Notes on the Dark Continent,
Part I: Background Personalities
BY Howard Whitehouse, (Webified by Chick Lewis)
Being a survey of the East African interior regions made in the year 1889 for the purposes of providing information to the intrepid traveler, together with gaming ideas and divers rules, for players of Space 1889 and other systems of role-playing and wargaming, by an Old Africa Hand.
Beyond the fast-shrinking realms of the Sultan of Zanzibar lie lands, as yet barely known to the European. Yet, though solid information is sorely lacking, the romance of Africa looms large in the Victorian imagination. Few places can inspire the collective mind of the British public than the vast, unexplored regions of swamp, Savannah and forest of the Dark Continent; there the great rivers known as the Nile and the Congo rise from mythic sources deep in exotic, undiscovered places. Ho ! for the Mountains of the Moon - - wherever they might turn out to be.
This material was originally written on commission from Frank Chadwick of GDW for the Space 1889 role playing game. The game, alas, was not the commercial blockbuster that had been hoped, and this project was never published. Frank encouraged me to bring it before a 'colonialist' audience. I trust that those who do not play this game, or indeed have no interest in the Role-Playing approach to historical gaming , will nevertheless find something of interest.
Remember, please to wear your hat and spine-pad, keep the Express Rifle close to hand (with a reliable bearer) and accept that neither careful diplomacy, shouting at the top of your voice or opening up with the porter-borne Maxim gun will deter a column of army ants that want to eat your tent.
Jambo! HJW Somewhere on the Upper Zambezi, December 1892
TERRAIN AND CLIMATE
No sunlight or breeze ever penetrates into these dark depths, for a mass of monster trees with spreading heads shuts out the slightest glimpse of sky.
And what trees they are! Standing on the edge of a ravine a hundred and fifty feet deep these giants of the sylvan world were seen springing from its depths; and looking upwards their trunks were lost amongst their dense foliage at an equal height above our heads.
Magnificent creepers festooned the trees, and every here and there some dead monarch of the wood was prevented from falling by the clinging embraces of these parasites which linked him to some of his surviving brothers.
- Lord Verney Cameron on the Congo forest
East Africa is a land of mountains and lakes, green bamboo forests and parched plains. From the hot, moist lowlands of the coast, the land rises towards a dry plateau dotted with high, solitary mountains, cratered with living or dead volcanoes and gashed with the twin branches of the massive ravine known to scientists as `The Great Rift Valley', or simply as `The Rift' - a unique testimony to the mighty forces of nature etched across thousands of miles.
The northern part of East Africa is the hot, sun-blasted region of desert and cracked granite that extends around the horn of Africa and across the southern edge of the Abyssinian highlands. Stretching south behind the coast this arid zone reaches down into German East Africa as the burning plains and thorn Savannah known as the Nyika; beyond Mombassa the Taru desert is a waterless waste of bleak thorn trees, while the broiling steppes of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara run the length of the broiling valley floor of the Eastern Rift, sometimes 6,000 feet below the highland. on either side. These upland massifs are cool and well-watered, and seen by some as a possible "white man's country". Towards the lake the landscape turns towards open woodland known as 'Miombo' - regions where the wild game runs in vast herds, and the tsetse fly holds back man and his cattle herds.
The chain of lakes that marks the western edge of the East African plateau, dividing it from the rain forests of the Congo Basin, starts in the north with Lake Albert, and runs south along the Western Rift - Lakes Edward, Kiev and Tanganyika - until It tapers off in the deep waters of Lake Nyasa. Between the Lakes stand mountain ranges, including, the strange land of Ruanda, home to pygmies and gorillas, and the mythic, unknown `Mountains of the Moon'.
East Africa has three great, isolated mountains. The highest is Kilimanjaro, a snowcapped peak almost 20,000 feet in the air. First seen by the German missionary Rebmann in 1848, the existence of a snow covered mountain barely 200 miles from the equator was immediately dismissed as a hoax or a delusion by armchair geographers in London and Berlin. To the north, visible on a clear day from Kilimanjjaro, stands Mount Kenya, "shining with the superb beauty of a collossal diamond". Away to the west, dominating the low plains of Busoga, is the extinct volcano, Mount Elgon. Each of these mountains feature successive bands of changing vegetation as they rise, front bamboo thickets and moorland to a bizarre and unearthly region of giant plants fifteen foot ferns and mosses grown to proportions beyond all recognition. These `cold places' are regarded with fear by Africans, who will only go there with the greatest trepidation.
The tremendous and continuing seismic activity that defines much of the geography of East Africa is shown in unique landmarks, often treated with awe and reverenced by local people. The spectacular extinct crater of Ngorongoro, a two thousand foot rock wall rising through mists to a forest-clad rim, hides a vast crater floor teeming with herds of zebra, gazelle and widebeeste Close by stands a living volcano. Donyo Lengai known to the Masai as 'the Mountain of God' , where Ngai the creator brought forth the first of their race. Along the floor of the Rift bubble salt lakes, testifying to powerful subterranean forces at work.
