1902 Encyclopedia > Senegambia


SENEGAMBIA, a country in the west of equatorial Africa, comprising, as the name indicates, the regions watered by the Senegal and the Gambia. It lies between 9° and 17° N. lat. and 6° and 17° 30' W. long., being bounded on the N. by the Sahara, W. by the Atlantic, S. by Sierra Leone, and E. by the Joliba or upper Niger. The area is estimated at about 400,000 square miles. Accepting the course of the Senegal and its right hand affluent the Ba-ule as the boundary towards the Sahara, the Joliba as the frontier towards Segu and Upper Guinea, and the watershed between the Mellacorée (Melliconry) and the Great Scarcies as that between Senegambia and Sierra Leone, we have only for short distances to fall back on a mere conventional delimitation,—in the north between Sidian on the Ba-ule and Sansanding on the Niger via Murdia ; in the south-east, from Sansanding to a point above Nyamina ; and finally between the Joliba Coast, and the sources of the Great Scarcies. The Senegambian coast extends south-south-west almost in a straight line from the N'diadier or Mosquito lagoon (Marigot des Ma-ringouins), formerly the northern mouth of the Senegal, to Cape Verd, the most western point of the African con-tinent ; then it bends south as far as Cape Boxo ; and afterwards south-east as far as the Mellacorée. With the exception of the two great capes just mentioned, the only headlands of any importance are Cape St Mary, forming the south side of the estuary of the Gambia ; Cape Verga, between Bio Nunez and Rio Pongo ; and Konakry Point, opposite the Los (or Idolos) Islands. The only gulf on the whole coast is that which lies to the south of Cape Verd and contains the island of GORÉE (q.v.); the other inlets, such as the bay of Sangareah, are mere estuaries or river mouths. Apart from the island in the Senegal on which St Louis is built and those formed by the deltas of the rivers, the only islands along the coast are Gorée, the Bissagos (or Bijug) Archipelago, the Los Islands, and the little island of Matakong. The coast in the northern part has the same appearance as that of the Sahara,—low, arid, desolate, and dune-skirted, its monotony relieved only here and there by cliffs and plateaus. Farther south it becomes low, marshy, and clothed with luxuriant vegetation. Behind the low flat seaboard the country rises into a vast Interior, plateau terminating eastwards in a mountainous region. Though of no great height, these mountains cover a large area and have numerous ramifications. Farther to the east they sink abruptly towards the Niger valley, while southwards they are prolonged towards Sierra Leone and the interior of Upper Guinea, perhaps forming those Kong Mountains which are said to exist between the ocean and the Niger basin. Under the name of Mounts Badet, Yandi, Maté, Kissi (of which the first form the "Alps" of Futa-Jallon) they descend on the west by a series of terraces to the plains of Senegambia, and on the north they extend to the left bank of the Senegal and even throw out some spurs into the desert beyond. The moun-tain region is cut by numerous erosion valleys. As to the general altitude nothing is accurately known, but the following points have been determined—Mount Daro, 4068 feet; Kuruworo, 3868 ; Warnani, 3799 ; Yenkina, 3560 ; Bogoma, 3524 ; Pampaya, 3290. The principal rivers are the Senegal, the Salum, the Yombas, the Gambia, the Casamance, the Cacheo, the Geba, the Rio Grande, the Cassini, the Compony, the Rio Nunez, the Rio Pongo, the Dubreka or Konakry, tlie Foreeareah, and the Mellacoree. They all rise in the mountains of the interior or at the foot of the highlands and fall into the Atlantic. Their general direction is from east to west with a south-west deflexion, which becomes always more pronounced as we advance southwards. Unlike these rivers, the Joliba or NIGER (q.v.), flowing north and north-east, soon passes beyond Senegambia. Lagoons and backwaters are com-mon ; but there are no true lakes of any importance.

Geology. The geological constitution of the country is as yet very imper-fectly known, especially in the interior. The low region of the seaboard has a very uniform character. It consists of sandstones or clay rocks and loose beds of reddish soil containing marine shells. At certain points, such as Cape Verd and Cape Roxo, the sand-stones crop out; it is the red colour of the sandstone in fact which has given Cape Roxo or Cap Rouge its name. Clay slates also occur, and at intervals these sedimentary strata are interrupted by basaltic amygdaloid and volcanic rocks. For instance, the island of Goree is basaltic ; the Bissagos (Bissao) Islands are composed of scoriae and other volcanic products ; and a great part of the coast to the north of Rio Nunez consists of basaltic and amygdaloid rocks. The base of the mountains is formed in certain places of clay slate, but more generally of granite, porphyry, syenite, or trachyte. In those districts mica schists and iron ores occur. Iron and gold are found in the mountains and the alluvial deposits. The streams also carry down gold dust. Many of the valleys are covered with fertile soils and there is generally a fertile belt along the river sides; but the rest of the country is rather arid and sterile.

