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AN UNKNOWN WAR., Star, Issue 5902, 19 June 1897
AN UNKNOWN WAR.
THE FALL OF THE COfc.6o ARABS. :
(Sydney Morning Herald.)
The Arabs of the African continent have had no hand in the Various partitions, of Africa which have been made on • paper of late years, but they havo succeeded in establishing a great power on the Nile, and they very nearly managed to establish another on the Congo, which would have extended the Arab sphere of influence from Khartoum right across the continent to Boma and the Congo mouth. It would have been the largest hinterland on the map. Unfortunately for the Arab slave raiders, and fortunately for the cause of civilisation, the Congo Free State possessed in Baron Dhanis, of the Belgian army, a soldier equal to the occasion. Of this j Barae Dhanis a good deal has been
heard lately in connection with an expedition of a semi-military order, which has been by many supposed to be advancing down tho Nile with a view to co-operating with a British advance on the Khalifa's capital. So far back as August, 1895, Dhanis himself had stated, when in Brussels, that 1000 regulars of the Congo Free State were established so far north as Lado, the capital qf the old equatorial province established first by Sir Samuel Baker for the Khedive, the story of which affair is to be found in Baker's book, "Ismailia." Dhanis added that 1500 more of the regular troops of the Free State were nearing Kavalli, the station facing Lake Albert, made famous by Stanley's Emm Expedition ; and that from 20,000 to 50,000 good fighting men, accustomed to war, could be readily found in the Manyema country to support them in case of an advance in force southward by the troops of the Khalifa-
Who is this Dhanis, and how have all these fighting men of his como into being ? .The answer has been lately giveu to the wovld by the publication of the story of the great campaigns in which Dhanis at the head of the Free State forces broke up the power of the Arabs, after defeating their attempts to invade and conquer the Free State itself. The book in which this story is told is called suggestively " The Fall of the Congo Arabs," and the writer is Captain, (and Doctor) Hinde, an English? man who took a leading part under the Belgian baron in the business.
How the Englishman got into that service, and how, ouce there, he got to the front, it is unnecessary to tell. It is a way his irrepressible countrymen have. This one combined the healing and killing arts during his time cf service, observed, noted, hunted, and commanded, doing all these things with energy and zest until the inevitable fever caught him and worried him and was beaten by him. He wound up by writing the inevitable book, and thus we have the story of the " Fall of the Congo Arabs."
With the exception of the Mahdi, the Khalifa, Osman Digna, and Zobeir, the greatest of the Arabs was Tippoo Tib, " the- gatherer of wealth." That was the nickname by which tho world about him signified its opinion of him. His proper name is Hamid ben Mohamed ben Juna. He began life as a Zanzibar merchant, and came near to occupying a throne of power. He started in his teens with a hundred desperadoes, raiding for slaves and ivory, and he raided so well that he extended his operations, and developing diplomatic talents soon became master of vast tracks of country with the support of many . allies. • Of luck he had more than his share;, the energetic and unscrupulous usually have. Here is one. instance. Having on one occasion fired off a_ his ammunition in some raid more than usually desperate, he conceived the idea of impersonating the long lost heir — heirs are, it may easily be imagined, always getting lost in those regions— of a potentate he wanted to rob. The potentate was so well deceived (or intimidated) that he promptly abdicated in favour of the impostor without even asking to see the usual strawberry mark, ancl behold Tippoo Tib became at a stroke the master of 40,000 people. What is more, he remained the master.
In 1876 he met Stanley and guided him from Nyangwe through the big forest, as the explorer has told in that masterly narrative of his. Stanley had come to find the great river, and to open it to navigation. His mission was to make the trade of Central Africa flow west, Tippoo's interest was to keep it flowing east to Zanzibar. When Tippoo deserted him in the forest, knowing him to be without canoes, did he think he had got rid of an inconvenient commanding influence ? Quien sa^e ? He deserted him, and Stanley went on to glory.