The greatest of the Lakes is Victoria Nyanza, the huge `inland sea' that feeds the Nile. On its green western shores lies the rich and well ordered kingdom of Buganda, with its sister states of Bunyoro, Ankole and Toro. Off to the north, where the Nile crashes over Murchison falls into Equatoria, is a region of grasses and swampland that reaches down river until it soaks into the almost impenetrable Sudd , - sinister mass of papyrus reed the size of England that chokes the flow of the Nile as far as Malakal.
Much of East Africa remains little known and barely accessible, owing to its rugged terrain, difficulties of transport and frequently less-than-hospitable inhabitants. It has no navigable rivers - an attempt by the IBEAC to run a steamer on the River Tana having effectively proved this - and no roads beyond the narrow, winding tracks used by generations of caravans.
THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
In the developing game of territorial acquisition known as the "Scramble for Africa", East Africa remains largely open for the first European nation to stake its claims. The only previous statement of ownership being that of the Sultan of Zanzibar, who has his own problems with greedy European powers, the region is essentially free to the first to arrive. Claims to sovereignty by African political entities arc, of course, completely disregarded; obviously, if the Almighty had intended that the Kikuyu were to rule Kikuyuland or the BaNyoro govern Bunyoro, He Would have given them white skin, silk top hats and properly accredited representatives at the Berlin conference.
Those indigenous African political institutions vary from powerful, centralized states like the Lake kingdoms (especially Buganda) through petty chiefdoms to village communities governed by councils of elders, small bands with no allegiance to other groups of similar language, and even peoples like the pygmies who have nothing at all that a European would recognize as `government'. The Masai have no chiefs, but depend on the guidance of priestly leaders known as `Laibons' - mistranslated often as witch-doctors. Masai bands frequently engage in inter-clan warfare, a dangerous practice for the tribe as a whole that the related Nandi people avoid by a system of confederation that directs aggression outwards. Somali clan loyalties provide for ongoing feuding within, yet common defense against outsiders.
As yet the process of European conquest has only just begun. The German and British East Africa companies are the vanguards for their home governments, but so far seem to have bitten off more than they can chew. The Italians are still wrangling with the Zanzibaris over taking over the Somaliland ports, while most of their efforts are devoted to an attempt to turn Abyssinia into an unwilling protectorate. Leopold of Belgium is concerned to expand his Congo Free State towards the Lakes and the Nile, but has yet to solve the problem posed by the powerful Congo Arabs. The French, primarily concerned with north and west Africa, show an interest in gaining a foothold on the Upper Nile. Even the Russians have a finger in the pie, sending letters of vague good intention and veiled conspiracy to Menelik of Abyssinia. Meanwhile, at the southern end of the region the elderly and generally decrepit Portuguese colony of Mozambique is attempting to make good its ancient claims to the interior regions before someone like Carl Peters or the British land pirate Cecil Rhodes will plant their own flag there.
PEOPLES OF EAST AFRICA
The history of East Africa is a tale of invasions. Charles Darwin first suggested that Africa was the cradle of mankind, yet it is clear that the present inhabitants of the region are relative newcomers. Only the primitive Hadza - a yellow skinned race of hunter-gatherers - together with some pygmy groups and the strange Dorobo and El Molo bands appear to be long term residents. The recent arrivals are made up of three strains: In the north-cast, extending from the red sea down the Horn of Africa and into the desert hinterland of Lamu and Mombassa, are a tall, thin-faced race of nomadic herds-men; chief amongst these are the Somali and the Galla (Oromo). Moving with great herds of cattle, goats and camels, these groups have been pushing south and west for generations in search of grazing. From the north west have come a second branch of cattle-owning nomads. Amongst these are the ruling classes of the Lake kingdoms, the legendary seven-foot tall WaTusi, and the dreaded warrior tribe known as the Masai. from the west have come the Bantu, a people who have gained dominion less by their spears than by their skill at farming; intensive cultivation has brought massive population growth, and the Bantu far outnumber their neighbors. Most of these such as the Kikuyu of the Mt Kenya highlands and the Chagga of Kilimanjaro - keep to their own homelands; others, like the conquering states of Buganda and Bunyoro in the Lake region, or the Ngoni warrior bands, expand beyond their traditional boundaries in search of land or power.
THE SOMALI are a Muslim people, claiming origin in Southern Arabia. Ferocious raiders and skilled stock breeders, the Somali have advanced into the arid lands beyond the river Juba in the past generation. Cultured and graceful, divided into endlessly feuding clans, the Somali admit no overlords. In the past few years the benign neglect of Zanzibari rule - at best a notional concept - has been replaced by ambitious Italian officialdom in the northern ports, and it seems probable that these demanding new arrivals will want to take over the whole country.
