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Colonial administrative system - History notes

Colonial administrative system - History notes


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Meaning of colonial administrative system

The colonial administrative systems refer to the total system of administration which were established by European imperialists in order to maintain and consolidate the colonial rule in African colonies. The colonial administrative systems were established and became strong in order to suppress the African resistance against colonialism because the colonialists got experience of resistance movements at the beginning of the colonial conquest. Therefore, in order to administer and exploit the colonies effectively, the colonial governments established various colonial administrative systems to supervise and control human resources and production in which the colonial officials had both administrative and executive powers over their areas of jurisdiction. The colonial administrative systems included direct rule, indirect rule, assimilation policy and association policy.

2.1 Direct Rule, Indirect Rule; Assimilation and Association

I. Direct rule

Direct rule was the colonial system of administration, mostly was used by the German whereby European officials ruled directly at the top position, colonial appointees such as Jumbes and Akidas, governed at the bottom. Or Colonial administrative systems refer to the colonial administrative structure or chain of command that were established by colonial government in African to achieve the goals of colonialist. 

The Germans used direct rule to administer the colonial territories and societies under their control. The Germans used this system in German East Africa (Tanganyika, Urundi and Ruanda), Togo, South West Africa (Namibia) and Cameroon. Apart from Germans, British also used direct rule in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Kenya

Characteristics of direct rule system

(i) Local rulers were not used in colonial administration. The colonialists administered the colonialists in assistance from employed officials and warrant chiefs. 

(ii) It was dictatorial in nature. The Europeans used much force to force Africans to implement their orders. People were mistreated, tortured, beaten and racially discriminated. The colonial government used coercive instruments to force Africans obey their orders. 

(iii) Faced African resistances. The Africans strongly opposed direct rule system because it involved much use of force. Example, the Africans who failed to pay taxes were ruthlessly beaten or detained. Such resistances included Nama and Herero, Chimurenga and Hehe resistances. 

(iv) It never created puppetism. The system avoided creation of puppets because the administrators were employed under contract and regularly replaced. 

(v) Shortage of man power. The colonialists were not enough to rule the whole colony effectively. The situation forced them to employ people who could assist them in administrations especially at the lower levels. Example, in Southern Rhodesia, the British employed some Africans and other foreigners to assist them in administration as their number was not enough to rule the colony effectively. 

(vi) Faced communication problem. The direct rule system was influenced with communication problem because of the language barrier. The language spoken by Europeans was not understood by the Africans and vice versa. 

Reasons for the adopting the direct rlle

i. To ensure direct control over Africans. The colonialists used direct rule to have direct control over Africans. They wanted to create a conducive environment for generating wealth. The German colonial officials did not believe that the local people could administer themselves.

ii. To prevent other colonial interference. The German colonial officials used direct rule in their colonies in order to prevent the interference of other colonial masters. For example German used direct rule in Tanganyika in order to prevent British and Portuguese colonialists. In South West Africa, the German used direct rule in order to discourage the Boers from expanding their territories.

iii. The German believed that the African leaders were inferior. The German colonialists did not trust Africans to administer the colonies. They believed that they were inferior and regarded the local rulers as incompetent and lazy. In this regard, the European thought that the importation and spread of their civilization and culture could be done properly by European administrators.

iv. To maintaining the German superiority. The direct rule system was aimed at maintaining German superiority over the Africans. Since the German directly controlled all activities in the colonies, African rulers lost their power and positions

v. To solved the shortage of unemployment among the European population. The direct rule system was also used with a view to reducing unemployment in Europe. For example, the German colonial government sent its educated youths to different African colonies to work as accountants, civil servants, medical doctors, political officers and military experts.

vi. To suppress the African resistance. German used direct rule to suppress the African resistance. The system increased the harshness to the Africans which made them to work forcefully without compromise.

              A case study of direct rule.

Direct rule in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) by British  

Zimbabwe was colonized by the British South Africa company (BSACO) from 1890 under Cecil John Rhodes in which he dominated the territory directly. In 1898 Zimbabwe was named Southern Rhodesia by Cecil Rhodes showing his great effort in conquering the territory. Rhodes encouraged the migration of many settlers from Britain who came and dominated the colony economically and politically. On 11.11.1965 Cecil Rhodes declared Zimbabwe to be under direct control of British settlers. The charter was called unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) putting the colony out of British government. Due to large number of settlers who migrated in the colony and the fact that the settlers were actively opposed by the Africans, direct rule was the best ruling system to administer the colony. 


Motives for British direct rule in Zimbabwe

(i) Many British were living in southern Rhodesia. They migrated in good number as they were encouraged by Cecil Rhodes. Their number allowed them to rule the colony in assistance of few employed officials 

(ii) Resistance from Africans. The Africans opposed the British because they exploited Africans. Example, Africans lost their fertile lands to white settlers. Such resistances included Shona resistance. 

(iii) Absence of centralized states. The centralized system was destructed by wars of imposition of colonialism hence no way the British could use local rulers to assist them in administration. 

(iv) Richness of the colony. She had fertile lands and minerals which attracted European settlements and rule. They decided to rule by themselves to ensure effective exploitation. 

(v) The consequence of Chimurenga war. The war ended with great enmity between Africans and whites. The whites were opposed. Example, the left chiefs were not ready to cooperate with colonial government. 

Strengths of direct rule

i. The system solved the shortage of employment amongst the European population. The system needed large number of workers from their mother countries. For example, Germany offered employment to its people in the colonies it occupied. Hence, it managed to reduce the rate of unemployment of its people.

ii. The system managed to suppress African resistances, since it ensured that the colonies had enough white military officials to safeguard their interests. For instance, the Abushiri war of resistance of 1888 was suppressed by the German colonial administration.

iii. It safeguarded the European interests. The use of direct rule was also a way of maintaining and safeguarding Europeans interests from being attacked by the Africans

iv. It created strong supervision. Through the use of direct rule, the Africans were under close supervision of European officials almost everywhere, regardless of their large number in the area.

v. The system contributed to the construction of infrastructures. In the areas where direct rule was used, the construction of infrastructures such as roads, railways, hospitals, tapped water and electricity was rapidly done to ensure smooth exploitation of the colonial subjects. For example, Germans in Tanganyika constructed central railways.

