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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Ship History: U.S. Navy in Africa

These days, the news is about the U.S. Navy's Africa Partnership Station
Africa is the subject of renewed strategic focus for the United States and many in the international community. The potential for both progress and peril has invited this focus, even as it has been amplified by the positive and negative effects of globalization. One issue among many facing the continent is illegal activity flourishing in the waters that surround it. Coastal states are contending with a range of challenges at sea, to include: illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing; oil theft; piracy; illicit trade; narcotics trafficking; human trafficking; illegal immigration; and environmental degradation. This paper is intended to introduce an initiative by the U.S. Navy to improve maritime safety and security in Africa in partnership with all interested stakeholders.
Naval Forces Europe is focused on taking action to address maritime insecurity in Africa. To learn about these complex issues and build consensus for action, the U.S. Navy led a series of workshops and seminars on the topic of maritime safety and security, bringing together representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGO), public and private sectors. Based on trends in trade, shipping, criminal activity, and level of interest among African partners, the initial area of focus was the Gulf of Guinea.
The next major effort that will employ the full range of these partnerships is the deployment of USS FORT MCHENRY (a large amphibious ship) and HSV SWIFT (a smaller “High Speed Vessel”) to the Gulf of Guinea for seven months beginning in November 2007. This is part of the U.S. Navy “Global Fleet Station” initiative designed to provide a platform with the capacity and persistent presence to support sustained, focused training and collaboration on a regional scale. USS FORT MCHENRY and HSV SWIFT will remain on station in the Gulf of Guinea region and make repeated visits to multiple nations in concert with other U.S. Navy and partner assets. Current plans include visits to Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, and Sao Tome & Principe, while engagement opportunities with several other African nations are also being explored. We are calling this new concept of engagement the Africa Partnership Station.

APS is the beneficiary of experience gained during previous U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and European Navy deployments and will include several new innovations. Its unique attributes include:

• Self-sufficient. APS requires no bases and minimal footprint ashore. The ships will provide the necessary support services and cargo capacity, serving as a floating continuing education and training facility.
• Multinational. A multinational staff is responsible for APS planning and execution. Five European partners are contributing staff members or training teams, and invitations have been sent to multiple African nations. The U.S. intends to participate in future deployments of this type by European partner nations.
• Tailored and flexible training schedule. APS education and training will encompass a full spectrum of topics germane to the creation of effective maritime forces and a maritime safety and security regime. The APS agenda is not limited to Navy-related training alone. From leadership to seamanship, and from personnel to port security, APS events will be tailored to the unique needs of each African nation that have been developed from an analysis and prioritization of needs in consultation with African partners. At the same time, the training regimen will be flexible enough to accommodate changes during the deployment. APS will sail a training circuit, making repeated visits to each nation and taking aboard ship riders for at sea training. Sailors and experts will train side-by-side, sharing best practices, exchanging ideas, and forming relationships to improve maritime safety and security over the long term.
• U.S. Joint/Interagency Participation. The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Agency for International Development have been integral contributors to APS planning and will participate throughout its execution. A U.S. Coast Guard Officer is part of the command staff. Additionally, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration will sail with APS to advance several key projects.
• Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). In addition to core maritime activities, APS will support several humanitarian and environmental assistance projects in the region, as it offers an ideal transport and logistics base. An effort was made to encourage broad NGO participation. Several NGOs have signed on to sail with APS, and coordination continues with others.
• Transparent, collaborative working environment. While exact ship schedule information is classified for force protection reasons, all other information about APS is unclassified and will be shared via an unclassified website. Journalists will be invited to embark the ship and observe training activities. This entire effort is aimed at building trust and sustaining partnerships among African, European, and U.S. partners at the national, sub-regional, and regional levels. Indeed, APS and maritime partnerships in general float on trust.
Important work to be sure, but how many remember the U.S. Navy Congo Expedition of 1885?

Probably not too many, since the "Expedition" seemed to have consisted of one Naval officer, a Lieutenant E.H. Taunt, U.S.N. who filed, in February 1885 a report of his six month long trip on the Congo River into an Africa vastly different than the one we know today -see the map from 1885 and compare it to the modern map nearby.

