In Memoriam Fily Dabo Sissoko (1900-1924)

Fily Dabo Sissoko (1900-1964)
Fily Dabo Sissoko (1900-1964)

L’article intitulé “Le bâton et le caïman, ou Fily Dabo Sissoko et la France” est extrait d’Etudes africaines : offertes à Henri Brunschwig (Paris : Editions de l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences sociales, 1982). Le document est désormais  accessibles sur webAfriqa, de même que “Les armées peul de l’Adamawa au 19e siècle”, dont l’auteur est l’historien Thierno Mouctar Bah, et que j’introduis séparément.

Henri Brunschwig (1904-1989)
Henri Brunschwig (1904-1989)

Remarquable ouvrage, Etudes africaines : offertes à Henri Brunschwig est le fruit d’une préparation experte par des spécialistes de grande renommée : Jan Vansina, C. H. Perrot, R. Austen, Yves Person, et al.

Biographie de Fily Dabo Sissoko

Sous la plume de P. Brasseur l’article sur la carrière enseignante et politique de Fily Dabo Sissoko (1900-1964) est fouillé et riche. Fily fut l’un des premiers instituteurs d’école  dans l’Empire Colonial de la Troisième République (1870-1940).
Sous le régime du Front Populaire (1936-1938), il fut nommé chef de canton de cercle. A l’avènement de la Quatrième République (1946-1958), il inaugura — avec Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Lamine Guèye, Yacine Diallo, Léopold Sédar Senghor, etc. — l’ère de la politique partisane en Afrique Occidentale Française.

Dans Le congrès de Bamako, ou la naissance du RDA Pierre Kipré fait un compte-rendu partisan et  subjectif sur Fily. Il passe notamment sous silence la fin tragique et ignominieuse de cette grande figure sous la dictature de Modibo Keita, président de la République du Mali (ex-Soudan français).

La contribution de Paul Brasseur fourmille de détails sur le parcours de combattant de Fily Dabo Sissoko. Ce faisant, elle contre-balance le  jugement coloré et l’opinion réductrice de Pierre Kipré.

On est reconnaissant à l’aréopage d’intellectuels européens qui ont redigé et édité ce livre. D’une pierre, ils font plusieurs coups. Au prime abord leur travail  honore Henri Brunschwig, historien lucide de l’Afrique coloniale et post-coloniale. En même temps l’ouvrage dégage la personnalité et restitue partiellement l’action, l’oeuvre et la mémoire de Fily Dabo Sissoko.

Bibliographie de Brunschwig sur l’Afrique :

  • La Colonisation française, Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 1949.
  • Histoire de la colonisation, Paris, SDMOM, 1953.
  • L’Expansion allemande outre-mer du xve siècle à nos jours, Paris, 1957.
  • Mythes et réalités de l’impérialisme colonial français, 1871-1914, Paris, Armand Colin, 1960.
  • L’avènement de l’Afrique noire, Paris, Armand Colin, 1963.
  • Brazza explorateur. L’Ogooué 1875-1879, Paris, Mouton, 1966.
  • Le Partage de l’Afrique noire, Paris, Flammarion, “Questions d’histoire”, 1971.
  • Ed. : Brazza explorateur. Les traités Makoko, 1880-1882, Paris, Mouton, 1972.
  • Noirs et Blancs dans l’Afrique noire française, Paris, Flammarion, 1983.
  • L’Afrique noire au temps de l’impérialisme français, Paris, Denoël, 1988.

Tierno S. Bah

Colonisation, littérature et livre

Revue du Livre : Afrique noire, Maghreb, Caraïbes, Océan Indien. L'Harmattan. Paris. 2005. 175 p. Avec le concours du Ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Ministère de la Coopération Littérature guinéenne N° 88/89 Juillet septembre 1987. 203 pages
Revue du Livre : Afrique noire, Maghreb, Caraïbes, Océan Indien. L’Harmattan. Paris. 2005. 175 p. Avec le concours du Ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Ministère de la Coopération
Littérature guinéenne
N° 88/89 Juillet septembre 1987. 203 pages

