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THE SULTAN AND CENTRAL AFRICA.
BY S. H. FITZJOHN.
WHAT truth is there in the saying, "To possess Tripoli is to command the Sudan"? It was Rohlfs who gave currency to the thought that the master of Tripoli is the master of the Sudan when he wrote in L'Esploratore (January, 1881): "Chi possederà questa terra sarà il padrone del Sudan.' It is a saying that has been much discussed, and in Italy it has become wellnigh a maxim. Now, as Tripoli is an Ottoman possession, it is the Sultan whom it most concerns; but, in the many discussions regarding the future of Lake Chad and Central Africa, a surprising omission has been the consideration of the rights of the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman protests have been little heeded, but it is evident from the many reports about secret missions and military activity that the Sultan means what he says, and is resolved to make good his claims. I have deemed it well, in view of imminent possibilities, to consider these Ottoman rights, and to review the considerations that may be adduced in behalf of them. It will be best, however, to give, not an account of my own, but that of Count Charles Kinsky, who has defined the Ottoman sphere in his " Diplomatists' Handbook for Africa" (London, 1897). 66 The western
part of the Libyan Desert,” he says, "and the eastern part of the Sahara, with the Taiserbo, Buseima and Kebabo (Kufra) Oases; the districts of Tibesti or Tu, Nanyanga, Borku, Bodele, Ennedi, the Kawar Oasis; the district Kanem and the Sultanate Wadai, to which the larger part of the former Baghirmi country is now tributary, are considered as a sort of international sphere of interest of the Ottoman Empire. The southern part of Baghirmi, however, is claimed by France as belonging to its sphere of interest in North Ubangi. This Ottoman sphere of interest is bounded on the west by the caravan route from Kuka (Bornu) to Murzuk (Fezzan); the south by Tsad Lake,
and about the 12° north latitude; on the east by the States belonging to the Mahdi's empire, Dar Fur, Kordofan, and West Nubia, as well as by Egypt. The whole trade of this immense territory is chiefly directed towards Tripoli and Benghazi, and only a very small part to Egypt and the dominion of the Caliph of Omderman" (pp. 8, 9). The writer acknowledges his indebtedness to the late Professor Paulitschke of Vienna. "It is to his clear and comprehensive lectures," he says, "based upon concise and intimate knowledge, as well as to the study of the literature recommended by him, that I owe an accurate and reliable insight into the social and political relations prevailing in Africa." This, then, may be regarded as an academic view of the Ottoman sphere which was held in the University of Vienna. I have cited it in order to show that the Ottoman claims have received recognition in the academic world, since it may be regarded as devoid of political considerations.
It was in 1890, in a note from the Porte on November 30, that the Ottoman claims were set forth, in view of the Anglo-French Agreement of August 5, 1890. These claims have generally been regarded as exaggerated, and have received scant consideration in the partition of Africa. But it must be remembered that the Sultan assumed the position of speaking on behalf of Egypt as well as of Tripoli. It was the Sultan's representative at the Berlin Conference (November 15, 1884, to February 26, 1885) who upheld the rights of Egypt in the Upper Nile and Upper Ubangi, when the representatives of the several Powers accepted the 4th parallel of north latitude and the 30th meridian of east longitude as the limits of territory to north and east, which was open to occupation by the Congo Free State. This position was recognised by France down to 1894, when the policy of devance became the order of the day. When the agreement of May 12, 1894, between England and the King of the Belgians was announced, France protested in the name of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, but in the Convention of August 14, 1894, between France
and the King of the Belgians as Sovereign of the Congo Free State, the territory of the Congo State was recognised up to the median line of the Mbomu and the watershed of the Nile. Thus, territory in the basin of the Upper Ubangi, which had been recognised at the Berlin Conference as within the Ottoman sphere, was signed away by France in 1894, notwithstanding her own protest, in which the principle of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire was cited against the proceedings of Great Britain. France, however, not only signed away this territory to the Congo State, but took possession of the northern part of the Mbomu basin. As soon as the Ubangi became known in 1885, its possible importance was at once recognised by the French, and after long and animated discussions and negotiations, its median line became the common limit of the Congo State and the French colony in the Convention of April 29, 1887. The agents of France had followed the lead of the Congo State, and founded the post of Bangui on the right bank, opposite Zongo, in June, 1889; that of Mobaye, opposite Banziville, in August, 1891; and that of Abira, opposite Yakoma, in September, 1891. Up to 1894 France recognised the claims of Egypt and of Turkey to the Mbomu basin. On French maps, as in French policy, the limit to the east remained below the confluence of the Mbomu and the Welle.