Quite frankly, much of LT Taunt's letter report is a little too detailed for my taste, but he had a mission:
" Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of my six months’ journey of the river Congo, southwest coast of Africa:
In obedience to orders, received from Rear-Admiral Earl English, U.S.N., to “proceed to Stanley Pool, and farther if practicable, reporting,” &c., I left the U.S. flagship Lancaster at Banana Point on May 2, 1885..."
When the Admiral sends you on a mission, you go on a mission. And so the good lieutenant went:
I had heard many criticisms concerning the report of the United States agent, Mr. Tisdel, to the effect that “he had not seen the Congo Valley,” that “nothing was claimed for the cataract region,” &c. I therefore felt it my duty to go into the interior as far as practicable and gain all the information possible of the valley of the Congo.

My goods and stores were made up, so that I was able to cross to M’Poso Station and the south bank of the Congo on May 13. From M’Poso, on May 15, I started for Stanley Pool with a caravan of fifty natives, carrying my goods, canned provisions, camp equipage, &c. I therefore felt it my duty to go into the interior as far as practicable and gain all the information possible of the valley of the Congo.
The going was hard:
I left Lutété on the afternoon of June 3. On the 5th, passed the rear sections of the steamer Stanley. This steamer was for use on the Upper River, and was being transported by sections to Stanley Pool. Each section was transported on a large iron-wheeled truck that required about ninety men to handle. Some fourteen months had already been occupied in the work of transportation, at an immense cost to the State. The advance section of the steamer were about three hours’ march ahead of the rear ones. At midday on June 7, I arrived at Leopoldville Station, Stanley Pool, having taken twenty-three days from M’Poso, including six days’ delay at stations, to travel a distance of 236 miles, over a mountainous, rocky, barren country.

At Leopoldville, I was received by Captain Saulez, chief-of-division, and the principal officials of the station. The Houssa guard was drawn up to received me, and the United States flag saluted. Captain Saulez assigned me a portion of his own quarters.

Before leaving Vivi I had received permission from the acting Administrator General to take passage on board the steam cutter Royal from Leopoldville to Stanley Falls. On my arrival, I found that the Royal was loaded to her gunwales, and that, in addition, she was to tow a loaded whale-boat. Captain Saulez was sending a relief expedition to Stanley Falls, with two Krupp guns, stores, ammunition, &c., to last six months. The expedition was in command of Mr. W. Deane, late of the English army. Mr. Deane was to fortify the Falls Station, and make it secure against a possible attack of the Arabs. These gentlemen offered to make room for me, but I knew, that in order to do so, they would be obliged to leave behind important and much-needed stores.

I learned from the American Mission that by waiting until July 1, and supplying some deficiencies in the engineer’s and other stores, I could take passage on the small launch Henry Reed, belonging to the Mission. I therefore declined the kind offer of Captain Sauleez, and accepted that of the Mission.

While waiting at Leopoldville, I visited the different native villages in the vicinity of Stanley Pool, the station of Kinchassa, and the French station of Brazzaville, on the north bank of the Pool. M. de Brazza and M. Chauvain, his second in command were in the interior. I made a trip around Stanley Pool in the launch Peace, belonging to the English Baptist Mission, and was able to visit all the points of interest.
The river had fallen but a few inches, and the banks were flooded some distance inland, making it most difficult to cut fuel for the launch. Frequently we would not be able to run more than two hours per day.

We reached Bolobo Station on the evening of July10, and were received most cordially by Lieutenant Leibrecth (Belgian army), chief-of-station. Here Mr. Billington was taken with fever, and we were obliged to lay over the 11th and 12th, leaving Bolobo for Lukelela Station on the morning of the 13th, Mr. Billington still quite ill.

On the afternoon of the 13th we passed and communicated with one of the whale boats bound to Bolobo, and arrived at Lukelela on the evening of the 16th. Here we found Mr. Glave (English), a chief-of-station, who received us very kindly. We remained at Lukelela over night, and left the next morning for the Equator Station. Between these two stations, we had the greatest difficulty finding fuel, and did not reach Equator Station until 9.30 p.m. July 21, having been obliged to run a few hours by moonlight. We were received here by Lieutenant Pargels (Swedish army), and by the members of the American Mission, who have established their advanced post at this station.