En préparation de “Conakry, capitale mondiale du Livre”, le rouleau publicitaire s’est mis en marche depuis le début du mois. Jeune Afrique, par exemple, a fait son publireportage usuel. A Conakry, menés tambour battant par L’Harmattan-Guinée, des éditeurs de la place ont associé des auteurs. La plupart de ceux/celles-ci écrivent des romans — dont certains à prétention littéraire —, des ouvrages d’histoire et des biographies. Qu’en est-il des dizaines d’autres genres : science (nature, vie, société), métiers, technologie, arts, etc. ?
La désignation de Conakry comme matrice planétaire du Livre pour 2017 est incompréhensible parce qu’elle manque de considérations adéquates et de justifications logiques. Les critères de ce choix relèvent de la cécité de la bureaucratie UNESCO et dela fuite en avant perpétuelle des régimes guinées, toujours prêts à paraître sans être. Ajoutons à cela l’entregent commercial et le marketing local tous azimuts de la succursale de L’Harmattan, la maison d’édition parisienne.
En vérité, il manque à la Guinée l’essentiel de l’infrastructure et des ressources qui auraient pu faire de l’évènement un succès relatif. Il s’agit notamment de:

  • La production et la distribution suffisantes d’énergie électrique, d’eau, de nourriture et de soins
  • Un taux national d’alphabétisation supérieur à 75 %
  • Une industrie de fabrication et de circulation de la chose imprimée :  livres, journaux,  revues. En français et dans les langues du pays !
  • Des écoles et universités équipées de bibliothèques à jour
  • Des associations actives d’auteurs dans des domaines divers
  • Un réseau public de bibliothèques, d’archives et de musées couvrant tout le territoire
  • La participation à la Révolution numérique, qui concurrence le livre imprimé et impose les publications électroniques

    Fardeaux historiques

Dans le domaine névralgique de la création et de la distribution du savoir, des fardeaux historiques lourds pèsent sur l’Afrique, en général, et la Guinée, en particulier. Je veux parler de:

  • La colonisation européenne marquée par la domination politique, l’exploitation économique, et l’aliénation culturelle.
  • La post-colonisation, qui, comme l’a correctement prédit Frantz Fanon, a consisté à la substitution d’une bourgeoisie exploiteuse étrangère par son ersatz domestique.

En l’occurrence, le président guinéen, Alpha Condé, est plus soucieux d’effectuer de fréquents voyages. Il ne lui vient pas l’idée de se sédentariser à Conakry, de séjourner dans le pays profond au contact des paysans, ou de rebrousser les manches pour chercher comment combler le retard de plus en plus accusé de la Guinée.

Président Condé tient à noyer le poisson dans l’eau. Soutenu par un Parlement chambre-à-écho de ses diktats et desiderata, il viole et violente la Constituton. Et impose une loi scélérate. Rédigée par des plumes serviles aux ordres du “professeur” autocrate, elle vise à étouffer la justice. Et elle entérine l’impunité. Des personnalités civiles, des religieux (l’Imam et l’Archevêque de Conaky) se prêtent à la mascarade. Ce faisant, ils amplifient la confusion et participent, délibérément et obséquieusement, à une autre trahison de la Guinée par ses fils et filles. Qu’ils soient hommes de la soutane ou du turban, du chapelet ou de la croix, les prêtres savent pourtant que la Bible et le Qur’an proclament les Dix Commandements du Créateur. Le premier de ces ordres divins dit : “Tu ne tueras point !” Il se trouve malheureusement que depuis 1958 l’Etat guinéen transgresse impunément ce commandement. Le meurtre de citoyens est devenu chez lui un réflexe naturel et un recours permanent. Rien qu’en mars dernier une dizaine de personnes ont péri par la violence d’Etat.
Il revient au système judiciaire seul d’enquêter et de juger ces crimes, qui remontent à plus d’un demi-siècle, y inclus le massacre du 28 septembre 2009.

