« PrécédentContinuer »
claimed the ownership. In 1880 the Italian Government annexed the settlement, and asserted its rights of sovereignty, the Egyptian Government at the time refusing to acknowledge the justice of the Italian claim. After the events of 1882 an understanding was arrived at with England, and a free hand was given to Italy. Continuing their policy of aggression, in spite of constant difficulties with the local tribes, the Italians annexed Massowah in 1888, and in 1889 declared a protectorate over Abyssinia. In that year Menelik, King of Choa, was proclaimed Emperor of Abyssinia, and with the reorganized army of his united kingdom attacked the Italians all along the line, defeating them disastrously at Adowa in 1896, driving them back on Massowah, and compelling their Government to ask for peace. By the terms of the treaty signed at Adis Ababa, Menelik's capital, Italian territory was in future limited to a narrow strip of barren country, about 700 miles long by 150 wide, now known under the name of Eritrea. Further south, in East Africa, Italy acquired, by agreement with England in 1891, a protectorate over that portion of the Somali coast which lies between Cape Guardafui and the river Juba-a country as barren and non-productive as Eritrea.
The Italians would have done well if they had taken Lord Granville's advice in 1881, and kept their hands off the Red Sea littoral. Their intrusion in that region has no political raison d'être. 'We have as much right to Assab Bay as you have
to Aden,' remarked General Menabrea to Lord Dufferin. But the circumstances were different: Aden was occupied to supply a much-needed want; Assab Bay to gratify a spirit of adventure. It will be time enough for Italy to think about external expansion when she has consolidated her new kingdom, curtailed her expenditure on armaments, reduced her debt, and organized her reFor the present her African possessions, acquired by the expenditure of many valuable lives and much treasure, are only a useless incubus, possessing no possibilities, and continuing to drain the strength of the country.
France is in a different position, being a colonial Power, and requiring a half-way house between Marseilles and Saigon. As long ago as 1860 the French Government obtained from the chiefs of the Danakil tribe the cession of Obokh, a small port on the north side of the Gulf of Tajourra, which is situated on the African coast nearly opposite the island of Perim. When Aden closed her coal-yard to France during the French War in Indo-China in 1885, the French transports coaled at Obokh. But Obokh was found to be too exposed to the south-west monsoon for the purposes of a safe harbour, and in 1886 the Sultan of Zeilah sold Djibuti, on the south coast of the Gulf of Tajourra, to the French Government. By a treaty concluded in 1888 the British Government recognized French possession of the whole Gulf of Tajourra and adjacent coast territory, together with
the islands of Musah at the gulf entrance. In 1895 the seat of government was transferred to Djibuti, which is now a flourishing port, secure from the south-west monsoon, and well equipped with landing-piers. Djibuti contains a population of some 12,000, of which number 2,000 are Europeans.
Unlike the British at Aden, the French have made good use of their time at Djibuti during the past ten years. In 1894 a concession was obtained from the Emperor Menelik for the construction of a railway from Djibuti to Harrar, the famous capital of the Gallas country, which is now part of Menelik's dominions. A French company was formed, and railway construction began in 1897. In 1900 sixtyeight miles of the line were opened for traffic, and by the end of 1902 the railhead had been carried to Diré Daoua, a distance of 186 miles from Djibuti and thirty from Harrar. An Aden merchant, who had just returned from Djibuti, gave me full particulars about this railway, which is to be carried with the least possible delay to Adis Ababa as soon as certain preliminary negotiations have been completed between the British, French and Italian Governments.1 So anxious is
1 These negotiations have now been completed, and an agreement between Great Britain, France, Italy, and Abyssinia was signed in London on December 13 last, a summary of its highly important and far-reaching provisions being given in Appendix IV. A salient feature of the agreement is the recognition of France's claim to complete
Menelik to see the railway enter his capital that he is making the necessary embankments for the extension at his own expense, and in a recent conversation referred with some impatience to the diplomatic delay in settling the necessary preliminaries for completing 'my railway' to Adis Ababa.
French energy is bearing good fruit. The British Somaliland protectorate, lying between the Gulf of Tajourra and Cape Guardafui, contains two ports, Berbera and Zeilah, both of which are losing the export trade hitherto monopolized by them with Harrar and Choa. The receipts from the French railway amounted last year to more than 1,000,000 francs, and a gradual but decided diversion of trade from the old caravan routes is annually taking place. The journey from Djibuti to the railhead at Diré Daoua occupies thirteen hours, as against twentyfive days by camel route from Zeilah, and the transit rates are cheaper. When the line reaches Adis Ababa, Djibuti will automatically absorb the entire trade of the richest provinces of Abyssinia. What France under great difficulties has done at Tajourra, England might long ago have accomplished at Aden if opportunities had been used, British enterprise encouraged instead of being thwarted, and had the governing authorities been
the existing railway to Adis Ababa with a branch from Diré Daoua to Harrar, while the right to construct railways west of Adis Ababa is conceded to Great Britain.
required to bring the same administrative energy to bear on their work as our French neighbours have shown on the opposite coast of Africa.
On the east coast of the Red Sea the Turks have got their hands full just now with the Hedjaz Railway, and also with the Arab revolt in the Yemen. In the absence of official news, information gathered when the writer was at Aden confirmed the recent rumours of Turkish military reverses during the early part of last year. The Sultan's troops were heavily defeated before the Arab fortress of Shahara, and Marshal Ahmed Fezi Pasha was compelled to evacuate Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, and retreat towards Hodeida. All accounts represented the revolt as gaining in force under the leadership of the Imam Yahya, who has displayed great military ability in fighting against the Turkish troops, and is giving successful expression to the popular cry of Arabia for the Arabians.' Abdul Hamid would do well, if he does not want to lose Arabia, to send large reinforcements to crush the rebellion before it extends to the Wahabi tribes of the Nejd district.
Had the long-projected railway from Damascus to Mecca been completed, Fezi Pasha's beaten army could have been reinforced more quickly than is now possible, when troops can only be sent by sea route to Hodeida. The railway, which has long been in Abdul Hamid's mind, is being constructed by Turkish soldiers, and is already open to Tebuk, a point about 170 miles beyond Ma'an and 280