French West Africa
|Full Name||Federation of French West Africa|
|Alliance||Allies - Minor Member Nation or Possession|
|Entry into WW2||3 Sep 1939|
|Population in 1939||15,000,000|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
The Afrique occidentale française, or AOF, known in English as French West Africa, was a federation of French colonial possessions in western Africa that was established in 1895. The federation covered an area of about 4,689,000 square kilometers or about 1,810,000 square miles, and had a population of between 10,000,000 and 20,000,000 when the European War began in 1939. During the war, French West Africa sided with Vichy France between 1940 and 1943; after 1943, Free France, based in Britain, assumed control of the federation.
Home of Dakar, the colonial center of French West Africa, Senegal had representation to the French Parliament between 1934 and 1940 (Galandou Diouf) prior to the French surrender to Germany. In the civilian sector, many trading companies set up offices in Dakar. For the military, it was of key strategic importance, especially for the French Navy, which built the harbor into a main naval base and coal station. After the restoration of the French republic in 1945, Senegal again sent a representative to Paris.
Officially established as a French colony in 1893, Côte d'Ivoire joined the federation in 1904. In 1932, when Upper Volta was dissolved, it received some of Upper Volta's provinces.
Established in 1904 with the capital of Porto-Novo, Dahomey (in present day Benin) received port facilities and railroads from France. In 1946, Dahomey became an overseas territory, and thus had representation in Paris, France.
The French arrived at this region in 1891, and in 1904 French Guinea was established.
On 9 Sep 1880, the French established the colony of Upper Senegal; on 18 Aug 1890, it was renamed the French Sudan Territory. In 1899, French Sudan was broken up, with its provinces transferred to neighboring French colonies. In 1920, French Sudan was reformed. In 1932, when Upper Volta was dissolved, it received some of Upper Volta's provinces.
On 26 Aug 1914, during WW1, British and French troops jointly invaded Togoland, partitioning the German possession. On 20 Jul 1922, the League of Nations declared Togoland a French Mandate.
The French arrived at this region in the early 1880s. Upon the creation of the colony, the administrators relied extensively on local religious and tribal leaders to maintain order in Mauritania. France devoted little effort in the development of this region.
Although French presence in the region later known as Niger began as early as the late 1800s, the pacification of the various peoples in the region did not complete for about 30 years, after which the colony of Niger was finally declared in 1922. In 1932, when Upper Volta was dissolved, it received some of Upper Volta's provinces.
The French colony of Upper Volta was established on 1 Mar 1919. It was dissolved on 5 Sep 1932, with its territory given to Côte d'Ivoire, French Sudan, and Niger. After the war, Upper Volta was reformed on 4 Sep 1947, which formed the foundation of the future nation of Burkina Faso.
The Dissolution of French West Africa
Starting in 1946, France began implementing policies that gave its subjects in West Africa more rights, starting with the establishment of local councils in the late 1940s to universal suffrage in the 1950s. In 1958, the French colonies (excluding Togo) elected heads of government to act as advisors to French High Commissioners, thus dissolving French West Africa; in 1960, the former French colonies, now grown to the size of over 25,000,000 collectively, were given the rights to form their own constitutions. The people of French Togoland, a post-WW2 United Nations Trust Territory, voted to become an independent nation in 1959 and would join the French Union (as an aside, British Togoland, another United Nations Trust Territory, voted to merge into Ghana).
Events Taken Place in French West Africa
|British Attacks on the French Fleet||3 Jul 1940 - 25 Sep 1940|
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Winston Churchill, 1935