1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ivory Coast

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IVORY COAST (Côte d’Ivoire), a French West African colony, bounded S. by the Gulf of Guinea, W. by Liberia and French Guinea, N. by the colony of Upper Senegal and Niger, E. by the Gold Coast. Its area is approximately 120,000 sq. m., and its population possibly 2,000,000, of whom some 600 are Europeans. Official estimates (1908) placed the native population as low as 980,000.

Physical Features.—The coast-line extends from 70° 30′ to 3° 7′ W. and has a length of 380 m. It forms an arc of a circle of which the convexity turns slightly to the north; neither bay nor promontory breaks the regularity of its outline. The shore is low, bordered in its eastern half with lagoons, and difficult of access on account of the submarine bar of sand which stretches along nearly the whole of the coast, and also because of the heavy surf caused by the great Atlantic billows. The principal lagoons, going W. to E. are those of Grand Lahou, Grand Bassam or Ebrié and Assini. The coast plains extend inland about 40 m. Beyond the ground rises in steep slopes to a general level of over 1000 ft., the plateau being traversed in several directions by hills rising 2000 ft. and over, and cut by valleys with a general south-eastern trend. In the north-east, in the district of Kong (q.v.), the country becomes mountainous, Mt. Kommono attaining a height of 4757 ft. In the north-west, by the Liberian frontier, the mountains in the Gon region rise over 6000 ft. Starting from the Liberian frontier, the chief rivers are the Cavalla (or Kavalli), the San Pedro, the Sassandra (240 m. long), the Bandama (225 m.), formed by the White and the Red Bandama, the Komoe (360 m.) and the Bia. All these streams are interrupted by rapids as they descend from the highlands to the plain and are unnavigable by steamers save for a few miles from their mouths. The rivers named all drain to the Gulf of Guinea; the rivers in the extreme north of the colony belong to the Niger system, being affluents of the Bani or Mahel Balevel branch of that river. The watershed runs roughly from 9° N. in the west to 10° N. in the east, and is marked by a line of hills rising about 650 ft. above the level of the plateau. The climate is in general very hot and unhealthy, the rainfall being very heavy. In some parts of the plateau healthier conditions prevail. The fauna and flora are similar to those of the Gold Coast and Liberia. Primeval forest extends from the coast plains to about 8° N., covering nearly 50,000 sq. m.

Inhabitants.—The coast districts are inhabited by Negro tribes allied on the one hand to the Krumen (q.v.) and on the other to the people of Ashanti (q.v.). The Assinis are of Ashanti origin, and chiefly of the Ochin and Agni tribes. Farther west are found the “Jack-Jacks” and the “Kwa-Kwas,” sobriquets given respectively to the Aradian and Avikom by the early European traders. The Kwa-Kwa are said to be so called because their salutation “resembles the cry of a duck.” In the interior the Negro strain predominates but with an admixture of Hamitic or Berber blood. The tribes represented include Jamans, Wongaras and Mandingos (q.v.), some of whom are Moslems. The Mandingos have intermarried largely with the Bambara or Sienuf, an agricultural people of more than average intelligence widely spread over the country, of which they are considered to be the indigenous race. The Bambara themselves are perhaps only a distinct branch of the original Mandingo stock. The Baulé, who occupy the central part of the colony, are of Agni-Ashanti origin. The bulk of the inhabitants are fetish worshippers. On the northern confines of the great forest belt live races of cannibals, whose existence was first made known by Captain d’Ollone in 1899. In general the coast tribes are peaceful. They have the reputation of being neither industrious nor intelligent. The traders are chiefly Fanti, Sierra Leonians, Senegalese and Mandingos.

