Henry Wellington Wack
The Story of the Congo Free State
New York & London : Putnam 1905



Chapter XVIII : Frontiers and Diplomatic Settlements ( pp.206-210 )


The Conventional Basin of the Congo contains about 1,500,000 square miles, of which the Free State occupies 1,000,000, and it's neighbours, France, Great Britain, Germany, and Portugal, about 500,000. On the East of the Free State, and divided by Lakes Tanganyika, Kivu and Albert Edward, is German East Africa, on the coast of the Indian Ocean; on the south-east lie British possessions; on the south the Portuguese, and on the east and north-east the French Congo and Soudan; on the north-east, in the Nile Valley, lie the Egyptian Soudan and the Uganda Protectorate, the one on the west, the other on the east bank of the Nile.
The Berlin Conference of 1885 had not dealt with questions of territory except to delimit the area comprised in the Congo Basin. By the Anglo-German Agreements of 1886 and 1890, the borders of German East Africa had been generally defined. France, however, still fostered the hope of acquiring dominion of the Egyptian Soudan and, perhaps, of nearly all of the northern part of Africa. The arrangement with the Sovereign of the Congo Free State, giving her a right of pre-emption of the State over other Powers, would indicate an ambition in this direction. That France endeavoured to achieve her aim in this respect was forcibly demonstrated by the expedition of Captain Marchand and the Fashoda incident. So far as Germany and Portugal were concerned, the Congo Free State's boundary had been well-nigh firmly established, but with France and Great Britain there was a lack of settlement on this important question which threatened the State with future insecurity.
The first convention on this subject was concluded with Great Britain, and concerned the Bahr-el-Ghazal, referred to in the succeeding chapter.
The Franco-Congolese Convention of 14th August, 1894, was of great importance to the young State, albeit the price it paid for the friendly attitude of France may appear greater than the security afforded. The relations which existed between France and the State, when the upper course of the Ubanghi became the object of frontier settlement, were were defined by the Convention of 5th February, 1885, and that of 29th April, 1887. In the first, France agreed, in return for the right of pre-emption conferred on her in 1894, to determine her own Congolese limits and those of the Free State, and to guarantee the latter's neutrality. In the second, the Belgian Congo surrendered a considerable territory to France by substituting the Ubanghi to the 17th degree of east longitude for the boundary defined in the third article of the treaty of 5th February, 1885, and the modification of her right of pre-emption in favour of Belgium in certain contingencies. These negotiations, beginning in 1891, were not settled until 1894, owing to conflicting views as to the course of the Ubanghi. Moreover, the French Government had expostulated vigorously against the British proposal to lease the Bahr-el-Ghazal to the Congo Free State, while Germany protested against British possession of a strip of land between Lakes Tanganyika and Albert Edward, which the Free State intended in granting in payment for it's lease of the Bahr-el-Ghazal. The article conveying this strip, manifestly intended for the Cape-to-Cairo railway conceived by Mr. Cecil Rhodes, was, in fact, withdrawn by arrangement between the British and Congo Governments on June 22, 1894. Meantime, the French contended that the river Uelle was the true upper course of the Ubanghi and that the State had no rights north of it, "even though it resulted in moving the State's frontier line south of the fourth parallel secured to it by the Convention of February, 1885." There were, however, on the part of the Congo State, the advantages of possession and effective occupation of the territory north of the Uelle and the right bank of the Mbomu, which had now been geographically established as the uppermost course of the Ubanghi. An offer was made by the Congo State to arbitrate the matter in accordance with the provisions of the Berlin Act. France, however, declined to submit the case to such tribunal. Finally, after three years delay, a convention between France and the Congo Free State was signed in Paris on 14th August, 1894, which contained six articles. The first conceded part of the Belgian claim by constituting the river Mbomu the upper course of the Ubanghi.

Article 1. The frontier between the Independent State of the Congo and the colony of the French Congo, after following the thalweg of the Ubanghi to the confluence of the Mbomu and the Uelle, shall be formed in the following manner : - First, the thalweg of Mbomu to it's source; second, a straight line joining the crest of the water-parting between the basins of the Congo and the Nile. From this point the frontier of the Independent State is constituted by the said crest of the water-parting to as far as it's intersection with the 30th degree of east longitude (Greenwich).
Article 2. It is understood that France will exercise, under conditions which shall be determined by a special arrangement, the right of police on the course of the Mbomu, with the right of pursuit on the left bank. This right of police will not be exercisable on the left bank, but exclusively along the course of the river, as long as pursuit by the French agents is indispensable to effect the arrest of the authors of offences committed on French territory or on the waters of the river. France shall have, when necessary, a right of passage on the left bank, to assure her communications along the course of the river.


The third article stipulated for the gradual surrender to the French of the posts established by the State north of the Uelle; and the fourth and final articles "bound the State to renounce all political action of any kind to the west or north of the following line - the 30th degree of east longitude, from it's point of intersection with the crest of the waterparting of the basins of the Congo and the Nile to as far as the point where this meridian meets the parallel 5 degrees 30 minutes, and thence that parallel the Nile."
By these articles, and the good feeling that has since prevailed between the French and the Belgians, all matters likely to have caused dispute have been settled. A well-defined boundary has been laid down between the French possessions and the Congo State from the Atlantic to the Nile. If the King of the Belgians surrendered to France what others would have retained, it was so dealt with because of that wise political foresight which has characterised his Majesty's diplomacy in other respects. The friendly relations between France and the Congo State, the settlement of northern boundaries along the Mbomu, and the lease of the Bahr-el-Ghazal from Great Britain, have dispelled much Belgian anxiety. The question which now appears to forebode difficulty is what the Belgians believe to be Great Britain's scheme for a pretext to break the lease of the Enclave of Lado, a rich and prosperous territory in the Bahr-el-Ghazal, where the Belgians have established posts along the Nile as far north as Lado. As to Great Britain's purpose in this connection there have been many recent signs.








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