Climate. The climate is far from being so unhealthy as is frequently asserted. Except when yellow fever is raging, Europeans may live there as satisfactorily as at home. There are two seasons, the dry season and the rainy season or winter, the latter contemporaneous with our summer. Along the seaboard the dry season is cool and agreeable ; in the interior it is mild only for the three months which correspond to our winter, and then it becomes a time of intolerable heat. The annual temperature increases as we advance south and more rapidly as we advance east into the interior, except, of course, where an ascent is made to higher altitudes. To the south of Cape Verd the changes of temperature become less and less marked ; Bissao has a more equable climate than Goree. East-wards the monthly range of the thermometer becomes more exten-sive. The maximum readings, which are exceptional at St Louis, become almost the rule at Bakel on the upper Senegal and at MacCarthy on the Gambia. In the north, on the banks of the Senegal, the north-east trade-winds blow for eight months of the year, the daily land and sea breezes which cool the atmosphere along the seaboard not being felt far inland. During the other four months there prevails a gentle south-west monsoon accom-panied with frequent calms, storms, tornadoes, and rains. South-wards along the coast the trade-winds gradually decrease in both strength and duration, while the south-west monsoon becomes more powerful and persistent. The rainy season begins at Goree between 27th June and 13th July, on the Gambia about 20th June, on the Casamance about the end of May, at the Bissagos Archipelago about the middle of May, and on the Rio Nunez at the end of April. During this season Senegambia, drenched by heavy rains brought from the ocean, has everywhere one uniform appearance. The mean temperature is throughout very close on 81° Fahr. and the range of the thermometer is extremely limited. The rivers overflow and Hood the lowlands. Storms are frequent. Vegetation displays its fullest energy. The fever exhalations are unfortunately also at their worst. At St Louis, Goree, Dagana, and all along the Senegal there are 35 days of rain, a slight increase being apparent in the upper course of the river. At St Mary's, Bathurst, there are 48 days, at Sedhiu 84, at Bissao 111, at Boke 137,—a steady increase as we approach the equator. The number of storms follows almost the same ratio of increase, and showers which last two or three hours at St Louis give place to whole days of rain on the Casamance and the Rio Nunez.

Flora. The king of the Senegambian trees is the baobab (Adansonia digitata), which sometimes at the height of 24 feet has a diameter of 34 feet and a circumference of 104. Acacias are very numerous, one species, A. Adansonia, being indeed the commonest of all Sene-jmibian trees and valuable for its ship-timber. Among the palm-trees the ronier deserves to be mentioned, as the wood resists moisture and the attacks of insects ; in some places, as in Cayor, it forms magnificent forests. The wood of the cailcedra (Khaya senegalensis), a tall tree, is used in joiner's work and inlaying, and its bark furnishes a bitter tonic. The mampatas grows sometimes 100 feet high, its branches beginning only at a height of about 25 feet. The tree producing the famous kola-nut grows on the banks of the southern streams. It is almost needless to mention the m'bilor, the gonat, the mimosa, fig-trees, orange-trees, cocoa-palms, mango-trees, pomegranates, sycamores, and so on. The dimb, the netern, the tiamanoi, the dimbguton, the goiogne, the n'tabo yield edible fruits. The cultivated plants are millet, rice, tobacco, haricots, ground-nuts, indigo (wild indigo is also abun-dant), cotton (also found wild), maize, sugar-cane, and the butter-tree or karité.

Fauna. The Senegambian lion is quite different from the Barbary lion: its colour is a deeper and brighter yellow, and its mane is neither so thick nor so long, Other beasts of prey are the leopard, the wild cat, the cheetah, the civet, and the hyaena. The wild boar is clumsier than the European variety. Antelopes and gazelles occur in large herds all through upper Senegambia; the giraffe is common in the region of the upper Senegal ; the elephant is rare ; the hippopotamus is gradually disappearing. Crocodiles swarm both in the upper Senegal and the upper Niger. Monkeys and apes of different species (the chimpanzee, the colobus, the cynocephalus, &c. ), the squirrel, rat, and mouse abound. The hedgehog, marmot, porcupine, hare, rabbit, &c., are also met with. Among the more noteworthy birds are the ostrich, which migrates to the Sahara ; the bustard, occurring in desert and uncultivated districts ; the marabout, a kind of stork, with its beak black in the middle and red at the point, which frequents the moist meadow-lands and the lagoons ; the brown partridge, the rock partridge, and the quail in the plains and on the mountain sides ; and the guinea-fowl in the thickets and brushwood. Along the coast are caught the sperm whale, the manatee, and the cod-fish. The domestic animals are the horse, ass, ox, sheep, goat, dog, and camel.

