Copyright
J. W. (John Walter) Gregory.

The foundation of British East Africa online

. (page 1 of 16)
Online LibraryJ. W. (John Walter) GregoryThe foundation of British East Africa → online text (page 1 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE FOUNDATION OF BRITISH
EAST AFRICA



I



HE FOUNDATION OF
BRITISH EAST AFRICA

By J. W. Gregory, D.Sc



PROFESSOR OF GEOLOGY IN THE UNIVERSITY

OF MELBOURNE, AUTHOR OF " THE

GREAT RIFT VALLEY"



^



LONDON

HORACE MARSHALL & SON

TEMPLE HOUSE, E.C

1 901



Butler & Tanner,

The Selwood Printing Works,

Frome, and London.



Preface

BRITISH East Africa has a threefold history,
geographical, political and administrative,
dealing respectively with the story of its
exploration, the struggle for its possession and the
beginning of its commercial development. These three
histories relate to such different subjects that it is not
easy to combine them into a connected story ; but I
have tried to tell as much of each as is necessary to
explain the adventurous history of British East Africa
from the voyages of the ancient merchants and Arab
traders to the establishment of British rule.

Among the modern expeditions I have only de-
scribed those which have had an important influence
on the founding of British East Africa. The story of
the expeditions which mapped the rivers, explored the
branch roads, filled in the topographical details and
determined the main features in the natural history and
geology of the country, as well as of the journeys of

1CSCCG3 *



vi PREFACE

the sportsmen who have opened up new ground, be-
longs to the geographical history of East Africa. It will
record the discoveries of, amongst others, Ainsworth,
Ansorge, Austin, Chanler, Delamere, Dundas, Hall,
Hobley, von Hohnel, Mackinder, Moore, Neumann,
Pigott, Scott-ElHot, Donaldson Smith, Eric Smith,
Captain Smith, and the important contributions of the
missionaries to our knowledge of the geography and
ethnography.

I have however included a sketch of the early history
of British East Africa ; for it was the work of the
classical traders whose stories threw over the country
the glamour of myth and mystery, and of the mediaeval
Portuguese travellers who showed its commercial value
to Europe as a station on the route to India, that gave
the country its fascination to the modern missionaries
and geographical pioneers ; and in turn it was their
account of the pathos of native life and the horrors
of the slave trade which inspired the political tra-
vellers whose work led to the establishment of British
rule.

I have tried to tell the principal events in the three
chief stages in the history of the country closing with
the appointment in 1899 of Sir Harry Johnston as
Commissioner of Uganda. From his work in Uganda
great things were expected, for it is generally under-



PREFACE vii

stood that he was sent out primarily as an African
expert to advise as to the future administration of the
country. This administration has been marked by some
important reforms, but the test of his work will be his
final report as to the requirements and resources of the
country.

Since the manuscript was concluded, news of the
mutiny in Somaliland and the deplorable death of
Mr. Jenner, whose tact and integrity as chief judge
at Mombasa did so much to establish native faith in
British justice, and the rebellion in Nandi show that
British East Africa has not yet secured the peace which
is essential to that growth of population which is the
country's greatest need.

These wars are most regrettable from financial as
well as other considerations. The government of British
East Africa will for some years inevitably be very
costly. A cheap administration at the present stage
must come to evil. Five millions of pounds are being
spent on the Uganda railway, which will assuredly
prove a bad investment if money for the development
of the country be unwisely stinted. A more generous
grant for the investigation of the economic resources of
the country is especially necessary.

The present heavy expenditure in South Africa may
lead to a reduction in the subsidy to British East



viii PREFACE

Africa ; but no one who knows the country will doubt
that undue economy now will cost dearly in the end_
The administration of the adjoining state of German
East Africa in many respects has set an example that
might be copied with advantage.