Towns.—The chief towns on the coast are Grand and Little Bassam, Jackville and Assini in the east and Grand Lahou, Sassandra and Tabu in the west. Grand and Little Bassam are built on the strip of sand which separates the Grand Bassam or Ebrié lagoon from the sea. This lagoon forms a commodious harbour, once the bar has been crossed. Grand Bassam is situated at the point where the lagoon and the river Komoe enter the sea and there is a minimum depth of 12 ft. of water over the bar. The town (pop. 5000, including about 100 Europeans) is the seat of the customs administration and of the judicial department, and is the largest centre for the trade of the colony. A wharf equipped with cranes extends beyond the surf line and the town is served by a light railway. It is notoriously unhealthy; yellow fever is endemic. Little Bassam, renamed by the French Port Bouet, possesses an advantage over the other ports on the coast, as at this point there is no bar. The sea floor is here rent by a chasm, known as the “Bottomless Pit,” the waters having a depth of 65 ft. Abijean (Abidjan), on the north side of the lagoon opposite Port Bouet is the starting-point of a railway to the oil and rubber regions. The half-mile of foreshore separating the port from the lagoon was in 1904–1907 pierced by a canal, but the canal silted up as soon as cut, and in 1908 the French decided to make Grand Bassam the chief port of the colony. Assini is an important centre for the rubber trade of Ashanti. On the northern shore of the Bassam lagoon, and 19 m. from Grand Bassam, is the capital of the colony, the native name Adjame having been changed into Bingerville, in honour of Captain L. G. Binger (see below). The town is built on a hill and is fairly healthy.

In the interior are several towns, though none of any size numerically. The best known are Koroko, Kong and Bona, entrepôts for the trade of the middle Niger, and Bontuku, on the caravan route to Sokoto and the meeting-place of the merchants from Kong and Timbuktu engaged in the kola-nut trade with Ashanti and the Gold Coast. Bontuku is peopled largely by Wongara and Hausa, and most of the inhabitants, who number some 3000, are Moslems. The town, which was founded in the 15th century or earlier, is walled, contains various mosques and generally presents the appearance of an eastern city.

Agriculture and Trade.—The natives cultivate maize, plantains, bananas, pineapples, limes, pepper, cotton, &c., and live easily on the products of their gardens, with occasional help from fishing and hunting. They also weave cloth, make pottery and smelt iron. Europeans introduced the cultivation of coffee, which gives good results. The forests are rich in palm-tree products, rubber and mahogany, which constitute the chief articles of export. The rubber goes almost exclusively to England, as does also the mahogany. The palm-oil and palm kernels are sent almost entirely to France. The value of the external trade of the colony exceeded £1,000,000 for the first time in 1904. About 50% of the trade is with Great Britain. The export of ivory, for which the country was formerly famous, has almost ceased, the elephants being largely driven out of the colony. Cotton goods, by far the most important of the imports, come almost entirely from Great Britain. Gold exists and many native villages have small “placer” mines. In 1901 the government of the colony began the granting of mining concessions, in which British capital was largely invested. There are many ancient mines in the country, disused since the close of the 18th century, if not earlier.

Communications.—The railway from Little Bassam serves the east central part of the colony and runs to Katiola, in Kong, a total distance of 250 m. The line is of metre gauge. The cutting of two canals, whereby communication is effected by lagoon between Assini and Grand Lahou via Bassam, followed the construction of the railway. Grand and Little Bassam are in regular communication by steamer with Bordeaux, Marseilles, Liverpool, Antwerp and Hamburg. Grand Bassam is connected with Europe by submarine cable via Dakar. Telegraph lines connect the coast with all the principal stations in the interior, with the Gold Coast, and with the other French colonies in West Africa.

Administration, &c.—The colony is under the general superintendence of the government general of French West Africa. At the head of the local administration is a lieutenant-governor, who is assisted by a council on which nominated unofficial members have seats. To a large extent the native forms of government are maintained under European administrators responsible for the preservation of order, the colony for this purpose being divided into a number of “circles” each with its local government. The colony has a separate budget and is self-supporting. Revenue is derived chiefly from customs receipts and a capitation tax of frs. 2.50 (2s.), instituted in 1901 and levied on all persons over ten years old. The budget for 1906 balanced at £120,400.

