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Africa and the First World War by Melvin E. Page (eds.)

By Melvin E. Page (eds.)

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Kande Salifou Kamara was born at the end of the nineteenth century in the village of Kindia, which is situated on the vast plateau separating the Fouta Djalon from lower, or maritime, Guinea. A Susu, his ancestors migrated into the region from the Niger valley in the seventeenth century under the impact of the Fula invasions, and within a hundred years their control over the area was consolidated. The region, dependent on the cultivation of rice and cassava and the grazing of cattle, was a self-sustaining economic entity at the end of the nineteenth century.

The extent of their enforced segregation, and the feelings of isolation it engendered, was conveyed by Kamara in recalling how he and the men- their training at an endwere marched to the front: Even when we were marching through a town, officers would be on your right and your left saying: 'One, two, one, two, one, two,' ... And if you turned to look at the people [who were cheering by the roadside] they would slap you [so hard that] you would actually see the fire of hell. So when you entered a town, your two feet would keep moving ...

So some people were trying their charms to take them back. Others were using their cowrie shells, throwing them on the floor, gambling to see whether they would be favoured with good luck or be saved ... And some were saying, if the ship sinks, who gives a damn because we're going to die anyway ... So people were beating their hands against the ship and screaming and yelling and screaming! (2,1,8; 2,2,1) After enduring the passage from Guinea to France for six days and nights, Kamara and those aboard his ship docked at Bordeaux in the evening.

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