The decline of tribal organization in the Souf

THE DECLINE OF TRIBAL ORGANIZATION IN THE SOUF (S.E. ALGERIA)

Nico Kielstra
In the present paper I shall analyze the available information on political organization in the Souf in the pre-colonial period, the way the French colonial government tried to reorganize it, and the way in which traditional political authority declined under colonial conditions in spite of the attempts of the French authorities to maintain it.
THE SOCIAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE SOUF
The Souf is a group of oases in the south-east of Algeria near the Tunisian border around the town of El Oued. Besides El Oued we find seven old agglomerated villages, a considerable amount of dispersed habitation, and a nomadic population outside the cultivated areas. A large nomadic population and frequent and often temoprary labor migration make population figures rather inacurate and hard to interpret. Early estimates give 26 800 in 1845 (A.N. 10 H 8) and 37 650 in 1848 (Prax 1848 : 193). The first official census in 1883 gives a suspectly low figure of 17 629 (Cauvet, 1934, 209), Since the eighteen eighties there has been a steady population explosion to about 120 000 in 1966 (A. Najah, 1971, 110). In 1848 about half of the population was estimated as being nomadic (Prax 1848), in 1955 about one third (C1. Bataillon, 1955, 49; A.N. 20 X 2). The distinction between nomads and sedentaries is rather gradual. Many nomads own palm gardens and live there for part of the year, many sedentary cultivators own flocks.
Date palm cultivation was and is the main agricultural occupation in the Souf. Flocks of sheep, goats and camels are kept on the steppe lands between the cultivated areas and around the Souf. Nomads engage in smuggling (to and from Tunisia and Libya) as an additional source of income. The Souafa have been engaged in interregional commerce since precolonial days, both along the trans-Sahara road from Ghat and Ghadames to Biskra and further north and along the east-west road between Tunisia and Touggourt and the oases of the Algerian south. In 1848 Prax found already 14 wealthy merchant families in El Oued with trading capitals between 20,000 and 500,000 francs (Prax 1848, 167-168). While transit trade is now much less important than in the past, established merchant families from the Souf are still active in wholesale and retail trading.
Emigration to Tunisia has existed since the 18th century (A.N. 20 X 2). Emigration to the Algerian cities and to France became more important after 1930, but there is still a sizeable community from the Souf in Tunis. From Prax's description in 1848 it becomes clear, however, that even then some 5 to 10 percent of the adult male population of the Souf were engaged in interregional trade and migrant labor. The area was remote, but never isolated.
POLITICAL ORGANIZATION IN PRECOLONIAL DAYS
An undated (probably 17th or 18th century) manuscript, known as the Kitab al-Adouani is the only written source for the precolonial history of the Souf. The chronicle starts in 1397-98, when a tribal group named the Troud reached the Souf from southern Tunisia. According to their own traditions they were a tribal faction which had been driven by blood feuds and quarrels with sedentary authorities from Tripoli to the Tunisian Sahel and from there to the Souf. They took their name from their leader at the time, a certain Trad ben Dabes.
The Souf was then already a refuge area for tribal groups pushed away from more centrally located areas. The dominant group in the Souf at that time were the Adouan. After the arrival of the Troud in the Souf some fighting with the Adouan followed, until a female marabout arranged a compromise peace which allowed both groups to stay. A political opposition remained, however, between the Adouan, who were semi-nomads with permanent villages, and the more numerous Troud, who used to camp around water holes (L. Feraud 1868, 52).
On his dying bed the old leader Trad left some commands to the Troud. He forbade them to elect a permanent leading family to avoid factional strife. For the same reason he forbade them to leave part of the population in permanent villages during migrations. This tradition may be historical or not, but it represents at least a vision on tribal organization held by the writer of the Kitab al-Adouani. It also reflects political practice in the precolonial Souf. The Kitab al-Adouani men-tions no more secular paramount leaders after Trad. When French officials began dealing with the Souf they made no reference to individual leaders, but were met by local djemaas (councils of notables). In a report from 1855 about the political organization of the Souf before it was reorganized by the colonial authorities we find a pattern of double leadership (A.N. 2 H 25). The major factions of El Oued, Kouinine, Tarzout and Guemar each have two Kebirs (informal leaders). The village of Behima has two village leaders. This pattern of double leadership must be seen as a manifestation of the tendency to avoid factional strife about the election of a single leader, even on the level of the lineage. Nevertheless there is a local historical tradition of factional splits in villages : Zgoum and Behima and Guemar and Tarzout are said to have arisen from factional splits in single original villages (Cl. Bataillon, 1955, 37-40).
A certain antagonism between the Troud and the Adouan persisted for several centuries, but there is no mention of further warfare. At some unspecified time (presumably in the 17th century) the old division between the two groups was crosscut by a new political alliance. A herdsman from the (nomadic) Troud fled with 25 stolen camels to Tarzout, and was granted asylum there by a certain Saoud, who resisted Troud pressure by establishing an alliance with the villages of Zgoum and Kouinine, the small village of Sidi Aoun and the dispersed hamlet of Ourmès. Ever since the participants in this coalition have been known as the Ouled Saoud. Zgoum and Sidi Aoun were Adouan villages, but Tarzout, Kouinine and Ourmès counted substantial numbers of sedentarized Troud amongst their inhabitants. The formation of the Ouled Saoud in part represents an opposition by sedentary villagers against the political dominance of the nomads, in part a tendency amongst sedentary villagers themselves to seek support at a distance against neighbouring rivals : Zgoum against Behima, Sidi Aoun against Debila, Kouinine against El Oued, Tarzout against Guemar).
These factions (soffs) soon became involved in larger regional politics. By the late 18th century a political rivalry had arisen in the Oued Rhir between the sheikhs of Touggourt and the sheikhs of the rival oasis and market center Temacine. Touggourt was larger and more populous, but the sheikhs of Temacine had the moral support of the Tidjaniya - brotherhood, which had established a zaouia (religious center) there in 1805. Seeking outside support both rivals became involved in political controversies on a much wider level. The political brokers for such wider political contacts were two rival families : the Bou Okhaz and the Ben Gana. The Bou Okhaz had been influential in southeastern Algeria for centuries, and had long been the official representatives of the Turkish government with the tribes of the region. In the framework of a divide and rule policy the Turkish Bey of Constantine began pushing the influence of an old family from the Constantinois, the Ben Gana, in the south from 1790 on. The Ben Gana tried to weaken the position of the sheikh of Touggourt, while the latter, together with the head of the Bou Okhaz family, sent a delegation to the French in Algiers in 1832 to seek their support against the Bey of Constantine and the Ben Gana. Ferhat Bou Okhaz cooperated with the French in their military expedition against Constantine in 1837. In 1838, when it had become clear that the French were the new dominant power, the Ben Gana also offered their support to them, while at the same time keeping open their contacts with the emir Abd el-Kader, who tried to establish an Islamic government in the Algerian interior. The emir in his turn did not trust the Ben Gana and made Ferhat Bou Okhaz his representative in Biskra. Ferhat Bou Okhaz was then assassinated by followers of the Ben Gana, who were, howe-ver, at the same time involved in the assassination of the French garrison in Biskra in 1844 (A.N. 6 X 19).
The Souafa were probably little interested in these wider political implications. They just tried to maintain their access to markets in the Oued Rhir and Biskra.
The Ouled Saoud, joined by the Achèche, one of the two major fractions of the Troud, paid allegiance to the rulers of Touggourt, but the rival soff chose for Temacine. In 1847 the power of the sheikhs of Temacine was broken, but their political influence was taken over by the leaders of the Tidjaniya zaouia there.
