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



Chapter XIX : The Bahr-el-Ghazal and the Nile (pp.211-215 )


In addition to the territories if the Congo Free State proper, the sovereignty of which is vested in Leopold II., King of the Belgians, and his successors. King Leopold holds on lease from Great Britain the Bahr-el-Gazal up to 10 degrees N. A treaty entered into between the Congo Free State and Great Britain on 12th May, 1894, determines the duration of this lease, and the extent of the territory to which it applies. The conditions are somewhat complicated, partaking in a measure of the nature of an exchange, the Congo Free State, by Article III., leasing to Great Britain a strip of territory between the Lakes Tanganyika and Albert Edward.
To be more precise : In 1890 the Congo Free State despatched several missions to it's frontiers, some of which penetrated the Nile region and made various political arrangements with the ruling chiefs there. It happened also at that period (July 1890) that Germany and Great Britain entered into an agreement whereby Germany acknowledged the paramount influence of Great Britain in the Nile Basin. This agreement was no sooner concluded than Great Britain opened negotiations with the Congo Free State, offering to grant thereto, on lease, certain territories situated west of the Basin of the Nile, if the Congo Free State would accord to Great Britain's presence in the Nile Basin recognition similar to that which it just had obtained from Germany. Out of this overture grew the treaty of 12th May, 1894, between the Congo Free State and Great Britain, to which allusion has already been made.
By that treaty, Great Britain leases to Leopold II., King of the Belgians and Sovereign of the Congo Free State, the territories limited by a line starting from a point situated on the west bank of Lake Albert Edward, south of Mahagi, to the point of intersection of the 30th meridian east of Greenwich, the frontier line of the territories so assigned following the head of the division of the Nile and Congo waters to the 25th meridian east of Greenwich; and along this meridian to it's intersection with the 10th north parallel, and along this parallel direct to a point north of Fashoda; thence to the west bank of Lake Albert Edward, south of Mahagi. These territories comprise the entire basin of the Bahr-el-Ghazal River and it's affluents (except the upper portion of the Bahr-el-Arab) and are generally referred to as the Bahr-el-Ghazal. The treaty further provides that the lease is to remain operative during the reign of King Leopold II. only, except as regards that portion of the Bahr-el-Ghazal west of the 30th meridian, permanently vested in the Congo Free State.
France, which had never recognised British influence in the Nile Basin, at once protested against this arrangement, asserting that Great Britain had leased territories which did not belong to her. While this delicate question was sub judice there arose the celebrated Fashoda incident which brought Great Britain and France perilously near to war. The circumstances of that incident are too near our own times, and too remote from the purpose of this book, to need recounting here. But it is important to refer to it in this place, because in the settlement of the Fashoda dispute between Great Britain and France the latter recognises the paramount influence of the former in the Basin of the Nile.
The only obstacle in the way of the execution of the treaty of 12th May, 1894, was now removed, Great Britain's right to dispose of the territories leased to the Sovereign of the Congo Free State being everywhere admitted. But now Great Britain hereself sought, without justification, to annul the treaty. Because the Congo State had made therein certain reservations in regard to France - a perfectly natural proceeding at a period when the rights of Great Britain over the Bahr-el-Ghazal were in dispute - Great Britain contended that the treaty of 12th May, 1894, had practically lapsed. After the battle of Omdurman, the British even went so far as to give, in part, practical effect to this extraordinary view of their treaty obligations, occupying, on several occasions, Meshra-er-Rek, at the confluence of the Bahr-Djur and the Bahr-el-Ghazal.
From information which reached Europe and America early in November, 1904, it would appear that Great Britain has resolved to carry this matter with a high hand. A British expedition was said to be then in process of formation, composed of 2500 native troops, officered by Englishmen, to penetrate Central Africa, ostensibly to restore order among the Niam-Niam tribe.
Now the Niam-Niam tribe inhabit the Bahr-el-Ghazal country. That is one reason why Great Britain concerns itself with that tribe; but there is another, and a much stronger, reason. Recently it has been discovered that vast mineral wealth exists in that region, and Belgians, Frenchmen, Germans, and particularly natives of that country which "seeks no gold mines and seeks no territory", have busily employed themselves in prospecting it. Trading relations have been established by small companies supposed to be engaged in exchanging fire arms and ammunition for ivory, but really prospecting for ore.
Side by side with this information comes the official announcement that the British Government has given orders, either directly or through a subsided company, for the erection of a permanent telegraph connecting Khartoum with the Bahr-el-Ghazal, and that transport for traders up the White Nile is guaranteed as far as Fashoda. Already a section of the British newspaper press is advocating the establishment of British military stations and posts upon ground of which King Leopold holds a perfectly valid lease granted by Great Britain !
Is it too high a flight of the imagination to suppose that the patience woith which the British Government has listened to the libellous tirades against the Congo Free State, in the form of petitions to the House of Commons, is to be explained by it's evident desire to cut loose from it's treaty obligations, and forcibly take away what it voluntarily ceded to the Congo Free State for a valuable consideration ?








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