Saint-Marc, Michèle, Décolonisation et zone franc (SEDES, Paris, 1964), 19.

3 The main bulk of information used in this article originates, where not otherwise stated, from interviews. These interviews were granted the author on the understanding that it would not be possible to trace any relevant information back to the man it came from. This is because the referendum of 1958 is still a ‘hot’ issue in Niger.My sample comprises 16 Frenchmen who actually lived in Niger during and immediately before or after the referendum, namely zo Colonial Administrators (‘Administrateurs de la France d'Outre-Mer’), 3 Teachers, 2 Businessmen, and 1 Catholic priest.My sample of Africans comprises 34 persons: 16 Hausas, II Zerma/Sonrais, and 7 /others/ (Fulanis, Kanuris, Mossis). Their background may be summarized in the following table: Of the 14 Africans mentioned in the article, 6 have been interviewed; of the 13 Europeans, 8. (Notable exceptions: de Gaulle, Houphouët-Boigny, Senghor and Djibo Bakary.)

4 According to my own calculations, there were by 1945 some 2,000 former William Ponty pupils in West Africa. Only about 60 of these came from Niger.

5 ‘Territoire du Niger. Rapport Politique, année 1951’, 62 (AP. Dosso). Abbreviations: AP: Archives of the ‘Préfecture’ of… ASP: Archives of the ‘Sous-Préfecture’ of… APR: Archives, Presidency of the Republic, Niamey.

6 For politics in the Ivory Coast, see Morgenthau, Ruth chachter, Political Parties in French-speaking West Africa (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1964).

7 In 1964 the Hausas numbered 1,500,000 and the Zerma/Sonrais 60,000 out of a total population of 3,200,000. See Donaint, Pierre, Le Niger; Cours de géographie (Ministére de l'Education nationale, Niamey), 148.

8 Governor of Niger, 1942–52 and 1953–5.

9 See interventions by Diori, Hamani and Konaté, M. in the French National Assembly 30 July 1949 and 21 August 1951.

10 See note 5.

11 Morgenthau, Ruth Schachter, ‘Single-Party Systems in West Africa’, American Political Science Review, LV, no. 2 (06 1961), 294307.

12 “Territ. du Niger. Rapp. po1. 1951’, 12–14.

13 On the new party's programme, see ‘Procès-Verbal de l'Assemblèe Générale Constituante de l'U.D.N. Comité Regional de Zinder’, Zinder, 18 May 1954 2 (Zinder, AP.), and Le Démocrate (organ of the UDN) of 17 Nov. 1956.

14 Fonds d'Investissement et de Développement Economique et Social.

15 For an account of the trade union situation in 1954, see Galinier, René, ‘Rapport Annuel, Cercle de Zinder, année 1954’, 49–70 (AP. Zinder).

16 ‘Territ. Niger, du. Rapp. pol. année 1953’, 54(AP. Zinder).

17 ‘Territ. du Niger. Rapp. pol. année 1952’, 45 (AP. Zinder).

18 See, for example, ‘Lettre du Commissaire de Police de Maradi à M. le Chef des Services de Police du Niger–3 (AP. Maradi). For the role of the ‘free women’ see Piault, Colette, Contribution à l'étude de la vie quotidienne de la femme mannri, Etudes Nigériennes, no. 10 (IFAN/CNRS-Niamey/Paris, no date), 111.

19 See Doumesche, Nicolas, Mouché,Etude socio-économique de deux villages Hausas, Etudes Nigériennes, no. 22 (IFAN/CNRS-Niamey/Paris, 1968), 98.

20 ‘Territ. du Niger. Rapp. écon. année 38–9 (Centre de Documentation, Cornmissariat Général du Développement, Niamey).

21 Before the introduction of general suffrage in 1956, Niger had 312,558 voters out of 2,326,000 inhabitants. See Holleaux, A., ‘Les élections aux Assemblées des T.O.M.’, Révue Juridique et Politique de l'Union Francaise (1956).