These references to the political role of the Tidjaniya point to another element in the precolonial politics of the Souf : the role of the religious brotherhoods (tariqa, pi. turuq). According to the Kitab al-Adouani the islamization of the early Troud and Adouan was extremely superficial. In the last decade of the 16th century a wandering religious scholar, sheikh Mohammed al Messaoud Chabbi, tried to reestablish Islamic orthodoxy through the foundation of a new tariqa, the Chabbiya (L. Feraud, 1848, 52). In the second half of the nineteenth century the Chabbiya had been reduced to a few families in Debila. In the late 18th century the Rahmaniya order was founded in Tunisia and the Tidjaniya order in southern central Algeria. Both soon reached the Souf along the east-west trade roads. The Rahmaniya founded a zaouia in El Oued, the Tidjaniya one in Guemar (A.N. 8 X 285). The old order of the Kadriya with a zaouia in Nefta (Tunisia) also gained support in the Souf, but they came relatively late and only established a zaouia in the Souf in 1887.

  • FIGURE I-

As we see tariqa membership has always been crosscutting with membership of political/regional fractions. The only (negative) exception is the village of Zgoum, where the population has almost unanimously stayed out of the turuq in favor of a more scriptural Islamic orthodoxy (A. Najah, 1971, 126). We also see that the Kadriya have increased considerably during the late 19th and early 20th century, a fact about which we shall come to talk again further on.
THE EARLY PERIOD OF FRENCH RULE
The French had consolidated their hold over Biskra in 1844, and were at first on relatively good terms with the rulers of Touggourt. They soon perceived that these rulers had actually very little influence in the Souf. Both Biskra and Touggourt depended on the Souf for their commerce to and from Tunisia, but the Souafa were not dependent on their ally in Touggourt for protection. Merchants from the Souf were involved in the smuggle of gunpowder from Tunisia to southern Algeria. In 1846 three former lieutenants of Abd el-Kader sought refuge in the Souf.
In 1847-1848 the sultan of Touggourt, with support from the Ben Gana family, defeated his rival, the sheikh of Temacine. He then asked the French commander in Biskra for support in a military expedition against the supporters of Temacine in the Souf, but this was refused. At the end of 1848 the French commander of Biskra started négociations with the djemaas of the Souf through the mediation of Ahmad Bey Ben Chenouf, the leader of a big family from the Constantinois. The fraction in the Souf that refused to pay tax to the rulers of Touggourt at the time (El-Oued, Guemar, Behima and Debila) now accepted to reconcile themselves to the French, and thereby to regain access to the market in Biskra, by submitting to the authority of Ahmad ben Chenouf. The ruler of Touggourt objected, in vain. Ahmad ben Chenouf was, however, unable to exercise any effective political authority in the Souf.
In January 1852 the ruler of Touggourt died, leaving as his heir a six year old son under the regency of his grandmother, who was a Ben Gana. There was a rival for the succession, however : the late ruler's father's brother's son Selman, then about 18 years old. He had the support of Temacine and of the sharif Mohammed ben Abdullah, a religious leader who was organizing resistance to the French in Ouargla. The French Governor General would actually have preferred to establish a Ben Gana as ruler of Touggourt, but the inhabitants resisted the idea, and only direct French military intervention might have realized it. The French therefore recognized the young ruler of Touggourt. In the meantime Selman gained the support of the Ouled Saoud in the Souf, who provided him with 300 footsoldiers. With their help he took Touggourt by surprise on April 1, 1852. When the zaouia of Temacine put its moral support behind him, resistance in the Oued Rhir rapidly broke down.
The French military leaders in eastern Algeria convinced a reluctant Governor General to recognize Selman as ruler of Touggourt, on the condition, however, that he would come in person to Biskra or Batna to submit himself to French sovereignty. Selman seems to have seen this as trick to lure him away from Touggourt, so that a pro Ben Gana coup might take place there in his absence, and refused to come. The French then blocked the wheat trade from Biskra to Touggourt, and allowed irregular cavalry from Biskra to raid two trade caravans from the Souf.
Ahmad Bey Ben Chenouf was sent to the Souf to try to pry the Souafa away from Selman, but he failed to do so. Selman began to crack down on real or assumed adversaries in the Oued Rhir. In april 1853 he lost much of his remaining support in the Souf by raiding Kouinine with 80 men to kill some political adversaries who had sought asylum there. A number of these opponents managed to escape to Guemar, which refused to extradit them. Since Selman's force was too weak to attack Guemar, he returned to Touggourt.

In May 1853 the Governor General ordered a new economic blockade of the Oued Rhir and the Souf. When Guemar, Zgoum and Tarzout sent a delegation to Biskra, offering to pay tax there instead of to Selman, the local military commander admitted them to the market of Biskra again, but when El Oued afterwards made a similar offer, it was refused. In the meantime Selman offered his cooperation to the sherif of Ouargla, and asked the Bey of Tunis for support against the French. The Governor General began planning direct military action in December 1853. He proposed to make a Ben Gana or Ben Chenouf the new ruler of Touggourt, but finally accepted a proposal by the regional military commander, colonel Desvaux, to install a Bou Okhaz there for the sake of divide-and-rule policy. In Touggourt Selman declared himself the khalifa (deputy) of the sherif of Ouargla. At first he managed to recruit only a few soldiers in the Souf, but in November 1854 he had 1 500 armed men from El Oued and 73 from Kouinine at his disposal. In March 1854 armed raiders from Biskra had, with the permission of the French, attacked several flocks of the Rebaia-fraction of the Troud, thereby driving El Oued in the camp of Selman again.
In November 1854 a French column of 250 men regular troops and 2 400 irregulars finally set out for the Oued Rhir. Just before that, in October, the villages of Kouinine and Tarzout had declared their submission in Biskra, while the zaouia of Temacine also declared itself against Selman. On November 29 Selman attacked the French column at Meggarine with 2 500 men, but suffered a bloody defeat, after which his army rapidly distintegrated. Selman and the sherif Mohammed ben Abdullah fled to Tunisia. On December 2 the French entered Touggourt. On December 12 a French column camped a few kilometers outside the inhabited area of the Souf to receive the submission of the Souafa. El Oued had to pay a fine of 60 000 Francs in two days.
On December 29 1854 the Governor General approved the appointment of Ali Bey Bou Okhaz, a son of Ferhat Bou Okhaz, as caid of Touggourt. The whole of the Souf was included in the new caidat, and was placed under the authority of a relative of Ali Bey as his khalifa (deputy). The new administration ignored the old soff system and the old system of collective rule by djamaas. The villages and the various fractions of the nomads were placed under the authority of single sheikhs. Such personal authority was unknown in the Souf, and was soon resented, the more so when its holders attempted to enforce unpopular French laws like the prohibition of the gunpowder trade with Tunisia. The first khalifa was sacked within a year after numerous complaints about his exactions. In 1857 the sheikh of the Troud subfaction of the Ouled Ahmed was assassinated after he had informed Ali Bey where a smuggled supply of gunpowder could be found. In 1858 a visiting French officer fined the Ferdjan subfaction of the Messaaba, because they refused to organize themselves in douars (camp groups or hamlets) to be admi-nistered by a single kebir (informal headman, responsible to the sheikh). In December 1860 a French officier on a yearly tour of inspection was received with a veritable stream of complaints about Ali Bey. Near El Oued 3 000 persons demonstrated against his exactions. There were also complaints against the khalifa and some of the sheikhs. The officer recognized in his report that some of the complaints were probably true, but saw no reason to act on them.
