Page images

instances of cruelty have taken place in the Congo State is proved beyond possibility of contradiction by the occurrence of cases in which white officials have been convicted of outrages on natives. These white officials must, however, in view of the vast extent of the territory under their administration, in most cases be of necessity isolated the one from the other, with the result that detection becomes additionally difficult. It is therefore not unfair to assume that the number of convictions falls considerably short of the number of actual offences committed. || It is, however, with regard to the system of administration that the most serious allegations are brought against the Independent State. It is reported that no efforts are made to fit the native by training for industrial pursuits; that the method of obtaining men for labour or for military service is often but little different from that formerly employed to obtain slaves; and that force is now as much required to take the native to the place of service as it used to be to convey the captured slave. It is also reported that constant compulsion has to be exercised in order to exact the collection of the amount of forest produce allotted to each village as the equivalent of the number of days' labour due from the inhabitants, and that this compulsion is often exercised by irresponsible native soldiers uncontrolled by any Eropean officer. || His Majesty's Government do not know precisely to what extent these accusations may be true; but they have been so repeatedly made, and have received such wide credence, that it is no longer possible to ignore them, and the question has now arisen whether the Congo State can be considered to have fulfilled the special pledges, given under the Berlin Act, to watch over the preservation of the native tribes, and to care for their moral and material advancement. || The graver charges against the State relate almost exclusively to the upper valleys of the Congo and of its affluents. The lands forming these vast territories are held either by the State itself or by Companies closely connected with the State, under a system which, whatever its object, has effectually kept out the independent trader, as opposed to the owner or to the occupier of the soil, and has consequently made it difficult to obtain independent testimony. || His Majesty's Government have further laboured under the disadvantage that British interests have not justified the maintenance of a large Consular staff in the Congo territories. It is true that in 1901 His Majesty's Government decided to appoint a Consul of wide African experience to reside permanently in the State, but his time has been principally occupied in the investigation of complaints preferred by British subjects, and he has as yet been unable to travel into the interior and to acquire, by personal

inspection, knowledge of the condition of the enormous territory forming his district. || His reports on the cases of British subjects, which have formed the basis of representations to the Government of the Independent State, afford, however, examples of grave maladministration and ill-treatment. These cases do not concern natives of the Congo State, and are therefore in themselves alien to the subject of this despatch; but as they occurred in the immediate vicinity of Boma, the seat of the central staff and in regard to British subjects, most of whom were under formal engagements, they undoubtedly lead to the belief that the natives, who have no one in the position of a Consul to whom they can appeal and have no formal engagements, receive even less consideration at the hands of the officers of the Government. || Moreover, information which has reached His Majesty's Government from British officers in territory adjacent to that of the State tends to show that, notwithstanding the obligations accepted under Article VI of the Berlin Act, no attempt at any administration of the natives is made, and that the officers of the Government do not apparently concern themselves with such work, but devote all their energy to the collection of revenue. The natives are left entirely to themselves, so far as any assistance in their government or in their affairs is concerned. The Congo stations are shunned, the only natives seen being soldiers, prisoners, and men who are brought in to work. The neighbourhood of stations which are known to have been populous a few years ago is now uninhabited, and emigration on a large scale takes place to the territory of neighbourning States, the natives usually averring that they are driven away from their homes by the tyranny and exaction of the soldiers. || The sentiments which undoubtedly animated the founders of the Congo State and the Representatives of the Powers at Berlin were such as to deserve the cordial sympathy of the British Government, who have been loath to believe either that the beneficent intentions with which the Congo State was constituted, and of which it gave so solemn a pledge at Berlin, have in any way been abandoned, or that every offort has not been made to realize them. || But the fact remains that there is a feeling of grave suspicion, widely prevalent among the people of this country, in regard to the condition of affairs in the Congo State, and there is a deep conviction that the many charges brought against the State's administration must be founded on a basis of truth. || In these circumstances, His Majesty's Government are of opinion that it is incumbent upon the Powers parties to the Berlin Act to confer together and to consider whether the obligations undertaken by the Congo State in regard to the natives have been fulfilled;

and, if not, whether the Signatory Powers are not bound to make such representations as may secure the due observance of the provisions contained in the Act. As indicated at the beginning of this despatch, His Majesty's Government also wish to bring to the notice of the Powers the question which has arisen in regard to rights of trade in the basin of the Congo. | Article I of the Berlin Act provides that the trade of all nations shall enjoy complete freedom in the basin of the Congo; and Article V provides that no Power which exercises sovereign rights in the basin shall be allowed to grant therein a monopoly or favour of any kind in matters of trade. || In the opinion of His Majesty's Government, the system of trade now existing in the Independent State of the Congo is not in harmony with these provisions. || With the exception of a relatively small area on the lower Congo, and with the further exception of the small plots actually occupied by the huts and cultivation patches of the natives, the whole territory is claimed as the private property either of the State or of holders of land concessions. Within these regions the State or, as the case may be, the concession-holder alone may trade in the natural produce of the soil. The fruits gathered by the natives are accounted the property of the State, or of the concession-holder, and may not be aquired by others. In such circumstances, His Majesty's Government are unable to see that there exists the complete freedom of trade or absence of monopoly in trade which is required by the Berlin Act. On the contrary, no one other than the agents of the State or of the concession-holder has the opportunity to enter into trade relations with the natives; or if he does succeed in reaching the natives, he finds that the only material which the natives can give in exchange for his trade goods or his money are claimed as having been the property of the State or of the concession-holder from the moment it was gathered by the native. || His Majesty's Government in no way deny either that the State has the right to partition the State lands among bona fide occupants, or that the natives will, as the land is so divided out among bona fide occupiers, lose their right of roaming over it and collecting the natural fruits which it produces. But His Majesty's Government maintain that until unoccupied land is reduced into individual occupation, and so long as the produce can only be collected by the native, the native should be free to dispose of that produce as he pleases. In these circumstances, His Majesty's Government consider that the time has come when the Powers parties to the Berlin Act should consider whether the system of trade now prevailing in the Independent State is in harmony with the provisions of the Act; and, in particular, whether

