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  • Le Code de l'indigénat: Ou le fondement des Etats autocratiques en Afrique francophone by Gilbert Doho
  • Suzanne Ondrus
Le Code de l'indigénat: Ou le fondement des Etats autocratiques en Afrique francophone BY GILBERT DOHO Paris: L'Harmattan, 2017 297 pp. ISBN 9782343099453 paper.

Gilbert Doho's Le Code de l'indigénat: Ou le fondement des États autocratiques en Afrique francophone reveals the systematic and layered oppressive French colonial laws in order to pave a path forward out of "…des monstruosités sur lesquelles nous sommes assis depuis l'aube de la colonization" '… the monstrosities upon which we have been sitting since the dawn of colonization.' It is essential to know "…leur origin, leur nature, leur fonctionnement" 'their origins, their nature and their way of functioning' so that finally there might be an end to France's legacy of terror (12). Doho has been researching archived penal codes since 1990, and this [End Page 266] text features archival research on the executive orders by colonial administrators, otherwise referred to as codes, from Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Benin, Gabon, Cameroon, Togo, Congo, and Mauritania. The codes, which were never voted on in the Assembly in Paris, were adopted and changed for each country at the whims of the administrator. However, they all reveal total control of property, space, time, behavior, and thought.

Doho's thesis, in line with Aimé Césaire's Discours on Colonialism, posits that French colonialism is equivalent to Nazism, slavery, and the Holocaust. He explains that colonialism is genocide, for a specific group was targeted for total subjugation: "Coloniser fut un crime pensé et la République française se doit de payer l'addition" 'Colonialism was a planned and thought out crime, and the French republic should pay the bill' (16). Colonialism was not just something that occurred as a by-product or by chance. Doho argues that colonialism was "…légiféré et légalisé" 'legislated and legalized' (25) and planned and meticulously executed "Today's failures," i.e., the bankrupt and corrupt Francophone states that are unable to deliver goods to their citizens. By handpicking the leaders of new nations, writing the constitutions and laws, France deliberately created the condition for the rise of autocracies since 1960, so that "La permanence du colonial est tapie au fond de ces dictatures et États fantômes" "Colonial permanence is lurking in the depths of these dictatorships and in the ghost states" (45).

The colonials ruled by exception; that is changing laws to maintain their power and objectives. On the international stage De Gaulle modeled punishment, surveillance, and repression (37). The underlying French colonial ideology was that the French were divine; thus theatrical punishments and total legislated subjugation were instruments used to maintain power (281). Doho contends that France's unforgivable crime was that it passed the mechanism of subjugation to the handpicked leaders of the new nations leaders: real "Benevolent Tyrants" to perpetrate France's hegemony (283). Doho urges the opening of archives and the dissemination of Indigenat codes so that people can understand the establishment of their present societies' structures, which emanated from France's institutionalized terror and racism.

This is an accessible book that could even be used in an upper level French class and is obligatory reading for anyone in the field of Africana studies; as such it demands an immediate English translation. Each chapter has an overview of a specific country's colonial situation and highlights its penal code, which are included in an appendix. Doho nods to African films, novels, and academic texts to further explain the colonial reign of terror systematically carried out through written and legislated law. Doho's work is in dialogue with Charles Didier Gondola, Armelle Mabon, and Jean-Francois Medard and promises to inspire much further research. [End Page 267]

Suzanne Ondrus
John Carroll University


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pp. 266-267
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