Though the new function of sheikh was not popular, it offered career prospects for active and ambitious men. Sheikhs were still supposed to fulfill the traditional role of war leader. The Souf was at the outer fringe of the pacified area, and animal raiding by and against still unsubmitted tribal groups further on remained frequent till the turn of the century. The tribes of the Tunisian south continued raiding flocks from the Souf till they were subjected by the French in the mid eighteen-eighties. Chaamba groups from the Ouargla area, sometimes in alliance with stray Tuaregs, continued raiding till the first decade of the twentieth century. French officiers were hesitant about permitting counter-raids, but were usually willing to ignore them.
The big merchant families had never been much interested in petty tribal politics, and political leaders were usually well-to-do but not really rich persons, who could exercise little economic power over their followers. There was thus little basis for strong personal leadership in pre-colonial days, but the favor and support of the French and their representative Ahmed Bey began to supply a power-base for ambitious leaders from the late eighteen-fifties on. In those years we find the first mention of two then still relatively young men, Hamou Moussa and Ahmad ben Touati, who would become the main local leaders in the Souf in the second half of the nineteenth century (A.N. 13 KK 16). At the time they were sheikhs of minor fractions of the Troud. Raiding and counterraiding was mainly an occupation of the nomads, in which the inhabitants of the sedentary villages took little part.
At first paramount power still remained in the hands of Ahmed Bey and his representatives. The sixties seem to have been a relatively uneventful period in the Souf, except for some raiding, but in 1871 things exploded. The French defeat in the war of 1870/71 stimulated a large scale and widespread anti-French rebellion in Algeria. Things remained quiet around Biskra and the Souf at first, and the French garrison of Biskra was called away to assist in the Aures. Before his departure the French commander ordered the Ben Gana and Bou Okhaz families to mobilize the warriors of their soffs in the Biskra area and to post them around the oasis against an eventual surprise attack. The two factions observed each other full of mistrust, fearing that the other might attempt to usurp power in the case of a breakdown of French authority. Ahmed Bey had left Touggourt with some misgivings, since trouble was brewing in the Ouargla area, and had put the members of his family under the protection of the Tidjaniya zaouia in Guemar in the Souf.
In the Ouargla area a self-made, charismatic religious leader, known as Bou Chou-cha, took over control of the whole oasis in March 1871. On May 13 1871 a group of his horsemen rode into Touggourt and were acclaimed by the population. A small native garrison and six relatives of Ahmed Bey were taken prisoner and killed some days later. In Biskra Ahmed Bey's warriors were busy plundering some villages of the other soff, and wanted to protect their own villages against a similar fate. They were not in a hurry to march against Touggourt. On June 24 Ali Bey reached Touggourt with some of his troops, but a storm attack on the town on July 8 failed and food supplies for his troops became scarce. When Bou Choucha with a number of his warriors managed to get into the besieged town on July 10, Ali Bey's force rapidly dispersed and returned to the Biskra area.
Even before taking Touggourt Bou Choucha had come to the Souf to get hold of Ali Bey's family in Guemar. On May 4 he attempted a surprise attack on Guemar during which 60 local people were killed and 100 wounded and part of Guemar was plundered. An attack on the zaouia the next day was beaten off, however, and Guemar called allies from Zgoum and Kouinine to its assistance. Confronted with a large force of Souafa on May 6 Bou Choucha declined to fight, and when the Souafa offered him compensation for the horses killed during the fighting, he accepted to leave the Souf, and went on to Touggourt.
Later that summer the Ben Gana faction in the Souf (Tarzout, Kouinine and Zgoum) used their contacts with Rahmaniya branches in southern Tunisia to obtain a large supply of gunpowder, which they offered for sale to Bou Choucha. The Bou Okhaz faction (Guemar, El Oued and Debila) resisted this deal in the hope of breaking the monopoly of the other faction on the lucrative gunpowder trade. After a streetlight in Tarzout, in which 24 people were wounded, the gunpowder sellers were obliged to repay to Guemar and its allies the 25 000 Francs paid to Bou Choucha in May and a compensation for the plundering and the people killed in Guemar on that occasion.
These incidents illustrate clearly what tribal organization in the Souf was, and what it was not. Threatened by outside aggression Guemar claimed at first the assistance of the Ouled Saoud faction. Soon afterwards, however, some of these same allies prepared to provide the same outside aggressor with gunpowder, now acting in the framework of another alliance of groups with good trade relations in southern Tunisia. This position had almost automatically brought them into the opposition against Ahmed Bey, who had been obliged to apply the French prohibition against the gunpowder trade. Guemar now promptly joined the other coalition of those without favorable trade relations in Tunisia, who took the opportunity to try to break into the gunpowder monopoly and share in the profits. The soffs were not the immutable alliances that French observers at the time took them to be, but flexible coalitions that could be adapted to the political interests of the moment.
On December 27 1871 French troops finally retook Touggourt. Ali Bey accused the Ben Gana family of having been in contact with Bou Choucha. A later French report (A.N. 6 X 19) considers that he was probably right in this, but the French authorities at the time chose to ignore it, and in February 1872 Ali Bey was removed to another area.
TOWARD DIRECT FRENCH RULE
In March 1872 a French column under the ill famed general Gallifet entered the Souf and exacted a fine of 2 400 sheep and 1 700 camels. A son of the Ben Gana family accompanied them as an interpreter. The Ben Gana hoped to take over power in Touggourt and the Souf, now that Ali Bey was discredited with the French. Gallifet and his superiors had, however, become mistrusting of concentrating too much power in the hands of Algerian aristocratic families whose loyalty to the French case had often turned out to be dubious. An Italian adventurer and convert to Islam, el-Arbi Mameluk, who had for many years been serving with the French native troops, was appointed caid of the Souf.
El-Arbi Mameluk was an outsider in the regional factional system. Most notables of the Souf, stimulated in this by the Ben Gana family, opposed his nomination. He also opposed the influence of the Tidjaniya zaouias in Temacine and Gue-mar. Even a French report conceded that his exactions in the Souf were worse thant average. Within a year he was completely isolated. In November 1873 he was assassinated while travelling to Biskra. His murderers, four local men from the Souf, fled to Tunisia. Ahmad ben Touati, the most important of the notables of the Souf who had opposed him, was arrested as an accomplice, but set free again after a while because of lack of evidence.
Only gradually the French authorities uncovered the backgrounds of the murder. It seems that the administrative sheikhs had not been directly involved, but that the djamaas (councils of notables) of the various fractions, whose position was not at that time formally recognized by the French authorities, had taken the decision. The leader of the actual murderers was a man who also had a personal grief against el-Arbi, who had been sleeping with his brother's wife. The French authorities finally chose to ignore the deeper backgrounds of the case.
At first a brother-in-law of el-Arbi, Si el-Okbi, was made khalifa of the Souf, but his influence was minimal (A.N. 8 H 6). He was completely dependent on the local "career administrator" Hamou Moussa, who was now made khalifa of all the Troud. Hamou Moussa was one of the few political leaders in the Souf who seems not to have been involved in the conspiracy against el-Arbi. He was on good terms with the Tidjaniya leaders, though he was not a member of the brotherhood himself. His rival Ahmad ben Touati was out of favor at the moment as a suspect of the murder of el-Arbi.
Barely a year later political fortunes were reversed. Said ben Driss, a lieutenant of the spahis (native cavalry), who had been made agha of Touggourt and Ouargla in 1872, had endeared himself to the French in 1874 by catching the rebel leader of 1871, Bou Choucha. When the troublesome area of Ouargla was placed under direct French administration, he was given the Souf as a compensation. He was opposed to the growing political influence of the Tidjaniya, and promptly replaced Hamou Moussa by Ahmad ben Touati. The latter had suffered a good deal of trouble, because the Tidjaniya leaders had accused him of the murder of el-Arbi, and seemed therefore a good choice to carry out an anti-Tidjaniya policy.
