James Stevenson.

The Arabs in Central Africa and at Lake Nyassa : with correspondence with H.M. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the attitude of Portugal (Volume Talbot online

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Online LibraryJames StevensonThe Arabs in Central Africa and at Lake Nyassa : with correspondence with H.M. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the attitude of Portugal (Volume Talbot → online text (page 1 of 3)
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publishers to the Sliiibersit)).


A copy of the accompanying slave trade Map having been made
on a large scale at the request of friends of the Missions on Lake
Nyassa, for submission to an important meeting held in London
in spring, the writer has in this paper given his authorities for the
Map and other information bearing on the present critical state of
aifairs in South-Eastern Africa.

The slave trade Map has been further revised by j\lr. Eavenstein.

Mr. Eavenstein thinks that the depopulation especially of the
regions east of the lakes is greater than is represented in the map,
but there are not materials from which to make it accurate. The
uncoloured spaces in Msiri and the Bemba countries, represent
districts from which slave hunters proceed to attack the surround-
ing regions. With regard to the routes leading westward into
Portuguese territory the slaves are set free after seven j-ears' forced
labour. This does not make the atrocities in procuring them any

Dr. Schweiiifurth proposes an addition to the colouring to show
that the Avhole of the Egyptian Soudan has been imder the dominion
of the slave trade since 1884. He also suggests that the word
"coast" should be erased in the title of the colouring, the principal
consumption of slaves being in the Soudan itself and in the Arab
territories. (The Soudan being beyond the scope of this pamphlet,
it is enough to note the first point. The exjjort from the East Coast
may be small relatively, but it is still considerable. — J. 8.)

Srd December, 1888.


The recent attacks by Arabs at the north end of Lake Nyassa
have excited a strong feehng in this country, and it is a fitting-
time to call the attention of the public to the great Arab
invasion of Central Africa, which threatens to destroy the
industrial population of tlie continent.

In 1871 Livingstone found himself confronted by Arabs in
various parts, and especially at Nyangwe he witnessed the
commencement of a system of wholesale massacre. From this
point in particular the tribes around were attacked. In a map
i:)ublished in 1883 I showed the extent to which these ravages
had extended, along with the other regions throughout Central
Africa in which slave-hunting had been destroying the popula-
tion more or less.

During the last five years the information tliat has come to
hand shows that the ravages of the Zanzibar Arabs have extended
in area and intensity among some of the most advanced races
of the interior, so that countries lying west of the great lakes
liave been destroyed over an area of one thousand miles in length
by four hundred in breadth. The devastation extends as far
as to the countries where the population was previously thinned
by the West Coast slave trade, so that there is a near approach
to the time when the nations of Europe may find that there is
but a very small industrial population remaining in these parts.

Proceedings of the Panjal Geographical Society, 1887, p. 640. — Dr.
Wolf says of Lunda, etc. (see map) : — " The country from the coast
to the Kassai is thinly populated, though all the villages I passed
through showed a great number of healthy-looking children. This
will be understood if Ave remember that this region has for centuries
provided Angola and the foreign market with slaves."

From the central regions slaves have recently been drawn to
fill up the blanks created by earlier ' slave raids near the East
Coast, but the source of supply is coming to an end, both from
the exhaustion of the centre and quite recently from the Arabs
having in a few places begun to cultivate by slave labour the
lands from which the inhabitants had been expelled.

Eefening to the annexed map, I quote information fi'om the
various travellers who have, within the last five years, been
witnesses of what has been going on. In order to give a
general idea of w^hat passes, I begin by quoting passages descrip-
tive of the scenes which accompany the ravages of the country
about Stanley Falls. This district is numbered 1 on the map.