We remained at the Equator until July 24, we pushed on and entered the mouth of the Lalulango River July 26. After steaming some 30 miles up this river, we returned to the Congo on the afternoon of the 27th. The Lalulango River is supposed to be one of the largest of the affluents of the Congo.

We had up to this point kept to the south bank of the river, but as Bangala, the next station, was on the north bank, we crossed to the north bank, and reached Bangala on the morning of July 30. Lieutenant Coquilhat, of the Belgian army, was chief of Bangala, with Lieutenant Westmark, Swedish army, as assistant.

We were now in the cannibal country, and rigged our arrow guards (wire netting) fore and aft the launch. In the next 500 miles we knew we would find no white men, our first and last station, beyond Bangala, being the one at Stanley Falls.

Below Bangala we had seen no signs of hostility on the part of the natives, but we now met an entirely different race of people, suspicious, savage, and hostile.
And then the adventure began:

Leaving Bangala on the morning of August 1, we anchored some 40 miles above the station, and about a mile below a large village, the people of which, thinking we had come to fight, sent their women to the islands, and then came down in canoes with the information that they were waiting for us. Nothing would reassure them, and they were around us all night in their canoes. We steamed past the village the next morning, and found the men fully armed with spears, knives, bows, and poisoned arrows, and rigged out in war bonnets. At 1.30 p.m. the same day we reached a large village, “Ikelengo,” and slowed down to buy food. The people declined to sell unless we ran to the beach. This I would not do, for in case of trouble I could only depend upon my Zanzibari to fight. The Loangos were useless, and the missionaries had stated, very properly, that they would not resort to firearms except in last extremity. We steamed ahead, and tied up about 4 p.m. some 8 miles above the village. At 8 p.m. I could hear canoe astern of us, but after a warning they drew off. I posted my Zanzibari and two others to watch during the night. At daylight a large war canoe was astern of us. After some talk with the guide, they came alongside, when I found that they had eight flint lock guns stowed away. These were the last fire-arms I saw in possession of the natives until we reached Stanley Falls. My guide learned, from the chief in the canoe, that they had been watching us all night. I then decided not to lie about the beach at night, but to anchor well off, and have all hands sleep on board the launch until we were clear of the cannibal country.

From the 4th until the 7th of August we passed no towns. About noon on the 7th we ran up to the town of M’Pesa, of the Irengo District. This town was protected by a strong boma (palisade) about 30 feet high, and evidently but recently erected. There were no women in sight and the men were in war costume, and fully armed. The greater part of the town had been burned. The people would have nothing to do with us, and I afterwards learned that Mr. Deane, in the Royal, had been attacked here but a few days before our arrival. He, however, had captured and burned the town, killing a number of men.

We were anxious to get food for our men, so we pushed on to the Upoto district, and about 2. p.m. we anchored opposite the town of Bukela. The people proved very friendly, and brought food to us in their canoes. That night, although we had anchored well above the villages the people were very suspicious of us, as their war-drums were going all night. Our movements had evidently been signaled ahead for each night after this we had canoes watching us, and could hear the war-drums, although we were not in sight of the villages.

On August 11 we passed several large towns of the Yembingo District, and tried to buy food, but they insisted on our going to the beach. This I declined to do, knowing that if the cannibals once got a foothold on the launch, they were in such numbers, it would be almost impossible, with my small force, to drive them off.

August 12 we anchored near a large village, Rubunga, on one of the islands. The people came out in canoes, and told us they would come with a force to fight us in the morning. We attempted to talk with them, but they insisted that we were Arabs, &c. The next morning they came out in large numbers, and, after a long talk with our guide, they ended in selling us food.