Ahmad ben Touati and the Tidjaniya leaders at the time saw, however, no benefit in mutual strife. During these years they managed to reach a silent agreement which delineated the mutual spheres of influence. The religious leaders were not interested in tax administration and military leadership. They tried, on the contrary, to establish their political clients as qadis (native judges) and legal and administrative clerks : a range of positions that could be just as profitable and were less subject to the vagaries of French and tribal politics. For half a century tribal and religious, leaders shared their influence on this understanding.
When Hamou Moussa began agitating against Ben Driss, the latter stroke a combined blow against him and the Tidjaniya in July 1875. A large supply of smuggled gun-powder was found in the Tidjaniya zaouia in Guemar, and Hamou Moussa was arrested for having been involved in the smuggling. Ahmad ben Touati was less than enthusiastic about the event. He did not want to get into conflict with Hamou Moussa and the Tidjaniya at the same time, and effective strikes against the gunpowder business were not popular with anybody in the Souf. Ben Driss therefore decided to drop him. In September 1875 a brother of Ben Driss kidnapped two of el-Arbi's murderers in southern Tunisia and handed them over to the French authorities in Biskra. These authorities were then obliged to reopen the investigation of the case, and called Ahmad ben Touati to Biskra for that purpose. The latter found some pretext not to go, however, and in December a bribed French sergeant let the prisoners escape from Biskra prison. The French authorities in Biskra were now sufficiently suspicious against Ahmad ben Touati to agree to his dismissal on a charge of exactions. Hamou Moussa was once again made khalifa of the Troud. When the divisional general from Constantine visited the Souf in March 1876, however, he was well received by the Touati family, and ordered Ben Driss to follow the advise of Ahmad ben Touati in all administrative affairs.
By now the French colonel in Biskra and Ben Driss were sufficiently annoyed to reach an agreement in July 1876 to make an outsider, an officer in the spahis from outside the Souf khalifa of the Troud. He was powerless to do anything without the assistance of either Hamou Moussa or Ahmad ben Touati, however, and in November 1876 Ben Driss complained about an approachment between these two old rivals. By now he had managed to alienate himself from all influential persons and factions in the Souf. The Troud announced their intention to emigrate to Tunisia, and rumors were spread that the Bey of Tunis would appoint a representative to rule the Souf in his name, since French authority had almost become non-existent. The French still hesitated, but a year later Ben Driss was finally sacked.
The Souf was now placed under the direct control of French officers, assisted by three local khalifas. The two khalifas of the Troud were in fact strawmen, who could do nothing without the consent and cooperation of Ahmed ben Touati and Hamou Moussa, but the French were at first unwilling to reinstate native leaders who had been sacked before.
In 1881 peace in the area was once more disturbed because of the French invasion in Tunisia. It took the French four or five years to pacify southern Tunisia. A small permanent French garrison was therefore established in the Souf. They made frequent use of the local goum (irregular cavalry on guard duty). It became increasingly unpractical for French officers to work with strawmen instead of the real local leaders, and after long bureaucratic hesitations Ahmad ben Touati and Hamou Moussa were reinstated as caids of the two major fractions of the Troud, a function which they retained till their deaths ten and twenty years later.
Local tribal leadership reached its apogee in this period, but it was already losing its political basis. Under the direct control of French officers the caids had none of the autonomy people like Ali Bey or Ben Driss had enjoyed. After the pacification of southern Tunisia the need for military leadership diminished. In the early eighties the goum of the Souf had counted about 250 men, in the nineties this number declined to about 50, and in 1907 no cavalrymen were on active duty. Tribal leaders were left with the unpopular duty of collecting taxes. As French administrative activities became more intensive, there arose an increased demand for native junior administrative staff, and these had from the beginning been nominated on the recommandation of the Tidjaniya leaders.
At the time the Rahmaniya were actually the largest brotherhood in the Souf, but their leadership was divided between two rival lines of sheikhs, and was therefore unable to play an effective political role. The Tidjaniya seem to have hoped to extend their influence along with the French penetration in the Algerian south and the Sahara. By now French officers had begun to realize that tribal leaders were not an established aristocracy, and therefore rather weak allies in the best of cases. The djemaas were formally recognized in 1896, but were reluctant to cooperate closely with the French. With the help of the Tidjaniya leaders the French hoped to establish some kind of legitimacy for their rule in the eyes of their Algerian subjects.
The Kadriya had had some adherents in the Souf since the early 19th century, but had remained relatively small so far. In 1887, however, two ambitious brothers came from the Kadriya zaouia in Nefta (southern Tunisia) to Algeria and founded Kadriya zaouias in the Souf and in Ouargla. Contrary to the Tidjaniya leaders, who had always led a rather secluded life, Si el-Hachemi, who came to the Souf, was very much a figure in public life. Following the Tidjaniya example he sought to extend his influence by acting as a patron with the French for his followers. Most French officers received him with considerable mistrust, however. The local caids and the Tidjaniya leaders, who had reached a modus vivendi, were not inclined to share the spoils of office with yet another contender, and encouraged the French mistrust. Rivalry between the Tidjaniya and Kadriya was usually fought out in petty local affairs, but on two occasions it involved the religious leaders of the Souf in scandals that attracted wider publicity.
On June 8 1896 the Marquis de Mores was assassinated by Tuaregs in the border area of Tunisia, Algeria and Tripolitania. He was a minor French aristocrat married to an American heiress, a rather paranoid adventurer and a prominent man in the French anti-semite movement of the eighteen-nineties. He imagined that the trans-Sahara trade was still a source of fabulous wealth, and planned to obtain a share in this wealth. When the French Army forbade him for security reasons to enter into the Sahara proper, Mores thought that French officers in the south sought to monopolize the fabulous wealth of the trans-Sahara trade for themselves. From southern Tunisia he went clandestinely south, joined a band of Tuareg and Chaamba he met, who offered to take him to Ghadamès, and was assassinated by them a few days afterwards.
The French authorities in Algeria and Tunisia showed little zeal to catch his murderers. They thought that Mores was largely responsible for his own fate. The commanding general in Constantine also saw his pet project of a peaceful alliance with the Tuareg threatened by any French retaliatory action. Morès's anti-semite friends in Algeria and France saw things differently. They claimed that the French authorities had instigated the murder to get rid of a dangerous political opponent. In the Souf the Kadriya leader Si el-Hachemi began dropping accusations that his Tidjaniya rival Si el-Arussi had been instigating the murder. Si el-Arussi was in fact attempting to extend his influence amongst the Tuareg, and he was probably as unwilling as the French authorities themselves to jeopardize these efforts by an active prosecution of the murderers.
In June 1898 Si el-Hachemi's brother Si Mohammed Tayyeb, Kadriya leader in Ouargla made a tour in the Sahara, met with three of Morès's murderers, managed to make them accompany him, and then handed them over to the French authorities in southern Tunisia. The French authorities received this gift with something less than enthusiasm. It placed them in a painful position toward Morès's political friends. The Kadriya leaders presumably overestimated the political influence of Mores anti-semite friends, and thought that they were allying themselves with a powerful French opposition faction. The authorities could hardly refuse to bring the murderers to trial, however. No evidence of any kind of conspiracy was produced on that occasion, but polemics about the affair continued for several decades.
In 1899 the Mores affair brought Isabelle Eberhardt to El Oued. She was an expatriate Russian girl in her early twenties17. On a earlier journey she had become fascinated by North Africa in general and the Souf in particular. She had converted to Islam, and used to go around dressed as an Arab boy. In 1899 she met Morès's widow in Paris and was offered money to return to the Souf to collect information on the affair. Once there she seems to have cared little about the Mores affair. She joined the Kadriya, acted as a kind of informal secretary to Si el-Hachemi, and began an affair with an Algerian soldier in the local garrison, whom she would later marry. The French commander, captain Cauvet, followed the phenomenon of a European girl gone native with horrified fascination.
