Conditions in Gao (1943)
|Notes © 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.|
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This dossier contains the results of a study made in 1943. The cover letter (no.1045) is addressed to M. Pleven, Commissaire aux Colonies in the town of Fromentin (near the coast west of Algiers). It was sent by le Directeur Adjoint du Cabinet in Algiers and dated 25 October 1943. It was typewritten on stationary from "Le Cabinet du Général de Gaulle." It includes four reports entitled "Note sur le standard de vie indigène à Gao," "Note sur la situation politique à Gao," "Note sur la situation des indigènes à Gao," and "Situation à Gao."
The main conclusion of this report is that workers at Gao are underpaid and therefore undernourished. The note contrasts this with the practice of the Americans at Dakar, who pay roughly 50 francs per day, a figure that corresponds with the cost of living there. In Gao, workers are paid 7 francs per day, but receive nothing else. From this, they must feed, lodge and clothe themselves. In addition, they are frequently married or take care of other adults, so each worker supports an average of 3 adults and 2 children.
The official daily ration for a worker in Gao:
|500 grams rice||1.25 francs|
| 250 grams meat or |
75 grams dried fish
|1.25 to 2.5 francs|
|20 grams salt||0.10 francs|
|50 grams butter||0.50 francs|
|2 grams condiments||0.50 francs|
|Total||3.60 to 4.85 francs|
Since this is divided between an average of five persons, that means that each worker is undernourished and thus unable to provide a satisfactory day's work.
There is also a "Note sur la Société de Prevoyance" that says the local people resent being restricted to such meager rations while they harvest abundant quantities of rice. They believe that their elected officials (NOTE: there are no such beings in 1943) should take charge of the Société de Prévoyance and that would take care of the problem.
From observations made at meetings designed to encourage membership in the resistance, the Comité de Gao reports that only one quarter of the officers can be trusted, there are only three Gaullists and two or three "indifferents" among the government employees. All the rest are Vichyite and even pro-German, and roughly three-fourths of the merchants are Vichyites.
The largest subscribers to the lottery designed to raise money for the resistance were Gaullists, Africans or Syrians.
The report recommends a purge in the near future because there are rumors that the Americans are going to support a Petainist government and the situation will continue to get worse.
Africans are 99% in favor of de Gaulle and the Comité de la Liberation Nationale because it is represented as the defender of liberty and justice.
Vichyite authorities and their African collaborators continue to apply the Code Penal du 1941 to harass their opponents, even though it is no longer valid. They charge opponents with "opposition a l'authorité."
The Sociétés de Prévoyance, operated by Vichyites, buy cattle from the Africans to sell in the English colonies. Once the war is over, this trade will be returned to the hands of Africans.
An English pound goes for 500-600 AOF francs in the English colonies, but only 176 AEF francs. For some reason (that is not explained here) this makes the Africans believe that the Vichy government is "encore un peu vivant."
African salaries are too low, yet some employers use a variety of means to reduce them further, such as withholding pay for the day when someone is five minutes late. As a result, monthly salaries are sometimes as low as 130-150 francs instead of the 182 francs (26 days X 7 francs per day) that they should be.
For the moment, Africans have placed all their hope in de Gaulle. The Comité will need to produce quick results if it wants to keep their allegiance.
This document describes the pro-Vichy activities of a number of people in Gao less than a year after the "surrender" of AOF to the Americans and their Free French allies. Apparently Gaullists were in the minority. The document is signed by Alibert (Géomètre), Paul Hilaire (Service des PTT), Menard (Douanes), Wafy (commerçant) and Girard (no description) at Gao, plus Pasteur Mabille at Bamako.