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Here comes a brief outline of the constitutional position and functions of the Governor-General under French colonial administration in West Africa between 1919 and 1945
French colonial rule in West Africa was organized into a federation. The Federation of French West Africa was headed by a Governor-General who was appointed by the French government to oversee the administration of the territories.
The position of the Governor-General in French West Africa
1. As the representative of the French government, the Governor-General acted as the link between metropolitan France and French West Africa. He was based in Dakar, Senegal, capital of the federation
2. The Governor-General in French West Africa was also responsible to the French government through the minister responsible for the colonies.
3. The Governor-General was, at the same time, the vehicle through which all major policies from Paris went down to the colonies. No one could deal directly with Paris without his consent.
Functions and Powers of the Governor-General in French West Africa
1. One key function performed by the Governor-General in French West Africa was that he implemented and supervised all policies that emanated from metropolitan France to the federation back in West Africa.
2. He was responsible for the appointment, discipline, and dismissal of senior government officials within the federation.
The only exception to this power of the Governor in French West Africa was the appointment of the Lieutenant Governors, Magistrates, and Directors of Local services.
3. In theory, the Governor-General in French West Africa could not legislate for the federation but he was authorized to modify or amend the laws to suit local conditions. In addition, he could make recommendations to the minister for the colonies for the enactment of particular laws for the Federation of French West Africa.
4. The Governor-General in French West Africa recommended persons for election to citizenship status. Under the French policy of assimilation, citizenship was reserved for Africans born within the four communes of Senegal namely Dakar, St. Louis, Goree, and Rufisque.
Africans living outside the four communes were classified as subjects. The subjects could only be elevated to citizenship if they satisfied certain conditions.
5. The Governor-General in the Federation of French West Africa also controlled the preparation of the federation’s budget for onward transmission to metropolitan France for approval. He also controlled the revenue that accrued from taxes.
6. He supervised the administration and enforcement of the indigenat, a French code of discipline which required instant or on-the-spot punishment to offenders without recourse to a fair trial
7. Finally, the Governor-General in the Federation of French West Africa exercised the power of the prerogative of mercy. This power enabled him to pardon convicted criminals.