aof document

Inspection Général de Travail, "Renseignements sur la grève des cheminots africains au Soudan"
(October 1947 - February 1948)
in AOF K 457 (179)

© 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.

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Everything entitled "Renseignement" has the look of a police report. At the top of each report, a source and valeur were specified; i.e. "Africain du Service, B2," "Européen A."

Renseignement (September 9, 1947)

M. Sarr visited Kayes on (September 9, 1947) , arriving by express, where he was met by a crowd of cheminots. Om (September 10, 1947) , he visited various services (divisions) of the railroad and presided at a meeting. M. Sarr was at Tambacounda on (September 7-8, 1947) when he ignored administration requests/demands/orders to return to Dakar for further meetings. Instead, he promised to visit all of the colonies of AOF in order to assure cheminots that their demands would be met.

Inspecteur Général du Travail à Koulouba, Note pour l'Inspecteur Général du Travail à Dakar, n°334 IT/SC (October 30, 1947)

This is a report of two derailments. On October 24, 1947, a train derailed near Koulikoro while hauling fire wood for the Centrale Electrique de Bamako. It was operated by Europeans and loaded by forced laborers (deuxième portion du contingent). This report asserts that the accident was definitely due to sabotage, but there was little material damage and the track was clear within 24 hours.

The other derailment took place on October 27, 1947 near Kati. The Dakar-Bamako Express derailed due to technical problems.

The telegraph lines of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Niger were cut regularly, so the chef du gare de Bamako was limited to sending messages via the PTT in order to communicate with the railroad administration in Thiès.

Rapport du Capitain Pontjean, Commandant la section de gendarmerie de Bamako, n°162/4 (Bamako: October 25, 1947)

Capt. Pontjean of the Bamako gendarmerie reported that the Koulikoro-Bamako train was sabotaged on October 24, 1947. Railroad employees saw some men run into the bush near where the train derailed, but no one was arrested. RR employees also reported that the rails had been loosened and bent outward, but they noticed it too late to stop the train from derailing.

Rapport du Capitain Pontjean, Commandant la section de gendarmerie de Bamako, n°158/4 (Bamako, October 11, 1947)

As of midnight on October 10-11, 1947, extra police (un demi-peloton à pied de gendarmerie) were assigned to guard the locomotive yards and warehouse for the Section de Petite Vitesse.

European railroad employees thought that a principal cause of the strike was the unrealistic promises made by Ministre FOM in spring 1947 to African cheminots. Europeans believed that the strike was intended to embarass the minister.

Renseignement Inspecteur Général du Travail à Kayes, n°113 (November 4, 1947)

Following an announcement by Ibrahima Sarr to continue the strike following the arbitration decision, Madiop Basse, the union representative in Kayes, called a meeting.

Some cheminots complained that they were short of food and the Dakar-Niger cooperative didn't have enough rice, oil, sugar or soap. They wanted the strike to end soon, but didn't dare return to work on their own.

One striker shouted that some earned 20,000 francs per month while others got only 1,500 francs per month, and that a better average salary was needed. He also shouted that the railroad should get rid of useless employees, including some Europeans.

Cercle de Bafoulabé to Gouverneur du Soudan Française,
telegram-letter n°93/c. (November 8, 1947)

The cheminots in Bafoulabé resented the strike, but chef de gare Kone at Mahina kept them from deserting the strike.

Inspecteur Général du Travail, Renseignement, n°199 (November 10, 1947)

There was a meeting in Kayes led by Ibrahima Sarr and other Senegalese union members including Aysine Fall of Dakar, Demba Kholle of Guinguineo, Baba M'Bodj of Diourbel, and Omar N'Dir the marie-adjoint of Dakar. They stayed at Madiop Basse's house in Kayes and held their meeting at Tiémoko Diarra's cabaret on November 10, 1947 at 15h00.

M. Sarr referred to the Gouverneur Général de l'AOF's threats of legal action against him. He addressed specific remarks directly to police informants in the crowd, including "Je vous réponds, vous colporteurs de nouvelles, que vous avez menti, que notre victoire ou notre défaite sera la victoire ou la défaite de tous les travailleurs africains de la Fédération qu'ils soient agents de l'administration locale ou du commerce, etc..."

This is roughly translated as "I answer you, those who carry tales, that you have lied, that our victory or our defeat will be the victory or the defeat of all African workers in the Federation, whether they work for the government or for private business."

"Nous avons été hier dans les mêmes tranchées que les Français pour défendre la France; aujourd'hui un cadre unique pour blancs et noirs n'est pas possible."

