True Continental Divide

Daily Mail (London), April 1, 1998 | Go to article overview

True Continental Divide


QUESTION:What would the map of Africa look like if its internal boundaries were redrawn along major tribal lines?

AFRICA, three times the size of Europe and, after Asia, the second most populated continent on the planet with just over 758 million people, is home to the largest collection of languages of any continent - about 1,300.

Modern Africa, created along artificial boundaries drawn up by Europeans without regard for indigenous people at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, contains very few states that are ethnically homogeneous.

Few African nations have a strong sense of national identity and this has been the cause of much unrest and numerous civil wars. In the Saharan nations of north Africa the dominant groups are Arabs, Berbers and Tuaregs.South of the Sahara is the Sahelian zone where the major groups are the Hausa, Bambera, Fulani and Wolof, as shown on this French map.

In the Horn of Africa, the Somali and Galla are dominant, while the Dinka and Nuer prevail in the upper Nile.

The west coast of Africa is home to hundreds of ethnic groups, the largest being the Yoruba and Ibo in Nigeria, the Ashanti and Ga in Ghana, and the Kru of the Ivory Coast and Liberia.

Equatorial Africa accommodates the Fang, Bateke and Pygmy tribes, while in the east African savannas the Kamba, Kikuyu and Masai prevail. The Baganda are found near Lake Victoria.

Southern Africa has some countries more closely related to specific ethnic groups.

Namibia has the Herero, the San, the Damara and the Ovambo. Zimbabwe has the Shona and the Nde-bele. Zambia has the Bemba while Malawi has the Yao.Angola has the Ovimbundu and Mozambique has the Makonde and Makua.South Africa's most numerous groups are the Xhosa and the Zulu.

Botswana is populated by the Tswana. The Sotho in Lesotho and Swazis of Swaziland are rare examples of African states whose ethnic groups are almost homogeneous.

Madagascar, off the east coast, is populated by the Betsimisaraka and by the Merina and Betsileo, whose ancestors came from South-East Asia some 2,000 years ago.

Added to these major ethnic groups are hundreds of smaller tribal groups and of course the large number of Europeans and Asians who have colonised the continent.

Geoff Armitage, British Library Map Room, London.

QUESTION:Has any captain ever stood on the bridge saluting as his ship went down?

FURTHER to earlier answers, I did not witness the captain of HMS Courageous going down with his ship, but I very nearly went down myself when she was hit by three German torpedoes on September 17, 1939.Courageous had been converted from a cruiser into an aircraft carrier and had huge hangar doors beneath the flight deck at either end. …

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