the system of making grants of vast areas of territory is permissible under the Act if the effect of such grants is in practice to create a monopoly of trade by excluding all persons other than the concessionholder from trading with the natives in that area. Such a result is inevitable if the grants are made in favour of persons or Companies who cannot themselves use the land or collect its produce, but must depend for obtaining it upon the natives, who are allowed to deal only with the grantees. || His Majesty's Government will be glad to receive any suggestions which the Governments of the Signatory Powers may be disposed to make in reference to this important question, which might perhaps constitute, wholly or in part, the subject of a reference tho the Tribunal at the Hague. || I request that you will read this despatch to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and leave a copy of it with his Excellency. Lansdowne.


Der Sirdar von Egypten Lord Cromer an den Minister des Ausw. Berichtet über einen Besuch belgischer Stationen am oberen Nil. Die belgische Regierung ist bei den Eingebornen unbeliebt; das belgische Militär plündert, die Regierung folgt nur kommerziellen Grundsätzen.

[ocr errors]

On the Nile, near Kiro, January 21, 1903.

(Extract.) || I have just visited the Belgian stations of Kiro and Lado, as also the station of Gondokoro in the Uganda Protectorate. || Your Lordship may like to receive some remarks on the impressions I derived as regards the Belgian positions on the Upper Nile. || I should, in the first instance, observe that Commandant Hanolet, who is in charge of the district, was absent in the interior of the country; but Sir Reginald Wingate and myself were most courteously received by the officers in command at Kiro and Lado. || From the point of view of appearance, the two Belgian stations contrast favaurably with any of the Soudanese stations on the Nile, and still more favourably with Gondokoro in the Uganda Protectorate. The principal dwelling-houses are of brick. They seem to be well built. The stations are kept scrupulously clean. The troops are well housed. Flourishing gardens have been created. I counted the graves of nine Europeans at Kiro, all of whom died of fever, but I am informed that the health of the place is now greatly improved. || I had heard so many and such contradictory accounts of the Belgian

Administration that I was very desirous of ascertaining some concise and definite evidence on this subject. During a hurried visit, and with opportunities of observation confined to the banks of the river, I scarcely anticipated that I should be able to arrive at any independent opinion on the point at issue. I saw and heard, however, quite enough to gain an insight into the spirit which pervades the Administration. || It must be remembered that the 1,100 miles of country which I traversed between Khartoum and Gondokoro has, until recently, been the prey of slave-dealers, Egyptian Pashas, and divershes. Under the circumstances, it might well have been expected that much time would be required to inspire confidence in the intentions of the new Government. It is, however, certain that, with the exception of a portion of the Nuer tribe, who live in a very remote region on the upper waters of the Sobat, confidence has been completely established in those districts which are under British rule. Except in the uninhabitable „Sudd" region, numerous villages are dotted along the blanks of the river. The people, far from flying at the approach of white men as was formerly the case, run along the blanks, making signs for the steamer to stop. It is clear that the Baris, Shilluks, and Dinkas place the utmost trust and confidence in the British officers with whom they are brought in contact. In spite of the difficulties of communicating with them through an interpreter himself but slightly educated — it was impossible to mistake their manifest signs and expressions of security and content. They flock into the Settlements without fear; and if, as often happens, they will not work, it is merely because they are lazy and have few wants, not because they entertain doubt that they will be paid for working. These remarks apply equally to Gondokoro, although I was only able to see a few of the natives there. I had not time to visit the principal Bari village, which lies at some little distance from the river. The contrast when once Congolese territory is entered remarkable. From the frontier so Gondokoro is about 80 miles. The proper left, or western, bank of the river is Belgian. The opposite bank is either under the Soudanese or the Uganda Government. There are numerous islands, and as all these are under British rule for the thalweg which, under Treaty, is the Belgian frontier, skirts the western bank of the river I cannot say that I had an opportunity of seeing a full 30 miles of Belgian territory. At the same time, I saw a good deal, and I noticed that, whereas there were numerous villages and huts on the eastern bank and on the islands, on the Belgian side not a sign of a village existed. Indeed, I do not think that any one of our party saw a single human being in Belgian territory, except the Belgian officers

« PreviousContinue »