French West Africa

French West Africa

French West Africa, former federation of eight French overseas territories. The constituent territories were Dahomey (now Benin), French Guinea (now Guinea), French Sudan (now Mali), Côte d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso). The federation was created in 1895 to consolidate the French holdings in W Africa and was definitively constituted in 1904. It was ruled by a governor-general, who resided first in Saint-Louis, then in Dakar. During World War II the federation supported the Vichy government until Nov., 1942, when it accepted the authority of the Free French. In 1958 the constituent territories became autonomous republics in the French Community, except for Guinea, which became independent. The federation was dissolved in 1959.

French West Africa (Afrique occidentale française, AOF) was a federation of eight French colonial territories in Africa: Mauritania, Senegambia and Niger, French Sudan (now Mali), French Guinea (now Guinea), Côte d'Ivoire, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) and Dahomey (now Benin).


Originally created in 1895 as a union of Senegal, French Sudan, French Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire only, the federation was placed on a permanent footing in 1904 with a governor-general based first in Saint-Louis, then (from 1902) in Dakar (both in Senegal, the oldest French settlement). The AOF subsequently expanded to neighbouring French-ruled territories: Dahomey was added in 1904, after having been put under colonial tutelage in 1892; Mauritania in 1920, and when the territory of Upper Volta was divided from French Soudan by colonial decree in 1921, it automatically also entered the AOF. Between 1934 and 1937, the League of Nations Mandate territory of French Togoland was subsumbed into Dahomey, and between its seizure from Germany in World War I and independence it was administered through the AOF. In 1904, both Mauritania and Niger were classed "Military Territories": ruled by the AOF in conjunction with officers of the French Colonial Forces.

Throughout the history of the AOF, individual colonies and military territories were reorganised numerous times, as was the Government General in Dakar. In theory the Governors General of the AOF reported directly to the Minister of Colonies in Paris, while individual colonies and territories reported only to Dakar.

The federation ceased to exist after the September 1958 referendum on the future French Community, in which the constituent territories voted to became autonomous republics except for Guinea, which voted overwhelmingly for independence. Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Upper Volta and Dahomey subsequently formed the short-lived Sahel-Benin Union, later the Conseil de l'Entente. Governors General

  • Jean-Baptiste Chaudié : 1895-1900
  • Noel Ballay : 1900-1902
  • Ernest Roume : 1902-1907
  • William Merlaud-Ponty : 1908-1915
  • François Joseph Clozel : 1916
  • Joost van Vollenhoven : 1917-1918
  • Martial Merlin : 1918-1923
  • Jules Carde : 1923-1930
  • Jules Brévie : 1930-1936
  • Marcel de Coppet : 1936-1938
  • Léon Cayla : 1939-1940
  • Pierre Boisson : 1940-1943
  • Pierre Cournarie : 1943-1946
  • René Barthès : 1946-1948
  • Paul Béchard : 1948-1951
  • Bernard Cornut-Gentille : 1952-1956
  • Gaston Custin : 1956-1957.High Commissioners
  • Gaston Custin : 1957-1958
  • Pierre Messmer : 1958


With an area of some (mostly the desert or semi-desert interior of Mauritania, Sudan and Niger) extending from Africa's westernmost point to the depths of the Sahara, the federation contained more than ten million inhabitants at its creation, and some 25 million at its dissolution.

See also


  • Robert Aldrich. Greater France: A History of French Overseas Expansion. Palgrave MacMillan (1996) ISBN 0312160003.
  • Alice L. Conklin. A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa 1895-1930. Stanford: Stanford University Press (1998), ISBN 9780804729994.
  • Patrick Manning. Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 1880-1995. Cambridge University Press (1998) ISBN 0521642558.
  • Jean Suret-Canale. Afrique Noire: l'Ere Coloniale (Editions Sociales, Paris, 1971); Eng. translation, French Colonialism in Tropical Africa, 1900 1945. (New York, 1971).
  • Crawford Young. The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective. Yale University Press (1994) ISBN 0300068794

External links

Search another word or see French West Africaon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature