Despite their small numbers, they attracted marginal elements from all quarters and created in their fortress, Boketto, an atmosphere of feverish mysticism. They were formidable fighters, and must have aroused some response in the Fulbe conscience, for the almamis had difficulty in mobilizing forces against them. The Hubbu twice burnt Timbo and all attacks launched against Boketto failed. In 1871, the Alfaya almami, Ibrahim Sori Dara, met his death trying to take Boketto. Eventually the Fulbe had to appeal to Samori – whose march to the sea the Hubbu were obstructing – before this focus of opposition was crushed in 1884. The alliance with Samori, who arrived on their borders in 1879, was to prove profitable for the Fulbe of Futa, who sold him cattle in exchange for slaves. Even with the Hubbu threat diminished, this society could still only maintain its divided balance, and it offered but weak resistance to the colonial conquest.
By superseding a fragmented political structure, the formation of Futa Jallon had opened up a huge area for Sudanic trade to reach the sea coast, even though security remained only relative and the Fulbe aristocracy had odd ideas about the protection of caravans. René Caillé, who crossed the country from Boke to the Niger, bore witness to this in 1827. The opening up of the coast to Sudanic influences was radically to change the civilization of the lowland peoples, especially since many of them had to accept the political authority of Futa Jallon. To the north-west the Fulbe dominated much of what is now GuineaBissau, and this domain was further extended after the fall of Kansala (1867). Further south they controlled the upper navigable point on the Rio Nunez by imposing their sway on the Landuman of Boke through whom contact was made with the Europeans. Although they had massacred Fulbe traders in 1840, the Landuman were unable to free themselves, and fell into a long civil war from 1844 to 1849.
In 1856, Faidherbe brought them into the colonial era prematurely by building a fort. On the sea, the Beafade in Guinea-Bissau and the Nalu on the Rio Nunez escaped the authority of the Fulbe in their marshy lands, but hardly interfered with trade with the Europeans. The Nalu lineage of the Tawela claims Mandinka origin, although their culture shows nothing of Mandinka influence. They distinguished themselves by King Dina Salifu’s ambivalent resistance to French authority. Further south, on the Rio Pongos, among the Susu who bordered on Bona, the authority of Timbo was strongest. Close relations of the Mandinka, the Susu then had a culture strongly marked by the coastal and forest area influences, especially from the Baga, relatives of the Temne, whom they had assimilated. They had suffered heavily from the slave trade, and European influences show among them in many racially mixed families descended from American and British slave-traders. Thanks to them, the clandestine slave trade did not readily die out. Situated as they were at the border line from Futa Jallon, however, the Susu were infiltrated by Islam; and their culture was Sudanized at an increasing rate during the colonial period.
Those on the Rio Pongos constituted the kingdom of Tya, which was dominated by the Damba (Kati) clan. The ‘mulatto war’ that began in 1865 ended in the defeat of the pro-slavery, pro-Fulbe party: some Lightburn Timbo had just resigned themselves to this when the French occupation took place in 1868. Further south, the authority of the Futa did not extend as far as the sea, but Sudanic influence was nonetheless profound. Since the mid-eighteenth century, Morea (Melakori) had been dominated by a lineage of the Ture clan, which had come from Kankan as traders and been linguistically assimilated to the Susu whilst still remaining strictly Muslim. The almamis of this small state maintained their sway with the help of the Jallonke of Solimana.
From 1865 onwards, they were rent by interminable civil war between the pro-Islamic party of Altnatni Bokari and the ‘Maliguistes’ of Maliki Gheli. The establishment of the French not far away at Benty in 1869 did not improve the situation, for the conflict was to become a feature of Anglo-French frontier rivalry. It provoked the intervention of the Temne of Satan Lahay and the Susu of Karimu, chief of Tambaxa and a great enemy of the English. Samori himself joined in after 1884, and the matter was only settled after the Anglo-French boundary delimitation of 1889.
The case of Morea well illustrates the socio-cultural phenomenon that had been at work on the Rivers Coast since the eighteenth century. Peoples speaking various languages and living in coastal agricultural civilizations had in the sixteenth century been subjected to northern influence through the agency of the Somba invasion, but had absorbed it.
Thereafter, with the arrival of Sudanic traders on the coast, these old cultures were radically changed. Mandinka and Fulbe lineages settled everywhere, became politically dominant and introduced new ideas of politics. Egalitarian, relatively unstratified societies thus came to accept organization into warrior chiefdoms and semi-centralized states. These peoples nevertheless retained their cultural identities: the newcomers, few in number, were completely assimilated linguistically. This phenomenon covered essentially southern Susu country and the domains of the Limba, Loko, and Temne. It stopped short abruptly at Sierra Leone, that is, on the verge of the forest lands of the south, which had mainly stayed closed to the Sudanic trade routes. But major social effects extended well beyond that.
