W. Holman Bentley - Life on the Congo
Life on the Congo
The political event of importance which has transpired on the western boundary has been the delimitation of the frontier between the French territory and that of the Congo Free State, extending between to sea-coast and Manyanga, and also the bringing of the dividing line between the two from 17° East longitude to the right bank of the Mobangi. These disputed boundaries were matters with grave possibilities in their wake till the signing of the treaty settled the questions involved and removed all uneasiness.
On the eastern side the loss of Stanley Falls Station and its occupation by the Arabs was for some time the source of great anxiety, but a treaty has been entered into with the principal Arab chief, and if its stipulations are but observed (and it will be to the interest of the Arabs to observe them), the result will by no means be so disastrous as was feared.
The interest which the commercial world is taking in the Congo is manifested by the operations of three separate enterprises—one Belgian, one Dutch, and one French. Their energies are directed to the purchase of ivory, making use of the waterways to reach the far-away markets, and even the districts where, as yet, ivory has no commercial value. With this end in view, the Belgian enterprise has already launched a fine steamer on the Upper Congo, and the other competitors are preparing to follow their example.
The trade at present is only limited to the supply of carriers for the transport of barter goods. The cargo brought up country by large caravans is exchanged in a few hours for the ivory, which even as low down as the Pool, seems to be always waiting for buyers. Under these circumstances the competition for carriers is very keen, and neither the State nor commercial houses, nor the missionaries are able to meet their wants. The need for a railway is very seriously felt, and already three separate lines of survey are being run up country with a view of determining the best possible route. This is an enterprise which has the best sympathies of everyone, and if realised will speedily produce wonderful changes in the very heart of Africa,—changes, however, which will not all prove to be unmitigated blessings, as the facilities which will be afforded for the introduction of strong drink will undoubtedly result in much evil.