Colonisation : savoir d’où l’on vient

On ne peut pas savoir où l’on va si l’on ne sait d’où on vient, rappelle le dicton. Pour tenter de cerner les dilemmes et les défis qui se posent aux organisateurs de “Conakry, capitale mondiale du Livre”, je soumets à l’attention des lecteurs et lectrices les publications et compilations suivantes :

Monologue élitiste et analphabétisme des masses

L’élite francophone se démène comme un beau diable pour la réussite de “Conakry, capitale mondiale du Livre”. Jouissant d’une maîtrise variable de la langue française, elle s’enferme dans un monologue narcissique, se parlant et s’écoutant parler seule. A l’exclusion et en totale disjonction d’avec la majorité “afriphone” de la population.  Son comportement ne leurre qu’elle seule. Car après un demi-siècle d’indépendance et de souveraineté, les masses populaires ont peut-être perdu tout espoir d’émancipation, clouées qu’elles sont dans l’analphabétisme culturel et fonctionnel. Et les langues nationales en pâtissent, bien sût. Non par le choix des administrés, mais du fait de la dictature pérenne et de la faillite coupable des dirigeants.

Tierno S. Bah

Chiffres, histoire et politicards

Béatrice Appia, Gouverneur Louis Blacher, en famille. France 1932
Béatrice Appia, Gouverneur Louis Blacher, en famille. France 1932

Les chiffres des deux tableaux ci-dessous sont contenus dans un document intitulé “Rapport de 1937 sur la situation économique du Cercle de Labé”. Il est conservé aux Archives nationales à Conakry, où je l’ai scanné en 2002. Il s’agit là de données matérielles l’histoire de la Guinée Française durant la première moitié du 20è siècle. Elles contredisent et annulent les agitations stériles de certains politicards guinéens du 21ème siècle. En l’occurrence Mansour Kaba, l’auteur de la chimère du Manden-Jalon et son ancien allié et complice : président Alpha Condé.

Parmi les nombreux rapports de l’inspecteur général 2ème Classe des Colonies  Huet, figure le document intitulé “Situation Economique du Cercle de Kankan”, publié également en 1937. Huet effectua sa mission sous le gouvernement du Front Populaire. L’alliance comprenait :

Le règne du FP prit fin en 1938, alors que les nuages du fascisme s’épaississaient. Hitler et ses alliés de l’Axe plongeront le monde dans la deuxième guerre mondiale à partir de 1939.

En Guinée Française le FP nomma l’Antillais Louis Blacher comme gouverneur du Territoire. Mais les rigueurs et les exactions de l’Indigénat continuèrent leurs ravages jusqu’à l’abolition de cet infâme régime en 1946. L’épouse du gouverneur Blacher était la brillante Béatrice Appia, intellectuelle, peintre et chercheuse. En collaboration avec Tierno Chaikou Baldé, elle prépara la remarquable étude intitulée “Les Forgerons du Fouta-Djalon”.  Cette monographie souligne, entre autres, les influences culturelles réciproques entre Fulɓe et Mande. On n’y trouve nulle trace des tensions que Mansour Kaba chercha vainement à attiser avec son Manden-Jalon.
Lisons donc le rapport no. 27 de M. Huet. Il founit des renseignements succints sur l’économie et la démographie du Cercle de Labé en 1937.

Tierno S. Bah


Rapport de 1937 sur la situation économique du Cercle de Labé.

Conakry, le Cinq Mai 1937
L’Inspecteur Général des Colonies, Chef de Mission

J’ai l’honneur de transmettre à M. le Lieutenant-Gouverneur de la Guinée Française le rapport de détail concernant la vérification au point de vue économique du Cercle de Labé.

Signé : Huet

Chapître 1er. Renseignements généraux sur le Cercle

Situation et étendue

Le cercle de Labé est situé en moyenne Guinée en plein centre du Fouta-Djalon.
Plus grande longueur du Nord au Sud : 150 km ; plus grande largeur de l’Est à l’Ouest : 200 km.
Superficie : 23.800 km2