Weaknesses of direct rule system

i. It undermined the pre-existing African traditional rulers. The direct rule system used European personnel directly assisted by their appointees such as Liwali, Jumbes and Akidas. For instance, the German administration in Tanganyika removed the African traditional rulers, replacing them with Arab Akidas, and Liwalis from the coastal areas.

ii. It showed the elements of dictatorship. The use of harsh and brutal means to make Africans meet colonial demands such as production of raw materials and paying taxes. Their approach led to many sufferings of the Africans that included death or imprisonment.

iii. It increased cost to the colonialists. The system was very expensive as European colonial administrators and officials were to be maintained in terms of salaries, housing and medical facilities.

iv. The application of direct rule increased suffering to the Africans. The use of harsh and brutal means to make Africans meet colonial demands such as production of raw materials and paying taxes. Their approach led to many sufferings of the Africans that included death or imprisonment.

Effects of direct rule system

i. It increased enmity between Europeans and Africans. The system increased enmity between the colonial administrators and the indigenous people owing to harsh treatment. The system applied various oppressive measures that angered the Africans which led them to resist against colonialism

ii. It led to the rise of African resistance. The use of direct rule intensified African resistance. This was because, the system was accompanied by harsh treatment against the Africans such as forced labour, taxation and sexual harassment, Africans were against with these injustices.

iii. African chiefs lost their political power. The use of direct rule made the African rulers to lost their political status because they were no longer allowed to exercise their power. They became the puppets of colonialism.

iv. It increased colonial exploitation. The direct rule system facilitated the exploitation of African natural resources and labour. The colonial administrators fully supervised the extraction of African resources, both natural resources and agriculture.

v. Destruction of African culture and economic. Direct rule system destroyed African culture and economic systems. For example, Africans could no longer do their religious, production and trading activities. People were forced to adopt western religion.

vi. It produced African puppet leaders. The application of direct rule produced the African puppets into the Germans. The Jumbes and Akidas turned into German puppets and forced their fellow Africans to work on various colonial economic sectors 

II. The indirect rule system

Meaning of indirect rule

Indirect rule was the British colonial system of administration, whereby the African traditional rulers were involved in administering their fellow Africans at the local levels on behalf of the colonial governments while the colonial officials and administrators at the higher level. Sir Fredrick John Lugard who was the British High Commissioner to Nigeria in 1900 initiated the indirect rule. This system was adopted in some of the British colonies in Africa such as Nigeria, Uganda and Tanganyika. This system involved to identify the structure of local powers like chiefs, kings and headmen. Also people who were identified as important were invited to become part of colonial administrators. The local rulers were favoured and protected, but they were paid low salaries. Their sons and daughters were given privileges such a education in special schools.

In Tanganyika, the indirect rule system was introduced by the second British Governor, Donald Cameron, in 1925. It was characterised by the presence of local or native authorities responsible for tasks like administration of local justice through local courts, markets, labour supply and tax collection. African chiefs headed these institutions. These local authorities had a number of duties like paying salaries to African workers, preparing budgets and presenting their financial records for auditing so as to know how much money was needed to finance services like health, education, agriculture, roads and railways.

The local chiefs who were appointed to implement British government policies became part of the British colonial government. The chiefs were favoured and protected, but they were paid low salaries. Their sons and daughters were given privileges such as education in special schools.

Characteristics of indirect rule system

a. Local rulers were the part of colonial government. The system respected the local rulers and allowed them to carry their activities under the directories of the colonialists. That means Europeans were ruling indirectly using local rulers (chiefs). 

b. It reduced African resistances against the colonialist. The Africans felt that they were ruled by their chiefs as they carried administrative tasks. It was not easy to start the war against their chiefs 

c.The families of chiefs were favoured by the colonial governments. Those families were given protections, houses to live in, good social services, gifts and wages/salaries. 

d. Created puppet leaders. The local rulers implemented the orders given by the colonialists. They were defending the interests of foreigners as they were paid salaries. 

e. It was an obstacle during the independence struggle. The chiefs opposed the idea of independence as they feared to lose their authorities which gave them wages and gifts from the colonialists. 

f. It simplified the exploitation of African man power and natural resources. The   Africans obeyed the activities arranged by the local rulers which mostly favoured the colonialists. 

Reasons for adopting the indirect rule system

i. To avoid resistance from the Africans.  Indirect rule was applied in order to avoid the resistance from the Africans. Though the system was initiated by the Europeans, but the Africans believed that their fellow Africans ruled them. In other areas, indirect rule was used when the system of direct rule had proved failure. For example, the British colonial government decided to use indirect rule in Tanganyika to avoid what happened to the Germans during the Maji Maji rebellion in 1905-1907.

ii. To minimize the administrative cost. Indirect rule was introduced to minimize administrative cost because the African chiefs and their assistants could be paid lower salaries than European colonial administrators. In addition, African chiefs did not demand services from the colonial government such as accommodation, transport and medical services.

iii. Language barriers. Since Britain  had  many  colonies  in  Africa,  the  use  of  local  chiefs  was inevitable. Language was an obstacle in running of colonial administrative activities by the Europeans. The indigenous people could not communicate with the Europeans because they did not know European languages. Thus, African chiefs were trained so that they could understand the language and policies.

iv. Physical difficulties. Some of the areas in Africa were not good for the settlement of white men. Physical difficulties including thick forests and the presence of wild animals in the colonies, made it impossible for the colonialists to administer in remote areas. The use of local chiefs protected the Europeans against tropical diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and small pox. The local rulers understood their environment, as well as people and their culture.

v. To weakened the unity among the Africans. The British introduced indirect rule as a way of dividing the Africans. The divide and rule system weakened the African unity, since those who were favoured like the local chiefs could not oppose the colonial intruders.

vi. Shortage of manpower. Britain did not have enough manpower (personnel) to administer its colonies in Africa. For instance, in 1900 it was reported that the British had only 42 British officials in the Nigerian colony. This number was not enough to administer the whole colony. The shortage of personnel was caused by lack of experienced workers. Moreover, British citizens were not willing to work in tropical Africa for fear of tropical diseases and other physical problems such as transportation.