The Congo and the Founding of its Free State, by H. M. Stanley
(Vol. II., p. 140). — " Our guide, Yumbila, was told to question
them as to what was the cause of this dismal scene, and an old man
stood out and poured forth his tale of grief and woe with an exceed- .
ing volubility. He told of a sudden and unexpected invasion of their
village by a host of leaping, yelling men in the darkness, who dinned
their ears with murderous fusillades, slaughtering their people as
they sprang out of their burning huts into the light of the llames.
Not a third of the men had escaped ; the larger number of the
women and children had been captured and taken away, they knew
not whither "

P. 144. — " We discovered that this horde of banditti — for in reality
and without disguise they were nothing else — was under the leader-
ship of several chiefs, but principally under Karema and Kibunga.
They had started sixteen months previously from "Wane-Kirundu,
about thirty miles below Vinya Njara. For eleven months the baud
had been raiding successfully between the Congo and the Lubiranzi,
on the left bank. They had then undertaken to perform the same
cruel work between the BiyeiTe and Wane-Kirundu. On looking at
vaj map I find that such a territory withiu the area described would
cover superficially 16,200 square geographical miles on the left bank,
and 10,-500 miles on the right, all of which in statute mileage would
be equal to 34,700 scpiare miles, just 2,000 square miles greater than
the island of Ireland, inhabited by about 1,000,000 people.

" The band when it set out from Kirundu numbered 300 fighting
men, armed with flint locks, double-barrelled percussion guns, and a
few breech-loaders ; their followers, or domestic slaves and women,

doubled this force Within the enclosure was a series of

low sheds extending many lines deep from the immediate edge of the
clay bank inland, 100 yards ; in length the camp was about 300 yards.

, UIUC -^

At the landing place below were 54 long canoes, varying in carrying
capacity. Each might convey from lU to 100 people. ....
The first general impressions are that the camp is much too densely
peopled for comfort. There are rows npon rows of dark nakedness,
relieved here and there by the white dresses of the captors. There
are lines or groups of naked forms — upright, standing, or moving
about listlessly ; naked bodies are stretched under the sheds in all
positions ; naked legs innumerable are seen in the perspective of
prostrate sleepers ; there are countless naked children — many mere
infants — forms of boyhood and gii'lhood, and occasionally a drove
of absolutely naked old women bending under a basket of fuel, or
cassava tubers, or bananas, who are driven through the moving
groups by two or three musketeers. On paying more attention to
details, I observe that mostly all are fettered ; youths with iron rings
around their necks, through Avliich a chain, like one of our boat
anchor chains, is rove, securing the captives by twenties. The
children over ten are secured V)y these copper rings, each ringed leg
brought together by the central ring, which accounts for the apparent
listlessness of movement I observed on first coming in presence of
this curious scene. The mothers are secured by shorter chains,
around whom their respective progeny of infants are grouped, hiding
the cruel iron links that fall in loops or festoons on their mammas'
breasts. There is not an adult man captive amongst them "

P. 148. — ^" The slave traders admit they have only 2,300 captives in
this fold, yet they have raided through the length and breadth of a
country larger than Ireland, bringing fire and spreading carnage with
lead and iron. Both banks of the river show that 118 villages and
43 districts have been devastated, out of which is only educed this
scanty profit of 2,300 females and children, and about 2,000 tusks of
ivory ! The spears, swords, bows, and the quivers of arrows show that
many adults have fallen. Given that 118 villages were peopled only
by 1,000 each, we have only a profit of 2 per cent., and by the time
all these captives have been subjected to the accidents of the river
voyage to Kirundu and Nyangwe, of camp life and its harsh
miseries, to the havoc of smallpox, and the pests which miseries
breed, there will only remain a scant 1 per cent, upon the bloody

"They tell me, however, that the convoys already arrived at
Nyangwe with slaves captured in the interior have been as great as
their present band. Five expeditions have come and gone with their
booty of ivory and slaves, and these five expeditions have now com-
pletely weeded the large territory described above. If each ex]jedi-
tion has been as successful as this the slave-traders have been enabled
to obtain 5,000 women and children safe to Nyangwe, Kirundu, and
Vibondo, above the Stanley Falls. This 5,000 out of an annual
million will be at the rate of a half per cent., or 5 slaves out of 1,000