As the book is popular in its scope I have not bur-
dened it with references. The principal literature up
to 1896 is referred to in my Great Rift Valley \ after
that date there is a complete record in the monthly
summaries of literature by Dr. H. R. Mill and Mr.
Heawood in the Geographical Journal. A catalogue of
the blue books and other official publications is given
in Messrs. P. S. King & Son's annual lists.

In conclusion I have to express my thanks to Mrs.
Chaplain, who owing to my absence from England has
kindly seen the book through the press ; also to my
colleague, Prof. Tucker, for his translation of the
passage on the East Coast of Africa in the Periplus^
and for some suggestive notes thereon.

J. W. Gregory.

University^ Melbourne.
May, 1 90 1.



Contents

Chapter I page

THE GEOGRAPHY OF BRITISH EAST AFRICA . . 3

Chapter II
THE NATIVES OF BRITISH EAST AFRICA ... 17

Chapter III

THE DAWN OF EAST AFRICAN GEOGRAPHY . . 27
APPENDIX TO CHAPTER III : ACCOUNT OF THE EAST
AFRICAN COAST IN "THE PERIPLUS OF THE
RED SEA," TRANSLATED BY PROFESSOR TUCKER 49

Chapter IV

THE MOMBASA MISSIONS $2

Chapter V

THE QUEST FOR THE NILE SOURCES .... 71

Chapter VI

THE UGANDA ROAD AND THE TRAVERSE OF MASAI-
LAND 81



X CONTENTS

PAGE

Chapter VII
STANLEY AND THE UGANDA MISSION . . . .103



Chapter VIII

THE BRITISH EAST AFRICA COMPANY AND THE

STRUGGLE FOR WITU 123



Chapter IX
THE MAZRUI REBELLION AND EMIGRATION . . 144

Chapter X

HOW THE MISSIONARIES RETURNED TO UGANDA . 162

Chapter XI
HOW LUGARD SAVED UGANDA 174

Chapter XII

UGANDA UNDER THE FOREIGN OFFICE. . . .199

Chapter XIII
THE FUTURE OF BRITISH EAST AFRICA . . .237



List of Illustrations

SOMALI TRIBESMEN Frontispiece

THE BAOBAB TREE Facing p. 8

IVORY TRADERS IN MASAI DRESS ... ,,20

DR. LUDWIG KRAPF „ 54

MASAI WARRIORS ,,82

HENRY M. STANLEY, AT THE TIME OF HIS

FIRST EXPLORATIONS IN AFRICA . . „ 106

A GROUP OF UGANDA NATIVES ... ,,112

ZANZIBAR NATIVES: GATHERING CLOVES . ,, 128

MOMBASA ,,146

FORT MOMBASA „ 160

GENERAL F. D. LUGARD ,,176

THE UGANDA RAILWAY: MAKUPA BRIDGE. „ 200
THE UGANDA RAILWAY : SCENERY NEAR

VOI STATION ,,224

THE UGANDA RAILWAY : CLEARING FOR

MOMBASA STATION ,,240

THE UGANDA RAILWAY : A STEEP GRADIENT „ 248

MAPS
SANSON D' ABBEVILLE'S MAP OF EQUATORIAL

AFRICA ,48

MAP OF BRITISH EAST AFRICA . . At end of volume



BOOK I



Chapter I
HE GEOGRAPHY OF BRITISH EAST AFRICA

"Geography is three-fourths of war." — Von Moltke.

THE British territories on the mainland of
Eastern Equatorial Africa include about half
a million square miles of country, extending
from the shore of the Indian Ocean to the basin of the
Nile. This vast area, more than four times the size of
England and Wales, was acquired for the Empire by a
company of merchants and philanthropists, known as
the British East African Association, Their dominions
were called British East Africa, a name still used in its
original sense by geographers, though politicians now
restrict it to a part of the eastern half of that area.

The inland boundaries of British East Africa, using
the name in its geographical sense, are either artificial
or uncertain. On the south, the British territories are
separated from German East Africa by a line drawn
from the coast at the port of Wanga, in a north-westerly
direction, to the shore of the Victoria Nyanza ; whence



4 BRITISH EAST AFRICA

the boundary runs westward, along the first parallel of
south latitude, till it reaches the Congo Free State.
Except for a bend which gives Kilima Njaro, the highest
of African mountains, to Germany, the southern frontier
has been drawn straight across the country with diplo-
matic indifference to geographical features.

The north-eastern frontier is formed by the Juba,
which makes a natural boundary up to the confluence
of its chief head streams ; but beyond that point it is
perhaps uncertain which of the branches is the Juba of
the diplomatist.

The northern boundary is the least definite, for Menelik,
the " Emperor of Ethiopia," claims dominion over large
portions of the lowlands to the south and west of the
Abyssinian plateau, although they are included within
the British sphere.

West of Abyssinia, British East Africa meets the old
Equatorial provinces of Egypt, now under the joint pro-
tection of England and Egypt ; but where the English
sphere ends and the Anglo-Egyptian condominion begins
is, as yet, a little vague.

So far as the limits can at present be drawn, British
East Africa extends in length for some eight hundred
and forty miles from south-east to north-west, with an
average width of five hundred and sixty miles. It thus
includes about five hundred thousand square miles.
Politically, the country is divided into three parts — the
Uganda Protectorate, which includes as much of the



GEOGRAPHY OF BRITISH EAST AFRICA 5

Nile Basin and the Great Rift Valley as falls within the
British sphere ; the British East Africa Protectorate,
which extends from the eastern wall of the Great Rift
Valley to a line ten miles west of the Indian Ocean
shore ; and the Zanzibar Protectorate, which includes
the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, and a ten-mile belt
along the coast. Geographically and historically, how-
ever, the three divisions on the mainland are one, and
their permanent political separation is improbable.

Some knowledge of the physical geography of
British East Africa is necessary in order to understand
its recent history, for peculiar geographical conditions
have rendered its administration especially difficult and
interesting. The British colonisation of America and
Australia began with the establishment of stations on
the coast, whence settlements crept backward, step by
step, up the chief river valleys, or along the main trade
routes to the interior. The British conquest of India
followed essentially the same plan. In British East
Africa, on the contrary, the Company, which had
undertaken the administration of the country, aban-
doned the traditional British policy ; it had no sooner
occupied the coast towns than it advanced inland, and
spent most of its energies and capital in a struggle for
the remotest province in its territories, only concerning
itself with the more easily ruled, intermediate country,
in so far as it was necessary for the maintenance of com-
munications with its garrison in Uganda.



6 BRITISH EAST AFRICA

Geographical explorers have followed the same system.
The " back blocks " of British East Africa have been
traversed in all directions and roughly surveyed, while
there are areas a day's march from the coast, which,
geographically, are quite unknown.

The necessity for the adventurous and expensive
plunge into the heart of Africa, which ruined the British
East African Company, can only be understood through
a consideration of the physical structure of the country.

Geographically, British East Africa consists of seven
belts of country, which run approximately parallel to the
coast. The characters of each belt are strikingly unlike.
The first belt consists of the coast plain and the off-lying
islands ; the second belt is the Nyika, a barren plateau
stretching inland beyond the coast plain for a width of
from seventy to two hundred miles ; next come the vol-
canic plains of Masai-land, which lie between the Nyika
and the eastern wall of the Erythrean or Great Rift
Valley ; then follows the fourth belt, the Great Rift
Valley itself, bounded on the west by the scarp of the
Mau-Kamasia plateau. This plateau, which forms the
fifth belt, descends slowly to the sixth belt, the basin of
the Victoria Nyanza. Lastly, we come to the Rift
Valley of the Nile, the westernmost belt of British East
Africa.

