Colonel M. Ernest Linant de Bellefonds [Bey], son of the renowned French engineer Louis Maurice Adolphe Linant de Bellefonds who executed numerous projects in Egypt including the Suez Canal, was an emissary at Gondokoro (Equatoria headquarters of the Anglo-Egyptian colonial administration) of General Charles Gordon [Pasha]. The Colonel, accompanied by forty Sudanic-Nubian soldiers, arrived in Rubaga at the court of Kabaka Mtesa (Mutesa) Mukabya of Buganda in April 1875 where he also met Henry Morton Stanley who had quite recently arrived at the court. At the time Mutesa had become oriented to Islam after Zanzibari Arabs had taught him and showered him with gifts. Mutesa became perplexed by the foreign religions and divisions, but decided to simultaneously embrace elements of both Christianity and Islam. Stanley, determined to convert Mutesa fully to Christianity, was so impressed with the enlightened kabaka whom he styled "Emperor," quite impressed with the elaborate organization of the Buganda kingdom-state, with the culture, the attire, and the politeness of the Baganda. The landscape was beautiful, the natural resources bountiful, and Henry Stanley is widely credited with becoming the first to proclaim that B-Uganda was the "Pearl of Africa." Stanley proposal to invite British missionaries, educators and technicians to come to Uganda to further the development was corroborated by Linant who happened to be a French-Belgian Protestant, and Mutesa concurred. Stanley drafted the proposal to be sent to England, handed it to Linant who would be the messenger. The two Europeans parted on April 17th 1875, Stanley intent on completing the circumnavigation of the Lake Victoria Nyanza [Nyanja]. Unfortunately, on his way northward, Linant's expedition was brutally attacked and Linant was killed by the Bari in Sudan at Laboreh on August 26, 1875, not far from Gondokoro. Among the grievances of the Bari were the recent raids by Nubian slave-traders. Linant's body was crudely disposed of on the bank to rot in the burning sun. By a stroke of luck, Stanley's letter was recovered still intact in the knee-high boot of the slain Linant. The blood-stained letter was sent to Charles Gordon in Khartoum, he would forward it to the "Daily Telegraph" England. Bloody mayhem in Uganda would ultimately be the result of Stanley's observations and recommendations for Buganda. The British Special Commissioner to Uganda--Henry "Harry" Hamilton Johnston summarizes it: "Truly Stanley's letter, the blood-stained sheet, of paper found in the boot of the murdered de Bellefonds, was big with fateful results for the Kingdom of Uganda" (1902: 223).
Stanley's proposal(1876: 152-153), which follows, though written in April, would draw enthusiasm when it was published in November 1875.
Mtesa's Capital, Uganda, April 14, 1875
I must not forget to inform you and your readers of one very interesting subject connected with Mtesa, which will gratify many a philanthropic European and American.
I have already told you that Mtesa and the whole of his Court profess Islamism. A long time ago--some four or five years--Khamis Bin Abdullah (the only Arab who remained with me three years ago, as a rearguard, when the Arabs disgracefully fled from Mirambo) came to Uganda. He was wealthy, of noble descent, had a fine, magnificent personal appearance, and brought with him many a rich present for Mtesa, such as few Arabs could afford. The King became immediately fascinated with him, and really few white men could be long with the son of Abdullah without being charmed by his presence, his handsome, proud features, his rich olive complexion, and his liberality. I confess I never saw an Arab or Mussulman who attracted me so much as Khamis bin Abdullah, and it is no wonder that Mtesa, meeting a kindred spirit in the noble youth of Muscat, amazed at his handsome bearing, the splendour of his apparel, the display of his wealth, and the number of his slaves, fell in love with him. Khamis stayed with Mtesa a full year, during which time the King became a convert to the creed of his visitor--namely, Mohammedanism. The Arab clothed Mtesa in the best that his wardrobe offered; he gave him gold-embroidered jackets, fine white shirts, crimson slippers, swords, silk sashes, daggers, and a revolving rifle, so that [John Hanning] Speke and [James Augustus] Grant's presents seemed of necessity insignificant. Now, until I arrived at Mtesa's Court, the King delighted in the idea that he was a follower of Islam; but by one conversation I flatter myself that I have tumbled the newly-raised religious fabric to the ground, and if it were only followed by the arrival of a Christian mission here, the conversion of Mtesa and his Court to Christianity would, I think, be complete. I have, indeed, undermined Islamism so much here, that Mtesa has determined henceforth, until he is better informed, to observe the Christian Sabbath as well as the Moslem Sabbath, and the great captains have unanimously consented to this. He has further caused the Ten Commandments of Moses to be written