History.—The Ivory Coast is stated to have been visited by Dieppe merchants in the 14th century, and was made known by the Portuguese discoveries towards the end of the 15th century. It was thereafter frequented by traders for ivory, slaves and other commodities. There was a French settlement at Assini, 1700–1704, and a French factory was maintained at Grand Bassam from 1700 to 1707. In the early part of the 19th century several French traders had established themselves along the coast. In 1830 Admiral (then Commandant) Bouët-Willaumez (1808–1871) began a series of surveys and expeditions which yielded valuable results. In 1842 he obtained from the native chiefs cessions of territory at Assini and Grand Bassam to France and the towns named were occupied in 1843. From that time French influence gradually extended along the coast, but no attempt was made to penetrate inland. As one result of the Franco-Prussian War, France in 1872 withdrew her garrisons, handing over the care of the establishments to a merchant named Verdier, to whom an annual subsidy of £800 was paid. This merchant sent an agent into the interior who made friendly treaties between France and some of the native chiefs. In 1883, in view of the claims of other European powers to territory in Africa, France again took over the actual administration of Assini and Bassam. Between 1887 and 1889 Captain Binger (an officer of marine infantry, and subsequently director of the African department at the colonial ministry) traversed the whole region between the coast and the Niger, visited Bontuku and the Kong country, and signed protectorate treaties with the chiefs. The kingdom of Jaman, it may be mentioned, was for a few months included in the Gold Coast hinterland. In January 1889 a British mission sent by the governor of the Gold Coast concluded a treaty with the king of Jaman at Bontuku, placing his dominions under British protection. The king had, however, previously concluded treaties of “commerce and friendship” with the French, and by the Anglo-French agreement of August 1889 Jaman, with Bontuku, was recognized as French territory. In 1892 Captain Binger made further explorations in the interior of the Ivory Coast, and in 1893 he was appointed the first governor of the colony on its erection into an administration distinct from that of Senegal. Among other famous explorers who helped to make known the hinterland was Colonel (then Captain) Marchand. It was to the zone between the Kong states and the hinterland of Liberia that Samory (see Senegal) fled for refuge before he was taken prisoner (1898), and for a short time he was master of Kong. The boundary of the colony on the west was settled by Franco-Liberian agreements of 1892 and subsequent dates; that on the east by the Anglo-French agreements of 1893 and 1898. The northern boundary was fixed in 1899 on the division of the middle Niger territories (up to that date officially called the French Sudan) among the other French West African colonies. The systematic development of the colony, the opening up of the hinterland and the exploitation of its economic resources date from the appointment of Captain Binger as governor, a post he held for over three years. The work he began has been carried on zealously and effectively by subsequent governors, who have succeeded in winning the co-operation of the natives.

In the older books of travel are often found the alternative names for this region, Tooth Coast (Côte des Dents) or Kwa-Kwa Coast, and, less frequently, the Coast of the Five and Six Stripes (alluding to a kind of cotton fabric in favour with the natives). The term Côte des Dents continued in general use in France until the closing years of the 19th century.

See Dix ans à la Côte d’Ivoire (Paris, 1906) by F. J. Clozel, governor of the colony, and Notre colonie de la Côte d’Ivoire (Paris, 1903) by R. Villamur and Richaud. These two volumes deal with the history, geography, zoology and economic condition of the Ivory Coast. La Côte d’Ivoire by Michellet and Clement describes the administrative and land systems, &c. Another volume also called La Côte d’Ivoire (Paris, 1908) is an official monograph on the colony. For ethnology consult Coutumes indigènes de la Côte d’Ivoire (Paris, 1902) by F. J. Clozel and R. Villamur, and Les Coutumes Agni, by R. Villamur and Delafosse. Of books of travel see Du Niger au Golfe de Guinée par Kong (Paris, 1892) by L. G. Binger, and Mission Hostains-d’Ollone 1890–1900 (Paris, 1901) by Captain d’Ollone. A Carte de la Côte d’Ivoire by A. Meunier, on the scale of 1:500,000 (6 sheets), was published in Paris, 1905. Annual reports on the colony are published by the French colonial and the British foreign offices.