In January 1900 she visited the village of Behima with Si el-Hachemi, and was attacked there by a religious fanatic and wounded in the arm with a sabre cut. The culprit was a member of the Tidjaniya, who declared that he had acted because Isabelle was insulting Islam by her dress and behavior. Cauvet and his local caids and the Tidjaniya leaders spread the rumor, however, that the culprit was secretly a Kadriya, and that he had attempted to murder Isabelle on the instructions of Si el-Hachemi, who was presumably her lover, but had begun to consider her a somewhat compromising companion. The story seems entirely unlikely. Si Mohammed knew that Isabelle planned to leave for Batna where her friend has been transferred to. If for some reason he wanted to get rid of her, she could easily have been murdered while riding around on her own in the Souf. It is hardly prestigious for an Arab chief to have a guest attacked in his presence. If there was any conspiracy in the affair it may well have been a Tidjaniya attempt to compromise Si el-Hachemi. None of all this could be proved, however, and Isabelle Eberhardt was (temporarily) expulsed from Algeria for disturbing the peace.
Hostility between the Tidjaniya and the Kadriya continued for at least two more decades. Si el-Hachemi never gained the confidence of the French, but he managed to gain many new members for the Kadriya, especially during Wolrd War I when he opposed the French ban on commerce with Ghadames, which was then in rebellion against the Italians. In November 1918 he actually got involved in an anti-French demonstration. The French were then recruiting Algerian laborers for work in France, and the rumor went around that these laborers would be incorporated in the army once they were in France. A crowd led by Si Mohammed demonstrated before the French commander's office. The French took the opportunity to expulse him to Tunisia for a while. He died in 1923, and his son died soon after him. His grandson Si Abd el-Aziz reconciled himself with the Tidjaniya leaders in 1924. Si Abd el-Aziz was a weak personality, however, and gained little political influence. In 1938 he supported the first nationalist demonstration in El Oued, and was banished to Tunisia afterwards. Si el-Arussi's successors as Tidjaniya leaders were also much weaker personalities, and from the nineteen-twenties on the political dominance by the religious leaders was a thing of the past, though the brotherhoods kept many members right to the present day. From the nineteen-thirties on political initiative came into the hands of Algerian nationalists, who recruited their leaders in other social categories (businessmen, migrant laborers, young people with a western type education) without much regard for their tribal or religious affiliations. The caids and sheikhs increasingly became French puppets without influence or prestige of their own, and often rather incompetent puppets even in the eyes of their masters.
The religious leaders had retained their prestige longer than the secular leaders, because they had been less directly involved in unpopular activities like tax-gathering or the repression of smuggling. In the long run it became clear, however, that they too were unable to bring about major changes in French policy. The propagation of a more orthodox Islam without Sufi influences by the Association des Ulémas in the nineteen-twenties and thirties had some influence in the Souf, especially in Zgoum, but the brotherhoods had a larger membership in 1945 than half a century before. People just did not look to them for political leadership anymore.
Both secular and religious leadership in traditional tribal areas were subject to permanent competition and rivalry. Secular leadership had been very weak in the Souf in precolonial days, but it could become more prominent between about 1860 and 1890, when tribal leaders could act as efficient intermediaries with external authorities. Neither secular nor religious leaders constituted an established hereditary aristocracy. Leadership tended to be hereditary, but in constant competition weak heirs were rapidly eliminated and competent outsiders could rise to prominence. The colonial authorities could, however, not tolerate the kind of political and religious agitation which led to the selection of competent leaders nor replace it with some effective electoral process of selection. Both secular and religious leadership became more strictly hereditary than they had ever been before, and so they suffered the fate of all closed family enterprises, where within a few generations an incompetent heir must inevitably come to power. Only the commercial bourgeoisie, which had already existed in precolonial days but not exerted political leadership, could maintain its position. Commercial competition remained pos-sible, and smuggling to and from Tunisia and Libya could never effectively be repressed. Competition by French businessmen was never strong in the south. Merchants also had the money to give their sons a modern education and qualify them as government bureaucrats in indépendant Algeria. Some of the old commercial families provide now the only direct link with the social structures of the 19th century Souf.

As we see tariqa membership has always been crosscutting with membership of political/regional fractions. The only (negative) exception is the village of Zgoum, where the population has almost unanimously stayed out of the turuq in favor of a more scriptural Islamic orthodoxy (A. Najah, 1971, 126). We also see that the Kadriya have increased considerably during the late 19th and early 20th century, a fact about which we shall come to talk again further on.
THE EARLY PERIOD OF FRENCH RULE
The French had consolidated their hold over Biskra in 1844, and were at first on relatively good terms with the rulers of Touggourt. They soon perceived that these rulers had actually very little influence in the Souf. Both Biskra and Touggourt depended on the Souf for their commerce to and from Tunisia, but the Souafa were not dependent on their ally in Touggourt for protection. Merchants from the Souf were involved in the smuggle of gunpowder from Tunisia to southern Algeria. In 1846 three former lieutenants of Abd el-Kader sought refuge in the Souf.
In 1847-1848 the sultan of Touggourt, with support from the Ben Gana family, defeated his rival, the sheikh of Temacine. He then asked the French commander in Biskra for support in a military expedition against the supporters of Temacine in the Souf, but this was refused. At the end of 1848 the French commander of Biskra started négociations with the djemaas of the Souf through the mediation of Ahmad Bey Ben Chenouf, the leader of a big family from the Constantinois. The fraction in the Souf that refused to pay tax to the rulers of Touggourt at the time (El-Oued, Guemar, Behima and Debila) now accepted to reconcile themselves to the French, and thereby to regain access to the market in Biskra, by submitting to the authority of Ahmad ben Chenouf. The ruler of Touggourt objected, in vain. Ahmad ben Chenouf was, however, unable to exercise any effective political authority in the Souf.
In January 1852 the ruler of Touggourt died, leaving as his heir a six year old son under the regency of his grandmother, who was a Ben Gana. There was a rival for the succession, however : the late ruler's father's brother's son Selman, then about 18 years old. He had the support of Temacine and of the sharif Mohammed ben Abdullah, a religious leader who was organizing resistance to the French in Ouargla. The French Governor General would actually have preferred to establish a Ben Gana as ruler of Touggourt, but the inhabitants resisted the idea, and only direct French military intervention might have realized it. The French therefore recognized the young ruler of Touggourt. In the meantime Selman gained the support of the Ouled Saoud in the Souf, who provided him with 300 footsoldiers. With their help he took Touggourt by surprise on April 1, 1852. When the zaouia of Temacine put its moral support behind him, resistance in the Oued Rhir rapidly broke down.
The French military leaders in eastern Algeria convinced a reluctant Governor General to recognize Selman as ruler of Touggourt, on the condition, however, that he would come in person to Biskra or Batna to submit himself to French sovereignty. Selman seems to have seen this as trick to lure him away from Touggourt, so that a pro Ben Gana coup might take place there in his absence, and refused to come. The French then blocked the wheat trade from Biskra to Touggourt, and allowed irregular cavalry from Biskra to raid two trade caravans from the Souf.
Ahmad Bey Ben Chenouf was sent to the Souf to try to pry the Souafa away from Selman, but he failed to do so. Selman began to crack down on real or assumed adversaries in the Oued Rhir. In april 1853 he lost much of his remaining support in the Souf by raiding Kouinine with 80 men to kill some political adversaries who had sought asylum there. A number of these opponents managed to escape to Guemar, which refused to extradit them. Since Selman's force was too weak to attack Guemar, he returned to Touggourt.