on a board for his daily perusal--for Mtesa can read Arabic--as well as the Lord's Prayer, and the golden commandment of our Saviour, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." This is great progress for the few days that I have remained with him, and, though I am no missionary, I shall begin to think that I might become one if such success is feasible. But, oh that some pious, practical missionary would come here! What a field and a harvest ripe for the sickle of civilisation! Mtesa would give him everything he desired--houses, lands, cattle, ivory,etc., he might call a province his own in one day. It is not the mere preacher, however, that is wanted here. The Bishops of Great Britain collected, and all the classic youth of Oxford and Cambridge, would effect nothing by mere talk with the intelligent people of Uganda. It is the practical Christian tutor, who can teach people how to become Christians, cure their diseases, construct dwellings, understand and exemplify agriculture, and turn his hand to anything like a sailor—this is the man who is wanted. Such an one, if he can be found, would become the saviour of Africa. He must be tied to no church or sect, but profess God and His Son and the moral law, and live a blameless Christian, inspired by liberal principles, charity to all men, and devout faith in Heaven. He must belong to no nation in particular, but the entire white race. Such a man or men, Mtesa, King of Uganda, Usoga, Unyoro, and Karague—a kingdom 360 geographical miles in length by 50 in breadth—invites to repair to him. He has begged me to tell the white men that if they will only come to him he will give them all they want. Now, where is there in all the pagan world a more promising field for a mission than Uganda? Colonel Linant de Bellefonds is my witness that I speak the truth, and I know he will corroborate all I say. The Colonel, though a Frenchman, is a Calvinist, and has become as ardent a well-wisher for the Waganda as I am. Then why further spend needlessly vast sums upon black pagans of Africa who have no example of their own people becoming Christians before them? I speak to the Universities Mission at Zanzibar and to the Free Methodists at Mombasa, to the leading philanthropists, and the pious people of England. Here, gentlemen, is your opportunity—embrace it! The people on the shores of the Niyanza call upon you. Obey your own generous instincts, and listen to them; and I assure you that in one year you will have more converts to Christianity than all other missionaries united can muster. The population of Mtesa's kingdom is very dense; I estimate the number of his subjects at 2,000,000. You need not fear to spend money upon such a mission, as Mtesa is sole ruler, and will repay its cost tenfold with ivory, coffee, otter-skins of a very fine quality, or even in cattle, for the wealth of this country in all these products is immense. The road here is by the Nile, or via, Zanzibar, Ugogo, and Unyanyembe. The former route, so long as Colonel Gordon governs the countries of the Upper Nile, seems the most feasible.
With all deference I would suggest that the mission should bring to Mtesa as presents, three or four suits of military clothes, decorated freely with gold embroidery; together with half-a-dozen French kepis, a sabre, a brace of pistols, and suitable ammunition; a good fowling-piece and rifle of good quality, for the King is not a barbarian; a cheap dinner-service of Britannia ware, an iron bedstead and counterpanes, a few pieces of cotton print, boots, etc. For trade it should also bring fine blue, black, and grey woollen cloths, a quantity of military buttons, gold braid and cord, silk cord of different colours, as well as binding; linen and sheeting for shirts, fine red blankets and a quantity of red cloth, with a few chairs and tables. The profit arising from the sale of these things would be enormous.
For the mission's use it should bring with it a supply of hammers, saws, augers, chisels, axes, hatchets, adzes, carpenters' and blacksmiths' tools, since the Waganda are apt pupils; iron drills and powder for blasting purposes, trowels, a couple of good-sized anvils, a forge and bellows, an assortment of nails and tacks, a plough, spades, shovels, pickaxes, and a couple of light buggies as specimens, with such other small things as their own common sense would suggest to the men whom I invite. Most desirable would be an assortment of garden seed and grain; also white-lead, linseed-oil, brushes, a few volumes of illustrated journals, gaudy prints, a magic lantern, rockets, and a photographic apparatus. The total cost of the whole equipment need not exceed 5000 [pounds] sterling.
Henry M. Stanley
Johnston, Sir Harry. The Uganda Protectorate. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1902 .
Stanley, Henry M,"Letters of Mr. H. M. Stanley on his Journey to Victoria Nyanza, and Circumnavigation of the Lake," in Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. 20. 1875-1876 (134-159).
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