people This is poor profit out of such large M^aste of

life, for originally we assume the slaves to have mustered about
10,000 in number. To obtain the 2,300 slaves out of the 118
villages they must have shot a round number of 2,500 people,
while 1,300 men died by the wayside through scant provisions
and the intensity of their hopeless wretchedness. How many
are wounded and die in the forest or droop to death through
an overwhelming sense of their calamities we do not know ;
but if the above figures are trustworthy, then the outcome
from the territory with its million of souls is 5,000 slaves,
obtained at the cruel expense of 33,000 lives ! And such slaves I
They are females or young children who cannot run away, or who
with youthful indifference will soon forget the terrors of their
capture ! Yet each of the very smallest infants has cost the life of a
father, and perhaps his three stout brothers and three grown-up
daughters. An entire family of six souls have been done to death to
obtain that small, feeble, useless child ! These are my thoughts as I
look upon the horrible scene. Every second during which I regard
them the clink of fetters and chains strikes upon my ears. My eyes
catch sight of that continual lifting of the hand to ease the neck in
the collar, or as it displays a manacle exposed through a muscle being
irritated by its weight or want of fitness. My nerves are off"ended
with the rancid effluvium of the unwashed herds within this human
kennel. The smell of other abominations annoy me in that vitiated
atmosphere. For how could poor people, bound and riveted together
by twenties, do otherwise than wallow in filth. Only the old women
are taken out to forage. They dig out the cassava tubers and search
for the banana; while the guard, with musket ready, keenly Avatches
for the coming of the revengeful native. Not much food can be pro-
cured in this manner, and what is obtained is flung down in a heap
before each gang to at once cause an unseemly scramble. Many of
these poor things have been already months fettered in this manner,
and their bones stand out in bold relief in the attenuated skin, which
hangs down in thin wrinkles and puckers. And yet who can with-
stand the feeling of pity so powerfully pleaded for by those large
eyes and sunken cheeks 1 "

This sufficiently describes the general situation.— Coming
south of the great forest belt, indicated on the map, we have
the following notices of observations made by recent German
travellers to the east and west of Nyangwe, in two of the richest
and best peopled regions of the continent, which have been
wholly destroyed, and also in a district south of Nyangwe,
where the process was beginning.

Mr. Wissmann in 1881 came through the country of the

Basonge, marked 2 on the map, in the very heart of the con-
tinent, about the 5th parallel, south latitude, and says : —

" They lived in beautiful villages, miles in length, cultivated the
land, and excelled in the manufacture of cloth, pottery, iron articles,
and wood carving. To the east of these tribes, however, I found
that, in consequence of a recent inroad of the Arabs of Nyaugwe, the
villages had been deserted. The Basonge have never yet seen an Arab,
nor heard the report of a gun, but I am afraid their fate is sealed."

On his second journey —

Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, 1887, p. 776. — "From
the 28th December, 1886, to the 23rd January, 1887, the caravan
marched through the region of the gigantic villages met with on
the first journey. Now the district was entirely depopulated. War
and smallpox had entirely devastated the country. The want of
food Avas so great that Wissmann lost 80 men from hunger and
smallpox on the journey from the Sankuru to Nyangwe. In tlie
latter place he found conditions also very much changed, in conse-
quence of the events at Stanley Falls. The bearing of the Arabs
towards the traveller was decidedly hostile."

Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, 1887, p. 221. — "Dr.
Lenz left Kasonge on June 30th, and traversing the plateau (marked
3 on the map), between that and Tanganyika, reached Mr. Here's
station on Kavala Island on August 7th. He found much of the
route studded with recently-founded Zanzibar villages established
by the Arab traders, the natives having been compelled to retreat
into the forests and remote mountains."

Proceedings of the Royal GeograjMcal Society, 1887, p. 190. — "Ujiji
was entered on August 15th. Here Dr. Lenz discovered that on
account of the warfike raids of the Arabs and the excitement in
Uganda, it would be impossible for him to push northwards to
Emin Pasha, as was his original intention."

Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, 1887, p. 643. — Dr.
Ludwig Wolft' "says (1886, February) — " Between Katshitsh and the
Batondoi (marked 4 on the map), I met the powerful chief Zappu
Zapp, who as a slave hunter is the curse of the country between
the Lubilash and the Lomami. Nearly all his men were armed with
percussion guns, which he gets at Nyangwe from the Arabs, in
exchange for slaves and ivory. The other tribes are still armed
with bows and arrows. This was the furthest point to the west
whence the trade all goes to Zanzibar. Several of Zappu Zapp's
men, also his sons, spoke the Swahili language. Zappu Zapp wanted
guns and powder from me. He did not care for anything else.
When I refused to accept his slaves and ivory he resolved to take
the ' En Avant' by force overnight."