Strengths of indirect rule

i. It made the African chiefs more powerful than before. The British used indirect rule through traditional political leaders who became more powerful than before. As a result, African chiefs used the same power to oppress and mistreat their fellow Africans.

ii. It solved the problem of shortage of man power. Indirect rule enabled the colonial government to deal with the shortage of white personnel. The few white officials were not enough to administer large and populated colonies like Nigeria.

iii. It was suitable method of collecting taxes. Indirect rule system enabled the colonial state to collect tribute and taxes which generated funds for financing the colonial bureaucracy, including the local chiefs. The local chiefs knew the right time and means of collecting tax. They knew the boom period, the market time and how to deal with tax collection difficulties.

iv. It reduced the operational cost. Through the use of indirect rule system, there was very little cost incurred in the general day-to-day operations. The local chiefs performed most of the activities on behalf of the colonial officials.

v. It reduced African resistances. The British administered their colonies with minimal resistances. This was because the local chiefs performed most of the activities on behalf of the colonial British officials who had no direct contact with Africans.

Weaknesses of indirect rule system

i. Indirect rule created imbalance in development amongst African states. Areas which had local chiefs assisting the colonial government had development in social services like schools, hospitals and roads while those which had no chiefs in their areas had no or inadequate social services. Such situations had led to many conflicts among Africans after independence. The African local rulers were favored in all aspects of life as opposed to ordinary Africans.

ii. Tribalism developed as an impact of indirect rule. African chiefs who were entrusted to rule on behalf of the colonialists considered themselves superior to others in their land. For example, Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda created disunity amongst Ugandans when he declared the Buganda kingdom independent in 1960.

iii. It had created social differences amongst Africans. The chiefs’ families and royal families got privilege of getting social services such as education, hospitals and many more while the rest of the community were not getting such facilities.

iv. It caused enmity between African chiefs with their subject. Indirect rule also caused enmity between African chiefs and their subjects. This was because the rulers were used to do colonial work like supervising and maintaining colonial orders, collecting taxes and forcing people to work. All these did not please the majority of Africans and caused local protest.

v. It created the gap between the local rulers and educated elite. Indirect rule created a gap between the chiefs and the educated elites, something that prompted urban protest movements. The educated elites felt that they were not part of the political authority. This caused rivalries between the two classes and created the potential for further reaction against colonial rule.

Effects of the indirect rule system

i. It undermined African political systems. Indirect rule system gave some autonomy to African local rulers, but did not bring about much development and strengthened the African political systems. The system totally weakened the African traditional administration.

ii. Little freedom of local rulers to exercise their power. Indirect rule was not an indigenous system of government; therefore, traditional rulers did not have enough freedom to exercise their political and judicial powers. The African chiefs became puppets of the colonial administrators and did not serve their people.

iii. It created ethnicity. Indirect rule created ethnic divisions among Africans. It made each ethnic group to develop its own institutions. Thus, it encouraged ethnicity. This is the case in areas like Nigeria where ethnicity and religious division  are still the problems.

iv. It facilitated exploitation of African resources. Indirect rule facilitated massive exploitation of African resources. Under their traditional chiefs, Africans worked hard knowing that they were working for their own well-being. Through this system Africans lost their natural and agricultural resources.

v. Indirect rule created imbalance in development amongst African states. Areas which had local chiefs assisting the colonial government had development in social services like schools, hospitals and roads while those which had no chiefs in their areas had no or inadequate social services. Such situations had led to many conflicts among Africans after independence. The African local rulers were favored in all aspects of life as opposed to ordinary African.

Similarities and differences between direct rule system and indirect rule system


i. Both had racial discrimination. Both systems had racial discrimination because whites were favored and considered superior race than Africans, thus encouraged racial segregation over the Africans. All high-ranking jobs in the government were reserved for Europeans while Africans held the lower positions of jobs in their local areas.

ii. Both had used African assistances at the lower level of administration. Both systems of colonial administration used Africans to supervise colonial works in their areas. British colonialists used African traditional chiefs to supervise their fellow Africans, while the German colonialists employed the appointees such Jumbes and Akidas.

iii. Both systems exploited the Africans. Both systems of administration aimed at exploiting the colonies to the maximum, so as to meet the demand of capitalist. This was because in all levels land, labor and raw materials were taken from Africa.

iv. Both systems focused in maintaining colonial economic interests. Both administrative systems aimed at maintaining the colonial economic interests. Those systems never intended to develop the Africans; there were application of various measures in the whole process of maintaining colonial interests.

v. Both despised African culture. The indirect and direct rule system believed that African culture was inferior compared to European culture

vi. Both were introduced by Europeans in Africa. The indirect rule and direct rule were introduced by both Germans and British who all came from Europe. 

vii. Both undermined local rule. The local rulers under indirect rule had not to implement their own orders to subordinates. The direct rule system removed local rulers in their authorities 


i. Different from their colonial masters. The systems were differing from their colonial states. Indirect rule was used by the British in some colonies in Africa, while direct rule was used by the German in her colonies

ii. Different in using African assistances. Indirect rule used African local rulers such as chiefs, kings or headmen. Their offices also were preserved. While the German used their appointees such as Jumbes and Akidas who replaced the local rulers.

iii. Different in facing resistance from the Africans. Indirect rule faced minimal resistance from the Africans because some elements of African institutions, culture and customs were left so that they could be used to deal with African grievances. Direct rule faced resistance from the Africans because of the nature of its operation, it involved the use of force.

iv. Different in creating puppet leaders. Indirect rule created puppets among the Africans who cooperated with the British, but the direct rule system did not do so because much of the work was done by the German officials.

v. Much force was used in direct rule while indirect rule never involved the use of much force. 

vi. Indirect rule was cheap ruling system compared to direct rule system 

vii. The Africans were divided into classes under indirect rule while the direct rule united Africans.