Population. The population of Senegambia cannot be ascertained with any approach to accuracy, but it may be roughly stated at from ten to twelve millions. It comprises three distinct races,—the Moor, the Negro, and the European. The Moors, or rather Berbers (Trarzas, Braknas, and Duaish), belong strictly to the right bank of the Senegal and appear in Senegambia only exceptionally. The Negroes form the bulk of the population. They are divided into Pouls (Peuls, Fulbe, Fulah, or Fellatah), Toucouleurs, Mandingoes, Sarakolés, Wolofs, Sereres, Diolas, Bambaras, Balantes, Biafares, Papels, Nalus, Landumans, Bagas, and Susus. The Pouls inhabit Futa, Damga, Bondu, and Futa-Jallon; they have a reddish complexion and almost straight hair, their body fairly stout, but their limbs slim. They are gentle and hospitable, but addicted to theft. The Toucouleurs, Poul half-breeds, belonging originally to Futa-Jallon, are similar to the Negro proper ; they are treacherous, warlike, fond of plunder, and fanatical in their Mohammedanism. The Mandingoes or Malinkés inhabit the basins of the upper Niger and the upper Senegal and the western slope of the mountains of Futa-Jallon. They comprise the Mandingo proper, occupying Handing, and the Malinkes and Soninkes, scattered about Bambuk, Buré, and Fuladugu. Under the name of Wakore or Wangara they are also found in all the immense tract which extends to the north of the Kong Mountains. They are tall of stature and of great muscular strength. The Sarakolés are one of the branches of the Bambara race produced by crossing with the Pouls. Their character is mild and pacific. Scattered about in Guoy, Kamera, and Guidimakha, they are fond of trade and engage in it with activity. The Wolofs and the Sereres inhabit the sea-board from St Louis to Cape Verd and the left bank of the Senegal from its mouth to Richard Toll and Dagana. They are tall and robust, with black and glossy skin. Most of them are fetishists. The Diolas have flat noses, thick lips, harsh features, and a prominent belly ; the body is tattooed. The Bambaras, who have invaded Kaarta and Khasso, have a coppery black complexion and frizzly hair; their cheeks are marked with deep scars. The Balantes inhabit the left bank of the Casamance ; they are as cruel and as fond of pillage as the Mandingoes, but are more generous towards the vanquished. The Biafares live on the banks of the Rio Grande and the Papels in the valley of the Cacheo and the Geba. The Nalus and the Landumans are tributary to the French ports of the Rio Nunez and the Rio Pongo. Islam is gradually detaching them from fetishism. The Bagas occupy the coast between the Rio Nunez and the Rio Pongo. The Susus formerly dwelt on the upper Niger, but they were expelled by the invasion of the Mohammedans and are at the present time settled in the valley of the Rio Pongo. The principal languages of Senegambia are Wolof, PouL, Sereres, Mandingo, and Arabic. Wolof is spoken in a large pari of Senegambia, in Wolof, Walo, Cayor, Dakar, Baol, Sine, Salum, and in the towns of St Louis and Gorée. The river Senegal marks the line of separation between Wolof and Arabic. Poul is the language of the Pouls and the Toucouleurs ; Mandingo comprises several dialects,—Malinké, Soninké, Bambara. The few Europeans are mainly civil and military officials or traders. White planters are rare. The natives of Senegambia are generally divided into two quite distinct classes, — freemen and slaves. The griots arc a kind of bards or trouvères who live at the expense of those whose praises they sing. Polygamy is generally practised. Circumcision of the adults of both sexes is a rite accompanied with superstitious observances. Every canton, every village in independent Senegambia is governed either by a chief ("king") or by an "almamy " elected by a group of villagers.

History. Senegambia is divided into French Senegambia (with the terri- tories placed under French protection), English Senegambia, Portuguese Senegambia, and independent Senegambia, comprising the native states not under the protection of a European power. French Senegambia is called the colony of SENEGAL (q.v.). English Senegambia comprises the establishments of the GAMBIA {q.v.) and the islands of Los. Portuguese Senegambia consisted till quite recently of Bissagos Archipelago and the "factories" of Zighinchor on the Casamance, Cacheo and Farim on the Rio Cacheo, and Geba on the Geba. By an arrangement effected in 1886 Portugal ceded Zighinchor to France in exchange for Massabé on the Loango coast. Germany, which seemed at one time disposed to place various territories of Dubreka, Koba, and Kabitai under its protection, has formally abandoned the plan. The independent states are not very numerous, but for the most part they are more extensive than the protected countries. They were quite recently—Jolof, lying between the Senegal and the Gambia in one direction and between the Falemé and the ocean in the other; Buré in the Mandingo region, a territory abounding in gold; Guidimakha in Gangara, on the right bank of the Senegal. There still remain among the more important Kaarta, the country of Segu, and Futa-Jallon.

Communication. Several lines of English, French, and German packets call at the Senegambian ports, and small steamers ascend the navigable portions of the rivers. A railway unites St Louis and Dakar, and another line is being constructed from Kayes to Bafulabé (on the upper Senegal), with a projected extension to Bammako. There is telegraphic communication between Dakar and St Louis, and a second line puts all the ports of the upper Niger and the left bank of the Senegal into connexion with St Louis, which has touch of Europe by means of a submarine cable passing by way of the Canary Islands to Cadiz.

Trade. The foreign trade of Senegambia consists in the exportation of gums, ground-nuts, sesame, oil, india-rubber, birds' feathers, hides, wax, and ivory, coffee from the Rio Nunez, and rice from the Casamance, and the importation of iron, alcoholic liquors, firearms, ammunition, coral, beads, tobacco, preserved foods, and blue calico (guiñee). (D. K*.)

The above article was written by: D. Kaltbrunner, author of Manuel du voyageur.

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