This translates to "Yesterday, we fought in the same trenches along side the French to defend France, but today a single wage scale for whites and blacks is impossible [to grant]."

The union leaders also referred to a letter of support from SNCF union members that had recently appeared in L'AOF, the SFIO (socialist) newspaper in Dakar on November 4, 1947. It was signed by J. Crapier of the Société Fédérale des Cheminots Metropolitains.

There was a rumor recently that M. Sarr got money from Houphouet-Boigny of Cë Ivoire, Djim Guèye the Conseilleur de l'Union Française du Sénégal, and Omar Dir, adjoint de marie à Dakar.

M. Sarr and the other men had planned to continue by train to Bamako, but an outbreak of yellow fever in Bamako forced them to cancel their plans.

As of November 13, 1947, no one had returned to work.

Renseignement, n°205 (November 13, 1947)

M. Sarr's visit strengthened African resolve in Kayes. Only Diallo Diallo, the chef de gare at Kayes-Ville, returned to work. He was immediately censured by the union. (Diallo was in the cadre commun supérieur and reported to M. Parenteau.)

Renseignement, "Reunion de la Commission Executive
des Syndicats du Soudan" (November 17, 1947)

A meeting on November 16, 1947 was led by Abdulaye Diallo, president. The representatives of various unions pledged money to support the cheminots and to ask the French CGT for help.

Renseignement d'Archives, n°207 (November 18, 1947)

In Bamako, there was a rumor that 500 men from the SNCF were about to arrive. A union of small merchants and various political parties offered money to the striking cheminots. Press coverage was Générally favorable. Abdul Karim Sow, Sécretaire Général of the SFIO at Thiès, pledged to get help from the Syrian merchant community, but had not yet produced any results.

Renseignement (December 6, 1947)

The Chemin de Fer Dakar-Niger at Bamako only obtained about 100 of the 400 unskilled workers that it needed.

Inspecteur Général du Travail, "Note pour Inspecteur Général du Travail de l'AOF,"
n°18/c (Bamako, 7 February 1948)

Despite Fily Dabo Sissoko's call for cheminots to return to work on February 2, 1948, only 7 cheminots did so in Bamako: 1 in the Service de l'exploitation,< /a> 3 in the Service de la voie, 3 in the Service de traction.

Renseignement (February 9, 1948)

The construction industry in the French Soudan was "en sommeil" for lack of construction materials (due to the rail strike.)

A few employees returned to work. 4 at Bamako; the station master and personnel of the railroad station at Kati; 2 assistant station masters (sous-chefs de gare) and 2 office workers (employées du bureau) at Toukoto. However, there was no reason to think that anyone else would return to work. In fact, some striking employees who returned and were rehired at their previous salaries went back out on strike again.

More European cheminots were due to arrive.

Strikers were kicked out of their lodging, sometimes by force. Two of the ringleaders (meneurs) at Mahina were expelled from their quarters - chef de gare Kone and chef de reserve Faniame.

The millet harvest was short but peanuts were good. A shortage of gasoline made it hard to get produce to centers like Kayes. The rice harvest was good at Ségou, but only so-so at Mopti and Bougouni.

The administrator at Kita ordered the S.P. (Société de Prévoyance??) closed at Toukoto in order to avoid criticism.

Supplies of European goods were critical. There was no wine, sugar or flour at Kayes and little at Mahina. Even the prices of local produce went up, like potatoes at Kati which rose to 30 francs/kilogram (from either 7 or 17 francs/kilogram, can't read it).

Inspecteur Général du Travail du Soudan Française to Inspecteur Général du Travail de l'AOF, letter n°19/c (Bamako, February 12, 1948)

Statistics on strikers who returned to work on February 2, 1948:

Station Normal
work force
Number who
returned to work
Négala 4 3
Kassaro 1 1
Kita 11 5
Toukoto 45 5
Sébékoro 9 2
Boulouli 3 1
Badinko 3 3
Total 76 20

For the entire section of railroad from Bamako to Toukoto, only 16 cadres out of 101 and 21 out of 332 auxiliaires returned to work. In addition, 91 new auxiliaires were hired and 40 SNCF employees arrived. 16 of the Europeans went to Bamako, 20 to Kayes and 4 to Toukoto.

With this limited staff, the railroad was able to operate one passenger train in each direction per week and one freight train in each direction per day.

This report also includes a copy of the promise from Governor Nicolas to cheminots who returned to work, plus a criticial addendum by Diarra, Secretaire-Adjoint du Syndicat des cheminots Africains.