Posted by / Saturday 10 September 2016 / No comments

The privileges, responsibilities and limitations of citizens and subjects in French West Africa

Introduction Citizen
The French classified the Africans who lived in the overseas territories into citizens and subjects. Anybody who was born in the four Communes of Dakar, St. Louis, Goree and Rufisque in Senegal, were regarded as automatic French citizens. The rest who were born outside the four Communes of Senegal and the rest of French West Africa, were considered as subjects. 
Automatic citizens
Those who were born in the four communes of Senegal - Dakar, St. Louis, Goree and Rufisque, automatically became French citizens but those who were born outside the communes had to work towards getting French citizenship conferred on them. 
Electoral rights
The citizens could exercise the franchise that was available to the French citizens, so they voted and were voted for. They were allowed to join any political party in France.

Right to work
Any citizen who had the required qualification was allowed to work in the metropolis. The citizens had access to the top notch schools in the French West Africa. 

Conjugal rights
The citizens who fell in love with any white folk was allowed to marry that French national. There were no existing laws stopping them from doing so.

Exemption from ‘indigenat’
Under the 'Indigenat' a French Administrator had the power to sentence an African to up to two years in jail without trial for some category of offenses. This did not apply to the citizens.

Exempted forced labour
Every subject who was between the ages of eighteen and fifty was required to offer free labour to the French authorities either on construction work or on a plantation. The citizens were exempted.

Legal rights
French law applied to all citizens. In other words, an African French citizen could sue and be sued in a French court. When that happened, it was the French judicial jurisprudence that was applied. 

Subject to ‘indigenat’
Under the 'Indigenat' a French Administrator had the power to sentence an African to up to two years in jail without trial for some category of offenses. This was the plight of only the subjects. It did not apply to the citizens.

As mentioned earlier, the citizens lived in the four communes of Dakar, St. Louis, Goree and Rufisque. The subjects were now allowed to anywhere near these four communes. They were made to live outside the four communes. 

Denied the right to education
The French kept a tight grip on who was educated in the territories. The citizens had the best of education but the was denied the subjects. As a result, the subjects could not speak the French language, at least not properly.

Denied the right to vote
The subjects were not allowed to vote or to be voted for like the citizens. They were denied the right to freedom of speech and the right to participate in the administration of the territory, let alone to be represented in the French Chamber of Deputies as was the case for the citizens. 

Payment of taxes
While the citizens' taxes were calculated on how much they earned, the taxes of the subjects were not calculated based on their income, they were just given a figure to pay and this was based on the discretion of the French authorities.

Access to higher positions
As a result of the fact that the subjects could attain any substantial height in education, they could not be appointed to serve in the upper echelons of the French Civil Service.

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