Africa Today 50.3 (2004) 145-147
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IFAN Ch. A. Diop has released a book in interview format that focuses on the life and thought of Abdoulaye Ly, a Senegalese historian and political figure. The preface, by Dibril Samb, Director of IFAN, establishes Ly's [End Page 145] importance in Senegalese history, both personally and academically. Samb lists Ly along with Léopold Senghor, Mamadou Dia, and Cheikh Anta Diop as the leading figures in modern Senegalese intellectual history. The avant-propos is by members of the research team, headed by Boubacar Fall, that was responsible for conducting the interviews with Ly. This research effort grew out of a workshop on the collection of oral testimony held at the École Normale Supérieure in 1994. The three interviews featured, conducted in August and September of that year, were results of that project.
The first interview consists of two parts. The first part covers Ly's family background, education, and World War II experiences, as well as his career as a research fellow at IFAN. Ly came from a maraboutic family and attended private schools in St. Louis and Dakar. His classmates included the white children of French businessmen and government agents, and talented African students from the Four Communes and the interior, some from as far away as Dahomey and Togo. Ly discusses how African children were influenced by French education, noting that it confered both an advantage and a contradiction on them. This contradiction, to which he returns later, is that of being a Muslim African and at the same time a French citizen. Ly pursued his higher education in France and during World War II served in the French army, where he was witness to "the debacle."
After completing his studies, Ly returned to Senegal in 1952 and joined the IFAN staff as a research fellow. He was trained and influenced by AOF (Afrique Occidentale française) archivist Andre Villard, author of Histoire du Sénégal. He also received guidance from Charles André Julien while in France. Ly credits Villard and Julien with helping him understand the value of the study of history, especially for Africans. Ly became director of the history section at IFAN in 1955.
The second part outlines Ly's political career. He discuses the evolution of political organizations in Senegal from the political "clans" based on charismatic leaders, such as Blaise Diagne and Lamine Guèye, to true political parties based on issues in the postwar period. The two most important parties by 1948 were Guèye's Parti Socialiste Sénégalais (PSS) and the Bloc Démocratique Sénégalais (BDS), founded by Senghor and Mamadou Dia. The BDS emerged as Senegal's leading party after its victory in the 1951 legislative elections. Ly discusses Senghor's subsequent attempt to group the parties together to create an anticolonial front. Senghor, Ly argues, embraced African socialist ideology in the early 1950s to attract young activists. He renamed his party the Bloc Populaire Sénégalais after merging it with the UDS, an ideological party affiliated with the French Communist Party. The process continued up to the merger in April of 1958 with Guèye's Socialist Party to form L'Union Progressiste Sénégalaise (UPS), which won a strong majority in the 1959 national elections.
The second interview focuses on Ly's own party, the PRA-Sénégal. Senghor, whose UPS was supported by religious leaders of the interior who had close links with the colonial government, urged a "yes" vote in De Gaulle's 1958 referendum on continued association with France. Ly, arguing for immediate independence, broke with the UPS and formed the [End Page 146] PRA-Sénégal (Parti du Regroupement Africain-Sénégal), campaigning for a "no" vote. The PRA-Sénégal's "no" campaign was rebuffed, and Senghor went on to become...