Caractéristiques générales
  1. Au point de vue physique : Pays accidenté, formé de plateaux généralement latéritiques séparés par de profondes vallées, plaines normalement de faible étendue, altitudes variant de 170 à plus de 1.500 m. Région très arrosée, origine d’importantes rivières ou fleuves : Gambie, Rio Gaba, Kakrima-Konkouré, Bafin, Falémé.
    Les géographes ont d’ailleurs qualifié le Fouta-Djalon de “véritable château d’eau de l’Afrique occidentale”.
  2. Au point de vue poltique : pays calme paraissant bien en main, commandé par de bons chefs européens et indigènes qui, du fait de la tranquilité politique, se consacrent principalement au développement économique des territoires placés sous leur autorité.
  3. Au point de vue économique : pays d’agriculture et d’élevage. Le Foulah n’est plus exclusivement pasteur comme on a coutume de le représenter. L’agriculture dans le Foutah, prend une place chaque année plus importante ; les cultures se développent sur les plateaux, dans les plaines et sur les pentes montueuses. La terre est généralement pauvre ; la culture la plus étendue est celle du fonio, pauvre graminée d’un faible rendement qui exige de grandes surfaces ; le fonio est en outre d’une faible valeur alimentaire. Où se developpe quelque peu la végétation arbustive, le riz de montagne, de meilleur rendement et de valeur alimentaire plus sérieuse est cultivé. Le riz de marais n’est cultivé que dans les rares plaines très humides.  Dans les régions septentrionales plus chaudes, domine la culture type du climat soudanais : le mil.
    Il n’y a de richesse culturale que dans les carrés familiaux, couverts de fumures et d’engrais naturels, grâce au bétail (bovins, ovins, caprins). Sans bétail, le carré familial est pauvre. Aussi, tous les efforts de l’Administration, avec l’aide de la Société de Prévoyance, tendent-ils à la reconstitution d’ailleurs en bonne voie, du cheptel, qui permet l’extension des carrés familiaux et le développement des culture qui y sont pratiquées.

Population

Européens et assimilés 125
Français 37
Etrangers
Levantins (Libano-Syriens) 85
Américains 3
Fonctionnaires 25,6 %
Planteurs et employés de plantation 4 %
Commerçants Levantins 68 %
Missionnaires (Américains – protestants) 2,4 %
Indigènes
Foulahs 344.226 (96 %)
Dialonkés 5.240
Diakankés 3.230
Sarakolés 821
Malinkés 102
Toucouleurs 80
Bambaras 40
Ouolofs 26
Guerzés 7
Tomas 6
Divers 10
Total 353.788

Chapître II. Agriculture

Situation et production du Cercle. — Calendrier saisonnier — Cultures à encourager.

Culture Superficie cultivée (hectares) Production : tonnes/an
Riz 7.500 4.500 environ
Maïs 20.000 20.000 environ
Mil 5.000 4.900 environ
Fonio 150.000 60.000 environ
Arachides 6.000 17.000 environ
Sésame 200 95 environ
Taros 12.500 25.000 environ
Patates
Manioc
Igname
Gombo

Kenya’s legal colonial paradox

In 2007-08 Kenya experienced bloody post-electoral violence that claimed more than 1,300 lives and displaced 600,000 people. The conflict pit against each others the partisans of political formations, including the Kenya African Union (KANU) led by Uhuru Kenyatta, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of Raila Odinga, etc.

President Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the International Criminal Court indicted the winner of the presidential election, Mr. Kenyatta. The charges alleged “crimes against humanity, including murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts.” However, faced with the Kenyan authorities refusal to turn over “evidence vital to the case,” the chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, asked the Court to withdraw the case in 2013.  Regardless, Mr. Kenyatta has ever since been resentful about his indictment. As a result, he has spent a great deal of energy, state resources and political pressure to weaken the ICC. First, he ended Kenya’s membership in the court. Then, he lobbied heavily among heads of state and at the African Union’s meetings for a global continental departure from the ICC. It appears though that his efforts were in vain. In an editorial piece, titled “In Africa, Seeking a License to Kill,” Rev. Desmond Tutu rebuked and condemned Mr. Kenyatta’s maneuver.
Low and behold, it turns out that today colonial era laws still deny Kenyan citizens some of their fundamental rights. Such are the facts laid out in Mercy Muendo‘s, article below, titled “Kenyans are still oppressed by archaic colonial laws.”
Upon reading the article, I am more than ever convinced that, instead of waging a loosing anti-ICC crusade —it got even lonelier following The Gambia’s recent return to the court —, Mr. Kenyatta ought to clean up his own yard, first.