. The first of these parallel belts with which the traveller
becomes acquainted is that of the coastal plains ; this belt,
perhaps, appears the most interesting and promising dis-



GEOGRAPHY OF BRITISH EAST AFRICA 7

trict to a visitor from the temperate zone. The soil is rich,
the rainfall, though irregular, is generally ample, and
most of this belt, thanks to its damp, warm climate,
could be tilled to a garden, growing all the fruits of the
tropics, and supporting a dense population. The
scenery, moreover, especially if seen from a dhow sailing
along the coast, is pleasing and varied. Surf-beaten
coral reefs occur at intervals along the shore, and behind
the breakers is a shore passage, where boats lie in peace,
safe from the heavy swell that rolls in from the Indian
Ocean. Beyond the boat channel lies a beach of white,
glistening, coral sand, backed here by yellow, palm-clad
sandhills, and there by banks of soft blue mud, passing
into green forests of mangrove and jungles of screw
pines ; while elsewhere, straight above the white broken
waters of the reef belt, stand grey cliffs of raised coral
rock, weathered into caves and crags, and capped by a
bright red soil.

Beyond the cliffs, and along the valleys, there are
palm groves, fruit orchards, rice fields, banana planta-
tions, well-tilled fields of yams, maize, earth-nuts and
beans ; and, nestling in the hollows, are villages of oblong
huts made of interlaced palm leaves or of wattle and
daub. Between the cultivated areas are wide tracts of
acacia scrub, and forests of branching palms, and of
native teak, ebony, and other timber trees ; these forests
are generally rendered almost impenetrable by vines
and creepers and thick tropical undergrowth.



8 BRITISH EAST AFRICA

Westward, the belt of the coast plain and the low
coast hills ends at the foot of a steep slope, which
looks like one side of a mountain range ; but, on
ascent, it proves to be the eastern scarp of the great
East African plateau. This hill face is well seen from
Mombasa, and the Uganda Railway climbs it immedi-
ately after reaching the mainland ; but in other parts
of the British sphere the coastal belt is wider, and
the scarp is farther inland ; while, where it has been
breached by the rivers, there is a long gradual ascent
into the interior by a valley, instead of by one steep,
short climb.

From the edge of this slope a vast undulating plain
extends, as far as the eye can follow it, into the interior.
Most of the plain is a turfless, sandy waste, waterless
except in the rainy season.

This desert belt, which is known as the Nyika, has
generally left a very unpleasing impression on the
minds of travellers who have marched across it at the
end of the dry season. It is described by Mr. Scott-
Elliot, who looked upon it with the interest of a bota-
nical specialist, as " a most curious district. Gnarled
and twisted acacias of all sorts and sizes, usually with
bright, white bark and a very thin and naked appear-
ance, cover the whole country. Amongst these one
finds the flat-topped acacia, and curious trees of
euphorbia. The grasses and sedges in this part grow
in little tufts, at some distance from one another, leav-



i



, ^dy




GEOGRAPHY OF BRITISH EAST AFRICA 9

ing the general tint of the landscape that of the soil
itself. No sward or turf is formed, and, except imme-
diately after the rains, all these grasses are dead, dry
and withered up. Most of the plants are either thorny
or fleshy, as is usual in all desert countries." ^

At the end of the rainy season the Nyika may look
green and fertile, but, as soon as the rains cease, the
pitiless tropical sun scorches the vegetation, sucks up
the rain pools, and turns the rush-bordered stream
courses into sandy nullahs. For a while, a sheet of
cabbage-like Stratiotis and the broad-leaved lotus pro-
tects the swamps, which remain as oases in the desert ;
but, under the hot blast from the surrounding plains,
the leaves wither, and, thus uncovered, the water is
soon evaporated by the envious sun ; a layer of mud,
soon as dry as a sun-baked brick, covers the floor of
the water holes, and the oasis is merged in the dreary,
desert waste.

This belt of Nyika extends right across British East
Africa from north to south, broken only by the valleys
of the Sabaki, Tana and Juba rivers. Along the Tana
the soil is so rich and deep, that the forest belt beside
the river is impenetrable, except where native paths or
game tracks have bored a passage through the under-
growth.