After 1 p.m., August 13 we steamed into Monogeri Channel. This is a stretch of water, about 50 yards wide, running between one of the large islands of the Congo and the north bank. We found it full of snags and very shoal. I had heard that Stanley and Lieutenant Van Gile had both been obliged to burn villages here, but I never imagined we would meet with the reception we did. At 2.30 p.m. we ran up opposite the large village of Monogeri. To our surprise, we were greeted with yells, war-drums, war horns, &c. The men were armed to the teeth with knives, spears, and poisoned arrows, and, to all appearances, were frantic with rage. I took my guns out and placed them in full sight, but at this they only increase their uproar.

Finding that we were streaming on, some of the men, absolutely devoid of fear, rushed waist-deep into the water to throw their spears, and as we passed the town, others launched their canoes to follow, many running along the banks. Three hours we were steaming in the narrow channel, and in that time passed several small, and two large villages; all of these had been notified of our approach by the signals and war-drums from below. The din of the yells, mingled with the drums and horns, was something terrific, for each village in turn had contributed to the number of yelling savages that followed us.

After passing the last town I calculated that we were followed by from two to three hundred men, some in canoes, and the others running along the banks. To add to my anxiety, I found that we were running short of wood, and I knew that if we were obliged to anchor in the channel it would be a hard fight all night, and a harder one in the morning when we attempted to land for wood. Fortunately, however, about 6 p.m. we ran out into the river, having just one-half hour’s wood left on board, and anchored in lee of one of the many islands of the Congo. It came on to blow hard, with rain, about 7 p.m., and I did not think the canoes would be able to follow on account of the sea that was running in the river. Shortly after 8 p.m., to our surprise, we were again greeted with the yells and war-horns, and I found that we were surrounded by from ten to twenty war-canoes filled with men. It was some time before we drove them off, and then finally took refuge on the islands near us. We could hear them all night, but they drew off at daylight.

These people had no fire arms, and I am sure that a few well-directed shots when we were first attacked in the channel would have saved us any further trouble, but I yielded to the entreaties of the missionaries not to fire except as a last resort.

On the night of August 14 we were anchored among the islands some miles above a large village, Yosaka. Here we were again surrounded by war-canoes. During the night, while I was forward, my Zanzibari discovered a canoe when only a few feet from the stern of the launch, evidently trying to board us. These savages above Bangala seem absolutely indifferent to danger, and it is only after many of them are shot down during the fights that they will draw off.

At midday August 15 we passed the mouth of the Arrowimi River, and met with much the same reception from the natives here as we had received below. The Arabs, under the famous chief “Tippoo Tib,” had raided down as far as the Arrowimi in the early spring of 1885, and had burned the villages on both banks, taking captured slaves and ivory back to Stanley Falls. This raid of the Arabs had not been altogether successful, as they had lost over one hundred men. Small-pox broke out among them, then threatened starvation forced them to return to Stanley Falls.

Shortly after passing the Arrowimi, the Royal and whale-boat were sighted just ahead, coming down the river. We dropped our anchor, and they were soon alongside.

The Royal, with thirty men, in charge of Mr. Harris, an Englishman, had been sent by Mr. Deane, from Stanley Falls, to warn me against the hostile natives, and to render such assistance as I needed, but, as I had passed the most dangerous localities, their assistance was not required. I learned from Mr. Harris that a few days before, Deane and his men had camped on shore, in the narrow channel, a few miles below the village of Monongeri.

The Royal was made fast to the beach. Deane sent his native guide, in a canoe with two other men, to the village to buy food. They paddled up to the village, the guide going on shore. He was at once surrounded, killed, and arrangements made to eat him. The two men escaped in the canoe, and brought the news down to Deane’s camp. As night was coming on, it was decided not to attack the village until the early morning.

About 2 a.m. the next day, Deane’s camp was attacked by a large body of savages, during a heavy tornado, the State losing seven killed and six wounded, among the latter being Mr. Deane, who had received two dangerous spear wounds. The killed were buried the next day on an island some distance form the camp, and the Royal started for Stanley Falls to obtain proper comforts for the wounded. This fight occurred in the same channel where the Henry Reed had been so savagely attacked on the afternoon of the 13th.