THE GALLA are distant, though seldom amicable, cousins of the Somali. Some have converted to Islam, but most follow their traditional pagan religion. Moving in a wide arc throughout the centuries, the Galla extend from the southern plateau of Abyssinia to Lake Rudolf, with a branch extending down the coast ahead of the Somali. The northern Galla are famous horsemen, and raiding parties, known as 'Shiftas' are much to be feared.
THE KAVIRONDO are a distinctive people related to the tribes of the southern Sudan. Living on the eastern shore of Victoria Nyanza, they are known as peaceable farmers. When pressed, however, they are redoubtable warriors, fighting in a distinctive close phalanx of overlapping shields and long spears. Amiable and hardworking, the Kavirondo appear to like the few Europeans that have reached their country, serving willingly as porters.
THE WAKAMBA, a Bantu tribe inhabiting the dry thorn scrublands between Mombassa and the Highlands, are known as great travelers and traders in ivory. They are a fairly sophisticated tribe, natural bargainers, and the new arrival should not be afraid of their sharpened teeth.
THE NGONI are an offshoot of the Zulus driven northwards earlier this century. Advancing into Mozambique and southern GEA in the past decades in search of a new homeland, the Ngoni habitually cut a swathe through the opposition by virtue of their highly drilled military system. Too small to effectively conquer, the Ngoni are popular as mercenaries throughout east and central Africa.
THE WAHEHE are a Bantu tribe who have established a local dominance in central GEA. Under their warlike chieftain, - Mkawa, the WaHehe have adopted the military system of the Ngoni, and this, together with their natural skills at bush warfare, make Hehe warriors formidable opponents. Mkawa has vowed never to submit to the Germans.
THE KIKUYU are a group of farming clans centered on the forested mountains south of mount Kenya. Hereditary foes of the Masai, they recognize that they can seldom beat their foe in the open field; instead, they rely on forest ambushes and cunning stratagems that have gained them a widespread reputation for treachery. Certainly the Kikuyu have never had any reason to trust outsiders.
THE WANYAMWEZI, from the region north of Lake Tanganyika, have defined themselves as the strongest and most resourceful traders and carriers in East Africa. Indeed, under the powerful chieftain Mirambo (d. 1884) the Nyamwezi were able to effectively challenge the trade monopoly of the Arab/Swahili coastmen. The political strength of the tribe has declined, but Nyamwezi caravans, often thousands strong, march daily between the coast and their homeland.
The "OLD PEOPLE" - the vanished tribes displaced by new arrivals, such as the fabled Gumba (who retreated underground when the Kikuyu came, legend records), are represented by a handful of isolated bands of primitive hunter-gatherers. In GEA the Hadza are a relic of the time when the Bushmen roamed throughout the continent, speaking the same odd `click-speech' as their cousins in the Kalahari. In the forests of Rwanda and the Congo live the Twa -the four feet high pygmies driven into the woods by taller newcomers. Towards the Kenya highlands are the Dorobo, a group that seems to fit no easy grouping for the scientist; having given up or forgotten their own language, they speak that of their neighbors, the Nandi. On Lake Rudolf the dwindling remains of the fish-eating El Molo tribes, subject to regular theft and intimidation by the fierce Turkana tribesmen, or by Shiftas from Abyssinia, to the point that they have nothing left to steal.
Beyond the confines of East Africa proper - that region between the Indian Ocean and the Great Lakes - there are other peoples, fascinating to the scientist, challenging to the missionary, and frequently threatening to all. In Equatoria and the Southern Sudan are the Shilluk, who worship their kings, and the Dinka, who worship their cattle. In Ruanda the tall, slender WaTusi lord it over the stocky Hutu, who seem - oddly enough - to have: initiated the relationship for the privilege of tending the beautiful cattle brought in by the new people from the north. In Mozambique centuries of contact with the Portuguese has had little effect on the inland tribes, the scar-faced Yao and the Makonde potters. In the Congo basin are both civilized and orderly tribes - the Luba and Lunda - and wild cannibal savages. In Katanga, the copper-rich belt at the source of the Lualaba, an outsider, Msiri `the Mosquito' has set up an organized, autocratic state whose prosperity interests certain high officials in the Congo Free State and Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company. Off to the south Lobengula of the Matabele has cut a deal with Rhodes to give over the lands of the Shona to British colonization.
Explorers of East Africa
Over the past forty years, Europeans have done much to map the previously uncharted regions of East Africa. The focus Of these expeditions was, first of all, the legendary `source of the Nile', and later the mysterious course of the River Congo.
First in the field were the German missionaries Krapf and Rebmann, the first white men to set eyes on the impossible equatorial snows of Kilimanjaro in 1848. They were followed by a succession of British - and one Anglo-American travelers whose exploits have caught the imagination of the English-speaking world.
