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THE EAST AFRICA PROTECTORATE AS
A EUROPEAN COLONY
It is only in the last few years that the East Africa Protectorate has been shown to contain large tracts suitable for European colonisation, and though the fact may be said to be now established it is not generally realised. Our preconceived notions of an equatorial country render it hard to believe that it can consist of grassy uplands with a temperate, agreeable climate, and the eastern side of Africa has not hitherto had great attractions for either our trade or our armies. The northern portion of that side, or Italian Somaliland, is indescribably dreary and repellent, and though south of the equator the coast offers a strip of considerable fertility there lies immediately behind it a belt of jungle a hundred miles or more in width, which has long impeded all commerce and communication with the interior (except the slave trade), and has been effectively pierced only by the Uganda Railway, which has placed the high, cool plateaux of the interior within easy reach of the ports.
But the coast and its immediate hinterland do not give a correct general impression of the East African Protectorate, which
for practical purposes, be very roughly defined as lying between Lake Victoria and the Indian Ocean, with some extension to the north." I know of no territory in the world which, within a comparatively small compass, presents such surprising varieties of climate, character, products, and population. It seems to be not one but many different countries. The north-eastern district is inhabited by Somalis, and presents the inhospitable appearance which seems to attract that singular people, scrub and sand spreading in thorny, dusty desolation on every side. The only known redeeming feature in this region is the river Juba, whose banks are fertile and cultivated. South of this come the provinces of Tanaland and Seyidie, where are found indiarubber of good quality, and ornamental timber which is now being put on the English market, besides such tropical products as copra, simsim, &c. The soil has also been reported by experts to be most favourable for cotton, and it is hoped that experiments now in progress will end in the establishment of this industry on an extensive scale. Towards the south of this fertile coast strip lies Mombasa, the principal port of the Protectorate and starting point of the Uganda Railway. It is situated on an island which is separated from the mainland by a narrow arm of the sea, and provided with two harbours, one of which (Kilindini) is of great size and capacity. The European quarter is built on high, open ground, which enjoys a perpetual sea breeze, and considering that the town is in the tropics, and only a few degrees south of the equator, it must be pronounced remarkably healthy. The climate is, on the whole, far better than that of Calcutta or Bombay; in the cool season (June-October) it recalls Italy, and in the hottest months (January-April) the temperature in the house rarely reaches 90 degrees F.
'I would call attention to this definition, rough as it is, because a large portion of this territory formerly belonged to Uganda, and was transferred to East Africa in 1902. The present Uganda Protectorate lies entirely to the west and north of the
The Uganda Railway, which starts from Mombasa and runs in a north-westerly direction to Lake Victoria, passes first through a cultivated belt of cocoanuts, bananas, and maize, and then enters the jungle. For nearly two hundred miles the chief feature of the country is a thick scrub, mainly composed of flat-topped acacias, but containing here and there gorgeous flowering trees and shrubs. The soil appears to be of extraordinary fertility, for the whole of this vegetation is supported by the somewhat irregular rainfall, and experiments have shown that maize and other crops can be grown in extreme luxuriance if there is an adequate water supply. Unfortunately the rivers are few, but all indications point to the probability that a large body of subterranean water must flow under this district to the sea, and it is hoped that it may be tapped by boring wells, which is now in contemplation. About a hundred miles from the coast are the Teita Hills, masses of rock rising abruptly from the jungle, and thickly populated. The climate on the summits is healthy and agreeable, and the native cultivation very considerable. It should be explained that, in this part of the world, the ordinary distribution of cultivation is reversed; the valleys are dry and barren (unless they are flooded by torrential rains), whereas the mountain-tops are well watered and fertile. This is partly due to the fact that African streams have a tendency to dry up and disappear when they reach the plains, so that the water supply is best and surest near the springs, and also to the raids of the Masai, a race of warlike nomads who formerly terrorised the whole of the level country and drove the inhabitants into the fastnesses of the hills. All these hills are too thickly populated to offer much opening for European colonisation, but no doubt might become a good centre for producing cotton, fibre, and indiarubber. An industrial mission, connected with the Church Missionary Society, has been recently started, and promises to succeed.
After the Teita Hills the railway passes other ranges of a similar character, but less well known. Near Makindu, about two hundred miles from the coast, the jungle gives place to plains, at first dotted with trees and then open, which extend for about a hundred miles as far as Nairobi. For those who make the direct journey from the coast during the night the change in climate and scenery is most surprising. Towards the south the landscape is dominated by the snowy mass of Kilimanjaro, and if the weather is propitious the somewhat lower but still snow-covered peaks of Kenia may be seen to the north. The most remarkable feature of these plains are the enormous herds of game, which may be seen quite close to the line. The district being a game reserve, where shooting is entirely forbidden, the animals have lost all fear of the train and hardly trouble to move as it passes. The largest herds are composed of zebra, hartebeest, and gazelle, and ostriches may generally be seen. Lions, rhinoceros, and giraffes, though not common, show themselves from time to time.