In May 1853 the Governor General ordered a new economic blockade of the Oued Rhir and the Souf. When Guemar, Zgoum and Tarzout sent a delegation to Biskra, offering to pay tax there instead of to Selman, the local military commander admitted them to the market of Biskra again, but when El Oued afterwards made a similar offer, it was refused. In the meantime Selman offered his cooperation to the sherif of Ouargla, and asked the Bey of Tunis for support against the French. The Governor General began planning direct military action in December 1853. He proposed to make a Ben Gana or Ben Chenouf the new ruler of Touggourt, but finally accepted a proposal by the regional military commander, colonel Desvaux, to install a Bou Okhaz there for the sake of divide-and-rule policy. In Touggourt Selman declared himself the khalifa (deputy) of the sherif of Ouargla. At first he managed to recruit only a few soldiers in the Souf, but in November 1854 he had 1 500 armed men from El Oued and 73 from Kouinine at his disposal. In March 1854 armed raiders from Biskra had, with the permission of the French, attacked several flocks of the Rebaia-fraction of the Troud, thereby driving El Oued in the camp of Selman again.
In November 1854 a French column of 250 men regular troops and 2 400 irregulars finally set out for the Oued Rhir. Just before that, in October, the villages of Kouinine and Tarzout had declared their submission in Biskra, while the zaouia of Temacine also declared itself against Selman. On November 29 Selman attacked the French column at Meggarine with 2 500 men, but suffered a bloody defeat, after which his army rapidly distintegrated. Selman and the sherif Mohammed ben Abdullah fled to Tunisia. On December 2 the French entered Touggourt. On December 12 a French column camped a few kilometers outside the inhabited area of the Souf to receive the submission of the Souafa. El Oued had to pay a fine of 60 000 Francs in two days.
On December 29 1854 the Governor General approved the appointment of Ali Bey Bou Okhaz, a son of Ferhat Bou Okhaz, as caid of Touggourt. The whole of the Souf was included in the new caidat, and was placed under the authority of a relative of Ali Bey as his khalifa (deputy). The new administration ignored the old soff system and the old system of collective rule by djamaas. The villages and the various fractions of the nomads were placed under the authority of single sheikhs. Such personal authority was unknown in the Souf, and was soon resented, the more so when its holders attempted to enforce unpopular French laws like the prohibition of the gunpowder trade with Tunisia. The first khalifa was sacked within a year after numerous complaints about his exactions. In 1857 the sheikh of the Troud subfaction of the Ouled Ahmed was assassinated after he had informed Ali Bey where a smuggled supply of gunpowder could be found. In 1858 a visiting French officer fined the Ferdjan subfaction of the Messaaba, because they refused to organize themselves in douars (camp groups or hamlets) to be admi-nistered by a single kebir (informal headman, responsible to the sheikh). In December 1860 a French officier on a yearly tour of inspection was received with a veritable stream of complaints about Ali Bey. Near El Oued 3 000 persons demonstrated against his exactions. There were also complaints against the khalifa and some of the sheikhs. The officer recognized in his report that some of the complaints were probably true, but saw no reason to act on them.
Though the new function of sheikh was not popular, it offered career prospects for active and ambitious men. Sheikhs were still supposed to fulfill the traditional role of war leader. The Souf was at the outer fringe of the pacified area, and animal raiding by and against still unsubmitted tribal groups further on remained frequent till the turn of the century. The tribes of the Tunisian south continued raiding flocks from the Souf till they were subjected by the French in the mid eighteen-eighties. Chaamba groups from the Ouargla area, sometimes in alliance with stray Tuaregs, continued raiding till the first decade of the twentieth century. French officiers were hesitant about permitting counter-raids, but were usually willing to ignore them.
The big merchant families had never been much interested in petty tribal politics, and political leaders were usually well-to-do but not really rich persons, who could exercise little economic power over their followers. There was thus little basis for strong personal leadership in pre-colonial days, but the favor and support of the French and their representative Ahmed Bey began to supply a power-base for ambitious leaders from the late eighteen-fifties on. In those years we find the first mention of two then still relatively young men, Hamou Moussa and Ahmad ben Touati, who would become the main local leaders in the Souf in the second half of the nineteenth century (A.N. 13 KK 16). At the time they were sheikhs of minor fractions of the Troud. Raiding and counterraiding was mainly an occupation of the nomads, in which the inhabitants of the sedentary villages took little part.
At first paramount power still remained in the hands of Ahmed Bey and his representatives. The sixties seem to have been a relatively uneventful period in the Souf, except for some raiding, but in 1871 things exploded. The French defeat in the war of 1870/71 stimulated a large scale and widespread anti-French rebellion in Algeria. Things remained quiet around Biskra and the Souf at first, and the French garrison of Biskra was called away to assist in the Aures. Before his departure the French commander ordered the Ben Gana and Bou Okhaz families to mobilize the warriors of their soffs in the Biskra area and to post them around the oasis against an eventual surprise attack. The two factions observed each other full of mistrust, fearing that the other might attempt to usurp power in the case of a breakdown of French authority. Ahmed Bey had left Touggourt with some misgivings, since trouble was brewing in the Ouargla area, and had put the members of his family under the protection of the Tidjaniya zaouia in Guemar in the Souf.
In the Ouargla area a self-made, charismatic religious leader, known as Bou Chou-cha, took over control of the whole oasis in March 1871. On May 13 1871 a group of his horsemen rode into Touggourt and were acclaimed by the population. A small native garrison and six relatives of Ahmed Bey were taken prisoner and killed some days later. In Biskra Ahmed Bey's warriors were busy plundering some villages of the other soff, and wanted to protect their own villages against a similar fate. They were not in a hurry to march against Touggourt. On June 24 Ali Bey reached Touggourt with some of his troops, but a storm attack on the town on July 8 failed and food supplies for his troops became scarce. When Bou Choucha with a number of his warriors managed to get into the besieged town on July 10, Ali Bey's force rapidly dispersed and returned to the Biskra area.
Even before taking Touggourt Bou Choucha had come to the Souf to get hold of Ali Bey's family in Guemar. On May 4 he attempted a surprise attack on Guemar during which 60 local people were killed and 100 wounded and part of Guemar was plundered. An attack on the zaouia the next day was beaten off, however, and Guemar called allies from Zgoum and Kouinine to its assistance. Confronted with a large force of Souafa on May 6 Bou Choucha declined to fight, and when the Souafa offered him compensation for the horses killed during the fighting, he accepted to leave the Souf, and went on to Touggourt.
Later that summer the Ben Gana faction in the Souf (Tarzout, Kouinine and Zgoum) used their contacts with Rahmaniya branches in southern Tunisia to obtain a large supply of gunpowder, which they offered for sale to Bou Choucha. The Bou Okhaz faction (Guemar, El Oued and Debila) resisted this deal in the hope of breaking the monopoly of the other faction on the lucrative gunpowder trade. After a streetlight in Tarzout, in which 24 people were wounded, the gunpowder sellers were obliged to repay to Guemar and its allies the 25 000 Francs paid to Bou Choucha in May and a compensation for the plundering and the people killed in Guemar on that occasion.
These incidents illustrate clearly what tribal organization in the Souf was, and what it was not. Threatened by outside aggression Guemar claimed at first the assistance of the Ouled Saoud faction. Soon afterwards, however, some of these same allies prepared to provide the same outside aggressor with gunpowder, now acting in the framework of another alliance of groups with good trade relations in southern Tunisia. This position had almost automatically brought them into the opposition against Ahmed Bey, who had been obliged to apply the French prohibition against the gunpowder trade. Guemar now promptly joined the other coalition of those without favorable trade relations in Tunisia, who took the opportunity to try to break into the gunpowder monopoly and share in the profits. The soffs were not the immutable alliances that French observers at the time took them to be, but flexible coalitions that could be adapted to the political interests of the moment.