Tierno S. Bah


Kenyans are still oppressed by archaic colonial laws

It’s been 54 years since Kenya got her independence and yet there are still a number of archaic, colonial and discriminatory laws on the statute books. From archival research I have done it’s clear that these laws are used to exploit, frustrate and intimidate Kenyans by restricting their right to movement, association and the use of private property.

They also make it difficult for ordinary Kenyans to make a living by imposing steep permit fees on informal businesses.

These laws were inherited from the colonial British government and used to be within the purview of local government municipalities under the Local Government Act. This act was repealed when municipalities were replaced by counties after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.

Currently, these laws are contained in county rules and regulations, criminalizing a good number of activities, including making any kind of noise on the streets, committing acts contrary to public decency, washing, repairing or dismantling any vehicle in non-designated areas (unless in an emergency) and loitering aimlessly at night.

The colonial laws served a central purpose – segregation. Africans and Asians could be prosecuted for doing anything that the white settlers deemed to be a breach of public order, public health or security.

Violating human rights

Many of these archaic laws also restrict citizens’ use of shared or public space. Some of them grant the police powers to arrest offenders without warrant, and to prosecute them under the Penal Code.

Offences like the ones mentioned above are classified as petty crimes that can attract fines and prison terms.

Some have argued that these laws are being abused because they restrict freedom of movement and the right to a fair hearing.

A few of them also hinder the growth of the economy. For example, hawking without a permit is against the law. To get a permit, traders must pay steep fees to various government authorities. This requirement is a deterrent to trade and infringes on the social economic rights of citizens.

Another example is the law that makes it a crime to loiter at night. This law was initially put on the books to deter people from soliciting for sexual favours, or visiting unlicensed establishments. It has however become a means for state agents to harass anyone walking on the streets at night.

Genesis of archaic laws

The laws can be traced back to legal ordinances that were passed by the colonial government between 1923 and 1934.

The 1925 Vagrancy (Amendment) Ordinance restricted movement of Africans after 6pm, especially if they did not have a registered address.

Post-independence, the ordinance became the Vagrancy Act, which was repealed in 1997. The Vagrancy Act inspired the Public Order Act, which restricts movement of Africans during the day, but only in the special circumstances that are outlined in the Public Security (Control of Movement) Regulations.

This legislation is similar to the Sundown Town rules under the Jim Crow discrimination law in the United States. A California-posted sign in the 1930s said it all: “Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Set On YOU In Hawthorne.” — T.S. Bah

The Witchcraft Ordinance of 1925, which formed the basis for the Witchcraft Act, outlawed any practices that were deemed uncivilised by colonial standards. The provisions of the Act are ambiguous and a clear definition of witchcraft is not given. This has made it easy for authorities to prosecute a wide range of cultural practices under the banner of witchcraft.

Rationale behind punitive laws

The idea behind most of the targeted legislation enacted by the colonialists was to separate whites from people of other races, including Asians. For example, in 1929 settlers in the white suburbs of Muthaiga in Nairobi raised an objection when the Governor announced plans to merge their suburban township with greater Nairobi.

That would have meant that they would have had to mingle with locals from Eastleigh and other native townships, which were mostly black. As a caveat to joining the greater Nairobi Township, the Muthaiga Township committee developed standard rules and regulations to govern small townships.

These rules and regulations were applied to other administrative townships such as Mombasa and Eldoret.

White townships would only join larger municipalities if the Muthaiga rules applied across the board.

The Muthaiga rules allowed white townships to control and police public space, which was a clever way to restrict the presence and movement of Asians and Africans in the suburbs.

Variations of these rules remain on the books to date. The current Nairobi county rules and regulations require residents to pay different rates to the county administration depending on their location.

In addition, the county rules demand that dog owners must be licensed, a requirement that limits the number of city dwellers who can own dogs. This rule can be read as discriminatory because the vast majority of lower-income earners now find themselves unable to keep a dog in the city. Indeed, discrimination was the basis of the colonial legal framework.