III. The assimilation policy

Meaning of assimilation policy

Assimilation policy was the system of colonial administration which was used by the French in their colonies in West Africa.  This was the colonial administrative system which had aim of changing Africans into European citizenship. It was mostly used by the French who intended to change Africans into French citizenship. The system had the aim at creating the French Black Africans amongst the West Africans who would be resembled with the French citizens. The system was firstly introduced by the French in Senegal in four provinces of Dakar, Gorce, St. Louis and Rufisque.

Other European nations such as Belgium and the Portuguese once used the system. The converted Africans were called the assimilee by French, evule by the Belgium or assimilado by the Portuguese

Assimilation policy in French colonies. 

The assimilation policy was firstly applied by the French in Algeria and later in the rest French colonies. Once an African was assimilated, he was subjected to French laws, access to French courts, and exempted from forced labour and land alienation and he could be appointed to any French job opportunity in France or in the colonies 

The French revolution of 1789 created the France which believed in dignity, equality and fraternity to all human beings and this is believed to be the origin of the French assimilation policy. It was intended to spread French culture such as language, religion, customs and institutions of laws in colonies. 

Conditions for African to be assimilated

I. Should be fluent in French language both spoken and written.

II. One must be Christian and monogamy. That is a person should marry only one wife.

III. One must have served in French colonial government for not less than 10 years in services.

IV. One must denounce or abandon African culture.

V. Anyone to be assimilated should be of the age of 15 years and not above.

VI. One must not have been sentenced to prison for any offence.

Motives behind the introduction of the assimilation policy

i.To spread the French culture. The French government introduced the assimilation policy in its colonies to spread the French culture in various parts of the world. The application of the assimilation policy went hand in hand with the introduction of the French language, laws, religion, educational institutions and customs.

ii.To exploit African societies smoothly. The assimilation policy was introduced to exploit the African societies smoothly by creating false consciousness among those who were assimilated to work for the benefit of French. By creating a class of African Frenchmen, they were able to reduce local resistance through the divide and rule policy.

iii. To produce the Africans who could assist the French colonialists. The French intended to create or establish a group of African French men who would assist France to facilitate colonial progress in the colonies economically, socially and politically.

iv. To create civilization in Africa. The French wanted to civilize the Africans because they regarded themselves as the super race since their revolution of 1789 which emphasized liberty, equality and fraternity. The French revolution of 1789, gave the French the thought that their culture was the best and it was supposed to be applied in different parts of the world.

v. The French aimed at making a class of Africans that would help them in international conflicts. This was so especially after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 in which the French colonies Alsace and Lorraine were annexed by Germany. So the French wanted to create its allies in African colonies for their future interests, thus, they applied the assimilation policy in all its colonies.

vi. Aimed at destructing African culture. The French used assimilation as a suitable way of doing away some of the so called primitive African traditional practices in French provinces in West Africa because the French regarded their colonies as their overseas provinces. The French believed that their culture was the best in the world, and that they had enlightened their colonies with their rich heritage of civilization.

vii. To get cheap labour. The Africans who were assimilated had to be employed in colonial administration. They reduced the cost of administration as they were paid low wages 

viii. To divide (disunite) Africans against the colonialists. This was between assimilated and non-assimilated Africans. 

ix. French revolution of 1789. The revolution advocated for equality, fraternity and freedom to all human beings. This made French to apply an administrative system which could make all citizens feel same dignity. 

x. It was cheap ruling system as it involved the use of assimilated Africans who were paid little. 

Strengths of assimilation policy

i. It stimulated development in Africa. The policy stimulated socio-economic development of the colonies because there was considerable investment in the colonies. The investments were aimed at turning Africans into Frenchmen, therefore, in the areas where assimilated Africans lived the French made considerable efforts to build infrastructures.

ii. It involved the Africans to participate in making decisions. In some colonies, there were elected councilors who represented Africans in the French National Assembly. For example in 1914, Blaise Diagne defeated six European candidates and was elected into the French National Assembly in Paris.

iii. It produced the African elites who secured education service from French colonialists. The assimilation policy also offered education to few Africans who later championed the struggle for independence in the former French colonies. A good examples were Felix Houphouel Boigny of Ivory Coast, Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal and Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea.

iv. It minimized the resistance from Africa. The assimilation policy succeed to minimize the African resistance against the French colonial administration. Many Africans considered themselves as French citizens without realizing that they were colonized. Therefore, there was no much resistance from the indigenous people. 

v. Africans were represented in French legislative council in France. Eg. Blaise Diagne, the African who won and represented Africans in French national assembly in France in 1914. 

vi. Trained the Africans who led the independence struggle. Some Africans received better education under assimilation policy and became political conscious. They later led independence struggle. Eg, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea and Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal. 

vii. Reduced European dictatorship to Africans. The colonialists never used much force against Africans as the Africans felt French to be their fellows so they were ready to cooperate 

Failure of the assimilation policy

i. The policy was resisted at its grass root in France. The assimilation policy was resisted from its grass root in France. French scholars and politicians expressed their views that it was unwise and unrealistic for Africans to be transformed into Frenchmen.

ii. To reduce the cost in administration. The policy was expensive and difficult to implement because the colonial government had to use many funds to finance the project for instance building schools, buying textbooks written in French and so forth. The association was cheap because it used the African chiefs who were paid low salaries

iii. The assimilation policy was rejected by Africans for their expectations were not met. This is to say Africans had no promotion to the key departments in administration, as all governors’ general was whites. Equally important there were few Africans membership which eventually forced Africans to be unwillingly to attend the French parliament by 1905.

iv. To avoid African resistance against colonialism. France also feared resistance from Africans who stood up to preserve and defend their culture. Therefore, a need to co-operate with their local institution by becoming friends to Africans to easy exploitation.

v. Language barrier. Many Africans got difficulties in learning the French language at the sometimes; many French administrators could not speak African local language, this created gap between colonizers and the colonized subject. So language barrier was a reason for the failure of the assimilation policy and allowing association policy

vi. Cultural diversities. Africans had several customary laws which contradicted the French legal system. For example, African customary law allowed polygamy, while French laws insisted on monogamy. Also the Muslim societies refused to adopt the idea of catholic system and its monogamy system.