Though the Nyika has been described as a plain, its

1 G. F. Scott-Elliot, A Naturalist in Mid-Africa.



10 BRITISH EAST AFRICA

surface is by no means level, for the belt is composed
of rocks of great antiquity, with bands of very unequal
hardness. The action of stream, rain and wind-borne
sand has cut so deeply into the Nyika, that its surface
is always undulating, and it is at intervals broken by
steep, hog's-back ridges and boulder-strewn hills. The
highest of these hills are the remnants of the oldest
mountain range in British East Africa ; they occur as
a series of ridges (mostly near the meridian of 38° E.
long.), and they rise to the height of from 5,000 to 7,000
feet above the sea.

To the west of the Nyika are the broad lava plains of
Kapti, the Athi and Laikipia. This belt is probably the
most hopeful region in British East Africa, for the soil
is fertile and the climate healthy ; the days are often
hot, but the nights are always cool, and Europeans can
live and labour in this district with less discomfort
and ill-health than in any other part of Equatorial
Africa. When the grass of these plains is low in the
dry season, the soft, short turf, the dome-shaped hills
and the well-rounded, streamless valleys give the coun-
try the aspect of some of our English chalk downs ;
and, when timbered, the country is beautifully park-
like. The volcanic belt, however, includes some rugged
hill country, clad in dense forests, wherein are found
the great food plantations of the Kikuyu, To this
zone also belong the great volcanic piles of Kenya
and Settima.



GEOGRAPHY OF BRITISH EAST AFRICA ii

The lava plains are abruptly terminated by the Great
Rift Valley, the most remarkable feature in the geo-
graphy of Eastern Africa. This valley has been
formed by the subsidence of the block of material
that once filled it. At one time the surface of the
volcanic plains to the east of the Rift Valley were
continuous with the similar plains to the west. Paral-
lel cracks, hundreds of miles in length, broke across the
rocks ; the block of material between these cracks sank,
leaving walls, in places, so precipitous that the Uganda
Railway has had temporarily to use a cable-worked
funicular railway for the descent into the valley from
the Kikuyu plateau. The walls of the valley, however,
are not always precipitous. The lines along which the
subsidence occurred cut across ridges, valleys and basins ;
and the character of the scarps that now bound the
valley varies with the structure of the country on either
side of the Rift Valley.

In British East Africa there are two main rift

I valleys. The eastern, known as the Erythrean, or

j Great Rift Valley, extends through East Africa from the

! German frontier to Abyssinia ; it bends eastward round

the Abyssinian plateau, and reaches the southern end

of the Red Sea ; it is then continued northward by the

Red Sea and Gulf of Akaba to the valley, which leads

over the Arabah depression to the Dead Sea and

Jordan Valley.

Beyond the western wall of the Great Rift Valley the



12 BRITISH EAST AFRICA

country slopes gradually to the depression, the lowest
part of which is occupied by the Victoria Nyanza.
The floor of the Nyanza basin is fairly level, as a rule,
but it is intersected by numberless broad, shallow, flat-
floored valleys.

"The whole of Uganda, Usoga, and much of
Karagwe," says Scott-Elliot, " consists of an infinity of
hills and ridges 4,110 feet, on an average, above the sea.
Their flat valleys are usually occupied by swamp rivers,
often half a mile wide. These curve and twist about in
an extraordinary fashion, and have numerous minor
swamps connected with them. It is thus immediately
obvious that railways are impossible, and roads ex-
tremely difficult. In a course of twenty miles we may
have to cross eight swamps from a quarter to three-
quarters of a mile wide, and mount and descend twelve
hills each 300 feet high and also steep."

