mardi 7 janvier 2014

Africa in the gears of the Great War 1914-1918*

How Africans liberate France.

         Soldiers assigned to the European front, colonial workers sent to metropolis ... Africa paid dearly for its commitment in 1914. Especially since this conflict was also the last colonial partition of Africa.

         Collective memory has almost forgotten. And yet they are nearly 500,000 have been mobilized to combat the heart of European barbarism, to suffer for some of the harshness of the winter of 1917, to discover the horror of trench warfare ... and liberate France. From the First World War, the African infantrymen were largely mobilized by the colonial power. And is again sent to the fronts outside Africa.
         "No other power than France before the war, has not considered calling soldiers colonies, especially blacks, dominated therefore, to fight on the battlefields of Europe against European nations belonging to the dominant white" Marc Michel analysis in his last test, Africa in the gears of the Great War (Karthala).

Recruitment is strength, in appalling conditions!

         "Overall, establishes the French historian, Africa provides the war machine of France three quarters of soldiers mobilized in its empire, 170,000 Blacks of West African-French (A.O.F.) and the French Equatorial Africa (A.E.F.), more than 172,000 Algerian Muslims, nearly 100,000 Runisiens and Moroccans, 40,000 Malagasy.
         "Most of the time, recruitment is strength, in appalling conditions" variant of pure stress, with raids and real manhunts in some circles, particularly in the Ivory Coast just "pacified" persuasion remunerated, enhanced bonuses, via canton chiefs . "Anyway", it was [...] levies a scale and brutality as they could evoke the ignoble slave trade " , not without raising resistance, such as Madagascar, Algeria or in the region of the West Volta (now Burkina Faso).

Rare African survivors will be removed or neutered!

         This is the introduction of the famous "Dark force", wanted by Charles Mangin, since the publication of his book in 1910, called to sub-Saharan Africa tank of French power. Worrying the Germans, who, long before the occupation of the Rhineland in 1919, including the Tenth Army commanded by Mangin, develops racist propaganda.          "We denounced the "Barbarity" of France, not because it would be exercised against Blacks ... but because it dared to fight Whites by Blacks" notes Marc Michel. During the Great War, this fear is operated by France, which has sometimes "Power shock of Black soldiers", as in April 1917, when the Sixth Army sends Mangin at Chemin des Dames (Aisne) - for "save to the extent possible, the French blood", some will say. Fighting and climatic conditions are such that 45 % of staff under General called thereafter the butcher will be affected Blacks, 22% killed or missing.

Germany is humiliated to be beaten by African soldiers!

         Humiliation of being beaten and occupied by African soldiers, Germany nourish a strong resentment against France, which imposes this "Black shame
" which will be "recovered by the National Socialist propaganda in 1924, Hitler made ​​a fundamental article in the arsenal of Mein Kampf , denouncing a mix that already threaten Europe and invade France, destined to become "a European-African mulatto state”.
         The few survivors "Rheinlandbastards"will be removed from each , other sterilized , hatred and fear, cultivated and rooted in mentalities , also lead to the series of massacres which will suffer African soldiers in 1940", tells Marc Michel.
         At the end of the war, the percentage of African soldiers dead in struggle is over 22%, against 17.4% of mobilized for France, 15.4 % in Germany and 10.2% for great Britain and the Dominions. But the war effort was not limited to the battlefields of Europe. Many colonial workers, mostly North African -100,000 40,000 Algerians and Moroccans were sent in France, mainly in big cities like Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Saint-Etienne, but also sometimes in campaigns to replace male labor party to front.
         A situation that will not pose problems to the end of the war. These workers, mostly crammed into ghettos, often have the feeling of being rejected by the population, workers and trade unions. Another important dimension of the war effort imposed on Africa: the metropolis provide food and oilseeds to such an extent that the consequences will be as important as those of the military mobilization.

Heavy toll of Africa: the last colonial sharing!

         What must be added the heavy price paid by civilians and soldiers recruited from the belligerent troops during the fighting on the mainland populations, the First World War was "the last colonial division". "Once hostilities appetites awoke" and challenged his possessions to Germany in Togo, Cameroon, East Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania) and in the south-west of the continent (now Namibia). All nations engaged enlisted the "native" either as soldiers or as carriers or auxiliaries. The fighting was extremely hard, long battles. And losses are often underestimated.
         According to Marc Michel , south of the Sahara, between 1.5 million and 2 million Africans died mobilized poor sanitary conditions (malaria, sleeping sickness, typhoid, infectious complications of injury, undernutrition, Spanish flu, ...). The conquest of Cameroon, which required tens of thousands of men, would have cost the lives of more than 4,200 Allied besides "losses (unevaluated) tens of thousands of porters recruited locally or brought from neighboring colonies". The theater of operations in East Africa, 9 % of the estimated 193,000 men, who served and 9 % of bearers million recruited by the British lost their lives.

War, less deadly than disease, hunger and looting.

         "The English-speaking historians, reminiscent who taught among other universities of Yaoundé and Brazzaville, believe that casualties among civilian and military recruits, soldiers, porters, requisitioned all kinds, have reached 650 000 men, women and children in German East-Africa. War there has also been less deadly than the disease, hunger, looting that decimated the populations and economies disorganized old ... " In the south-west of the continent, the troops who fought were Whites, although 33,000 Blacks accompanied the South African troops as auxiliaries alongside Indians and Mestizos.
         "The Great War in Africa, says Marc Michel, was not a mere epiphenomenon of global conflict. It has created a doubt in the West itself on its ability to take the "duty of civilization"and, for the first time, has given Africans the opportunity to express themselves", instilling a seed of rebellion. A North African nationalism took shape, and arose as a snapshot of the "good" rifleman Banania, “ brave and faithful soldier ," the latter assert equal rights: "Before I was negro exclaimed a rifleman in 1916, now I'm French ! "

But at what price!
*Article of Severine Kodjo-Grandvaux in " Jeune Afrique " on January 7, 2004 on basis of the essay of Marc Michel,
L’Afrique dans l’engrenage de la Grande Guerre (Africa in the gears of the Great War), Karthala, Paris, 2013.

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