Weaknesses of the assimilation policy

i. It created economic imbalance. The assimilation policy became the source of economic imbalance in African colonies and this caused regional population movements and threatened local security conditions. The areas were assimilated Africans lived were highly developed as opposed to the areas in which non-assimilated Africans lived.

ii. It created fearing among the Frenchmen. There was fear among Frenchmen that assimilated Africans would become serious economic rivals  as  they  would have the same rights as them. The French feared that making Africans equal to Frenchmen would make it difficult to force Africans work on French farms and other sectors.

iii. It was expensive in its operation. The system was very expensive since it focused much on the ambitious program of turning Africans into Frenchmen.  The French people’s ambition to treat Africans like French people or black Frenchmen required much capital in constructing infrastructures

iv. It created divisions among the Africans. The assimilation policy was a source of divisions among Africans between the assimilated Africans and the subjects. It was a discriminatory policy just like other colonial policies because the assimilated people were given various opportunities like citizenship and job.

v. Disunited Africans. The assimilated Africans thought that they were better people than their fellows who were not assimilated. This created disunity between Africans 

vi. It was expensive due to increasing number of assimilated. As time went, the number of assimilated Africans was increasing. This rose the expenditure of the colonial government to provided social services to assimilated Africans. 

vii. The assimilated Africans became an obstacle to independence struggle as they enjoyed the French opportunities and better social services. 

viii. Fooled Africans on colonial exploitations. The Africans supported colonialism under shadow of citizenship. 

ix.It undermined African culture by spreading French culture to assimilated Africans. 

Impacts of the assimilation policy

i. It destroyed African traditional authorities. The assimilation policy destroyed African traditional authorities. The French replaced the local rulers with African-appointed colonial officials. The assimilated Africans would now fill most of the positions which were formerly under the traditional authorities.

ii. It created political and economic dependency. The assimilation policy created political and economic dependency on France. To date, France has great political and economic influence in her former colonies of West Africa. France is the major importer of raw materials and major exporter of industrial goods to her former West African colonies.

iii. It facilitated the spread of French language in West Africa. the assimilation policy facilitated the spread of French language in French colonies. In French West Africa, French is the official language. That is why after independence, the French language became the unifying factor for the former French colonies. African countries which still use French language as their medium of communication include Senegal, Ivory Coast, Congo Republic, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Guinea, Gabon, Togo and many others. These countries are known as Francophone.

iv. It undermined the African culture. The assimilation policy undermined African culture and education system. The imposition of Christianity and French culture weakened the African culture. For example, the French discouraged polygamy, and introduced the French culture and religion.

v. It contributed to the emergence of African Diaspora. The assimilation policy contributed to the emergence of African Diaspora in France. Several Africans who were assimilated were employed and established settlement in France. Also assimilated Africans were given scholarship to study in France.

vi. It produced the African elites who secured education service from French colonialists. The assimilation policy produced educated Africans who later struggled for independence in the former French colonies. A good example were Felix Houphouel Boigny of Ivory Coast, Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal and Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea.

vii. Created the enmity between Muslims and Christians. The assimilation policy changed Africans into Christian religion as one of its qualification criteria. The Moslems opposed the policy. 

viii. Facilitated the exploitation of colonies. It was easy to exploit the colonies because the Africans implemented the orders of French thinking that they were building their nations as one 

ix.Reduced African resistances against the colonialists. The Africans thought that they belonged to one citizenship with the colonialists. They were not able to resist their fellow citizens (French) who administered their colonies. 

IV. The association or partnership policy

meaning of association policy

Association policy was the French colonial policy in which French had to respect the cultures of her colonial peoples and by allowing them to develop independently rather than adopting French civilization and culture. The policy came into practical in 1945 following the abandonment of French assimilation policy. The French decided to shift to association policy due to the failure of assimilation policy. Under association policy, Africans were given the rights to elect their representatives in the French government.

Characteristics of association policy 

1.It Was applied by the French following the failure of assimilation policy 

2.Respected African culture. Example Africans were not forced to adopt Christian religion 

3.The association policy used local rulers thus it preserved African local rule system. 

4.Involved the use of local rulers like chiefs who implemented the orders given by the French. 

5.Africans were not changed into French citizenship. This was applied only on willingness of the Africans. 

6.Africans were allowed to elect their representatives, form their own political parties, free press and free    trade as it was opposed during assimilation policy. 

Reasons for introducing the association policy

i.To reduce the cost in administration. The French introduced association policy to reduce the cost of administration. The association was cheap because it used the African chiefs who were paid low salaries compared to French administrators. Under association policy no expenditure was needed to educate the Africans

ii.Due to the existence of cultural differences. There was a great cultural difference between the French and the Africans in marriage, religion and others. Therefore, the French government abandoned the assimilation policy and introduced a more realistic policy that is association policy.

iii.They wanted to maintain exploitative relation. France wanted to maintain exploitative relations within her colonies, thus treating Africans as French people would threaten the objectives of colonialism. Africans had to remain producers of raw materials and labourers.

iv.To avoid the resistance. France also faced strong resistance from the French tax payers who were required to pay more tax to meet the running cost in the French African colonies. Similarly, the French scholars and politicians opposed the assimilation policy to be practiced in African colonies.

v.They wanted to accommodate African culture. The African chiefs and kings were protecting their culture. Therefore, it was difficult for the assimilation policy to survive. As a result, the French came up with the association policy which accommodated the African culture.

vi.To reduce African awareness on colonialism. The Africans could become political conscious once assimilated and became French men as they had to be given social services such as education 

vii.The need to make Africans cheap labour who could work in colonial economic sectors and administration.  

viii.The Africans were left free out of assimilation policy so as to enhance the cooperation which could ensure the colonialists with cheap labour. 

ix.Assimilation policy failed to meet its original objective of exploiting the colonies effectively. Alternatively, the French adopted partnership or association policy. 

