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French Equatorial Africa (French: Afrique équatoriale française, AEF) is part of the French Union in equatorial Africa. It borders in the north with Libya, French West Africa and Nigeria to the west, to the east Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and to south, Belgian Congo.
The tropical forest and occupation of part of the Congo river basin made communications and assimilation to French administration difficult. Most of its early development was on the development of a plantation-style economy and exploitation of rubber and timber. By the 1930 large deposits of mineral resources and petroleum where found and heavy investment was made for their exploitation.
The policy of assimilation in AEF was not an issue. The évolué where to few and the geographical obstacles and distances made difficult direct control, recruitment of natives and establishment of French language schools too expansive and difficult. The chief demands were the end of slave labor (legally disguised has forced labor), end of restrictions to land ownership and sale, end of agricultural quotas, end of village relocation, open access to commerce and end of monopolies, more representation at local and territorial level, freedom of movement and work and access to general education in native languages. Les équatoriales, has the native inhabitants of AEF begin to identify themselves, pressured for association or home rule has a goal.
Organic laws for West Africa (1936) and Equatorial Africa (1936) changed the administration giving limited self government and representation by means of territorial councils and local city government (but with lesser powers in relation to a French Commune). Later legislation would eliminate most of the precepts and legal structure associated to the Code de l'Indigénat.
In AEF, the Governor General, named by the President of the French Union, is the political and military head of the AEF. He receives direct instructions from the President of the French Union and carries out the policies of High Council and ministère de Territoires d'Outre-mer. Each territory is in charge of Territorial Governors, named by the President of the French Union but responsible before the Governor General. The Territorial Council, directly elected, assists in the administration, welfare and economic development. The capital of the territory where given an local elected council and executive. Brazzaville was elevated to a commune.
Territories of AEF
Administratively it is divided in the following territories:
- Brazzaville, commune
- Chad (Fort-Lamy) subdivided in Cercles.
- Oubangui-Chari (Bangui) subdivided in Cercles.
- Middle Congo (Brazzaville) subdivided in Cercles.
- Gabon (Libreville) subdivided in Cercles.
- French Cameroon (Yaoundé) subdivided in Cercles.
The Cercles (in charge of a Cercle Commander) consisted of several cantons, each of which in turn consisted of several villages. Below the "Cercle Commander" there is a series of African "Chefs de canton" and "Chefs du Village": "chiefs" appointed by the French and subject to removal by the Europeans.
The Brazzaville, the only commune in AEF, has local self government, equivalent to its metropolitan counterpart, save that suffrage is restricted to French citizens.
Economy of AEF
In tropical areas the plantation system produces vegetable commodities such has palm oil, rubber, kola nut, cacao, coffee, coconut (fiber and oil), cotton, and ground nuts. Woods such has okoumé, mahogany, kevazingo, ebony, dibetou (tigerwood or African walnut), movingui (Nigerian satinwood), and zingana (zebrano or zebrawood are exploited in large scale and constitute one of the main sources of revenue of AEF. Tin, gold, diamonds, bauxite and manganese are mined.
The main sea ports are Port-Gentil, Pointe-Noire and Douala and the sea port of Brazzaville. Transafricaine, AirCongo, Air Afrique and its regional company Air Afrique Équatoriale(AF Équatoriale) are the main passenger and cargo carriers.