He returned to found the Free State, and then the collision between tho Arab and Christian powers became a mere matter of .time.. The Arabs, as everyone knew, must fight or. be wiped out.- They chose to fight, and they aimed at the conquest of the Free State itself. Tippoo took himself off ostentatiously to Zanzibar at the right -moment, leaving hiasoh _Sefu in -command at Nyangwe, the .capital of the Manyema country above the "Falls" station, and the first thing that happened was the Arab capture of the station, after which both sides spent a couple of years or so in extending their influenco among the neighbouring tribes. Stanley coming back to look for Emm had a palaver on the road with Tippoo, the result of which was that Tippoo was installed as a State officer in charge of the Fa'ls station. A second time he disappeared "on business" to Zanzibar, leaving his son in charge, and with him Mohara, the greatest of the Arab generals. The Free State was unprepared for war in every way, its forces were scattered, and its commanders unaware of the Arab determination to begin war on a great scale.
Their eye 3 were opened by the. massacre of Hodister's Scientific Expedition, and the murder of Emm at Kasingo,.'a few miles south of Nyangwe. Tho very Arabs said afterwards that poor Emm Was .the 'most inoffensive man that ever set foot in Africa. Many of them tried to save lum, but
Mohara was inexorable. The fiat had gone forth that every European must die, and Emm perished. Simultaneously the Belgian Resident at Kasongo, Lippeus, and his subordinate, Lieutenant Dubuique, were made prisoners. They wero kept alive for the purpose of threatening communication, and that purpose failing ""ore murdered.
At this time Captain Hinde was on his way across the big bight of the Congo to Katanga with a small expedition, bent, on extending the Free State influence, Dhanis following leisurely in his rear with an inconsiderable force. Before they reached the Lomami Eiver, a few miles from Nyangwe, they learned from the natives that Sefu with a force of 10,000 men' was preparing to cross the Congo to overwhelm Hinde's detachment and march on Stanley Pool, while Mohara, with an equal force/ was to make for the Falls ;and takehis. column" down the river with the same objective. : - "•■ _ r * •Dhanis ;was, equal ;;to; tho occasion,. and. hick favoured; ..-him: ... The chief .'-• of. the.' Lomami •• country, - Gongo Liitete,: suddenly offered - ; to ■;';.'. the Free , State, -sending -. envoys 'into r the. camp of Dhanis with- proposals to ..that effect. Ho was then in the Arab service. The Arabs were jealous of his prestige scs' a powerful chief who could bring many, thousand men into the field, and were refusing him payment due for ivory and for services rendered. He had before tbat been twice defeated on the field by Dhanis. Thus between disgust and fear ho offered to come bodily over tothe Belgtin side, and his terms being accepted with diplomatic pretence of hesitation he came. It was a tremendous piece of good luck for tho unready people of the Free State.
Dhanis acted withenergy and boldness, made the utmost- use of Gongo's forces, checked the advance of Sefu and Moh'ara, and organised his resources with rapidity. The re-established station at Stanley Falls was hastily reinforced, Mohara was turned back, and a strong convoy of ammunition was despatched to the main body before Sefu's army. While it was eu route Sefu was drawn over the river, vigorously attacked, beaten in several battles with heavy loss, and driven back to Ins own side. While this- was going on Mohara marched in pursuit of tho convoy, and very nearly effected .its capture.' A sudden panic in the attacking force enabled the convoy commander to get clear, and Dhahis,-- finding Mohara closing on his rear, promptly detached a division which, while the main' body, kept Sefu in check, defeated the Arab general in a great pitched- battle. The Arabs fled pell-mell into the Congo, losing many thousands, ancl Mohara was slain. It was his first defeat, and he scorned to survive it. It was a touch of the old Arab nobility of character.
Dhanis followed up his victories by crossing the river. Nyangwe, the largest of the Arab towns, fell before him, and a few days later he carried their main stronghold, Kasongo, by storm.