These swampy valleys are lined with rich, deep soil,
and the country is at a lower level than most of the
volcanic country to the east. Lake Naivasha, in the
Rift Valley, is 6,230 feet above the sea, but the level of
the Nyanza is only 3,820 feet. Hence Uganda and the
countries around the Victoria Nyanza have a warmer
climate, and are more typically tropical in their cha-
racters, than the high plateaux that separate them from
the fertile coast lands.

West of the Nyanza basin is the second and western
Rift Valley — that of the Nile. It lies between the high



li



GEOGRAPHY OF BRITISH EAST AFRICA 13

plateau of the Congo Free State to the west, and the
snow-clad Ruwenzori and the plateau of Unyoro to the
east. It is continued southward to Tanganyika, and
northward down the valley of the Nile. Its formation
was no doubt similar to that of the Erythrean Rift
Valley, and Stanley's bold suggestion regarding the
event has been justified by the evidence of later travel-
lers. " Time was when Ruwenzori did not exist. It was
grassy upland, extending from Unyoro to the Balegga
plateau." ^ Then came the upheaval at a remote period.
" Ruwenzori was raised to the clouds, and a yawning
abyss 250 miles long and 30 miles broad lay south-west
and north-east."

The Nilotic Rift Valley repeats the characters of the
Erythrean Rift Valley, and it is occupied by long,
narrow, fiord-like lakes, of a very different aspect from
the round lakes, with low, shelving shores, of the Victoria
Nyanza type.

The contrast between the two lake types is well
expressed by the late Major Thruston :

" The ordinary conception of a lake under the Equator
is of a sheet of water with swampy shores, infested by
myriads of mosquitoes, surrounded by dense tropical
forest, with rank undergrowth and a tangled mass of
creepers. Such would be a fairly correct description of
Lake Victoria. Lake Albert is very different. Its

^ The country to the west of the Albert Nyanza.



14 BRITISH EAST AFRICA

eastern shore is bounded by a steep and sometimes
precipitous bank from r.cxx) to 1,500 feet in height, the
edge of the water being fringed by a plain varying from
a few feet to a mile in breadth, . . . The western
shore is formed by a chain of lofty mountains, the
highest peaks of which must be at least 8,000 feet above!
the level of the lake. The sides of the mountains arei
like walls rising out of the water. . . , The whole]
scene resembles a fiord in Norway."

Such, then, in broad outline, is the physical structure
of British East Africa. It is a land of striking con-
trasts, both in climate and in geographical characters.
Although lying across the Equator, there are two
mountains, Kenya and Ruwenzori, that are always
snow-capped, and the volcanic plateaux bear many
plants whose affinities are with those of the Mediterra-
nean basin. Again, the country exhibits the action of
both ice and fire : it has a system of glaciers ; it has
also innumerable old volcanoes. These last occur both
as weathered cones in the last stages of decay, and as
lines of well-preserved craters, where the old volcanic
fires are not yet wholly extinct. It is a land, moreover,
of lakes and deserts. In the western basin is the
second largest freshwater lake in the world, and in the
Rift Valleys are fiord-like lakes, one of which. Lake
Rudolf, is 170 miles in length ; while in contrast to these
vast existing lakes there are barren tracts of



GEOGRAPHY OF BRITISH EAST AFRICA 15

" The shining plain that is said to be
The dried-up bed of a tormer sea,
Where the air, so dry, and so clear and bright.
Reflects the sun with a wondrous light.
And out in the dim horizon makes
The deep blue gleam of the phantom lakes."

The essential fact, then, in the economic geography
of British East Africa, is its remarkable diversity. It
contains all sorts of climate and all varieties of soils ;
we find the fertile, fever-stricken belt of the coastlands ;
the broad, undulating, arid waste of the Nyika ; the
high, bracing, turf-clad plains of Masai-land ; and the
deep, wind-swept trough of the Great Rift Valley ; as
well as the warm, rich lowlands of the Nyanza basin


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryJ. W. (John Walter) GregoryThe foundation of British East Africa → online text (page 1 of 16)