22 In 1953 Niger possessed one factory, that produced 200 tons of ground-nut oil (Journal Officielde la République Francaise, At'it et Rapports du Conseil Economique et Social, 26 Mar. 1953). Regarding schools, these were in 1954 attended by some 7,703 pupils, that is 1·5 per cent of the population eligible for education (Jean Ramadier, ‘Discours prononcé a la séance d'ouverture de la session ordinaire de l'Assemblée Territoriale du Niger’, Niamey, 29 Mar. 1955 (ASP. Magaria)). Moreover, Toby was not even capable of absorbing all the FIDES credits Niger was allocated (Ramadier, Ibid. 4). Of the FIDES credits, of which Niger had received 322 million francs from 1949 to 1954, 36 millions had not been used (‘Procès-Vcrbai de la Conférence des Commandants de Cercle’, Niamey, 20–5 Apr. 1955, 10 (ASP. Madaoua)).

23 In 1955–6 Ramadier, according to himself, was able to wrest out of the FIDES 1,450 millions instead of the 835 millions initially envisaged (Ramadier, op. cit. ).

24 Boubou Hama, ‘Ramadier est le père du socialisme dans ce pays’ (‘Procès-Verbal des délibérations de l'Assemblée Territoriale du Niger. Séance du 18 May 1957’) (ASP. Magaria). Djibo on the contrary accused Ramadier of having rescued the PPN/RDA from total oblivion. See ‘Rapport Général, Congrés du MSA les 6 juillet et 8 mai 1957’ cited in ‘Synthèse Mensuelle, Direction des Services de Police du Niger’ (henceforth SM. Police), Niamey, 31 May 1957, 8. (This periodical, only destined for the French Administration, is to be found in most archives in Niger).

25 SM. Police, Nov. 1956, 3–10.

26 Global results published in Niger-Information (Government newspaper), Niamey, 20 Jan 1956, 2–3.

27 SM. Police, 28 Jan. 1956, 3.

28 ‘Note d'Information. Direction des Services de Police’, Niamey, 31 Oct. 1956 (ASP. Gaya).

29 The MSA took 64·28 per cent of the votes, the PPN/RDA 30·57 per cent. The remaining 5·13 per cent went to independent candidates in the far east (Cerde of N'Guigmi, where the independents took 57 per cent of the vote) and in the north (Cercie of Agadès). The MSA had its highest scores in the Hausa cercles of Tahoua (86·81 per cent) and Madaoua (83·83 per cent), the PPN/RDA in the Hausa but western cercle of Dogondoutchi (79·34 per cent) and in the Zerma/Sonrai cercles of Tillabéry (73·14 per cent) and Dosso (63·70 per cent). See Bureau des Affaires Politiques et Administratives, ‘Résultat des élections du 30 Mar. 1957’ (ASP. Magaria).

30 There was no Prime Minister, the Governor being legally the Head of Government.

31 From 1954 to 1954 the sale of groundnuts from the Cercle of Zinder soared from 10,196 to 30,000 tons (René Galinier, ‘Cercie de Zinder, Rapport Annuel 1953’, 2 (AP. Zinder)). Nationwide the ground-nut production soared from 76,190 tons in 1953 to 193,000 in 1957, of which 92 per cent came out of Hausaland. See Ministère de l'Economie Rurale, Service de l'Agriculture, ‘Rapport Annuel, année 1961, Ière partie, Statistiques’, 3 (AP. Zinder) and B.C.E.A.O., L'Economie Ouest-Africaine, no. 137, Feb. 1967.

32 ‘Compte-rendu de la séanc du Conseil des Notables du Cercie de Maradi, le II juillet 1953’, 4–6 (Ap. Maradi).

33 See, for instance, Noël Julien-Viéroz, ‘Rapport sur le déroulement de la campagne électorale et des élections législatives du 2.1.1956 clans la Subdivision Centrale de Tahoua’, Tahoua, 6 Jan. 1956, 1–2 (ASP. Birni N'Konni).

34 See, for instance, Falgueirettes, P., ‘Lettre du Commandant de Cercie, Konni, à M. le Gouverneur’, Konni, 15 Nov. 1956 (ASP. Bimi N'Konni).

35 ‘Territ. du Niger. Révue des événements du Jer Trimestre 1954’ 19 (AP. Zmder).