Thus, from the Temne to the Kpelle of Liberia social and political life was dominated by great initiation societies, the best known of which, that for men, was often called Poron (compare the Poro of the Senufo). Hence, this was a basic social phenomenon transcending the borders of the historical areas just defined. The Loko, the advance guard of the Mende, were isolated between the Temne and the Limba with their backs to the sea. They managed to survive under the rule of a lineage of Mandinka origin which gave them a great leader, Pa-Koba, ally of Samori. After 1787, the Temne, speaking a West Atlantic language close to Baga and Landuman, had to give up Sierra Leone to the British colony which served as base for the anti-slavery patrol and where the Creole (Krio) ethnicity soon came into being. Their main centre was Port Loko, terminus of the caravans from the Futa and upper Niger, where the Susu had taken power at the end of the eighteenth century.
In 1818, Islamized Temne drove out the Susu, and their leader, the alkali, in 1825, made an alliance with the British. The north of Temne country was dominated by Kambia, where the Satan Lahay family reigned; despite its complete assimilation it claimed descent from the Ture of Bate (Kankan). South of the Rokel, the Yoni, who formed the advance guard of the Temne, felt themselves isolated as the Freetown trade grew around them, while the expansion of the Kpa Mende closed the south to them. They flung themselves into long wars to free themselves, and the problem was resolved by the British army in 1886. South of the Rokel, however, we are in a different region, where the thickness of the forest had prevented the maintenance of links with the Sudan, though such links had been initiated in the sixteenth century.
The slave trade, on the other hand, had been keenly pursued on the coast and survived in its clandestine form until 1845 despite the proximity of Freetown and Monrovia. The history of the interior only becomes structured and clear to us in the middle of the century, when a trading network run by Sierra Leone Creoles made its way there and began to integrate the region into the world market: but the network did not link up with the termini of the tracks to the Sudan, as in the northern sector. This new field of force led to an increase in local conflicts, and gave them new directions. South of the Temne, the eighteenth century saw a great southern Mande people, the Mende, near kin of the Toma, strongly resume their expansion. They got closer to the sea by absorbing the Bulom, who were thus separated for good from the Kissi. The Mende formed great warrior chiefdoms, relatively centralized, and their women played an exceptional political role. Their advance guard, the Kpa Mende who, because of their war with the Yoni, went into alliance with the British, were governed about 1880 by the famous Madam Yoko.
In the extreme east of the Mende domain the great Luawa chiefdom was, at the end of the century, the domain of a powerful conqueror of Kissi origin, Kai-Lundu, whose army of mercenaries faced up to the advance guards of Samori and raided deep into Kpelle and Toma country in what is now Liberia. The advance of the Mende separated two closely related Mande peoples, the Kono, hemmed in in the then unprospected diamond-bearing mountains of the interior, and the Vai, established on the coast on what is now the Sierra Leone-Liberia border since the mid-fifteenth century at the latest. The latter maintained quite sizable chiefdoms derived from the Somba ’empire’ of the sixteenth century, and played an active part in the growth of the slave trade that characterized the area in the eighteenth century. It is therefore not surprising that they should have helped the clandestine slave trade, whose most prominent representative in their area was the Spaniard Pedro Blanco, until about 1845. These dubious relationships with the outside world caused the Vai culture to change considerably but they also brought out the Vai’s creative initiative. In about 1818, just how is not clear, they invented one of the few typically African scripts.
But since the eighteenth century, the Vai and their eastern neighbours, the De of Monrovia, who are Kru-speaking, had been bottled up on the coast by the extremely vigorous expansion of a people from the interior, the Gola, speakers of a West Atlantic language like the Kissi. Under pressure in the north from the Mende and their kinsmen, they left their homeland of Kongaba and fanned out towards the sea. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, their advance guard came into contact with the Kpelle and interposed themselves between the coastal peoples and the route to the Sudan. We have reached the line of the Saint-Paul river, which links the coast of Monrovia to the Konyan highlands and marks the boundary of the Sudanic world of the Mandinka of the region.
In general, the forest barrier was unbroken south of the Rokel (and the Futa Jallon link of the upper Niger to the coast at Sierra Leone), as far as the Bandama or even the Comoé river, much further east. Here at the Saint-Paul, however, we find an isolated opening between the savanna and the sea, which determined the location of the Vai and the subsequent siting of Monrovia. It was opened up by the great Somba invasion in the sixteenth century, but then fell into disuse. In the eighteenth century, when the slave trade finally developed from Sierra Leone to the Kru coast, this outlet for slaves from the interior saw renewed activity. Thus, at the end of the century, an influx of Mandinka coming down from Konyan gave rise to the warrior state of Kondo around the chiefdom of Bopolu. Determined to keep the route open, the Bopolu chiefs organized a confederacy of Toma (Loma), Kpelle (Guerze), Vai, De, and Gola chiefdoms on the lower Saint-Paul. Soon after 1820, Bopolu, became the capital of Sau Boso, the famous soldier of fortune, who, like the Vai, became an ally of the founders of Liberia. After 1830, however, his power was threatened by the Gola chief, Jenkins, and, after his death in 1836, the hegemony of Kondo collapsed.
The Liberians had to deal with the hostile but now dominant Gola, and it was this in particular that lay behind Anderson’s journey as far as Konyan in 1869. The Samorians stepped in to re-open the route after 1885, and it was not until 1898 that part of the Gola rallied to the Monrovia government.