Proceedings of the Royal Gcvgraphkal Socicfi/, 1887, p. 776. —
" Wissmann found that in the region betAveen the Lomami and the
Sankuru the conditions of trade have completely altered since 1884.
Now glass beads, arms, and powder form the chief articles of barter,
having replaced the earlier cowry shells."

One state, that of Eua, seemed to be holding out ; but to the
south of it, in the rich mining region Katanga (marked 5
on the map), we have these notices by Eeichard, a German,
and Capello and Ivens, Portuguese travellers.

Proceedings of the Eoyal Geographical Society, 1885, p. 606. —
*' On October 27th they (Dr. Bohm and Herr Eeichard) crossed
into the kingdom of a powerful chief named Msiri, who had been
waging a war against Urua during the last six years, in the course
of which he had advanced as far as the Kikondia Lake. He
was even then ' in the field ' beleaguering a town named Katapena,
and it was there the explorers joined him on January 20th,

1884 When Msiri at length returned to

his capital (Kimpatu, in U-nkea), it became evident that he aimed
at the traveller's destruction. Tired of interminable delays, Herr
Eeichard at length started on September 2.5th with ' colours flying
and drums beating.' A hundred and fifty natives who sought
to prevent his passage of the Lufira were easily put to flight, but
thenceforth his progress became a continual struggle against cold,
wet, and hunger."

Proceedings of the Eoyal Geographical Society, 1887, p. 318. —
Capello and Ivens " were now within the limits of the empire
which Msiri, a native of Unyamwezi (called Ukalaganja, or Gara-
ganza, by the western tribes), has carved himself out of the ancient
dominicms of the Kazembe, and which extends from Lake Kikonja
and Urua in the north to the Mushinga ^Mountains in the south,
and from the Lualaba eastward to the Luapida. This vast region
is by no means devoid of natural wealth, but it has been depopu-
lated by war, and the traveller sometimes spends days on the
march without encountering a single human being.

The ' Kinpata ' of Msiri, in the district of Bunkea,
is approached through a perfect labyrinth of narrow lanes, planted
with euphorbias, and decorated at intervals with trophies of human
skulls, every one of which has a liistor}- attached to it, proclaim-
ing the detestable cruelty of this parvenu among African rulers.
Permission to proceed to Kazembe's town, or even to visit the
western shore of Lake Moero, having been refused, on the ground of
the unsettled state of the country, Captain Ivens rejoined his com-
panion at Nteuke's and they resolved to make their way to the


We are now well down to the reoion west of Lake Nvassa.
Of the countiy north of Lake Bangweolo (marked 7 on the
map) we have from Eeichard and Giraud a harrowing j)icture
of desolation. Giraud also tells that it is the boast of the
people of Bemba, among whom it may be remembered that
Livingstone encountered the first Arabs who had penetrated to
the centre of Africa, that they had exterminated the Babisa
(whose country is marked 8 on the map). This was an impor-
tant tribe, who sometimes traded as far as the East Coast of
Africa, but have latterly been carried thither in captivity, by
way of the ferries of Nyassa, by the Arabs of Kota Kota.
Coming nearer the scene of the late disturbances, we have the
following description by Mr. Moir, of the African Lakes Com-
pany, of the destruction of a people whom the London Mis-
sionary Society had hoped to evangelize. Their valley is
numbered 6 on the map.

Scottish Geof/mphical Magadne, April, 1885, p. 110 — Paper by F.
M. Moir. — " Within 20 miles of this station, while we were on our
march from Nyassa to Tanganyika, the fei^tile valley of the Lofu,
was the scene of a terrible slave raid. An Arab, Kabuoda, who had
been settled there for about ten years, having many houses and
slaves, determined to go to Zanzibar with his ivory. So he picked a
quarrel with Katimbwe, the chief, and took all his cattle ; then
organized a sudden raid throughout all the valle}^, and every man,
woman, and child who could be found was seized and tied up. Very
few managed to escape him or his keen hunters, and a caravan was
made for the coast ; but the smiling valley that had been known
as the Garden of the Tanganyika, from its fertility and the industry
of its people, now silent and desolate, was added to that already long-
stretch of hungry wilderness through which we had passed. .