Sir Richard Burton & Captain John Speke made a search for the source of the Nile that look them as far as Lake Tanganyika (1856-9). Speke heard tales of a second lake to the north, and visited it while his companion was sick. He named it Lake Victoria and proclaimed it to be the source of The White Nile - a claim always disputed by Burton. The two became enemies. A second journey by Speke, with Captain James Grant (1860-3) passed through Buganda and Bunyoro, to reach the Egyptian outpost of Gondokoro on the upper Nile.
Sir Samuel Baker and his beautiful Hungarian wife Florence took the difficult route through the Sudd from Khartoum to Gondokoro, thence to Bunyoro (1862-5) naming the newly discovered Lake Albert after the recently deceased Prince Consort. Baker later served as first governor of Egyptian Equatoria (1869-73), fighting the Arab slavers but failing in a bid to annex Bunyoro to the Egyptian empire.
David Livingstone, the missionary-cum-explorer was already a popular idol in Britain for his exploits in southern Africa when he ventured inland from Zanzibar in 1864 to finally resolve the `riddle of the Nile'. His belief was that the answer would be found in the unknown regions south and west of Lake Tanganyika, and that the River Lualaba would prove to be the upper reach of the Nile. Disaster overtook his expedition, and he was only able to survive by the charity of the Arab slavers he so roundly condemned in his letters and journals. In 1871 he was, at last, `found' by the Welsh-American reporter Henry Morton Stanley, in the scoop of the era. Livingstone refused, however, to return to the coast. He died in 1873 at a village in the swamps of Lake Bangweolo; his faithful servants carried his body the thousand miles back to Zanzibar. David Livingstone was formally interred at Westminster Abbey with great ceremony, the greatest hero of the Victorian Age.
Commander Lovett Verney Cameron walked from Zanzibar to the west coast, beginning in 1872. He was dissuaded from attempting a descent of the Lualaba by the Arab slaver Tippu Tib but continued across the continent, reaching the British consulate at Loanda in Portuguese Angola after three years on the march.
Joseph Thomson, a young Scots scientist, made three journeys into the interior of East Africa. His first two journeys took him to Lake Nyasa and to the headwaters of the Rovuma. His remarkable third journey made him the first while man to cross the lands of the dreaded Masai (1883-4). A cheerful, diplomatic man, Thomson is proud never to have fired upon another human being during his travels; it was this tact that apparently prevented his immediate massacre at the hands of the Masai elmoran.
Stanley returned to Africa in 1874 to make an epic 999 day journey that took him from Zanzibar to Buganda, around Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika, then down the Lualaba, to the sea. His brutal, bruising approach to exploration - which involved alliances with slavers and pitched battles against `the natives' - brought condemnation as well as admiration for his undoubted bravery. Between 1979 and 1883 Stanley worked for Leopold of the Belgians, selling up stations along the Congo for the newly founded `Congo Free State'. A superb self-publicist, Stanley has written a string of best selling books detailing his own heroic actions.
There have been other European explorers in East and central Africa though. as 'foreigners', their journeys have not fueled the interest of the English-speaking public in quite the same way.
Count Pietro Savorgnan de Brazza, an Italian serving in the French navy, has carved out a handsome piece of the lower Congo basin for the Third Republic, racing and beating Stanley for possession of the right bank of the river. The Hungarian Count Teleki was the first European to climb Mount Kenya (1888) and named Lakes Rudolf and Stephanie for members of the Hapsburg dynasty. Dr. Gustav Fischer of Berlin failed in an effort to cross the Masai steppe ahead of Thomson and gave up an attempt to relieve Emin Pasha, the strange and brilliant German physician/explorer/naturalist who has been holding Equatoria against the Mahdists since 1884. Herman von Wissmann of the German army walked across Africa (1880-3), as did the Portuguese officer Silva Porto. Dr. Georg Schweinfurth's studies of the flora and fauna of the Upper Nile were the products of three years exploration (1869-71). Dr. Wilhelm Junker, a Russo-German scientist, was trapped in Equatoria by the Mahdists until 1886.
Many of the `old hands' are now dead or retired. Speke was killed in a bizarre shooting accident in 1864; some contend he was shot by Burton, who - after a Iong and controversial career as a writer, linguist, orientalist and collector of Eastern erotica -serves as H.M. Consul in Trieste, Italy. Baker and Cameron are retired and living in England. Thomson is planning another expedition to the interior. De Brazza is governor-general of the French Congo. Schweinfurth lives quietly with his specimens in Berlin, while Junker lives in St. Petersburg. Von Wissmann has been appointed commander of the German expedition to put down Abushiri's rebellion, and is expected to reach Zanzibar in the spring of 1889. Emin Pasha continues to hold out in Equatoria. Stanley is missing, last seen disappearing into the Congo forest in 1887 at the head of a large and powerful expedition to relieve Emin via a new - and, many say, impossible route through the jungles of the Aruwimi valley to Lake Albert. He has not been heard from since.