On December 27 1871 French troops finally retook Touggourt. Ali Bey accused the Ben Gana family of having been in contact with Bou Choucha. A later French report (A.N. 6 X 19) considers that he was probably right in this, but the French authorities at the time chose to ignore it, and in February 1872 Ali Bey was removed to another area.
TOWARD DIRECT FRENCH RULE
In March 1872 a French column under the ill famed general Gallifet entered the Souf and exacted a fine of 2 400 sheep and 1 700 camels. A son of the Ben Gana family accompanied them as an interpreter. The Ben Gana hoped to take over power in Touggourt and the Souf, now that Ali Bey was discredited with the French. Gallifet and his superiors had, however, become mistrusting of concentrating too much power in the hands of Algerian aristocratic families whose loyalty to the French case had often turned out to be dubious. An Italian adventurer and convert to Islam, el-Arbi Mameluk, who had for many years been serving with the French native troops, was appointed caid of the Souf.
El-Arbi Mameluk was an outsider in the regional factional system. Most notables of the Souf, stimulated in this by the Ben Gana family, opposed his nomination. He also opposed the influence of the Tidjaniya zaouias in Temacine and Gue-mar. Even a French report conceded that his exactions in the Souf were worse thant average. Within a year he was completely isolated. In November 1873 he was assassinated while travelling to Biskra. His murderers, four local men from the Souf, fled to Tunisia. Ahmad ben Touati, the most important of the notables of the Souf who had opposed him, was arrested as an accomplice, but set free again after a while because of lack of evidence.
Only gradually the French authorities uncovered the backgrounds of the murder. It seems that the administrative sheikhs had not been directly involved, but that the djamaas (councils of notables) of the various fractions, whose position was not at that time formally recognized by the French authorities, had taken the decision. The leader of the actual murderers was a man who also had a personal grief against el-Arbi, who had been sleeping with his brother's wife. The French authorities finally chose to ignore the deeper backgrounds of the case.
At first a brother-in-law of el-Arbi, Si el-Okbi, was made khalifa of the Souf, but his influence was minimal (A.N. 8 H 6). He was completely dependent on the local "career administrator" Hamou Moussa, who was now made khalifa of all the Troud. Hamou Moussa was one of the few political leaders in the Souf who seems not to have been involved in the conspiracy against el-Arbi. He was on good terms with the Tidjaniya leaders, though he was not a member of the brotherhood himself. His rival Ahmad ben Touati was out of favor at the moment as a suspect of the murder of el-Arbi.
Barely a year later political fortunes were reversed. Said ben Driss, a lieutenant of the spahis (native cavalry), who had been made agha of Touggourt and Ouargla in 1872, had endeared himself to the French in 1874 by catching the rebel leader of 1871, Bou Choucha. When the troublesome area of Ouargla was placed under direct French administration, he was given the Souf as a compensation. He was opposed to the growing political influence of the Tidjaniya, and promptly replaced Hamou Moussa by Ahmad ben Touati. The latter had suffered a good deal of trouble, because the Tidjaniya leaders had accused him of the murder of el-Arbi, and seemed therefore a good choice to carry out an anti-Tidjaniya policy.
Ahmad ben Touati and the Tidjaniya leaders at the time saw, however, no benefit in mutual strife. During these years they managed to reach a silent agreement which delineated the mutual spheres of influence. The religious leaders were not interested in tax administration and military leadership. They tried, on the contrary, to establish their political clients as qadis (native judges) and legal and administrative clerks : a range of positions that could be just as profitable and were less subject to the vagaries of French and tribal politics. For half a century tribal and religious, leaders shared their influence on this understanding.
When Hamou Moussa began agitating against Ben Driss, the latter stroke a combined blow against him and the Tidjaniya in July 1875. A large supply of smuggled gun-powder was found in the Tidjaniya zaouia in Guemar, and Hamou Moussa was arrested for having been involved in the smuggling. Ahmad ben Touati was less than enthusiastic about the event. He did not want to get into conflict with Hamou Moussa and the Tidjaniya at the same time, and effective strikes against the gunpowder business were not popular with anybody in the Souf. Ben Driss therefore decided to drop him. In September 1875 a brother of Ben Driss kidnapped two of el-Arbi's murderers in southern Tunisia and handed them over to the French authorities in Biskra. These authorities were then obliged to reopen the investigation of the case, and called Ahmad ben Touati to Biskra for that purpose. The latter found some pretext not to go, however, and in December a bribed French sergeant let the prisoners escape from Biskra prison. The French authorities in Biskra were now sufficiently suspicious against Ahmad ben Touati to agree to his dismissal on a charge of exactions. Hamou Moussa was once again made khalifa of the Troud. When the divisional general from Constantine visited the Souf in March 1876, however, he was well received by the Touati family, and ordered Ben Driss to follow the advise of Ahmad ben Touati in all administrative affairs.
By now the French colonel in Biskra and Ben Driss were sufficiently annoyed to reach an agreement in July 1876 to make an outsider, an officer in the spahis from outside the Souf khalifa of the Troud. He was powerless to do anything without the assistance of either Hamou Moussa or Ahmad ben Touati, however, and in November 1876 Ben Driss complained about an approachment between these two old rivals. By now he had managed to alienate himself from all influential persons and factions in the Souf. The Troud announced their intention to emigrate to Tunisia, and rumors were spread that the Bey of Tunis would appoint a representative to rule the Souf in his name, since French authority had almost become non-existent. The French still hesitated, but a year later Ben Driss was finally sacked.
The Souf was now placed under the direct control of French officers, assisted by three local khalifas. The two khalifas of the Troud were in fact strawmen, who could do nothing without the consent and cooperation of Ahmed ben Touati and Hamou Moussa, but the French were at first unwilling to reinstate native leaders who had been sacked before.
In 1881 peace in the area was once more disturbed because of the French invasion in Tunisia. It took the French four or five years to pacify southern Tunisia. A small permanent French garrison was therefore established in the Souf. They made frequent use of the local goum (irregular cavalry on guard duty). It became increasingly unpractical for French officers to work with strawmen instead of the real local leaders, and after long bureaucratic hesitations Ahmad ben Touati and Hamou Moussa were reinstated as caids of the two major fractions of the Troud, a function which they retained till their deaths ten and twenty years later.
Local tribal leadership reached its apogee in this period, but it was already losing its political basis. Under the direct control of French officers the caids had none of the autonomy people like Ali Bey or Ben Driss had enjoyed. After the pacification of southern Tunisia the need for military leadership diminished. In the early eighties the goum of the Souf had counted about 250 men, in the nineties this number declined to about 50, and in 1907 no cavalrymen were on active duty. Tribal leaders were left with the unpopular duty of collecting taxes. As French administrative activities became more intensive, there arose an increased demand for native junior administrative staff, and these had from the beginning been nominated on the recommandation of the Tidjaniya leaders.
At the time the Rahmaniya were actually the largest brotherhood in the Souf, but their leadership was divided between two rival lines of sheikhs, and was therefore unable to play an effective political role. The Tidjaniya seem to have hoped to extend their influence along with the French penetration in the Algerian south and the Sahara. By now French officers had begun to realize that tribal leaders were not an established aristocracy, and therefore rather weak allies in the best of cases. The djemaas were formally recognized in 1896, but were reluctant to cooperate closely with the French. With the help of the Tidjaniya leaders the French hoped to establish some kind of legitimacy for their rule in the eyes of their Algerian subjects.