36 SM. Police, 24 June 1957, 3.

37 ‘Territoire du Soudan Français. Délégation de la Boucle du Niger. Bulletin Mensuel de Renseignements’, Gao, 14 Nov. 1957, 4–8 (ASP. Tillabéry).

38 SM. Police, 24 Nov. 1957, 12–15.

39 SM. Police, Nov. 1957. 12–15.

40 SM. Police, Feb. 1958, 2.

41 See Afrique nouvelle (newspaper, Dakar), 1 Aug. 1958.

42 See, for instance, Azalai, organe du MSA (mimeographed newspaper, Niamey), 9 Apr. 1958 (ASP. Tessaoua).

43 Abraham, R. C., Dictionary of the Hausa language (University of London Press, 1968), 79.

44 Berg, Elliott, ‘The Economic Basis for Political Choice in French West Africa’, American Political Science Review, LIV, no. 2 (06 1960), 391405 (p. 403).

45 In 1955, 635 francs in all per capita, as compared with 415 in Senegal and 303 in Mauritania (‘PV de la Conference des Commandants de Cercie’, op. cit. 7).

46 Chaffard and Mortimer, op. cit.

47 See Whitaker, C. S. Jr, The Politics of Traditicm. Continuity and Change in Northern Nigeria, 1946–66 (Princeton University Press, 1970).

48 SM. Police, 27 Mar. 1958, 15.

49 Lettre du Sawaba au Général de Gaulle’, Niamey, 15 Sept. 1958 (ASP. Tessaoua).

50 Le Monde, 17 Sept 1958, 3.

51 Le Monde, 31 Aug.-1 Sept. 1958, 2.

52 Afrique nouvelle, 19 Sept. 1958, 3.

53 Mortimer op.cit. 321.

54 Afrique nouvelle, 19 Sept. 1958, 3.

55 On the O.C.R.S. see Chailley, Marcel, Histoire de I'Afrique Occidentale Française (Berger-Levrault, Paris, 1968), 494–6.

56 ‘Rapport Général Congrès du MSA. …’, op. cit. 5.

57 Niger (Révue trimestrielle, Niamey), no. 10 (1970), 64.

58 Chaffard, op. cit. 277.

59 Ibid. 278–302, and Mortimer, op. cit. 322–4, 343.

60 See, for example, ‘Fiche de renseignement, Cercle de Gouré’, 1 Nov. 1958 (Military archives of Zinder).

61 Le Monde, 17 Sept. 1958, 3.

62 See, for instance, ‘Rapport sur le comportement des européens du Cercle de Tessaoua pendant le Referendum’, no date, 3–4 (ASP. Tessaoua).

63 ‘Lettre, Commandant, Cercle de Tessaoua à M. le Chef du Territoire du Niger’, Tessaoua, 1 Oct. 1958, a (ASP. Tessaoua). This information has been confirmed by many oral sources.

64 See Rash, Yehoshua, ‘Un établissement colonial sans histoires. Les premières années françaises au Niger 1897–1906’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, Paris, 01 1972).

65 Chaffard, op. cit. 294 and oral sources.

66 Marches tropicaux, 10 May 1958.

67 ‘Cercle de Tessaoua. Rapport Annuel 1958’, 24 (AP. Zinder).

68 Chailley, op. cit. 507.

69 Communiqué du Parti Sawaba, Section Nigérienne du P.R.A.’. 6 Oct. 1958 (ASP. Tessaoua).

70 Le Monde, 21 Nov. 1958, 3.

71 Colombani, Don Jean, ‘Circulaire à tous mes Commandants et Chefs de Subdivision’, Niamey, 23 Nov. 1958 (ASP. Gaya).

72 ‘Télégramme-Lettre du Gouverneur au Chef de la Subdivision de Gaya’, Niarney, 2 Dec. 1958 (ASP. Gaya).

73 Complete results from the elections in ‘Haut Commissariat de la République Française au Niger. Circulaire à tous Cercies et Subdivisions’, Niamey, 22 Dec. 1958 (ASP. Tillabéry).

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of African History
  • ISSN: 0021-8537
  • EISSN: 1469-5138
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-african-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *

Related content

Powered by UNSILO


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed