West Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to the Congo is a vast region of tremendous complexity in its historical development. Home to hundreds of diverse ethnic groups, the area has never been entirely unified. What follows is only a bare outline of information.

Presently this covers: Abeokuta, Abomey, Abuja, Adamawa, Agaie, Akim, Aku, Akwa Akpa, Akwamu, Argungu, Asante (Ashanti), Bassa Cove, Bauchi, Benin, Biram, Bonny, Bono, Brass, Burkina Faso, Calabar, Cape Verde Islands, Caulker States, Cote d'Ivoire, Dagomba, Dahomey, Daura, Daura-Baure, Daura-Zango, Denkyira, Duketown, French West Africa, the Gambia, Ghana, Grand Dieppe, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gurma, Gwandu, Gwiriko, Ibadan, Ife, Ilorin, Jama'are, Kano, Katsina, Kayor, Kebbi, Ko-Frensa, Kong, Kororofa, Koya-Temne, Lagos, Laria, Liberia, Little Popo, Mandingo, Maryland, Misau, Mississippi, Nigeria, Nupe, Old Calabar, Opobo, Oyo, Petit Dieppe, Port Cresson, Porto Novo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sokoto, Suleja, Walo, Whydah, Wolof, Zamfara, and Zaria.


ABEOKUTA A district in southwestern Nigeria, north of Lagos, southwest of Ibadan, and not far from the Benin frontier. It was established by Egba Yorubas in the wake of the disintigration of the old Oyo kingdom in the face of increasing attacks from the Fulani out of the north. Abeokuta rulers were early allies of the British in the suppression of the slave trade, especially from Ibadan and Dahomey.

A city in central Nigeria. Originating as a revived heir to the old Zazzau Emirate in the early 19th century, it was never fully incorporated into the Fulani Jihad Empire. In 1991 it was named the capital of the state, to replace the port of Lagos.

ADAMAWA (Fumbina, Yola)
A Fulani emirate (the easternmost, in fact) astride the Nigeria-Cameroon frontier, in the valley of the upper Benue River, south of the Mandara Mountains. The capital from 1841 was Yola, 200 miles (320 km.) east-southeast of Bauchi.

A town in west-central Nigeria, about 18 miles (29 km.) north of the Niger River, and about 62 miles (100 km.) west of Abuja, the national capital.

AKIM In south Ghana, on the Afram Plains between Kumasi and the Volta River in what is now Eastern Province.

AKU (Aku Town)
A town in northwestern Sierra Leone, on the northern side of the Rokel River Estuary, near the coast - Freetown, the national capital, is across the bay, about 25 miles (40 km.) to the south. A small kingdom emerged here during the 19th century.

AKWA AKPA (Calabar, Old Calabar, Duketown) In extreme southeastern Nigeria, on the estuary of the Cross River about 20 miles (33 km.) from the Cameroon frontier.

AKWAMU In south Ghana, in the interior just north of Accra, in the vicinity of the modern city of Koforidua in what is now the southern third of Eastern Province.

ALLADA (Ardrah)
A state based in southern Benin, and the source for the later polities of Abomey (Dahomey) and Porto Novo (Adjatche).

BAUCHI A town in northeastern Nigeria about 150 miles (240 km.) east-southeast of Zaria. It was founded as a Fulani Jihad state in the 19th century.

BENIN Nowadays a narrow coastal republic, this state emerged out of several local Kingdoms in the Bight of Benin region during the 17th and 18th centuries, most notably Dahomey itself, Adjatché (Porto Novo), Allada, and Whydah.

BIRAM A Hausa state in northern Nigeria, in the extreme eastern end of Kano Province. Although the names of Biram's rulers have been recorded, almost nothing else is known of them.

BONNY A town on the coast of Nigeria, at the eastern end of the Niger Delta, about 25 miles (40 km.) southeast of Port Harcourt. Bonny became a slave trade brokerage state, and remained so until the ending of the slave trade in the early 19th century, at which point it turned to palm oil as a source of income.

BONO An Akan state in central Ghana, along the south flank of the Black Volta River and west of what is now the upper reaches of Lake Volta; the region was a rich source of gold deposits.

BRASS (Brasstown) At the southernmost verge of the Niger Delta, alongside the Brass River Estuary, about 55 miles (88 km.) west-southwest of Port Harcourt. The name is an Anglicization of Barasin; the original capital of this state was upriver some miles, at the present site of the state capital at Nembe; when it was moved to it's current location on the site of a village named Tuwon, a European mistransliteration that name led to the appellation of Brass-Town. Brass was a slave brokerage state until the British stopped the slave trade in the early 19th century - thereafter, Brass involved itself in the palm oil business. Owing to restrictive and monopolistic trade practices on the part of the Oil Company which were slowly shattering the local economy, a Brass army attacked the local company depot in 1895 and, carrying off 43 captives, ate them. This resulted in Brass being sacked by the British the next year, and the region placed under direct British rule in 1898.

BURKINA FASO A landlocked state south of Mali and north of Ghana. This region has traditionally been dominated by the Mossi people, who seem to have migrated into the area from what is now northern Ghana in the 13th century, and established a number of elaborate and aggressive kingdoms, principal among them Wagadugu (Ouagadougou), which remains the national capital. The Mossi still predominate to this day; they comprise about 60% of the population, with the nearest competitors (Mande at about 10% and Fulani at about 9%) running very distant second and third.

CAPE VERDE ISLANDS A scattered archipelago about 400 miles (640 km.) west of Senegal; uninhabited until their discovery in the mid-15th century.

COTE d'IVOIRE A state in west Africa, bounded on the east by the Komoé River, to the west by the Toura Hills, and to the north by the Sikasso region of Mali.

DAGOMBA A state formerly located in northern Ghana and some portions of southern Burkina Faso.

DAURA A town in far northern Nigeria, about 50 miles (80 km.) east of Katsina and roughly 72 miles (115 km.) northwest of Kano. It was the eldest of all the Hausa states in it's time.

DAURA-BAURE Based on the town of Baure in far northern Nigeria, 36 miles (58 km.) southeast of Daura. This state was founded by refugee Hausa, expelled from Daura by the Fulani in 1805.

DAURA-ZANGO A frontier post almost on the line between Niger and Nigeria, 12 miles (19 km.) east of Daura. Zango became the capital of the expelled heir to the Hausa Kingdom of Daura after the Fulani conquest of that state.

DENKYIRA A state straddling the frontier between southwestern Ghana and southeastern Cote d'Ivoire. It covered most of the coastal districts between Abidjan ijn Cote d'Ivoire and Cape Three Points in Ghana.

The GAMBIA A narrow state centered on the Gambia River estuary, and entirely surrounded by Senegal, aside from the coast. The local population is largely Malinke, Fulani, and Wolof.

GHANA A major state in west Africa. It was absorbed into the British Empire at around the turn of the 20th century, but it's hereditary leaders continue to be recognized by their people as their sovereigns.

GUINEA A state in west Africa, encompassing both the Fouta Djallon highlands in the northwest and the Guinea Highlands to the southeast. Sierra Leone and Liberia are to the southwest, Senegal is to the north, Mali to the northeast, and Cote d'Ivoire to the east.

GUINEA-BISSAU A small state encompassing the lowlands around the Corubal River estuary, and the nearby Bijagos archipelago. To the north is Senegal, and Guinea is to the east and southeast.

GURMA (Nungu) A Mossi Kingdom in eastern Burkina Faso, and premier among the Gurma Mossi cluster of states. The capital is Fada N'Gurma, situated 130 miles (209 km.) east of the modern capital at Ouagadougou. This state was established by the Gurmanche people, a tribe with close affinities to the Mossi.

GWANDU A town in northwestern Nigeria, about 60 miles (96 km.) southwest of Sokoto.

GWIRIKO A Dyula state associated with the Watara "Empire", located in western Burkina Faso, within the bend in in the Black Volta River. See also, Kong.

IBADAN A city and district in western Nigeria; the city is just over 100 miles (161 km.) northeast of Lagos. Established in the mid 18th century by Yoruba refugees fleeing Fulani incursions, the state was never a hereditary monarchy in the traditional West African model, but rather a kind of despotate, each successive ruler achieving his position by being acknowledged as the toughest and most ruthless in the community.

IFE (Ile Ife) A city in southwestern Nigeria, 48 miles (77 km.) east of Ibadan. It has been long regarded as a holy site, the spiritual capital of the Yoruba people.

ILORIN A city in southwestern Nigeria, 70 miles (112 km.) north if Ife, within Yoruba territory.

JAMA'ARE A small town in northeastern Nigeria, about 93 miles (150 km.) north of Bauchi. It was the base of a Jihad state in the 19th century, influenced by although not directly under the authority of the Fulani hegemony.

KANO An important provincial capital in northern Nigeria, about 60 miles from the Niger frontier.

KATSINA A town in far northern Nigeria, abuot 16 miles (25 km.) from the border with Niger.

KAYOR A region in coastal Senegal, between Dakar to the south, up to abround the modern city of Louga in the north. It was a subkingdom within the Wolof Empire, but in 1549 broke free and became an independent state.

KEBBI (Argungu from 1826) Towns in extreme northwestern Nigeria, close to the frontier with Niger. Argungu is northeast of Kebbi by about 30 miles (48 km.), and roughly 20 miles (32 km.) northwest of Gwandu.

KONG A Dyula state, part of the Watara "Empire" in northern Cote d'Ivoire. The town of Kong itself is 75 miles (120 km.) east-southeast of the provincial capital at Korhogo, and 270 miles (434 km.) north of the national capital of Abidjan. See also, Gwiriko.

KOROROFA (Jukun, Kwararap) A minor Hausa state in far northwestern Nigeria, encompassing both sides of the Nigeria/Niger frontier - the modern village of Kwararap is about 2½ miles (4 km.) inside Nigeria, roughly 68 miles (110 km.) west-northwest of Sokoto.

KOYA TEMNE An important tribal state in what is now northwestern Sierra Leone.

LAGOS (Eko) A city and island in the Niger delta, on the Bight of Benin. Lagos began as a military encampment on the eastern edge of the Benin state, and evolved into a separate Kingdom. A slave brokerage state, it was seized by the British in the 1860's and used as the base of operations for the British Consul to Benin. It was Nigeria's capital until being supplanted in 1991 by Abuja, upcountry.

An Emirate in central Nigeria, 100 miles (162 km.) east-southeast of the capital at Abuja. The homeland of the Arago Tribe, the district was seized in the late 18th century by merchant-warriors from Bornu, and erected by them into a distinct polity.

LIBERIA A region on the west African coast, colonized by several different American groups intending on repatriation of freed Slaves back to western Africa

LITTLE POPO A tribal Kingdom in what is now Togo, located on the coast about 30 miles (48 km.) east of Lomé, just a short distance from the Benin frontier. The current name of the place is Anécho.

MISAU A Fulani Emirate in northeastern Nigeria.

A populous state covering the lower reaches and estuary of the Niger River, with much of the surrounding country as well. Modern Nigeria was established as an amalgamation of the hitherto seperate colonies of Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria in 1914.

NUPE A Kingdom in what is now west-central Nigeria, centered around the conjunction of the Kaduna and Niger Rivers.

OPOBO A town in far southeastern Nigeria, on the coast about 40 miles (65 km.) east-southeast of Port Harcourt. It was established in recent times by a warrior from Bonny, who named it after a great King of that state. The state of Opobo became a highly successful purveyor of palm oil - so successful that it greatly diminished the size and influence of Bonny.

OUAGADOUGOU (Wagadugu) A city in central Burkina Faso (Upper Volta), and the modern capital of that state, of old the center of a Mossi kingdom in early modern times.

OYO A Yoruba state located in what is now southwestern Nigeria.

PORTO NOVO (Adjatché) A local western African Kingdom, a slave-brokerage state associated with a Portuguese fortification and merchant port, located on the coast - it is presently the capital city of Benin.

SENEGAL A state in west Africa, bounded on the north by Mauretania, to the east by Mali, and to the south bt Guinea. The state of the Gambia is imbedded entirely within, along the Gambia River.

SIERRA LEONE A state established by British anti-slavery groups intent on repatriating freed slaves back to west Africa. Bounded by Liberia, a similar American experiment, to the southeast, and by Guinea to the northwest and north.

SOKOTO A town and region in northwestern Nigeria, host to a very large and powerful Sultanate from early modern times.

A Wolof kingdom in far northwestern Senegal, from the Senegal River in the north to around the modern city of Louga to the south, and inland to areas east of Lake Guiers.

WHYDAH A Kingdom in south-central Benin, the capital at Savi is 18 miles (29 km.) from the Nigerian frontier and about 110 miles (177 km.) north of the capital at Porto Novo.

WOLOF (Dyolof) A people and Empire in far west Africa in early modern times. Their capital was at Linger (Linguère), about 152 miles (145 km.) east-northeast of the modern Senegalese capital of Dakar. The Wolof Empire was at it's peak in the early 16th century, when profitable trade was carried on with the Portuguese; but in 1549/56 a western province, Kayor, broke free, cutting off access to the sea - Wolof then slowly languished in the interior until being absorbed by French colonial interests in the late 19th century.

YATENGA A Mossi kingdom in northern Burkina Faso, with it's center at the town of Ouahigouya, located some 30 miles (48 km.) southeast of the Mali border and 96 miles (154 km.) northwest of the national capital at Ouagadougou.

ZAMFARA A tribal state on the frontier between what is now Nigeria and Niger. This people (the name means "Men of Fara", Fara being an early noblewoman or Princess) were based at Dutsi, Nigeria, until c. 1300, when they removed to Birnin Zamfara. They were ejected from there to Kiawa, Nigeria, c. 1756, and by 1805 they were at Sabon Gari, Niger, and Ruwan Gora, Nigeria, in 1810, under the tutulege of the Jihad Empire of the Fulani at Sokoto. Their final capital was at Anka, Nigeria. All these places are roughly east or southeast of Sokoto by about 100 miles (160 km.) or so, and west or southwest of Katsina in comparable distances - Anka is on the Upper Zamfara River, 80 miles (128 km.) southeast of Sokoto.

ZARIA A large town in northern Nigeria, about 85 miles (136 km.) southwest of Kano.