The Sack of Sansanné-Haoussa was a military expedition that took place in the village of Sansanné Haoussa, located in present-day Niger. This haunting military campaign unleashed a wave of destruction, resulting in the tragic loss of one hundred and one lives.
The Voulet-Chanoine expedition was part of the broader scramble for Africa during the late 19th century, where European powers sought to dominate and exploit the continent’s abundant resources. France, eager to expand its imperial reach, set its sights on West Africa, including the valuable territories in Niger.
In 1898, France sent out three expeditions to advance its territorial ambitions in West Africa. The Voulet-Chanoine forces departed from Senegal, while the Foureau-Lamy and Gentil missions set out from Algeria and Middle Congo, respectively. Their primary mission was to conquer the Chad Basin and unify all French territories in the region.
Led by Captain Paul Voulet and his adjutant Lt. Julien Chanoine, the Voulet-Chanoine Mission emerged as the most violent of the three expeditions, comprising over 2000 men. As they marched through the arid region, they faced mounting challenges in securing provisions for their large column. Despite being in French-controlled areas, Voulet’s troops resorted to pillaging, looting, and engaging in horrifying acts of violence, including rape and murder.
One of the most harrowing incidents during the Voulet-Chanoine Mission was the sacking of Sansanné-Haoussa village on 8 January 1899. In a brutal display of retaliation for the wounding of a couple of his soldiers, Captain Voulet ordered the massacre of one hundred and one people, among whom were thirty women and children. Innocent civilians bore the brunt of the Mission’s wrath, and the merciless killing spree reduced the once-thriving village to ruins, leaving behind a trail of devastation and grief. The ruthless expedition’s plundering of cattle and food added to the despair of the already traumatized village.
After the sack of Sansanné Haoussa, the internal discontent among the troops grew. Less than enthusiastic about their commanders, the negative sentiment spread. Soon after, Voulet and Chanoine received news of an impending mutiny.
In a desperate attempt to assert their authority, Voulet and Chanoine assembled the troops and ordered the execution of the informer in front of the entire regiment, punishing him for informing too late. Voulet then aggressively lectured the soldiers about their duty to obey their leaders, all while firing shots at them. In this chaotic and desperate scene, the Senegalese troops returned fire, tragically killing Lieutenant Chanoine. Amidst the chaos, Captain Voulet managed to escape into the darkness.
The following morning, Voulet attempted to re-enter the camp, but a brave sentry blocked his path, refusing to yield. Voulet, consumed by desperation and fear, fired at the sentry, but his aim missed. The loyal sentry returned fire, killing Voulet and bringing an abrupt end to the ill-fated Voulet-Chanoine mission.