Page images

years old, and even to have recourse, amongst others, to the testimony of a commercial agent actually condemned for his excesses against the blacks. It is worthy of remark that the Catholic missionaries have never called attention to this general system of cruelty which is imputed to the State, and if judicial statistics demonstrate the stern measures that have been taken by the Criminal Courts, it does not follow that there is more crime in the Congo than in other Central African Colonies.


Bericht des englischen Konsuls in Boma an den Minister des Ausw. über eine Reise im Kongostaat. Handelspolitik, Staatsarbeiter, Hospitäler, Stärke der Armee, Lieferungen an Gummi und anderen Produkten, Strafen, Grausamkeiten, Sklavenhandel.

London, December 11, 1903. (December 12.)

My Lord, I have the honour to submit my Report on my recent journey on the Upper Congo. || I left Matadi on the 5th June, and arriving at Léopoldville on the 6the, remained in the neighbourhood of Stanley Pool until the 2nd July, when I set out for the Upper Congo. My return to Léopoldville was on the 15th September, so that the period spent in the Upper River was one of only two and a-half months, during which time I visited several points on the Congo River itself, up to the junction of the Lulongo River, ascended that river and its principal feeder, the Lopori, as far as Bongandanga, and went round Lake Mantumba. | Although my visit was of such brief duration, and the points touched at nowhere lay far off the beaten tracks of communication, the region visited was one of the most central in the Congo State, and the district in which most of my time was spent, that of the Equator, is probably one of the most productive. Moreover, I was enabled, by visiting this district, to contrast its present day state with the condtion in which I had known it some sixteen years ago. Then (in 1887) I had visited most of the places I now revisited, and I was thus able to institute a comparison between a state of affairs I had myself seen when the natives lived their own savage lives in anarchic and disorderly communities, uncontrolled by Europeans, and that created by more than a decade of very energetic European intervention. That very much of this intervention has been called for no one who formerly knew the Upper Congo could doubt, and there are to-day widespread proofs of the great energy displayed by Belgian officials in introducing their methods

of rule over one of the most savage regions of Africa. || Admirably built and admirably kept stations greet the traveller at many points; a fleet of river steamers, numbering, I believe, forty-eight, the property of the Congo Government, navigate the main river and its principal affluents at fixed intervals. Regular means of communication are thus afforded to some of the most inaccessible parts of Central Africa. || A railway, excellently constructed in view of the difficulties to be encountered, now connects the ocean ports with Stanley Pool, over a tract of difficult country, which formerly offered to the weary traveller on foot many obstacles to be overcome and many days of great bodily fatigue. To-day the railway works most efficiently, and I noticed many improvements, both in the permanent way and in the general management, since the date of my last visit to Stanley Pool in January 1901. The cataract region, through which the railway passes, is a generally unproductive and even sterile tract of some 220 miles in breadth. This region is, I believe, the home, or birthplace, of the sleeping sickness a terrible disease, which is, all too rapidly, eating its way into the heart of Africa, and has even traversed the entire continent to well-nigh the shores of the Indian Ocean. The population of the Lower Congo has been gradually reduced by the unchecked ravages of this, as yet, undiagnosed and incurable disease, and as one cause of the seemingly wholesale diminution of human life which I everywhere observed in the regions revisited, a prominent place must be assigned to this malady. The natives certainly attribute their alarming death-rate to this as one of the inducing causes, although they attribute, and I think principally, their rapid decrease in numbers to other causes as well. Perhaps the most striking change observed during my journey into the interior was the great reduction observable everywhere in native life. Communities I had formerly known as large and flourishing centres of population are to-day entirely gone, or now exist in such diminished numbers as to be no longer recognizable. The southern shores of Stanley Pool had formerly a population of fully 5000 Batekes, distributed through the three towns of Ngaliema's (Léopoldville), Kinchasa, and Ndolo, lying within a few miles of each other. These people, some twelve years ago, decided to abandon their homes, and in one night the great majority of them crossed over into the French territory on the north shores of Stanley Pool. Where formerly had stretched these populous native African villages, I saw today only a few scattered European houses, belonging either to Government officials or local traders. In Léopoldville to-day there are not, I should estimate, 100 of the original natives or their descendants now

[ocr errors]

residing. At Kinchasa a few more more may be found dwelling around one of the European trading depôts, while at Ndolo none remain, and there is nothing there but a station of the Congo Railway Company and a Government post. These Bateke people were not, perhaps, particularly desirable subjects for an energetic Administration, which desired, above all things, progress and speedy results. They were themselves interlopers from the northern shores of the Congo River, and derived a very profitable existence as trading middlemen, exploiting the less sophisticated population among whom they had established themselves. Their loss to the southern shores of Stanley Pool is none the less to be deplored, I think, for they formed, at any rate, a connecting link between an incoming European commercial element and the background of would-be native suppliers. || Léopoldville is sometimes spoken of as a Congo town, but it cannot rightly be so termed. Apart from the Government station, which, in most respects, is very well planned, there is nothing at all resembling a town - barrack would be the correct term. The Government station of Léopoldville numbers, I was informed by its Chief, some 130 Europeans, and probably 3000 native Government workmen, who all dwell in well ordered lines of either very well-built European houses, or, for the native staff, mud-built huts. Broad paths, which may be termed streets, connect the various parts of this Government Settlement, and an elementary effort at lighting by electricity has already evolved three lights in front of the house of the Commissaire-Général. Outside the Government staff, the general community, or public of Léopoldville, numbers less than one dozen Europeans, and possibly not more than 200 natives dependents of their households or trading stores. This general public consists of two missionary establishments, numbering in all 4 Europeans; a railway station with, I think, 1 European; 4 trading establishments - 1 Portuguese, 1 Belgian, 1 English, and 1 German numbering 7 Europeans, with, perhaps, 80 or 100 native dependents; 2 British West African petty traders, and a couple of Loango tailor boys, who make clothes for the general community. This, I think, comprises almost all those not immediately dependent upon the Government. These shops and traders do scarcely any business in native produce, of which there may be said to be none in the district, but rely upon a cash trade in Congolese currency, carried on with the large staff of Government employés, both European and native. Were this cash dealing to cease, the four European shops would be forced to put up their shutters. During the period of my stay at Léopoldville it did actually cease, and, for reasons which were not known publicly, the large native staff of