Mr. Stokes is a merchant-adventurer, caravan master, former missionary, occasional gun runner, part-time spy and full-time genial Irish rascal. As such, and the only one of such, he is detested, despised and regularly employed by the respectable government officials - British and German. When they have business anywhere between the coast and the lakes, it is time to contact "Bwana Stokesi"
He has been in Africa for the better part of fifteen years, first as a lay worker and transport manager for the Church Mission Society, and later as an independent contractor. His first wife having died of fever, Stokes married into the Nyamwezi royal family. He now has considerable influence amongst that people; though devoted to his wife, Limi, he maintains good relationships with other tribes by means of several secondary marriages. He writes and sends money to his old mother and young daughter in Dublin.
Stokes is not a gentleman by any means, but wishes to be accepted as such. he is proud, confident, quick to anger and generous to a fault. he is also greedy, cowardly, scheming and none-too-bright. He considers himself a loyal servant of Queen Victoria, but his first loyalties are to his Nyamwezi family and his treasure chest.
Str: 4 Fisticuffs 3, Close combat 2 (bashing weapon)
Motives: proud, mercantile, ambitious
Appearance: Charles Stokes is a tall, red-bearded man in his late thirties. He wears western clothing only when he has to, since government officials are nervous dealing with an Irishman in full Arab garb. At these times he sports a broad brimmed planter's hat and a rather elderly suit of corduroy. More often Stokes prefers a white turban and jellabah, or Arab shirt, covered with a bright silk caftan. He is extremely charming of manner, speaking with a heavy brogue in English or Swahili. He talks a great deal always with the air of one who is about to let the listener in on some marvelous scheme
The Kabaka of Buganda is a young man of 23, the son of the powerful and long-lived Mutesa, who played the Europeans off against one another with tremendous success. On his father's death in 1884 Mwanga, at 18, found himself faced with a maelstrom of conflicting forces attempting to seize control of the kingdom. He has spent the first years of his reign, with very little guidance, trying to keep his own head above water. This has not proved tremendously effective, though it must be said that Mwanga's methods are creative: Burning Christians alive, or inviting leaders of all factions to a grand fleet review in order to abandon them to starve on a deserted island in Lake Victoria, demonstrates imagination. His enemies report that Mwanga is cruel, lazy, brutal, vain, weak, nervous and arrogant. All this is true. He is also very intelligent, capable of compassion, and deeply committed to preserving the independence of his country in any way he can. Indeed he a cultivates his image as a decadent idler, fond of bhang and small boys, to cover his political machinations. Likewise he considers that occasional acts of random violence serve to keep the Europeans guessing as to his intentions. The problem is that Mwanga himself has no real plans and is quite uncertain as to what his own intentions are.
Str: 2 Fisticuffs 3, Close combat 2 (bashing weapon)
Motives: ruthless, sadistic
Mwanga has a thin, nervous face with large, sensitive eyes. His features are dark and coarsely sculpted, with a sneering mouth, heavy eyelids and flaring nostrils. He wears silken robes and turban, often covered with a leopard skin - the mark of the Baganda royal house - and carries `the magic horn' (a ceremonial ivory tusk) and at least one mirror. His voice is alternatively husky and high-pitched, as if it had never completely broken. His manners can be exquisite, but he frequently snaps info fits of ill temper.
The Imperial British East Africa Company's interests in the
Lakes region are served by Mr. Frederick Jackson, agent, guide
and administrator. Jackson, is a product of the English sporting
set, a man whose priorities place games and `the public school
spirit ` above all else. He was a stalwart of his college rowing
team at Cam-bridge, but never actually look his final exams.
Instead he spent few years shooting wild game in Kashmir before
coming to East Africa at the invitation of his friend H. Rider
Haggard - the writer of "King Solomon's Mines". In
1888 disaster struck.
Str: 4 Fisticuffs 3, Throwing 4
Motives: Adventuresome, honest, Fair
Appearance: Jackson is a small, robust man of 29. He wears his hair cropped to the length of his rather scrubby beard, battered safari clothing and either a slouch hat or very oddly - an English cricketer's cap in Cambridge blue. He carries a notebook of bird markings and a selection of heavy weapons. He grins broadly at almost everything. His speech is the affected drawl of the sporting crowd, all rolled `R's and dropped final 'G's. His table manners are, of course, superb.
