In 1898, the French colonial forces attacked the Tata of Sikasso which had resisted the tireless assaults of Samori Touré and his army for 15 months a decade earlier. Despite strong resistance from Babemba Traoré and his people, they could barely resist the French canons and barbary, and succumbed on May 1, 1898. As always, the French used treachery: the French colonel Marie Michel Alexandre René Audéoud wanted to install a garrison at Sikasso; but Babemba Traoré flatly refused. This resulted in a war between the French colonial forces and the people of Sikasso, which lasted 2 days. In the end, Babemba Traoré, the king, ended his life, abiding by the famous Bamanankan saying “Saya ka fisa ni maloya ye” (literally: death is preferable to shame). The city was then ransacked and plundered.
Below is an account of the barbary of the French colonel Audéoud and his men after their victory in Sikasso. The original in French can be found here on Jacques Morel’s page; the translation to English is brought to you by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com .
In April 1898, the colonel Audéoud who is looking for a boost for his promotion, sends captain Morisson demand from Babemba, Tieba’s successor, the “Fama” of Sikasso (in modern-day Mali), and ally – imprudent – of the French in their war against Samori, the establishment of a French garrison in his capital. Babemba refuses. It is war, and the siege of Sikasso where violent counter-attacks of the besieged repeatedly endanger the French troops. But with only three remaining enclosures still standing after resisting for fifteen months to Samori, “the fortress does not last two days when faced with modern artillery,” says Gilbert Comte.
Sikasso resists street by street. A French officer, taking part in the capture of Sikasso, describes the city as such:
“After the siege, the assault. Babemba kills himself. We give the order to plunder. Everything is taken or killed. All the captives, roughly 4000, are herded together.
The colonel [Audéoud] starts the distribution. He himself used to write in a notebook, then gave it up saying, “Share this among yourselves!”. The sharing took place with arguments and blows. Then back on our way! Each European is given a wife of his choice… On our way back we did intervals of forty kilometers with these captives. Children and all those who are tired are killed with the butt of the gun and the bayonet…
The corpses were left by the roadsides. A woman is found crouching. She is pregnant. We push her with the butt of the gun. She gives birth standing while walking. Has cut the umbilical cord and abandoned the child without looking back to see whether it’s a boy or a girl.
During those intervals, the men requisitioned on the way to carry millet stay five days without rations; receive fifty strokes of rope if they take a handful of the millet they are carrying.
The sharpshooters got so many captives that it was impossible to house and feed them.”
Sources: P. Vigné d’Octon, La Gloire du sabre, Paris, Flammarion, 1900; cité par Jean Suret-Canale, Afrique Noire, Occidentale et Centrale, Éditions sociales, 1968, page 274-275; Gilbert Comte, L’empire triomphant, Denoël, 1988, page 85-86.