It was the Congo State that was the first to pass beyond its own limits as defined at the Berlin Conference. Between 1891 and 1894 its agents pushed ahead in all directions into the former territories of Egypt. In 1892 military posts or political agencies had been set up at Rafai, Sandu, Darbaki, and Dinda among the A-Banja or A-Zande of the west; at Sango, Yanguba, Zwarra, and Yangu, in Dar Banda; at several places among the Krej in Dar Fartit; and along the valley of the Welle a chain of posts had been formed. In 1893 the agents of the Congo State occupied several posts in Bahr-al-Ghazal and in the basin of the Bahr-al-Jabal at Kiri, Muggi, Labox, and Dufile, which
were the old military posts of General Gordon. Then, in 1894, other agents of the Congo State proceeded up the Bali and the Kotto into the basin of the Shari and Dar
When the agents of the Congo State vacated these posts north of the Mbomu, in accordance with the FrancoBelgian Convention of 1894, the agents of France took possession, and then penetrated into the Bahr-al-Ghazal by way of the Mbomu and Boku, and to Dem Zubair, the old capital of the Bahr-al-Ghazal province. In July, 1894, the territories of France above Bangni were constituted a separate province, called the Haut-Oubangui, or Upper Ubangi.
Now, when Schweinfurth visited the heart of Africa in 1869-70, he found that the Khartum traders had already passed beyond the basin of the Bahr-al-Ghazal into that of the Mbomu, and in 1882-84, when Lupton was Governor of the Bhar-al-Ghazal, the Egyptian possessions as administered by him extended to the Upper Kotto; that is to say, the whole of the Mbomu basin was within the administrative province of the Bahr-al-Ghazal.
By the Anglo-French Agreement of March 21, 1899, this territory has been recognised by England as within the French sphere. It was considered by Junker the best part of the Bahr-al-Ghazal province. Whether the Sultan could or would have maintained his claim on behalf of Egypt need not be considered here. It suffices to note that considerations may be adduced in support of the Ottoman claims which were put forth in 1890, and renewed in 1899.
This territory has been viewed as formerly belonging to Egypt, but even if the Porte had spoken of it in relation to Tripoli, it would not have been quite so preposterous as it may at first appear, since it is in accordance with fact. Dar Banda is in commercial relation with Wadai, and through it with Tripoli. When Hanolet and Stroobant, the agents of the Congo State, made their way to Dar Banda and Dar Runga in 1894, they were surprised to
meet with a Tripoli merchant, They soon learnt what Nachdigal had indicated, that there is a caravan highway from Abeshr in Wadai, through Kuka in Dar Runga to Yangu in Dar Banda. and Dar Runga, some of them on behalf of the Sultan of Wadai, come annually in the dry season to sell European goods for ivory, which is abundant in the basin of the Mbomu. This caravan highway from Yangu to Kuka passes through Mereke (which is Aja or Krej), Dombago, Yanguru, Sabanga, Moruba, Wundu, and Mbele, or Bele, whence a branch leads off through Mokubanda to Katuaka and Wofrat-en-Nahas. Besides this commercial relation, Dar Banda as well as Dar Runga are connected with the north through the agents of the Sanusi Order, who have proselytized down to Dar Banda.
The Arab caravaniers of Wadai
The case of Dar Runga cannot very well be separated from that of Wadai. Not only is it a dependency of Wadai, but the ivory that comes to Tripoli and Benghazi from Wadai is derived from Dar Runga. The French have been very keen to open relations with Dar Runga, and draw its trade, if possible, to Brazzaville. It was announced from Bangni in June, 1898, that the Sultan of Dar Runga had sent a caravan to the Ubangi, and in all probability they will succeed in this aim, which concerns both Tripoli and Wadai.
At the beginning of the present century Wadai had commercial relations with Tripoli and Egypt. The caravan highway to the Nile from Wadai passes through Kobbe, the commercial capital of Darfur, either to Khartum or to Asyut. This latter line of communication is the old highway of trade, the Darb-al-Arba'in, or Highway of the Forty (Days). But a new caravan highway was opened in the early part of the present century between Wadai and Benghazi. The highway of trade between this port and Abeshr, the capital of Wadai, passes through Aujila, Jalo, Kufara, and Wanyanga, and occupies an ordinary caravan some four months, on account of the formidable difficulties