When passing the mouth of the Arrowimi River with the wounded, fifteen war-canoes had tried to surround the Royal about midday, but drew off after several natives had been killed and two canoes swamped.

We remained at anchor the night of the 15th, in company with the Royal. We were not troubled until about 3 a.m. the 16th, when two canoes were detected trying to steal upon us. A warning from the lookout soon drove them off.

At daylight, we discovered eight large war-canoes, with from thirty to forty men in each, lying alongside an island opposite to us. It was necessary to fill up with wood. I therefore sent my men on shore, with a guard from the Royal. The people had been cutting about an hour when the sentries discovered some natives lurking in the bushes. They were driven off with a few shots, and gave us no further trouble. We got underway about midday, and in company with the Royal started for Stanley Falls. The war-canoes followed us with horns blowing, but we soon distanced them, and in two hours they had given up the chase.

From the Arroowimi to Stanley Falls the natives were living in canoes; the villages on both banks hand been burned by the Arabs in the spring, and in only a few instances had the people commenced rebuilding. We had no more trouble with the natives, but were inconvenienced considerably by not being able to buy food for the men.
LT Taunt describes a world full of fevers, and " bad bilious attack" but it was also a world of some pride:
I have the honor to state that, when in camp, the American ensign was hoisted over my tent, and while on the Upper Congo my flag was always, from sunrise to sunset, hoisted at the bow of the launch.

I'm the only representative of any Government, other than the Congo State, and am one of the thirteen white men who have been able to penetrate to Stanley Falls.
Given the temper of the times, it is probably not surprising to find a spot of prejudice in our LT:
In my opinion, it is not yet expedient to attempt to govern these savages by kind treatment. The only thing they respect is power, and, with the coming of the white man, they look for wealth and power.
And in his work analyzing the nature of the Congo, he is so impolitic as to note a few issues troubling to him:
The Arabs do not attempt the slightest concealment in the matter of slave traffic. I was offered a slave by an Arab at what was supposed to be a reasonable price, and this within 100 yards of the station.
Slavery exists among the natives of the entire Congo Valley; but, as before stated, the men slaves are more retainers than slaves. The women, however, are slaves in every sense of the word. The most cruel phase of the native slavery is the right of the owner to put to death any slave at will, and this frequently exercised, especially in the case of the women.
Today, much of the river traveled by LT Taunt lies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), about which the CIA Factbook says:
Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, the Republic of the Congo gained its independence in 1960, but its early years were marred by political and social instability. Col. Joseph MOBUTU seized power and declared himself president in a November 1965 coup. He subsequently changed his name - to MOBUTU Sese Seko - as well as that of the country - to Zaire. MOBUTU retained his position for 32 years through several sham elections, as well as through the use of brutal force. Ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees in 1994 from fighting in Rwanda and Burundi, led in May 1997 to the toppling of the MOBUTU regime by a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda and fronted by Laurent KABILA. He renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but in August 1998 his regime was itself challenged by a second insurrection again backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe intervened to support KABILA's regime. A cease-fire was signed in July 1999 by the DRC, Congolese armed rebel groups, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe but sporadic fighting continued. Laurent KABILA was assassinated in January 2001 and his son, Joseph KABILA, was named head of state. In October 2002, the new president was successful in negotiating the withdrawal of Rwandan forces occupying eastern Congo; two months later, the Pretoria Accord was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity. A transitional government was set up in July 2003. Joseph KABILA as president and four vice presidents represented the former government, former rebel groups, the political opposition, and civil society. The transitional government held a successful constitutional referendum in December 2005 and elections for the presidency, National Assembly, and provincial legislatures in 2006. KABILA was inaugurated president in December 2006. The National Assembly was installed in September 2006. Its president, Vital KAMERHE, was chosen in December. Provincial assemblies were constituted in early 2007, and elected governors and national senators in January 2007.
So it goes.

UPDATE: Stanley's work "The Congo and the Founding of its Free State: A Story of Work and Exploration" here with illustrations such as the following sketch of Stanley Pool:

UPDATE2: Some people say you shouldn't swim in the Congo River.

Goliath Tiger Fish.

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