After that there was a pause. ' The Belgian commander spent the interval in consolidating his conquests, settling the people, caring for the slaves who had lost their Arab masters, organising the new allies who came to his side, and gettingup to tho front every available white officer and regular soldier, and all the guns, rifles, and ammunition the Freo State could lay its hands upon. The Arabs were not idle on their side. Sefu got together a great army from Tanganyika, under able commanders, equipped it, provisioned it, and took the field once more for a last stroke.
This time the Free State people were ready. They met the enemy steadily, fought a series of fierce battles, and after some weeks of hard work scattered the Arabs and broke up then' power. In the last battle Sefu was killed. The Free State won, but it was, as Wellington said of Waterloo, a vtry near thing. To use the words of Captain Hinde, from' whose narrative I have complied this outline of the proceedings, the political geography of the Congo Basin was completely changed. Nyangwe, tho greatest market in Africa, was wiped out of existence ; Kasongo, a city of 60,000 inhabitants, disappeared from tho map, and the trade of the Congo Basin, instead of being drawn to Zanzibar, goes now down its legitimate channel of the Congo. The Arab losses amounted to 70,000 men, and those of the Free State were considerable. A hideous detail of the campaign is that the native allies on both sides lived on the bodies of the dead ! — the whole of the tribes of the Congo Basin being inveterate cannibals. < The story would be incomplete without some reference to Dhanis; a great soldier certainly, as every action and every disposition of these campaigns prove. Nothing could bo finer than his opeuiug move of showing detachments at different points whereby Sefu was induced to believe himself in presence of a large army, and to stay behind the big river whilst hia antagonist was bringing up troops and making alliances. Common sense and readiness . of resource are strong points in his character evidently. There is a story of his punishment of tho " medicine man " caught poisoning a victim. Dhanis told him publicly that he was' to be flogged, and gave him half an hour to prepare medicine to prevent himself from being hurt. The I man had not got his medicine with him; it was, he pleaded, in his hut. In a lew minutes the hut and all it contained were brought, and the impostor shut up for half an hour in it. When the flogging came in due course, the wretched man's squeals convinced the people cf his real character. But a sudden storm with hail coming On sent them back- to the old faith, whereupon Dhanis sent people out to make iced drinks with the hail, and gave out that it was useless to send missiles against, the whites, who promptly ate- them.
On one occasion a large army of natives under his orders refused* to move against the enemy until he had " made medicine " to consult the auguries'— - in "the old classical manner — a case of history "repeating itself. He promptly said that he would consult thoheavens and wouldregard three red signs as guarantees of .victory. Then ho sent up three rockets, which made the necessary display, to the unbounded delight of his men and the great discouragement of the enemy, who had been apprised of what was afoot and were intently watching. The victory was great, and easily won. -.-■.' After the fall of the two big cities, the thousands of slaves suddenly released were a problem of gravity. Dhanis did not hesitate. He planted them down in various locations, set officers over them, organised them for agriculture, prescribed a system of crops, and in a few weeks had them not only supporting themselves, but , supplying his armies with abundance of ipiovisions.
General Gordon once burned to play this very part. Indeed, he was actually on the way to fulfil his engagement with the King of the Belgians when the summons to Khartoum reached him from the War Office. Had he refused it would have been better for him. How. he would have done the work of grappling and stamping and slaughter against, the slave-raiders we can readily imagine. But we have no right to imagine that he would have done it better than Dhanis. Dhanis behaved like a great soldier, proved himself a diplomatist, and was from the first a ruler of' men and an organiser of their labour. It has fallen to his lot to secure tho second stage in the development of the Congo Free State, the first having been duly credited to Stanley. If Fate should decree that he shall one day co-operate on the Nile basjn with a British expedition, his presence and advice will be a great advantage to our people.
AN UNKNOWN WAR., Star, Issue 5902, 19 June 1897
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