. . To deal with, so far (Kabunda) was the polished gen-
tleman. He told us he was going on next morning, and would pass
our tents ; his caravan was about 3,000 strong, two detachments had
gone by a road to the back of us, as could be seen by the tracks in
the grass. Accordingly, we were up betimes to see them pass.

"First came armed men, dancing, gesticulating, and throwing about
their guns, as only Arabs can do, to the sound of di'ums, panpipes,
and other less musical instruments. Then followed, slowly and
sedately, the great man himself, accompanied by his brother and other
head men, his richly caparisoned donkey walking along near by ; and
surely no greater contrast could be conceived than that between this
courteous, white-robed Arab, with his gold-embroidered joho, silver


sword and daggers, and silken turban, and the miserable swarm of
naked squalid human beings, that he had wantonly dragged from
their now ruined homes in order to enrich himself

"Behind the Arab came groups of AviA^es and household servants,
laughing and talking as they passed along, carrying the camp utensils
and other impedimenta of their masters. After that the main rabble
of the caravan, the men armed with guns, spears, and axes. Omin-
ously prominent among the loads were many slave sticks, to be handy
if any turned refractory or if any likely stranger were met. Mingling
with and guarded by them, came the wretched over-burdened tied-up
slaves. The men who might still have had spirit to try and escape
were driven, tied two-and-two, in the terrible goree or taming
stick, or in gangs of about a dozen, each with an iron collar let into
a long iron chain, many even so soon after the start staggering under
their loads.

" And the women ! I can hardly trust myself to think or speak of
them — they were fastened to chains or thick bark ropes ; very many^
in addition to their heavy weight of grain or ivory, carried little brown
babies, dear to their hearts as a white man's child to his. The double
burden was almost too much, and still they struggled wearily on,
knowing too well that when they showed signs of fatigue, not the
slaver's ivory, but the living child would be torn from them and
thrown aside to die. One poor old woman I could not help noticing.
She was carrying a biggish boy who should have been walking, but
whose thin weak legs had evidently given Avay, she was tottering, al-
ready ; it was the supreme effort of a mother's love — and all in A^ain ;
for the child easily recognizable, was brought into camp a couple of
hours later by one of my hunters, who had found him on the path.
We had him cared for ; but his poor mother Avould never know.
Already during the three days' journey from LiendAve death had been
freeing the captives. It was Avell for them ; still Ave could not help
shuddering, as, in the darkness, Ave heard the howl of the hyenas
along the track, and realized only too fully the reason Avhy. Loav as
these poor negroes may be in the moral scale, they have still strong
maternal affection, and love of home and country."

For ninety miles along the south coast of Tanganyika we have
the entire population swept away, and in the adjoining fertile
country of Fipa tlie Arabs are now in great force.

During the last year letters from the Mission Stations ex-
pressed apprehensions, on account of the presence near Lake
Nyassa of the Arab Kabunda, of whose doings at Lake Tangan-
yika Mr. Moir's description has been given. The Arab traders
had congregated in greater numbers at the Nyassa end of the


road, on account of the small steamer of the African Lakes Com-
pany having been for some time detained on account of dis-
turbances near Bandawe. The killing first of one chief, and then
when, by the mediation of the agent of the Company, no reprisals
were made, tlie killing of another, indicated a desire to find an
excuse for seizing the villagers to carry their ivory to the coast.
The reprisals on the women belonging to the Arabs furnished a
colourable pretext for the seizure of the fifteen hundred, who
were afterwards rescued by the defenders of Karonga,

This station of the African Lakes Company was attacked by
the Arab banditti on account of the reception of these people
within the lines, the attack being maintained with great
ferocity and some tactical skill for five days, when the siege
was raised by a large body of natives, who had treaties with
the Company. The attack was made from three Arab villages,
of which the chiefs indicated the intention of ousting the whole
of the natives, described by Thomson and other travellers as
the most promising in all that region, and organizing a new
Arab state. The Arabs generally consider this attack upon a
European station rash and ill-advised, but to maintain this
prestige it is necessary not only to occupy a defensive position

1 3

Online LibraryJames StevensonThe Arabs in Central Africa and at Lake Nyassa : with correspondence with H.M. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the attitude of Portugal (Volume Talbot → online text (page 1 of 3)