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ceased with Bornu, and is interrupted or precariously carried on with Central Sudan, it has decidedly improved with Wadai, where the efforts of the new Sultan Ibrahim to encourage commerce with his dominions have borne good fruit. And in the report from Benghazi the Consul says that an improvement in the caravan trade with the interior has been maintained, considerable profits having been made by caravans trading in Kanem and Wadai. is much to be feared that this will not prove permanent. In all probability the highway of trade up the Nile Valley will draw away most of the Wadai trade, just as the highway up the Niger is securing the trade of the Central Sudan.
How, then, is the loss of this caravan trade between Tripoli and the Sudan to be avoided? Or must the loss be regarded as inevitable? It has been proposed to introduce railways. The vilayet of Tripoli has an area of about 410,000 square miles, or more than three times greater than that of Great Britain and Ireland. About three-fifths of it are unproductive, consisting of sandy and rocky wastes and plateau. This leaves about 164,000 square miles of more or less fertile and productive soil. Almost all of this land is found between the sea and the Tripoli range of hills on the south. It varies in breadth from 90 miles, near Nalut on the west, to 40 or 60, miles near Tarhuna on the east. It is some 400 miles in length from the Tunisian frontier on the west to Sert on the Gulf of Syrta, the boundary line between Tripoli and Barca in the west. The most fertile portion of this littoral tract is from Cape Misurata on the east to Zarira, 50 miles to the west of Tripoli; it is some 150 miles in length by 40 to 60 in breadth. The Fezzan contains about 120,000 square miles, only 3,000 of which are oases. The railways that have been proposed are to Ghadamis by way of Zuara; to Gharian; and to Murzuk by way of Khoms, Zeliten, Misurata, and Sokna.
A look at the map will be assisted by the following
distances between the town of Tripoli and the principal towns of the vilayet. They are calculated at 25 miles a day by camel march, the hour's journey by camel being calculated at 5 kilometres, or 3.106 miles. From Tripoli to Murzuk it is 730 miles, or 29 days; to Ghadamis, 497 miles, or 20 days; to Ghat, 938 miles, or 38 days; to Khoms, 68 miles, or 3 days; to Sokna, 373 miles, or 15 days; to Sebkha, 543 miles, or 22 days; to Gatrun, 869 miles, or 35 days. And the following is the approximate male adult population of some of the towns, as given in the Salnama, or official handbook of the province, for 1896: Tripoli city, 20,750; Tripoli district, 65,000; Gharian, 13,256; Zaira, 44,470; Zuara, 3,251; Khoms, 5,840; Misurata, 33, 103; Zeliten, 30,500; Sirt, 2,078; Ifrin, 6,107; Ghadamis, 2,812; Mizda, 1,820; Murzuk, 306; Ghat, 950; Sokna, 1,420; Shati, 2,780; Zella, 500; Wadi Gharbi, 435; Gatrun, 200.
Now, if Tripoli had only to compete with Algeria or even with Tunis for the Sudan trade, there can be little doubt that the commercial ascendancy would remain with Tripoli. Even as it is, the railways of Algeria cannot compete with the Tripolitan caravan highways, and if one railway was built to Ghadamir and another to Murzuk, these would have immense advantages in competition for the Sudan trade from the Mediterranean littoral. These would be shorter than the Algerian railway to Ouargla, and would penetrate further towards the centre of Africa by nearly two degrees of latitude.
But the competition which Tripoli has to contend with is that directed from the French, British, and German colonies on the Atlantic coast, and more especially along the trade routes up the Niger and Binue. When this problem is fully considered, the solution that will probably be arrived at is the building of a trans-Saharan railway from Tripoli to the Sudan. What, then, is the most feasible route for such a line of communication to follow? In order to develop as much as possible of Tripoli and the Fezzan, it
will be best to proceed along the coast from Tripoli to Khoms and Misurata, whence the line will pass through Sokna, Murzuk, and Bilma (Kawar) to the Sudan. Between Tripoli and Murzuk there are many possibilities of trade; but between Murzuk and the Sudan the chief oasis is that of Kawar. The most important part of this oasis is the central district of Bilona, and it plays a most important part in the economic relations of the Sudan. It is celebrated for its salines, which supply the greater part of Central Africa. These consist of shallow basins on a great bed of rock-salt. As salt is a commodity which the Sudan has vital need of, a line of railway from Tripoli would have this local traffic, in which it is said as many as 70,000 camels are constantly engaged. A camel-load of salt, it is said, costs about four shillings at Bilona, and is often sold for six to eight pounds in the Sudan. But the cost of transport is so heavy that there is a possibility of the salt imported by way of the Niger driving the Bilona salt from the Sudan markets. The commercial needs of Tripoli and of the highway of trade between it and the Sudan can only be met by the facilities of communication which a railway affords.