CAPTAIN FREDERICK LUGARD
`The other Fred', Lugard of the Norfolk Regiment, is Jackson's opposite in many ways. Intense, prickly, rigid and ferocious, the diminutive officer treats every task as a personal crusade. Since his present employment is as IBEA agent with special responsibility for Buganda, it is more than likely that the situation there will reach new heights of drama before the game is resolved. The man has lived his life in the mouth of danger - the Afghan frontier, battle with the 'fuzzy-wuzzies' of the Sudan, winning the DSO in the jungles of Burma. His career seemed mapped out until, thrown over for another by his beloved, Lugard decided to put an heroic end to his life. No suitable wars offered themselves, so he left his regiment to risk all in the London Fire brigade Failing there to find an heroic, fiery doom, Lugard offered his services as a mercenary to the Italian government in its campaign in Ethiopia. He was refused. Traveling penniless to the theater of war anyway, he found that the whole thing had been called off for the indefinite future. Instead, he found employment with the African Lakes Company as commander of its 'army' against local slavers. He proved himself a ca-pable leader, but was wounded in ac-tion and forced to return to England. He still suffers from this shot to his left wrist. Returning to Africa with a grow-ing reputation, Lugard appears to have replaced his death wish with a tremendous zeal to extend the boundaries of the British Empire. He has a list of 'obstacles' - Mwanga, the French, the Germans and - especially - Charles Stokes.
Str: 2 Close combat 2 (edged weapon), Fisticuffs 1,
Motives: ruthless, driven.
Lugard is a tiny, skinny man with a huge black mustache and bright, piercing eyes. He speaks in clipped, decisive phrases that suggest orders rather than conversation. He wears British khaki regimentals with a pith helmet that covers most of his face. He appears energetic to the point of frenzy most of the time.
The greatest of the Congo ivory-and-slave merchants is Hamid bin Mohammed. He was among the first of his kind to reach the Congo basin, setting up a base at Kasongo while still in his twenties. Named for the habit of blinking his eyes - or perhaps from the double flash and bang of his muskets Tippoo Tib was already the leading trader in the region when Livingstone wandered, penniless and sick, into his domain in 1867. Tippoo befriended both Livingstone and Stanley, and providing the escort for the Welsh- American explorer on his journey down the Lualaba. Stanley's fortune meant Tippoo Tib's: penetrating the forest barrier in the wake of Stanley's breech-loaders, he established a new zone of exploitation. Now unbelievably wealthy, Tippoo is looking to ensure a happy and prosperous retirement. With caravans of 2,000 porters and 1,000 askaris, he has little to worry him on the business front. What does concern him is the obviously growing strength of the Europeans who are busily stripping his overlord the Sultan - to whom he has always been loyal - of power. Now Tippoo is trying to establish an accommodation with the Belgians to preserve not only his business interests but the whole of Arab domination in the eastern Congo. To do this he must find a way to keep his sons and nephews from disputing with Leopold's hotheaded officers, while somehow keeping the Belgians out of the region beyond their eastern-most post at Bangala. As governor of Stanley Falls, he is, in theory, Leopold's man, and free to carry on his trade while supressing that of his rivals. How long Tippoo can retain this position neither he, nor anyone; except possibly the King of the Belgians, can say.
Tipoo is, of course, an exceedingly ruthless man. Once, when a European admonished him for rescuing a village from cannibals, then enslaving his beneficiaries. He replied 'which would you rather be, a slave or a meal ?' . He is, however, a cultured and charming man who likes the whites, and has helped many of them. He knows that the time of the Arab slavers is almost over, and, if not exactly willing to swim with the tide, at least knows that he would be happier enjoying his concubines in Zanzibar than fighting a war in the forest against people with machine guns. In his personal life he is a devout Muslim, eschewing alcohol, tobacco or marijuana, and, until he grew fat, always walked with his caravan to remind himself of his insignificance in the eyes of God.
Str: 4 Close combat 3 (edged weapon), Fisticuffs 3
Motives mercantile, ruthless. Native language is Swahili
Appearance: Tippoo is about fifty, a tall man, now grown stout, but quick and agile. His dark skin and African features denote his Swahili heritage, while his silk robes are of the finest quality. He is cool and astonishingly self assured. His manners are those of a courtier, his voice low and carefully modulated a tall times. He seldom gets angry.