Congo Government workmen, instead of receiving a part of their monthly wages in cash to spend locally - as also those being paid off on the expiry of their contracts were remunerated by the Government in barter goods, which were issued from a Government store. This method of payment did not satisfy either the native Government employés or the local traders, and I heard many complaints on this score. The traders complained, some of them to myself, that as they had no other form of trading open to them, save this with the Government staff against cash, for the Government to itself now pay these men in goods was to end, at a blow, all trade dealings in the district. The native workmen complained, too, that they were paid in cloth which often they did not want in their own homes, and in order to have the wherewithal to purchase what they wanted, a practice at once arose amongst these men to sell for cash, at a loss to themselves, the cloth they had been forced to receive in payment from the Government store. The workmen lost on this transaction, and so did the traders. Pieces of cloth which were charged by the Government at 10 fr. each in paying off the workmen, these men would readily part with for 7 fr., and even for 6 fr. in cash. I myself, one day in June, bought for 7 fr. a-piece, from two just-discharged Government workmen, two pieces of cloth which had been charged against them at 10 fr. each. These men wished to buy salt at one of the local stores, and to obtain the means of doing so, they readily sacrificed 3 fr. in each 10 fr. of their pay. The traders, too, complained that by this extensive sale of cotton goods at reduced rates by the Government employés, their own sales of cloth at current prices were rendered well-nigh impossible throughout the district.


The 3000 Government workpeople at Léopoldville are drawn from nearly every part of the Congo State. Some, those from the cataract district especially, go voluntarily seeking employment, but many I believe a vast majority are men, or lads, brought from districts of the Upper Congo, and who serve the authorities not primarily at their own seeking. On the 16th June last, five Government workpeople brought me their contracts of engagement with a request that I might tell them how long a period they still had to serve. They were all Upper Congo men, and had already nearly completed the full term of their engagement. The contracts, in each case, appeared as having been signed and drawn up at Boma on behalf of the Governor-General of the Congo State, and were, in each case, for a term of seven years. The men informed me that they had never been to Boma, and that the whole of their period of service had been spent either at Léopoldville or on the Upper Congo.

In three of these cases I observed that an alteration had been made in the period of service, in the following terms: -,,Je réduis de sept à cinq ans le terme de service du . . . . ." This entry was signed by the acting State Inspector of the district. It seemingly had not been observed, for it was struck out by his successor, and, as a matter of fact, the full period of seven years was, in each case, within a few months of completion. On the whole the Government workmen at Léopoldville struck me as being well cared for, and they were certainly none of them idle. The chief difficulty in dealing with so large a staff arises from the want of a sufficiency of food supply in the surrounding country. The staple food of the entire Upper Congo is a preparation of the root of the cassava plant, steeped and boiled, and made up into loaves or puddings of varying weight. The natives of the districts around Léopoldville are forced to provide a fixed quantity each week of this form of food, which is levied by requisitions on all the surrounding villages. The European Government staff is also mainly dependent upon food supplies obtained from the natives of the neighbourhood in a similar manner. This, however necessary, is not a welcome task to the native suppliers who complain that their numbers are yearly decreasing, while the demands made upon them remain fixed, or tend even to increase. || The Government station at Léopoldville and its extensive staff, exist almost solely in connection with the running of Government steamers upon the Upper Congo. || A hospital for Europeans and an establishment designed as a native hospital are in charge of a European doctor. Another doctor also resides in the Government station whose bacteriological studies are unremitting and worthy of much praise. The native hospital not, I am given to understand, through the fault of the local medical staff - is, however, an unseemly place. When I visited the three mud huts which serve this purpose, all of them dilapidated, and two with the thatched roofs almost gone, I found seventeen sleeping sickness patients, male and female, lying about in the utmost dirt. Most of them were lying on the bare ground

several out on the pathway in front of the houses, and one, a woman, had fallen into the fire just prior to my arrival (while in the final, insensible stage of the disease), and had burned herself very badly. She had since been well bandaged, but was still lying out on the ground with her head almost in the fire, and while I sought to speak to her, in turning, she upset a pot of scalding water over her shoulder. All of the seventeen persons I saw were near their end, and on my second visit, two days later, the 19th June, I found one of them lying dead out in the open. In somewhat striking contrast to the neglected state of

« PreviousContinue »