Posted by / Tuesday 6 September 2016 / No comments

The comparison between the chiefs in French and British systems of administration in West Africa

In their administration of their colonies in West Africa, the French and the British employed the services of local chiefs. However, there are few differences between how the chiefs were used by the two colonial powers. The following are the similarities and the differences between how the two colonial powers operated.

Agents of tax collection
Both the British and the French colonialists used taxes that they collected within the territories to run the administration of their overseas colonial lands. The two also used the local chiefs to collect the taxes. The underlying principle was that money for administering the colony must come from the colony itself.

Chiefs lost their former power and prestige
The chiefs in both French and British colonial West Africa lost their power under colonial rule. It was the colonial authorities that called the shots and the chiefs had to carry out their directives. For this reason, the usual clout they had before the white came was destroyed.

The dilemma of chiefs
The modus operandi of the colonialists in both the French and the British colonial officials in the territories put the chiefs in a fix. On the one hand, they had to fulfill the job requirement given them by the colonial officials and the other, they desired to please their subjects. It was so difficult to keep such a delicate balance and therefore they were kept in a permanent dilemma.

French, Colony, Colonial, City, Landmark
Appointment of chiefs
It was true that both the British and the French used chiefs in their colonial administration. However, the difference was that the British used only those who qualified to be chiefs according to the tradition of the people.  The French, on the other hand, appointed their own chiefs, disregarding the laid down ascension to the seat.The French appointed just anybody they felt was loyal to them.

Freedom to operate
In the doing of the actual work of the chiefs, the British gave more freedom to the chiefs in their territory than the French did. The British ensured that the traditional powers of the chiefs to act remained intact. The French, on the hand, clipped the wings of the chiefs to the extent where they were just puppets in the hands of the French authorities.

Respect for chiefs by colonial masters
The chiefs in British West Africa respected as partners in the total administration of the  colonies but this was not the case for the chiefs in French overseas territories.

Alteration of traditional land boundaries
The French did not recognize the traditional boundaries that existed before the white man entered West Africa. The traditional demarcations were disregarded. The British on the other respected the traditional boundaries of the various paramountcies and chiefdoms.  

Pitching the chiefs against the educated elite
The British used the chiefs against the educated elite by giving more recognition and role to play in the colonial administration, ignoring the elite. In French West Africa, it was the other way round. The educated elite enjoyed a lot of rights and privileges at the detriment of the subjects.

1. Highlight three differences and three similarities between the chiefs in French and British colonial Africa.
2. Highlight six differences between the handling of chiefs in French and British colonial West Africa.

The comparison between the chiefs in French and British systems of administration in West Africa

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