“Tippoo Tib”

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Tippoo Tib.

Matadi, Congo River, March 30.    

During the two days' stay made by Mr. Stanley's expedition at this place, in order to organize the caravan intended to proceed by way of the Falls to Leopoldville, a resident here had a conversation with Tippoo Tib, in which the latter entered into full particulars concerning his past and present connexion with Mr. H.M. Stanley.

It was at Zanzibar, where Tippoo Tib, accompanied by his son, had gone to sell ivory, that he received Mr. Stanley's letter from Brussels, proposing to him to enter the service of the Association. No mention was then made of any appointment as Governor of the Falls, it being merely stated that Tippoo Tib's services would be used on the Upper Congo, as near as possible to the centre of his operations in Africa. Tippoo Tib mentioned these proposals to his son, who advised him not to accept them He resolved to await Mr. Stanley's arrival, offering his services meanwhile for engaging 200 Zanzibar natives for the projected expedition.

After speaking of the services which he had rendered to Lieutenant Cameron and Mr. Stanley, and particularly to the latter on his first expedition, Tippoo Tib was asked what had decided him to aceept Mr. Stanley's offer and to ac- company him to Boma. He replied as follows :—

"I never clearly understood the object or the organization of the International African Association. The other Arab chiefs and myself at first believed, on seeing expeditions organized at Zanzibar under Captain Cambier and Lieutenant Becker, that the Europeans wished to compete with us in the markets of Tabora and Zanzibar, and export, like ourselves, ivory and produce of various kinds. We did not know whether Stanley and the other white chiefs were acting for the King of the Belgians, for Belgium, or for the International Association, and we were always left in doubt on the point.

"But now that we have seen that such are not the intentions of the whites—that is to say, of the Belgians and English, whom we have met on the East Coast ; now that they have abandoned this part of Africa in order to establish, by common accord, we are told, between all the great peoples of Europe, a State where everybody may freely trade, we see no further reason to doubt the good intentions of the whites, who have already done so much in Africa."

Being next asked if there were not other reasons which had led him to accept Mr. Stanley's proposals, Tippoo Tib replied :—

"Yes. I confess that at first the idea of becoming a functionary of the Independent Congo State was a singular one to me. But Stanley pointed out that I should have a privileged position; that the State on its side could only gain by seeing its establishments on the Upper Congo supported by the authority which for many years past I had acquired over the people of the interior, who all knew me through having traded with me; while ,as regarded myself, I could not but strengthen my commercial relations by means of the support which the Congo State would afford to me, as to all who were established on its territory.

"I perceived the justice of these arguments, and I had, moreover, at heart to remedy, as far as I could, the mischief which the Arabs and the population at the Falls had done in destroying the station at Stanley Falls. This act was the result of misunderstanding and imprudence; but I do not think that I can refuse to make reparation if, as I believe, I can do so."

Tippoo Tib admitted that he was also influenced by commercial considerations of another kind, and said :—

"The circumstances under which trade is carried on with the East coast are no longer so favourable as some years back, when I commenced trading with Zanzibar and abroad. Trade at that period had, so to speak, no existence. I established myself at Houron, near Tabora, with my old father and my brother Mohamed Massoudi, wishing first to create in the neigbbourhood plantations yielding satisfactory returns, and above all to monopolize the ivory trade by establishing Arab correspondents throughout Central Africa, on the shores of the Lakes, and as far Nyangoué. The people of the centre, who had no means of disposing of their considerable stocks of ivory, let me have them at a price which enabled me to realize a large profit. In a short time I had monopolized nearly all the sources of ivory production, and all the trade of the Manyema was in my hands.

"The great difficulty has always been to bring the produce of Central Africa to the markets of Tabora and Zanzibar. At first this was easy enough, but gradually the people of the centre became aware that they could also gain something by my operations, and commenced imposing heavy tribute upon me for right of way through their territories. For instance, the Wa-Kundis, who alone possess the boats necessary for crossing the Malagarazi, exact exorbitant terms for the use of them. Certain tribes sometimes attacked my caravans, causing me heavy loss in men and merchandise.

"Even on the coast the conditions of trade changed. The Germans were everywhere, and their pretentions rendered business more and more difficult. Great difficulties arose from this state of things, and on all these grounds I concluded that if the trade of Central Africa could follow another route and reach the coast by sure roads on which no tribute would have to be paid, and where no difficulties were to be apprehended, everybody would be the gainer. After what I have seen at Banana and Boma I believe I am not mistaken, and that traders like myself can only gain by dispatching their produce from Nyangoué by way of the Falls and the Congo."

On being asked what he would do on reaching the Falls, and how he would fulfil his mission, Tippoo Tib replied :—

"In the first place I feel sure that Stanley will succeed in his enterprise and relieve Emin Pasha. He is a real Arab for energy and intelligence. I do not know yet for certain whether I shall go with him as far as Wadelai, but I think I shall. Once installed at the Falls, I shall rebuild the stations and summon all the Arab and native chiefs to a great meeting, at which I shall announce to them my nomination as Governor, and my intentions. They will be surprised, I expect, to see me arrive from this side, for the news of my leaving Zanzibar with Stanley and of my nomination as Governor cannot reach Nyangoué and Central Africa in less than four or five months, and I shall arrive at the Falls before that time. When order is reestablished at the Falls, I shall probably undertake a commercial expedition to Nyangoué and the Lake region."

The Arab chief's real name is Hamed-ben-Hamed, the sobriquet of Tippoo Tib having been given to him owing to a twitching of the eyelids to which he is subject. The best understanding exists between Mr. Stanley and Tippoo Tib, and the latter has already been of great assistance in maintaining order among the Zanzibar men. Son of an Arab of Zanzibar, Tippoo Tib detests negroes, and is attached to the whites, whom, in conversation, he calls his European brothers.

Item Details

Author(s) & contributor(s): Anonymous; Tippu Tip

Date(s): 30 March 1887; 17 May 1887

Form & transmission history: Q&A with an anonymous interlocutor, as translated, written down, edited, contextualized, and published by an anonymous British writer in a British periodical.

Original publication details: The Times (17 May 1887): 5

Digital edition & date: One More Voice, 2020

Critical editing & encoding: Caitlin Matheis, Adrian S. Wisnicki

Cite this digital edition (MLA): Anonymous; Tippu Tip. “‘Tippoo Tib’” (30 March 1887; 17 May 1887). Caitlin Matheis, Adrian S. Wisnicki, eds. One More Voice, site launch edition, 2020, https://onemorevoice.org/html/transcriptions/liv_020028_TEI.html.

Rights: Critically-edited text copyright One More Voice. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

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