There is another consideration which may be adduced in support of a railway along Tripolitan littoral to the west. A scheme has often been mooted for a North African railway from Morocco to Egypt. From Tripoli it would probably pass through Zella and Aujila to Siwa and Alexandria. Hence a railway between Tripoli and the Sudan by way of Murzuk would form part of this North. African railway up to Sokna.
Here, then, is a Tripolitan scheme for a trans-Saharan railway which involves the consideration of the sovereign rights of the territory between the Fezzan and Lake Chad. This is the tract which most concerns the Ottoman claims.
It will be best, however, to consider first the TransSaharan schemes, which must be regarded as the rivals of this Tripolitan scheme. There are several of them, but
the chief are the western, the central, and the eastern. The western is a prolongation of the railway from Oran to AinSefra, Djenien bou Resg, Duvegrier, Igli, Touat, and the Niger. The second, or central, starts from Algiers and proceeds through Berronaghia, Laghouat, and Ouargla, either through Touat to the Niger or through Amguid to Lake Chad. The third, or eastern, starts from Philippeville, and proceeds through Biskra, Ouargla, Amguid, Asin, Air, and Aghades to Zinder and Lake Chad.
When these schemes were discussed at the Geographical Congress at Algiers last year, M. Augustin Bernard, the Secretary-General of the Algiers Geographical Society, said that the true strategic and political railway, like the Transcaspian, is that from Oran, by way of the oasis of Touat, which will have the same relation to Morocco as the Transcaspian has to Persia. If that scheme is adopted, then it is proposed to continue the railway down the Niger, and ultimately carry it to Lake Chad, through Zinder to Barrona. But most active support is given to the third or eastern scheme. It has been advocated by M. Paul Leroy Beaulieu, the eminent economist, in some articles in the Journal des Débats and the Economiste Français on the unification of the African empire of France and the strategical necessity of the Trans-Saharan. This is practically the route which M. Foureau followed.
A look at the map will show that none of those routes interfere much with the proposed Trans-Saharan from Tripoli. But there is a fourth scheme which has been much vaunted. It starts from Bou-Grara, in the southeast of Tunisia, and it is designed to pass through Ghadamis and Ghat, and to proceed to Lake Chad by way of Bir al-Amar, the oasis of Kawar and Bilma. The supporters of this scheme advocate it as the shortest of the French schemes, and hold that the Gulf of Bon-Grara will make possible a port superior even to Bizerta. It is this scheme which comes nearest to being a rival of the Tripoli and Chad schemes. It will be noticed that
Ghadamis and Ghat, both of which belong to Tripoli, are on the line of communication. But an advocate of this scheme, M. E. Blanc, when discussing the routes from the north coast of Africa to the Sudan in the Bulletin de la Société de Géographie in 1890, declared in his final words that France will take, by means as pacific as possible, but with the tenacity which her natural right justifies, this route passing through Ghadamis and Ghat, which towns she will one day occupy.
M. Bernard said last year that, before asking where the Trans-Saharan is to pass, it is necessary to ask, Shall it pass anywhere? There is, it seems, a strong feeling in France that it only remains to consider the route. It is very
necessary that the scheme for a railway from Tripoli to Lake Chad should have immediate consideration with regard to its feasibility, both in relation to the commercial needs of Tripoli and the Sudan and in relation to the rival schemes of France. If the Oran scheme were adopted, a very slight compromise might satisfy the rival claims of Turkey and France to the territory between Tripoli and the Sudan. Even if the eastern route were chosen through Biskra, Amguid, and Air, this line would hardly encroach upon the legitimate demands of the Sultan. But when it is proposed to build a line through Ghadamis, Ghat, and Bilma, France and Turkey come face to face with a formidable problem in politics as well as in economics. It may be possible to combine the schemes. A Trans-Saharan might be built through Ottoman territory by way of Ghadamis, Ghat, and Bilma to Lake Chad, and a French line might then connect Ghadamis with Bon-Grara, and make possible the desiderated Bon-Grara and Congo railway. But a consideration of the needs of Tripoli will probably support the proposed railway from Tripoli to Lake Chad by way of Sokna, Marzuk, and Bilma.
Now it is that there arises for decision the acute question about the possession of the territory to the south of Tripoli and the Fezzan. Is it to be Ottoman, or is it to