Between Dakar and Monrovia, the coastline of only 700 miles passes from ex-French Senegal to British Gambia, back to Senegal, then to Portuguese Guinea, ex-French Guinea, ex-British Sierra Leone and American-sponsored Liberia. Here were Europe's oldest footholds in sub-Saharan Africa; here, today, is a tangled heritage of four separate 'western' influences. Guinea's communist-backed nationalism jostles antique Portuguese colonialism, an explosive juxtaposition; and the westernized African society of Dakar, Freetown and Monrovia adjoins the southwestern extremity of the Moslem world.
Gambia (population 300,000) is mainly a British protectorate, only 70 square miles round Bathurst being a colony. It runs 300 miles up river in a strip only 15 miles wide, with Senegal (15) on both sides. Groundnuts (peanuts), on which it depends, sell for much higher prices in Senegal under an arrangement with France; this alone might seem a strong incentive for a union (the name Senegambia is already in use). But Gambian politicians are rather wary of a merger in which Senegal would be dominant and English-speakers at a disadvantage.
Portuguese Guinea (600,000) dates from 1446, but only in the late 19th century did Portugal attempt more than coastal trading, and the small interior was not forcibly controlled until 1912 (see also 34).
For Guinea, see 15.
Sierra Leone (21/2 million) became an independent Commonwealth country in April 1961 (for history, see 17). The 60,000 Freetown Creoles (Krio), descended from freed slaves, have a strong Yoruba (20) element and a composite language of their own, but are primarily English-speaking, with a high educational standard. The sweeping victory in the 1951 elections of the People's Party founded by Dr (now Sir) Milton Margai was largely a reaction against former Creole predominance over the tribal peoples, of whom the Mende and Temne (C) are the most numerous. But before becoming first prime minister of independent Sierra Leone, Sir Milton (a Mende) created and led a broad coalition, opposed only by a fairly small radical element in Freetown. Since 1950, diamonds (from areas east and north of Bo) and iron ore from Marampa have raised annual export earnings from £7 million to £30 million. Revenue previously lost by diamond smuggling has been restored, largely by ending the