A Kingdom in Check

A highly political sequence of events took place at the end of World War I in the Sanwi Kingdom, an Ivorian society settled at the border with the Gold Coast. In 1917, the Sanwi population’s demands concerning reduction of forced labor and taxes, as well as local sovereignty, were officially rejected by the French colonial administration. Having exhausted their legal pleas and administrative recourses, massive exile into adjacent regions of the British-ruled Gold Coast was resorted to as a new stage in their struggle. Twenty thousand people left, for two years. The magnitude of this attempt, the variety of means employed by the actors and the specific stakes of this movement were never fully accounted for by historians. Yet, it shows how “on the ground” relations of power in colonial situations were versatile and multi-layered constructions. This exile was designed at the crossroad of pre-colonial networks of African families and commerce but operating within a trans-imperial regional space invested with heavy political stakes. This chapter seeks to illuminate how African actors were able to create resistance strategies by diverting both imperial material and local devices. Exile shows itself, beyond colonial or “indigenous” categories, as an innovative political endeavor.

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