aof document

Rapport a/s des incidents du T.K.N. par l'Inspecteur de Police Moiret (no date [1924])
in AOF 5 M 491

© 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.

Go to Table of Contents Read Disclaimer

This 8-page report describes various incidents of violence and theft by railroad workers (see documents) and connects them to the arrival of "Moroccans" in July 1924. The Moroccans were a group of mixed French subjects that included Spaniards, Italians and Algerians. The first incidents occurred in early August 1924.

The incidents were the result of a new system of management in the workshops (ateliers). Previously, Africans directed Africans in the workshops, but after the Moroccans arrived, they were put in charge of workshops staffed by Africans. Although that increased efficiency, it also increased friction due to the loss of leisure time by African workers, and the attitude of the new bosses. The new bosses refused to listen to African complaints and responded with statements like "Au Maroc, les indigenes n'ont pas la parole. Ici, c'est moi qui commande, et toi, sale nègre, tu n'as rien à dire" (In Morocco, the natives have no right to speak. Here, I am in charge and you, dirty nigger, have no right to speak). Such insults led to fighting.

(p2) European shop leaders often threatened to hit Africans and that led to claims by Africans that the Europeans started the altercations.

On September 25, 1924, two mechaniciens auxiliaires were fired - Amadou Togo and Ismačl Sow. Togo remained in the worker's village at Kilometer 2 and convinced other workers to quit in protest. He claimed that he was fired for refusing to operate an unsafe machine, and according to the French authorities, he remained a source of dangerous propaganda.

(p3) Ismačl Sow remained in Thiès and agitated as well. On October 1, 1924, the morning 15-minute break was canceled. This penalized the railroad workers because they no longer had time to return to their homes during the break. This measure provoked a lot of resistance and workers demanded that at least one man from each group be allowed to return to the village each morning.

On October 3, 1924, there was a meeting at 22h00 led by Réné Villon, a mulatto, and various Africans including Sow, Togo and others. (There were no Soudanese present, but the meeting did include members of the "Société des jeunes employés et ouvriers du Thiès-Kayes-Niger" like President Kader). Moustaph M'Baye was also a ringleader at the meeting.

(p4) Réné Villon called for a strike, but received little support. M'Baye told them not to hit Europeans because when that happened, the African always lost. M'Baye was quoted as saying "Nous avons d'autre moyens pour nous venger. Nous avons le temps" (We have other ways to get back. We can take out time.), but M'Baye did not specify what those moyens were. There was talk of writing letters to the Directeur du Chemin de Fer de Thiès-Kayes-Niger and to newspapers.

The workers also complained that overtime hours weren't always paid and that the money went directly into European pockets.

They mentioned specific Europeans who were known for their brutality: Menage (chef de traction), Cetran (chef du depďt principal), and Sizaire (chef de bureau du services matières).

After inquirires, the police reported that Cetran and especially Menage were good adminisatrators who were respected by Europeans and most Africans, but who had trouble with lazy workers. The majority of the 500 Africans at the depot respected them, including some who had worked there for more than 20 years. Sizaire had trouble controlling his mouth and used words like "sauvage ... sale nègre ... mal blanchi" (savage ... dirty nigger ... unbleached) to his workers.

On October 10, 1924, a detachment of tirailleurs arrived to guard the depot, prompting new protests by workers who compared the workshops to a prison.

(p6) Another meeting on October 12, 1924 featured lots of strike talk, led by Villon. Serigné Niang reported that he'd spoken to the newspapers and the Maire de Rufisque (mayor of Rufisque, east of Dakar).

(p7) One worker, Souleyman N'Diour, spoke at the end of the meeting: "Vous etes d'accord pour faire grève a la fin du mois; moi, je suis sûr qu'a la fin du mois, il n'y aura pas de grève du tout. Peut-etre il y en aura 2 ou 3 d'entre vous, car je vous connais yous. Vous n'avez pas de parole." This can be translated as "You have agreed to strike at the end of the month, but I am sure there will be no strike. Maye two or three of you [will strike] but I know you. You do not have the will." This prompted cries of "ta guele" (shut up) which ended the meeting.

Inspecteur de Police Moiret thought that it was unlikely that anything concrete could come out of such a meeting because the work force was made up of Oulof, Bambara and Mossi people. The Oulof didn't get along with the Bambara and the Bambara didn't get along with the Mossi.

Even though the threat of a strike seemed small, there was still a lot of theft. The police suspected that it was done by railroad workers who had already been subject to disciplinary action. The police reacted by keeping them under surveillance.

(p8) An additional problem was due to the physical condition of the Directeur du chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes-Niger. He was old, sick and unable to exercise effective leadership.