At the end of these plains lies Nairobi, a straggling settlement of corrugated iron somewhat resembling a West American mining town. Then the appearance of the country suddenly changes again, and the railway passes over the Kikuyu Hills, a series of fertile ridges, now covered with forests and now breaking into the most charming of glades. There is a good deal of both native and European cultivation, for this is one of the few parts of East Africa where population and labour are abundant. The district extends to Mount Kenia in the north, and contains the best agricultural (as opposed to pastoral) land in the Protectorate. It is bounded on the western side by a steep descent, generally called the Escarpment, which goes abruptly down to the great depression known as the Rift Valley. This is one of the most remarkable features of East Africa ; it is a huge chasm, thirty or forty miles in width, and two or three thousand feet lower than the surrounding hills, though its floor is about six thousand feet above the sea level. It contains several lakes and hardly extinct volcanoes, which still give evidence of their activity by emitting jets of steam, and strange clefts and fantastically shaped rocks rising out of the green lawns testify to former convulsions. But now the aspect of the valley is peaceful ; it affords most excellent grazing, and on a fine day, or even in the grandeur of a storm, the views over Lakes Naivasha, Nakuru, and Elmenteita are magnificent. East Africa is, indeed, pre-eminently a country of striking views. The scenery
of its uplands has qualities peculiar to itself which I have not noticed anywhere else. It is anything but tropical in character, and the most noticeable effects, as seen from some high point of vantage, depend on subtle harmonies of grey and green spread over vast spaces of wind-swept plain and mountain, where the grassy slopes rise terrace upon terrace, and the clear outlines of the jagged volcanoes guard the lakes sunk deep in their rocky cups. And yet, clear though the outlines are, the vast breadth and airiness of the vision bring &
certain feeling of transitoriness and unsubstantiality. Veils of cloud and mist obliterate or reveal in an instant whole panoramas, and feels very near those elemental forces which can destroy their handiwork as easily as they created it.
On the other side of the Rift Valley is another plateau, called the Mau, as much as 9,000 feet high, and strangely European in scenery. Some parts recall a Scotch moor, and others the downs of Southern England. Everywhere there is abundance of meadow land, diversified with timber, and of water. Much the same features are found in the districts of Nandi and Lumbwa, where, however, the climate is somewhat warmer, and in the great Gwas Ngisha plateau, which lies to the north of the former district.
After reaching a height of about 8,000 feet the railway descends to the comparatively low country (4,000 to 3,500 feet) round Lake Victoria, and here again we are in a totally different region, which seems thousands of miles distant from the plateau of the Mau, instead of barely fifty. It is a low-lying, damp, tropical country, with a dense population of peaceful and industrious natives, and also of mosquitoes. It is, therefore, unsuitable for European colonisation, but a number of Hindus have settled there and successfully cultivate cotton and other tropical products.
Often as East Africa has been described I have given the above account because experience has taught me that even those who are best acquainted with foreign countries and foreign affairs have very little knowledge of these districts for practical purposes. Of the regions I have enumerated I would now ask the reader to concentrate his attention on what may be conveniently termed the Highlands, roughly defined as lying between the stations of Makindu and Fort Ternan on the Uganda Railway, and extending to varying distances on either side. The almost unanimous verdict of the numerous Europeans from the south of the continent who have visited these Highlands is that they are like South Africa, but much better. The average temperature is about 65° F. in the cool season and 75° F. in the hot weather. Local experience extending over about fifteen years shows that Europeans can live there in health and bring up healthy families. It is certain that European vegetables, fruits, cereals, and coffee all thrive. Fibre plants, indiarubber (Landolphia), and castor oil are indigenous ; timber is plentiful and excellent for all local purposes. Like the coast timber it is now being introduced to the European market. The grazing is pronounced by experts to be very good. It would seem, therefore, that the whole district is peculiarly suited for British colonisation, and is one of those assets which the Empire cannot afford to neglect, but should cherish and develop with the greatest attention.
We have done much of which we may be proud for the welfare and development of these regions. The slave trade has been entirely
Vol. LVI-No. 331
suppressed and intertribal wars are almost at an end.
The Uganda railway has opened up not only the countries through which it passes, but also the mysterious sources of the Nile further west, and we are able to form stupendous projects for regulating the water supply of Egypt. But we have not hitherto utilised the advantages which East Africa offers for agriculture, pasturage, and European residence. The Foreign Office, by whom it has hitherto been ruled, fully recognised that it has the qualities necessary for a British colony, and also that it is most desirable to reduce the heavy, unremunerative expenditure to which the African Protectorates at present give rise. All that could be done by circulating information in pamphlets and notices, and by sending an officer to South Africa specially charged to encourage immigration, was done. But there was a lamentable discrepancy between promise and performance. When, in response to these invitations, colonists began to arrive in the last months of 1903 no attempt was made to facilitate their settlement. They were not allowed—and rightly—to squat where they chose, but they found it no easy matter to discover where they might go and where they might not. The influx was sudden, and many of the difficulties created were inevitable. The greatest, perhaps, was that the country had not been surveyed, and that it proved harder than might have been expected to engage a sufficient body of surveyors in anything like reasonable time. But the necessary inconveniences of the situation might have been largely diminished by an increase in the staff of the Land Office and some provision for police, guides, road-making, and other necessities. I was, however, instructed that no additional expenditure could be incurred, and in consequence the European immigrants were very dissatisfied with their reception. What was needed was to obtain a clear idea of the extent, character, and value of the land available, and then to decide the terms on which it could be let or sold. But unfortunately, owing to the inadequacy of the staff and the absence of information, this was not done. My object in writing now is to urge that it should be done speedily and methodically. I myself have felt it my duty to resign, though most reluctantly, my post as his Majesty's Commissioner, not because I shrank from the difficulties of the position, but because I consider that the instructions which I received obliged me to commit injustice. Those instructions were, no doubt, due to imperfect information, but if one insists on acting upon imperfect information good intentions are of little value. I do not propose here to enter into personal explanations, but, since my resignation was intimately connected with land questions, I may briefly allude to the facts. The immediate cause of it was that amidst difficult circumstances, when justice and policy seemed alike to demand that every possible assistance and encouragement should be shown to settlers, I received a telegram from Lord Lansdowne ordering me to cancel two leases of about twenty square