MAY FRENCH SHELDON
Mrs. French-Sheldon is the wife of a wealthy New Englander, Eli Lemon Sheldon. Wishing for adventure beyond the limits of her circle in Boston and the opulent tours of European capitals that pass for `travel' in those quarters; she is, instead, traveling to Kilimanjaro, and anywhere else that strikes her fancy. She has no other `Europeans' (all white people in Africa are known as Europeans) with her, having left her husband in Naples. Her friends regard her as a heroine and/or a lunatic, and have provided her with far too much of the very best equipment. Some of this is useful, such as the medical kit chosen by Stanley's surgeon, Dr. Parke, but others are less so; amongst these is a huge wickerwork palanquin. to be carried by relays of bearers, which Mrs. French-Sheldon takes a great delight in. She is an assertive, tough-minded woman who feels chained down by her genteel background. Initially appearing intimidating and bombastic, Mrs. F-S has a keen sense of humor and a sarcastic wit to put down anyone who seeks to patronize her - deputations of Masai elmoran not excepted. She enjoys sketching and photography, with the result that her caravan is very large and heavily burdened with camera equipment, easels and the very best of camp gear; she likes to refer to her capacious tent, with its attached Stars and Stripes, as "my canvas villa". The Africans call her "BebeBwana"
Str: 3 Close combat 3 (bashing weapon), Fisticuffs 2
Motives: adventuresome, proud, stubborn
Appearance: Mrs. French-Sheldon is a tall, austerely handsome woman of 35 or 40. her figure, at least in the corseted livery of `court dress', is a classic of Victorian hourglass taste. her face is on the fleshy side, the jowls accentuated by the way her brown hair is pulled back. Clothing is of the usual tropical type, with a few extra flourishes; a frogged jacket and cap of the type worn by H.M. Stanley, a heavily feathered sun helmet or voluminous white skirt. Mrs. F-S speaks clearly and precisely with the lockjaw tones of the Massachusetts elite, making her more pointed remarks devastatingly piercing.
The Masai have a quaint way of forbid-ding passage through their territory. They place in the middle of a path likely to be traversed by an individual or a caravan, a bullet, over which they cross two twigs stripped of foliage, with the exception of a tasseled brush at the top. The first person trespassing beyond this barrier is usually speared or shot without hesitation by some warder who is in ambush. Not knowing of this cus-tom, inadvertently coming to such a forbiddance, I kicked it aside. In con-sternation one of my headmen sprang forward, urging me to pause if I valued my life, for the moment I put foot be-yond that point I most likely would be assassinated.
The redoubtable Mrs. French - Sheldon meets the Masai (and is not impressed...)
The chief obstacle to travel between the cities of the coast and the great lakes is not a geographical barrier, but a human one: the Masai. A ferocious warrior people of unknown northern origin, the Masai sweep through the plains and hills of the interior, ranging far and wide beyond their homeland in the vast dry steppes along the Rift. Their raids - for cattle, honour and the sheer bloodthirsty fun of it all - bring fear to their less homicidal neighbors. Small in number - totaling only some 50,000 people - the Masai compensate amply in their skill at arms and rampant aggression. At their peak in the middle of this century, Masai bands ravaged the shores of Lake Nyasa, five hundred miles from home; in 1857 raiders drove the Baluchi mercenaries of the Mombasa garrison to lake cover in Fort Jesus, while two years later the Masai leveled the Sultan's port of Vanga. Since those glorious times the fortunes of the tribe have waned, owing to a cholera epidemic, the loss of thousands of cattle to rinderpest and the Masai tendency to engage in bloody civil war for no definite reason. Even so, the Masai remain a formidable force to confront any intruder. They do not seem to appreciate visitors of any kind.
The origins of the Masai are shrouded in mystery. Some contend that they are descendants of Mark Antony's lost legion - a theory based on their aquiline features and military precision. The Masai themselves believe that they were placed on Earth by Ngai, the creator, as owner of all cattle everywhere, and must therefore seek forcible repossession of the animals stolen by other tribes long ago. They are very committed to carrying out this divine injunction.
The Masai are not what Europeans would consider a civilized race. Living in dung-smeared barrows, lathering their bodies in ochre and fat, and subsisting on a deeply unpalatable diet made up largely of curdled milk liberally laced with cow's urine, the best that can be said of them is that they have a distinctive wild dignity of their own. With no chiefs save for the religious leaders known as `Laibons', the Masai have no political organization beyond clan loyalties, and no government beyond the occasional efforts of elders - men surviving info their late twenties and beyond - to suppress the warlike urges of the elMoran.
Masai elMoran: warbands each consist of 20 warriors (V3), armed with spear, sword and shield.
STIGAND ON THE MASAI
C.H. Stigand's views on the weaponry, methods and general character of the young Masai warriors, the elMoran, are of inestimable value to those coming into contact with wait amounts to the world's foremost club for psychopathic juvenile delinquents:
Weapons and Customs of War- The weapons of the Masai warrior consist of spear, shield, sword and club. The spear has a long iron blade about two feet long, and at the other extremity an iron point as to permit of the spear being stood upright in the ground when the warrior stands or rests.
Tile wood used for joining the iron blade to the point is but a short haft. It is made out of the same tree favoured by the Somalis for their spears, viz., isiteti (Somali = debi).
Warriors, wherever they halt, if only for a few seconds, plunge the end of their spears into the ground, standing them upright. This they do in two motions with a military smartness, cutting the hand away sharply to the side.
On entering a hut, they generally transfer the spear to the left hand, and plunge the end in the ground outside the hut close to the left-hand side of the doorway as they go in.
The reason for this is that in case of alarm, the spear will be ready to hand, and on the right side as they emerge from the hut.