Strengths of association policy

i.It created relation in administration between African traditional institution and the French. The association policy perpetuated the co-existence of traditional African institutions and the French government. Therefore, African traditional institutions were respected.

ii.It restored the African culture. The association policy restored African traditional norms and laws. French laws were no longer used in the colonies. For example, Africans were allowed to practice polygamy. This helped to ensure that, there was peace between Africans and French.

iii.The system was cheap. The association policy was cheap since Africans were left to develop their own ways. Little was invested by the French colonialists.

iv.It reduced the resistance. The system gave power to the African rulers in different activities such as in the collection of taxes, recruitment of labourers and maintenance of peace and order. This reduced resistance in the French colonies, since there was little interference with African affairs.

v.Reduced African resistances in French colonies. The Africans reacted passively as they were led with their     local rulers. Moreover, their culture was respected. 

vi. Involved Africans in colonial administration. The colonialists used chiefs in the administration of their    colonies at lower level. 

Weaknesses of association policy

i.It created unsatisfactory to the Africans due to puppet leaders. The Africans criticized the association policy because they thought that, their fellow Africans who were appointed as the chiefs were seen as puppets of the French colonialists.

ii.Rise of social division. The association policy created social divisions among people. For example, chiefs were more favoured than ordinary Africans.

iii.The system was harsh to the Africans. The association policy was harsh to the Africans, since liberty, fraternity and equality were not practiced in administering the colonies.

iv.Local rulers had no full leadership authority. They had to implement orders given by the local rulers. 

v.The system consolidated colonialism. It reduced African resistances against the colonialist and maintained    colonial rule. 

vi.Africans were easily exploited by the colonialists as they implemented the orders given  by the colonialists. Example, they were required to pay taxes and work in colonial farms. 

vii.The local rulers became obstacles for independence struggle as they opposed the idea of independence     fearing that they could lose leadership opportunities they had as chiefs

Impacts of the association policy

i.It gave the freedom to the Africans. From 1945, the association policy gave Africans the freedom of speech and the freedom to form political parties as well as trade unions. This led to the rise of nationalist movements in West Africa.

ii.It did not encourage the provision of education. The association policy did not encourage the provision of education to the Africans. In this situation, made the number of Africans elites decreased because many of them could not afford to pay for their education.

iii.It reduced the complaints and conflicts that rose among the politicians in France. The association policy reduced the criticism and complaints that rose between the politicians and scholars against the French government. Initially, the scholars and politicians in France complaints on the practice of assimilation policy in African colonies

iv.It created new administrative areas to the Africans. The association policy divided the Africans into new administrative areas such as provinces, districts, locations and sub-locations. These administrative areas were adopted by many former French colonies. In some areas, these administrative areas still exist.

v.It denied the powers to the African local rulers. The association policy did not give more power to the African local rulers such as chiefs and kings. African local rulers did not enjoy full sovereign, since they were still under French control.

The differences between the association policy and assimilation policy

i.Assimilation policy involved making considerable efforts in develop social services in African colonies; association was largely used to create colonial government structures for easy exploitation.

ii.In association policy the local rulers were restored although the chiefs were appointed by the French who performed many duties. In assimilation policy, the duties were performed by the appointed federal officials who had no any traditional affiliation.

iii.The association policy was practiced at a very minimum cost in the colonies because it did not emphasize the Africans to become as the French citizens. Assimilation policy was practiced at the maximum cost in order to convert the Africans into the French citizens through improving the provision of social services.

iv.The association policy introduced new military law that requires Africans to serve in French army for a long period, while under assimilation policy the military laws required Africans to serve in the French army for a very short period of time so that they could become French citizens.

v.In the association policy, colonies were regarded as other colonies in Africa and thus they were not close to the colonial master, while the assimilation policy the colonies were regarded as their overseas provinces. Thus, the colonies were closely attached to the colonial master. 

vi.Association policy used local rulers in administration of the colonies unlike assimilation policy which never used chiefs in the administration of the colonies. 

vii.The association policy made the Africans to be regarded as second-class citizens, while the assimilation policy Africans enjoyed the privilege and rights that governed any French citizen in the metropolis. 

 Similarities between assimilation and association 

i.Both were western administration systems introduced in French colonies. 

ii.Both systems of administration aimed at plundering the natural resources of Africans. 

iii.Both systems were used by the France in administration of her colonies in Africa. She firstly applied assimilation and later changed to association or partnership policies

iv.Both systems undermined African culture. They despised the authorities of local rulers. Example, assimilation never used local rulers while association limited the authorities of local rulers. 

v.Both systems exploited Africans economically vi. Both systems used Africans to work for the interests of the colonialists. 

Similarities and differences between assimilation policy and indirect rule


i.Both systems employed the Africans at the lower level of administration. Both assimilation policy and indirect rule, the indigenous were used as assistances of colonialists at the lower level of administrative systems

ii.In both systems the laws were made by colonialists. In both systems, the policy making and laws were made by the European National assemblies and were sent for their implementation in the African colonies.

iii.Both systems were exploitative. In both systems, the main focus was to encourage the colonial economic interests, therefore, they applied different measures that exploited the African resources within the colonies. Also the white men occupied higher position in administration.

iv.Both were undermined African ways of life. Where African were no longer responsible to their subjects.

v.Both used the African chiefs in the administration. The chiefs were important officials in collecting taxes.


i.They were differing from their countries of origin.  The  systems  were  differ from their countries of origin. The indirect rule system was initiated by the British, while assimilation policy was initiated by the French colonialists.

ii.Different in its application. The systems were contrasted in its application, the assimilation policy tend to transformed African as the French citizen, while the indirect rule not attempted to do so

iii.Different in respecting  traditions  of  the  Africans.  The  systems  were  differ in respecting the tradition of their subjects. Indirect rule system respected tradition of selecting chiefs while the French did not respect it, where the administrative system was appointed by the French government.

iv.Indirect rule gave more power to the African chiefs than assimilation 

v.Indirect rule never gave chance to African as British citizen while assimilation treated African as their French citizen. 

