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  1. Local Government Administration | Week 1
    4 Topics
  2. Structure of Local Government | Week 2
    6 Topics
    1 Quiz
  3. Local Government Reforms | Week 3
    5 Topics
    1 Quiz
  4. Pre-Colonial Political Administration In Nigeria | Week 4, 5 & 6
    6 Topics
    3 Quizzes
  5. Colonialism | Week 7
    5 Topics
  6. British Colonial Administration in Nigeria I | Week 8
    3 Topics
    1 Quiz
  7. British Colonial Administration in Nigeria II | Week 9
    4 Topics
    1 Quiz
  8. French Colonial Administration | Week 10
    7 Topics
    1 Quiz
  9. Leadership and Followership | Week 11
    7 Topics

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What is Policy of Assimilation?

The policy of assimilation was an administrative principle initially adopted by the French in her territories where it aimed at turning Africans into Frenchmen after they must have substituted their indigenous culture with French language, culture, law, religion, and civilization.

This principle saw African culture as primitive, barbaric, and uncivilized and French culture as superior and most civilized in the world. The Frenchified Africans were regarded as citizens and enjoyed the rights and privileges of French citizens.

Features of Policy of Assimilation:

(i) Under Policy of Assimilation, French Colonies were regarded as Overseas France or an integral part of France.

(ii) It made use of a direct centralized administrative system. French West Africa was administered as a unit, a Federation with administrative headquarters in Dakar, Senegal. At the head was a Governor-General. Each territory was a component part of the Federation with a Governor as the head.

(iii) Africans were divided into citizens and subjects. Inhabitants of the four communes in Senegal namely: Dakar, St. Louis, Chorea, and Rufisque were regarded as citizens and others in the other communes’, subjects.

(iv) Education was restricted to the children of the Chiefs and people in the four communes.

(v) It used a direct system of administration to administer the people. As a result of the inadequacy of the French officials, traditional rulers were included in the civil service in the local administration.

(vi) Assimilated citizens could be elected into the French Legislative as Deputies or Senators.

(vii) African culture, native laws and language were not respected.

(viii) The system was repressive. It made use of indigénat policy, forced labour, conscription into the army and corvee to oppress the people.

(ix) Frenchified and educated elites were integrated into the system.

(x) There was no respect for African traditional political institutions. Traditional rulers were not respected. They were regarded as the lowest cadre in the civil service.

Qualification for Assimilation of African Indigenes:

(i) The indigene must be a native or inhabitant of any of the four communes in Senegal: Rufisque, Dakar, Goree and St. Louis 

(ii) The person must be at least 18 years and above in the communes.

(iii) The person must be able to speak and write French proficiently. He or she must be educated in the French Language.

(iv) The person must embrace French culture as a way of life and shun African culture.

(v) He must be of good character. He must be morally sound.

(vi) He must have been in the French colonial administration’s employment for about 10 years. 

(vii) The person must have a ‘good’ means of livelihood.

(viii) The person must also have performed a requisite period of Military service.

(ix) The person must give up his rights under native law e.g. denouncing polygamy.

Abolition of indigénat policy was secured by the law of 7 May 1946, known as the ‘Loi Lamine Guèye’

Why the French Abandoned the Policy of Assimilation (Why Policy of Assimilation Failed):

(i) The French Scholars did not support the policy of assimilation. They felt it was unrealistic to force people with their own culture and language to abandon theirs and embrace French culture and tradition. There was a need to preserve and respect African cultures and traditions.

(ii) The policy was expensive to operate. The French Government was no longer interested in spending money on the colonies. French Scholars saw it as a burden and criticized it.

(iii) The people in the interior with deeply rooted cultures and political institutions seriously restricted French colonial rule and the policy of assimilation.

(iv) The conditions for the assimilation of Africans in the interior, outside the four communes were highly discriminatory and strict. Many Africans could not meet up the conditions and remained French subjects with no legal and political rights, faced indigénat and restricted education.

(v) It did not utilize nor try to develop the traditional political institutions of the West African people.

(vi) Lessons French learnt from the success story of indirect rule in order to win the loyalty of the people of West Africa made them change to the policy of association. Indirect rule was cheaper and more profitable to the French.

(vii) The system of education the early French Missionaries established in her colonies did not encourage assimilation policy rather they pursued evangelism.

(viii) French economic interest contributed to the failure of the policy. The French merchant colonial settlers saw the new African French citizens as potential rivals.

(ix) French government had a nonchalant attitude toward colonialism. Even the French National Assembly showed little interest in colonial affairs too.

(x) Reforms recommended by the Brazzaville conference of 1944 helped to discourage the continuation of the policy of assimilation. The rising to power of General Charles De Gaulle facilitated the abandoning of the policy of assimilation and change to the policy of association.


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