Can oppressive laws be legal?

Strictly speaking, these discriminatory rules and regulations were unlawful because they were not grounded in statutory or common law. Indeed, they were quasi-criminal and would have been unacceptable in Great Britain.

Ironically, because such rules and regulations didn’t exist in Great Britain, criminal charges could not be brought against white settlers for enforcing them.

To curtail freedom of movement and enjoyment of public space by non-whites the settlers created categories of persons known as “vagrants”, “vagabonds”, “barbarians”, “savages” and “Asians”.

These were the persons targeted by the loitering, noisemaking, defilement of public space, defacing of property, and anti-hawking laws. The penalty for these offences was imprisonment.

Anyone found loitering, anyone who was homeless or found in the wrong abode, making noise on the wrong streets, sleeping in public or hawking superstitious material or paraphernalia would be detained after trial.

Police had the powers to arrest and detain offenders in a concentration camp, detention or rehabilitation center, or prison without a warrant.

This is the same legal framework that was inherited by the independence government and the very same one that has been passed down to the county governments.

The Public Order Act allows police powers to arrest without warrant anyone found in a public gathering, meeting or procession which is likely to breach the peace or cause public disorder. This is the current position under sections 5 and 8 of the Act.

This law, which was used by the colonial government to deter or disband uprisings or rebellions, has been regularly abused in independent Kenya.

At the end of the day Kenyans must ask themselves why successive governments have allowed the oppression of citizens to continue by allowing colonial laws to remain on the books.


The Conversation

In Memoriam D. W. Arnott (1915-2004)

D.W. Arnott. The Nominal and Verbal Systems of Fula
D.W. Arnott. The Nominal and Verbal Systems of Fula

This article creates the webAfriqa homage and tribute to the memory of Professor David W. Arnott (1915-2004), foremost linguist, researcher, teacher and publisher on Pular/Fulfulde, the language of the Fulbe/Halpular of West and Central Africa. It is reproduces the obituary written in 2004 par Philip J. Jaggar. David Arnott belonged in the category of colonial administrators who managed to balance their official duties with in-depth social and cultural investigation of the societies their countries ruled. I publish quite a log of them throughout the webAfriqa Portal: Vieillard, Dieterlen, Delafosse, Person, Francis-Lacroix, Germain, etc.
The plan is to contributed to disseminate as much as possible the intellectual legacy of Arnott’s. Therefore, the links below are just part of the initial batch :

Tierno S. Bah


D. W. Arnott was a distinguished scholar and teacher of West African languages, principally Fulani (also known as Fula, Fulfulde and Pulaar) and Tiv, David Whitehorn Arnott, Africanist: born London 23 June 1915; Lecturer, then Reader, Africa Department, School of Oriental and African Studies 1951-66, Professor of West African Languages 1966-77 (Emeritus); married 1942 Kathleen Coulson (two daughters); died Bedale, North Yorkshire 10 March 2004.

He was one of the last members of a generation of internationally renowned British Africanists/linguists whose early and formative experience of Africa, with its immense and complex variety of peoples and languages, derived from the late colonial era.

Born in London in 1915, the elder son of a Scottish father, Robert, and mother, Nora, David Whitehorn Arnott was educated at Sheringham House School and St Paul’s School in London, before going on to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read Classics and won a “half-blue” for water polo. He received his PhD from London University in 1961, writing his dissertation on “The Tense System in Gombe Fula”.

Following graduation in 1939 Arnott joined the Colonial Administrative Service as a district officer in northern Nigeria, where he was posted to Bauchi, Benue and Zaria Provinces, often touring rural areas on a horse or by push bike. His (classical) language background helped him to learn some of the major languages in the area — Fulani, Tiv, and Hausa — and the first two in particular were to become his languages of published scientific investigation.

It was on board ship in a wartime convoy to Cape Town that Arnott met his wife-to-be, Kathleen Coulson, who was at the time a Methodist missionary in Ibadan, Nigeria. They married in Ibadan in 1942, and Kathleen became his constant companion on most of his subsequent postings in Benue and Zaria provinces, together with their two small daughters, Margaret and Rosemary.