The similarities between the association policy and direct rule 

i.Both were metropolitan administrative systems with one major interest of exploiting African resources and labor force. 

ii.Both systems destructed African culture especially local rule syste. 

iii.The two systems were characterized by the use of force and racial superiority. For instance, Germans who practiced direct rule felt superior to other races. 

iv.In both systems the authoritarian approach was used. For instance, African press, trade union and economic activities were suppressed by colonial governments. 

v.In both systems, colonial imperialists took control of their colonies for a long time, for example, the white settlers in Zimbabwe under direct rule and the French colonies in West Africa. 

vi.Both colonial administrative systems aimed at plundering the natural resources of Africa. 

The differences between the association policy and direct rule 

i.The association policy did not experience great enmity as it respected African culture, while direct rule experienced great enmity from Africans due to their harsh and brutal rule. 

ii.The association policy used local rulers while direct rule did not use local rulers in administration of the colonies. 

iii.Association policy created puppetism while direct rule system avoided Africans to become puppets to Europeans. 

iv.The association system has less cost of administration unlike direct rule which required many Europeans to perform administrative tasks which led to higher costs of administration. 

v.The direct rule system encouraged unity of Africans against the colonialists while association policy created classes among Africans therefore reduced their unity against the colonialists 

vi.The association system of administration was used by French government after the failure of assimilation while direct rule was used by German colonial power and British in area where they thought indirect system could not work. 

vii.In direct rule the European settlers’ population was big in colonies, while in association policy Africans were also allowed to live in their colonial master’s country. 

The similarities between association policy and indirect rule

i.Both colonial administrative systems used in African colonies. 

ii.Both systems used African intermediaries in their administration and preserved traditional methods of choosing leaders. 

iii.Both systems exploited Africans economically as they consolidated colonialism 

iv.In both policies whites occupied higher administrative posts, while the Africans occupied the lower positions in the administration. All offices from district officers, commissioners and governors were occupied by the British and the French. 

v.Both systems reduced African resistances against the colonialists. They delayed Africans awareness on exploitative policies established by the colonialist through local rulers. 

vi.Both systems used crude ways of ruling: exploiting, taxation and forced labor. 

 The differences between the association and indirect rule 

i.The association policy encouraged the French colonial administrators to respect the African culture, while the indirect rule system of administration disregarded the African traditional culture but only used traditional chiefs for their interests. 

ii.The association emphasized on the use of French language on her colonies, while the indirect rule considered and allowed the use of local and native languages together with English. 

iii.The association policy still maintained aim of transforming Africans into French by making the laws whereby noncitizens faced arbitrary arrest, serving the army for a long time, while the indirect rule made no attempt to transform the Africans. 

Similarities between the colonial administrative systems

i.All were created by Europeans. All the colonial administrative systems were created by the European colonial masters as mechanisms of administering the African colonies.

ii.All were presided over by the colonial states. All colonial administrative systems were presided over by the colonial states which represented the interests of the European capitalist power.

iii.They had similar objectives. All the systems had similar objectives that were to maintain law and order in the colonies so as to make the domination and exploitation of African easy.

iv.All systems favored the Europeans.  In all systems, white men were given priorities and favour as members of a superior race compared to Africans. All top position of leadership in the colonial governments were kept for the European colonialists.

v.All systems reflected the existence of colonialism in Africa. the colonial administrative systems were reflection of colonialism. The European colonialists established colonial rule by trying to make it acceptable to Africans who were unwilling to become their subordinate.

vi.Had the aim at promoting European culture. All    the    colonial administrative systems had the aim at promoting European culture and undermine the African culture and local administration

Impacts of colonial administrative systems

i.They   created   uneven   development   in   the   colonies.   Some   of   the administrative systems such as indirect rule caused regional or district imbalance in terms of development in the same colonies. For example, in northern Nigeria, where indirect rule was used, the region was isolated from the rest of Nigeria.

ii.They  created  poverty  and  other  forms  of  suffering  to  the  Africans. The colonial administrative policies focused primarily on fulfilling the European industrial demands. This situation created heavy exploitation to the Africans since their fertile land was occupied by European colonialists. The Africans lost their fertile land to Europeans; the situation caused poverty and other suffering to the Africans.

iii.They  destroyed  and  undermined  African  political  institutions.  The colonial administrative systems attacked and destroyed the African political institutions. The African traditional system of administration was totally disrupted as African chiefs could no longer exercise their judicial or executive power.

iv.They replaced African traditional laws. African traditional laws were replaced by unjust colonial laws. Some African countries inherited such laws. Through these administrative systems, the Europeans ruled the Africans for many decades.

v.They created mistreatment to the Africans. Mistreatment was  another effect of the colonial administrative systems. For example, some corrupt chiefs forced people to carry out orders from the colonial masters. There were heavy taxes that were imposed to the Africans. These taxes increased poverty to the Africans.

1.2 Colonial military and legal institltions

Explain the meaning of colonial military and colonial legal institutions

Colonial military and legal institutions refer to the coercive apparatus used in Africa during the colonial era. These institutions were responsible for keeping and maintaining the law, order and security in the colonies. The colonial military consisted of a body of soldiers from Europe and recruited African soldiers, police and prison, while the legal institution consisted of the code of laws and the courts which worked hand in hand with the colonial military.

Colonial military

Colonial military refers to the colonial armed forces that operated in Africa during colonial period which included both Europeans and Africans. They comprised the army, police and prison. The colonial military was established to support colonial state and protect both the internal and the external imperialist interests. Good examples included King’s African Rifles (KAR) established in Malawi in 1902 and the British Royal West African Frontier Forces which was a multi-battalion field force formed by the British colonial office in 1900 to garrison the West African colonies of Nigeria, Gold Coast (Ghana), Sierra Leone and Gambia. In 1928, it received royal support and became the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF).