A tuft of black ostrich feathers, called "sulsul," is worn on the point of the spear.
This is a sign that the bearers are on a peaceful errand.
The shield (long) is large and oval in Shape. It is generally made of ox hide but buffalo is more prized and in great demand.
The edge of the shield is bound with thongs of hide. At the back is a handle through which the forearm is slipped. On the Front of the shield are quarterings and devices, showing the age and clan of the warrior.
These quarterings are in three different colors viz.
Red - Made from a special red earth.
The sword is worn on the left side, is of soft Steel and two feet long. It is enclosed in a leather sheath, and is shaped like a Roman Sword.
It has been mentioned before that Arabs and Swahili wore their Swords on the right side. In the case of the Masai, no doubt they would hamper them in the use of the spear if worn on that side. It is so usual to find that natives do things exactly the opposite way to Europeans that all exceptions are noteworthy. Arrows are usually fixed from the left side of the bow, the arrow being as often as not taken from a quiver hung on the back.
The wooden club is held in the left hand under the shield.
The weapons of the old wren and boys are bow and arrows. These are only used in case of grave emergency, such as an attack on the kraal.
Watches are kept at night by the women. This is to allow warriors to turn out fresh in case of alarm. For this purpose the porches of the huts have the doorways arranged so they face the entrances to the zariba, so that the women stay in the shadow of the porch and watch the weak spot in the fence.
War is made to loot cattle from other tribes, or to prevent a raiding party from looting their cattle.
It is considered necessary to celebrate circumcision ceremony with raids.
The Masai attack is the usual savage formation of a long row of spearmen, advancing with shouts and noise intended to frighten the enemy
They are undoubtedly much pluckier than the ordinary black native of the country.
MODELS & TERRAIN
l Those wishing to use 25mm figures and appropriate models of animals, buildings etc. may find these few ideas of use:
British sailors can be found in many figure ranges usually under The listings for the Zulu or Sudan Wars. Zanzibari troops wore uniforms very similar to Egyptian troops of the 1880s, sometimes listed as 'early' to differentiate them from the different styles of the late 1890s. The Force Publique is best represented by figures of French colonial troops - Turcos, Zouaves or, best of all, Tirailleurs Senegalais - ideally in the fez and without heavy packs. Falcon Miniatures makes these, along with German askaris which are probably more accurate for a slightly later period: the uniforms worn in 1889 are not well accounted for, but may have been of a naval pattern. The askaris that served the British at this time seem to have worn a variety of things, often very ragged; they are a subject in themselves. Feel safe enough using your Egyptians in white cotton for Sudanese troops. The Arabs, Swahilis and Baluchis are best found among Sudan wars ranges, excluding the Fuzzy-Wuzzies''; the figures listed as 'Jehadia' provide black riflemen in turban and robe, ideal for many purposes in East and Central Africa. Afghan and Pathan figures are useful but avoid those with the sheepskin coat known as a 'poshteen'. Interesting figures call be found in ranges listed as 'Ancients' or 'Renaissance', especially Arabs, Turks and the like, but beware Arabs wearing the Bedouin Kaffieh" head-dress latterly worn by oil millionaires; this would be like showing Wall Street bankers in Stetson hats. Porters might best be made from Zulu 'Udibi boys', perhaps with some conversion for variety. It has become a wargamer's convention to represent all sub-saharan Africans with Zulu figures, largely because no others are available. I suspect an ingenious modeller could make handsome Masai from ancient Celts and Spaniards. Again, a look at figures from Ancient - Nubians, Kushites, Libyans - ranges will prove fruitful.
As for animals, I have noticed that the plastic Hong Kong playsets, which portray all animals the same approximate size, feature 25mm hippos, rhinos and crocodiles along with oversized zebra and minute elephants. The baby elephant made by Britains Ltd. serves as a smallish adult female, while I have seen nice ceramic bull elephants well worth murdering for its tusks at craft stores. Ral Partha list lions and lionesses in one of their several fantasy lines, while I own some made by Miniature Figurines for gladitorial combat some years ago
Most African buildings are easily made. Arab houses are endearingly boxlike, and I have built many from just such a source, with some stairs and balconies added. Half a small styrofoam ball is the basis for a beehive hut. The essence of successful terrain making is in the finishing, for which I recommend a coat of an excellent plaster known as Durham's Water Putty, followed by a scruffy, impressionistic paint job using wash techniques and dry brushing.
I do not suggest that anyone need feel they have to own all the 200 foot trees in an African forest. A few on either side of the expedition's path will generally suffice. Woodland Scenics make nice deciduous s trees, which come cheap it' you buy the 24 tree set. Palm trees can he found at your local cake decorating store, while a tour of a silk flowers department provides versatile fake ferns etc. which appear 15 feet high or so - very exotic! Plastic aquarium plants also serve nicely as strange tropical flora.
Don't try to make the River Congo.