The Kadriya had had some adherents in the Souf since the early 19th century, but had remained relatively small so far. In 1887, however, two ambitious brothers came from the Kadriya zaouia in Nefta (southern Tunisia) to Algeria and founded Kadriya zaouias in the Souf and in Ouargla. Contrary to the Tidjaniya leaders, who had always led a rather secluded life, Si el-Hachemi, who came to the Souf, was very much a figure in public life. Following the Tidjaniya example he sought to extend his influence by acting as a patron with the French for his followers. Most French officers received him with considerable mistrust, however. The local caids and the Tidjaniya leaders, who had reached a modus vivendi, were not inclined to share the spoils of office with yet another contender, and encouraged the French mistrust. Rivalry between the Tidjaniya and Kadriya was usually fought out in petty local affairs, but on two occasions it involved the religious leaders of the Souf in scandals that attracted wider publicity.
On June 8 1896 the Marquis de Mores was assassinated by Tuaregs in the border area of Tunisia, Algeria and Tripolitania. He was a minor French aristocrat married to an American heiress, a rather paranoid adventurer and a prominent man in the French anti-semite movement of the eighteen-nineties. He imagined that the trans-Sahara trade was still a source of fabulous wealth, and planned to obtain a share in this wealth. When the French Army forbade him for security reasons to enter into the Sahara proper, Mores thought that French officers in the south sought to monopolize the fabulous wealth of the trans-Sahara trade for themselves. From southern Tunisia he went clandestinely south, joined a band of Tuareg and Chaamba he met, who offered to take him to Ghadamès, and was assassinated by them a few days afterwards.
The French authorities in Algeria and Tunisia showed little zeal to catch his murderers. They thought that Mores was largely responsible for his own fate. The commanding general in Constantine also saw his pet project of a peaceful alliance with the Tuareg threatened by any French retaliatory action. Morès's anti-semite friends in Algeria and France saw things differently. They claimed that the French authorities had instigated the murder to get rid of a dangerous political opponent. In the Souf the Kadriya leader Si el-Hachemi began dropping accusations that his Tidjaniya rival Si el-Arussi had been instigating the murder. Si el-Arussi was in fact attempting to extend his influence amongst the Tuareg, and he was probably as unwilling as the French authorities themselves to jeopardize these efforts by an active prosecution of the murderers.
In June 1898 Si el-Hachemi's brother Si Mohammed Tayyeb, Kadriya leader in Ouargla made a tour in the Sahara, met with three of Morès's murderers, managed to make them accompany him, and then handed them over to the French authorities in southern Tunisia. The French authorities received this gift with something less than enthusiasm. It placed them in a painful position toward Morès's political friends. The Kadriya leaders presumably overestimated the political influence of Mores anti-semite friends, and thought that they were allying themselves with a powerful French opposition faction. The authorities could hardly refuse to bring the murderers to trial, however. No evidence of any kind of conspiracy was produced on that occasion, but polemics about the affair continued for several decades.
In 1899 the Mores affair brought Isabelle Eberhardt to El Oued. She was an expatriate Russian girl in her early twenties17. On a earlier journey she had become fascinated by North Africa in general and the Souf in particular. She had converted to Islam, and used to go around dressed as an Arab boy. In 1899 she met Morès's widow in Paris and was offered money to return to the Souf to collect information on the affair. Once there she seems to have cared little about the Mores affair. She joined the Kadriya, acted as a kind of informal secretary to Si el-Hachemi, and began an affair with an Algerian soldier in the local garrison, whom she would later marry. The French commander, captain Cauvet, followed the phenomenon of a European girl gone native with horrified fascination.
In January 1900 she visited the village of Behima with Si el-Hachemi, and was attacked there by a religious fanatic and wounded in the arm with a sabre cut. The culprit was a member of the Tidjaniya, who declared that he had acted because Isabelle was insulting Islam by her dress and behavior. Cauvet and his local caids and the Tidjaniya leaders spread the rumor, however, that the culprit was secretly a Kadriya, and that he had attempted to murder Isabelle on the instructions of Si el-Hachemi, who was presumably her lover, but had begun to consider her a somewhat compromising companion. The story seems entirely unlikely. Si Mohammed knew that Isabelle planned to leave for Batna where her friend has been transferred to. If for some reason he wanted to get rid of her, she could easily have been murdered while riding around on her own in the Souf. It is hardly prestigious for an Arab chief to have a guest attacked in his presence. If there was any conspiracy in the affair it may well have been a Tidjaniya attempt to compromise Si el-Hachemi. None of all this could be proved, however, and Isabelle Eberhardt was (temporarily) expulsed from Algeria for disturbing the peace.
Hostility between the Tidjaniya and the Kadriya continued for at least two more decades. Si el-Hachemi never gained the confidence of the French, but he managed to gain many new members for the Kadriya, especially during Wolrd War I when he opposed the French ban on commerce with Ghadames, which was then in rebellion against the Italians. In November 1918 he actually got involved in an anti-French demonstration. The French were then recruiting Algerian laborers for work in France, and the rumor went around that these laborers would be incorporated in the army once they were in France. A crowd led by Si Mohammed demonstrated before the French commander's office. The French took the opportunity to expulse him to Tunisia for a while. He died in 1923, and his son died soon after him. His grandson Si Abd el-Aziz reconciled himself with the Tidjaniya leaders in 1924. Si Abd el-Aziz was a weak personality, however, and gained little political influence. In 1938 he supported the first nationalist demonstration in El Oued, and was banished to Tunisia afterwards. Si el-Arussi's successors as Tidjaniya leaders were also much weaker personalities, and from the nineteen-twenties on the political dominance by the religious leaders was a thing of the past, though the brotherhoods kept many members right to the present day. From the nineteen-thirties on political initiative came into the hands of Algerian nationalists, who recruited their leaders in other social categories (businessmen, migrant laborers, young people with a western type education) without much regard for their tribal or religious affiliations. The caids and sheikhs increasingly became French puppets without influence or prestige of their own, and often rather incompetent puppets even in the eyes of their masters.
The religious leaders had retained their prestige longer than the secular leaders, because they had been less directly involved in unpopular activities like tax-gathering or the repression of smuggling. In the long run it became clear, however, that they too were unable to bring about major changes in French policy. The propagation of a more orthodox Islam without Sufi influences by the Association des Ulémas in the nineteen-twenties and thirties had some influence in the Souf, especially in Zgoum, but the brotherhoods had a larger membership in 1945 than half a century before. People just did not look to them for political leadership anymore.
Both secular and religious leadership in traditional tribal areas were subject to permanent competition and rivalry. Secular leadership had been very weak in the Souf in precolonial days, but it could become more prominent between about 1860 and 1890, when tribal leaders could act as efficient intermediaries with external authorities. Neither secular nor religious leaders constituted an established hereditary aristocracy. Leadership tended to be hereditary, but in constant competition weak heirs were rapidly eliminated and competent outsiders could rise to prominence. The colonial authorities could, however, not tolerate the kind of political and religious agitation which led to the selection of competent leaders nor replace it with some effective electoral process of selection. Both secular and religious leadership became more strictly hereditary than they had ever been before, and so they suffered the fate of all closed family enterprises, where within a few generations an incompetent heir must inevitably come to power. Only the commercial bourgeoisie, which had already existed in precolonial days but not exerted political leadership, could maintain its position. Commercial competition remained pos-sible, and smuggling to and from Tunisia and Libya could never effectively be repressed. Competition by French businessmen was never strong in the south. Merchants also had the money to give their sons a modern education and qualify them as government bureaucrats in indépendant Algeria. Some of the old commercial families provide now the only direct link with the social structures of the 19th century Souf.