From 1951 to 1977, David Arnott was a member of the Africa Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas), London University, as Lecturer, then Reader, and was appointed Professor of West African Languages in 1966. He spent 1955-56 on research leave in West Africa, conducting a detailed linguistic survey of the many diverse dialects of Fulani, travelling from Nigeria across the southern Saharan edges of Niger, Dahomey (now Benin), Upper Volta, French Sudan (Burkina Faso and Mali), and eventually to Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea. Many of his research notes from this period are deposited in the Soas library (along with other notes, documents and teaching materials relating mainly to Tiv and Hausa poetry and songs).

He was Visiting Professor at University College, Ibadan (1961) and the University of California, Los Angeles (1963), and attended various African language and Unesco congresses in Africa, Europe, and the United States. Between 1970 and 1972 he made a number of visits to Kano, Nigeria, to teach at Abdullahi Bayero College (now Bayero University, Kano), where he also supervised (as Acting Director) the setting up of the Centre for the Study of Nigerian Languages, and I remember a mutual colleague once expressing genuine astonishment that “David never seemed to have made any real enemies”. This was a measure of his integrity, patience and even-handed professionalism, and the high regard in which he was held.

Arnott established his international reputation with his research on Fula(ni), a widely used language of the massive Niger-Congo family which is spoken (as a first language) by an estimated eight million people scattered throughout much of West and Central Africa, from Mauritania and Senegal to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Chad (as well as the Sudan), many of them nomadic cattle herders.

Between 1956 and 1998 he produced almost 30 (mainly linguistic) publications on Fulani and in 1970 published his magnum opus, The Nominal and Verbal Systems of Fula (an expansion of his PhD dissertation), supplementing earlier works by his predecessors, the leading British and German scholars F.W. Taylor and August Klingenheben. In this major study of the Gombe (north-east Nigeria) dialect, he described, in clear and succinct terms, the complex system of 20 or more so-called “noun classes” (a classificatory system widespread throughout the Niger-Congo family which marks singular/plural pairs, often distinguishing humans, animals, plants, mass nouns and liquids). The book also advanced our understanding of the (verbal) tense- aspect and conjugational system of Fulani. His published research encompassed, too, Fulani literature and music.

In addition to Fulani, Arnott also worked on Tiv, another Niger-Congo language mainly spoken in east/central Nigeria, and from the late 1950s onwards he wrote more than 10 articles, including several innovative treatments of Tiv tone and verbal conjugations, in addition to a paper comparing the noun-class systems of Fulani and Tiv (“Some Reflections on the Content of Individual Classes in Fula and Tiv”, La Classification Nominale dans les Langues Négro-Africaines, 1967). Some of his carefully transcribed Tiv data and insightful analyses were subsequently used by theoretical linguists following the generative (“autosegmental”) approach to sound systems. (His colleague at Soas the renowned Africanist R.C. Abraham had already published grammars and a dictionary of Tiv in the 1930s and 1940s.)

In addition to Fulani and Tiv, Arnott taught undergraduate Hausa-language classes at Soas for many years, together with F.W. (“Freddie”) Parsons, the pre-eminent Hausa scholar of his era, and Jack Carnochan and Courtenay Gidley. He also pioneered the academic study of Hausa poetry at Soas, publishing several articles on the subject, and encouraged the establishment of an academic pathway in African oral literature.

The early 1960s were a time when the available language-teaching materials were relatively sparse (we had basically to make do with cyclostyled handouts), but he overcame these resource problems by organising class lessons with great care and attention, displaying a welcome ability to synthesise and explain language facts and patterns in a simple and coherent manner. He supervised a number of PhD dissertations on West African languages (and literature), including the first linguistic study of the Hausa language written by a native Hausa speaker, M.K.M. Galadanci (1969). He was genuinely liked and admired by his students.

David Arnott was a quiet man of deep faith who was devoted to his family. Following his retirement he and Kathleen moved to Moffat in Dumfriesshire (his father had been born in the county). In 1992 they moved again, to Bedale in North Yorkshire (where he joined the local church and golf club), in order to be nearer to their two daughters, and grandchildren.

Philip J. Jaggar
The Independent