Characteristics of colonial military

i.Were cohesive in nature. The colonial military relied on the use of force to enforce laws, order and security of the colony 

ii.The body of soldiers was formed by the top officials who came from Europe. The Africans administered at the bottom level 

iii.It had to support the colonial state in administration of the colony 

iv.The soldiers were taken from areas which supported colonialism and the service neglected the areas which challenged the colonial interests. 

v.It based on physical trainings than mental. The colonialists empowered soldiers with military techniques as per their original objectives. 

vi.Soldiers had to implement orders without questioning. vii. African soldiers were exploited through long working hours and low wages and poor living conditions and poor social services. 

viii. Based on racial segregation. The African soldiers were prevented from interacting with European soldiers though the suffered the same consequences at battle fields. 

Functions of the colonial military

i.To defend the colonial state from enemies. The colonial armed forces were established to defend the colonial administrators against internal and external pressure, like uprising of African against the colonialists from internal and external threats that would have threatened colonial interests

ii.To punish the African leaders who would appear to be stubborn. The colonial military penetrated into the interior parts of Africa for the purpose of maintaining order. It was given the power to punish the criminals, especially the African leaders who became troublesome and non cooperative to the colonial state by arrested them, deportation, jailing or killing.

iii.To supervise the colonial economic activities. The colonial armed forces supervised the colonial economic activities for the interests of colonialists. Colonial army was responsible in collection of taxes and construction of infrastructures such roads and railways

iv.To protect the colonial interests. The colonial military was a key factor in defending the interests of the imperialists. The massive forces were used by the colonial army to evict the Africans from their fertile land and gave the land to the colonial settlers.

v.To suppress African resistances. The colonial armed forces were also responsible for suppressing African resistance. The societies that tried to resist against colonial domination were suppressed by the colonial military.

vi.To involve the Africans in colonial economic activities. The colonial military was a vital instrument in developing the capitalist relation of production by involving Africans in colonial production activities. For example, Africans were involved in payment of taxes, cultivation of cash crops and forced labour.

Colonial legal institutions

Colonial legal institutions were the coercive state apparatus which dealt with legal matters during colonial period. They advised the colonial government, received people’s claims, provided guidelines and provided legal aid. In the British colonies, the legal institutions consisted of a council of elders, courts and the prison. The legal systems during colonial were managed by European judges who sentenced those who went against the oppressive colonial laws.

Functions of colonial legal institutions

i.They made laws and Acts that could govern the colonial states. The colonial legal institutions had the responsibilities to make laws and interpret them that under judicial supervision that helped colonialism in her objectives.

ii.They interpreting and enforcing the laws. Throughout the colonial Africa, the legal institutions had the responsibility for interpreting and enforcing laws as well as receiving and handling people’s claims. These laws forced the Africans to undertake various matters and responsibilities during colonial period.

iii.They suggested the amendments of laws. The legal institutions were also responsible for suggesting amendments of laws, Acts and ordinance. The amendments were largely influenced by various social, economic and political changes in the colony.

iv.They provided punishment to the law breakers. The colonial legal institutions had the power to punish law breakers by jailing people who were against colonialism though the judicial system.

v.They contributed to recruit cheap labour. The colonial legal institutions were the source of cheap labor because the prisoners were taken to supply cheap labor in various colonial economic activities.

LEGCO (legislative council)

Began in 1926 in Tanganyika and composed of 13 official members and 10 unofficial members. In 1945 after WW II, there was amendment whereby official members become 15 and 14 unofficial members. There were several divisions where 7 position of the unofficial members out of 14 given to Europeans, 3 positions given to Asian and 4 position occupied by Africans who were chiefs. A good example of African chiefs in the LEGCO in Tanganyika included, Abduel Shangali, chief Kidaa Makwahia and chief Adam Sapi.



Colonial state refers to the colonial extension of the metropolitan state; the colonial state was the first to be established after the scramble and partition before the establishment of colonial economy. The colonial state was to protect the bourgeoisie interests in the colonies. 

Thus, the colonial state was an instrument responsible for exploitation and oppression of the colonies. The colonial state was imposed from outside not from internal class struggle. Thus, it was the most violent. 

The primary objective of the colonial state was to create colonial economy that would respond to the demands of the metropolitan economies. It applied all the means to ensure the establish of Colonial economy is realized, through suffocating the self-sufficient African economy and establishes the money economy. Having no roots in Africa the colonial state used extreme violence to create such --- economy. Methods like conquest and suppression of African up rising were adopted, scorched - earth policy of warfare were applied in the areas of stiff resistance, which however were violently suppressed.


i. Colonial conquest, the violence of the colonial state was initially demonstrated in the process of colonial conquest itself. Most African societies put up stiff resistance against the colonial establishment, however they were violently suppressed. 

ii.  Destruction of African handcraft. Another violence of the colonial state in her bid to establish the money economy was manifested when it embarked on destruction of Africa’s handcraft. Throughout the colonial state the tradition crafts of Africans were declare illegal. In the Belgian colony of Congo, artisans had their limbs cut off when caught engaging in hand crafts.

iii.Collection of taxation, Violence of colonial state can also be traced at establishment of taxations to all adult African men. So as to force the African who operated self-sufficient economy to integrate into the money economy. Violence and force was very rampant during the collection and the enforcing of the taxation. The defaulters were tied up their hands together humiliated in the in the face of the public those who failed to pay totally were jailed to provide hard labor. 

iv.The liquidation of African trading interest was another violent method applied by the colonial state to break the backbone of African self-sufficient and sustaining economy. Africans violently were denied to participant in trade for example Jaja of Opobo and Nana Olum of Itsekir were crushed ruthlessly and deported to West Indies as to stop them from engaging into trade. It was only the European monopoly companies that were allowed to engage in trade.

v. Land alienation and cattle confiscation as method to establish the money economy also show how colonial state was violent in her struggle to realize her objectives. African arable land was simply grabbed by the colonists, as to reduce African as mere suppliers of cheap labor to the colonial plantations and white settler’s farms to earn the meager wage that were given to them.

vi. In searching and mobilizing for cheap labor to work in the colonial productions, the colonial state demonstrated maximum violence; Africans were forced to work in mines plantations and on colonial infrastructures corporal punishment were applied as to ensure maximum exploitation of African labor force. 


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