Below is the translation of a letter in which the Kings and Chiefs of Little Popo and Grigi in Togoland (actual Togo) are asking for their lands to be placed under the protection of the German Imperial Majesty the Kaiser, i.e. to be placed under German protection, or rather placing (not knowing the full extent) their lands under German protectorate. This was signed on March 5th of 1884. Remember that Little Popo is now known as Aného in Togo. Grigi might have been the town of Glidji.
I. We, the signatories, Kings and chiefs of Little Popo and Grigi, express our gratitude to Your Majesty for having assisted us in upholding peace in our land.
II. There would be no threat and no uncertainty, if the British government would refrain from interference in the affairs of our lands, which it desires, while we desire her not to have it.
III. We ask Your Majesty to provide us with protection and to avoid such an annexion.
IV. We implore Your Majesty to come to our aid, as we have placed ourselves fully under your protection.
V. We humbly request to take quick action.
signed King Aiaushi Agbanor of Little Popo and Grigi, Caboceer Quadjovi, chief Pedro Quadjo and 11 other signatures
Today, I present to you the text of the treaty signed between King Mlapa– the King of Togo, or rather his representative Chief Plakko or Plakkou, and the Consul General Gustav Nachtigal thereby placing his land under German protectorate. This is the famous July 5th 1884 treaty which marks the beginning of the German protectorate in Togoland and the birth of this German colony in West Africa. As you read it, remember that Porto Seguro is now Agbodrafo and Bagida is Baguida in Togo. Note also that when it is said ‘King of Togo,’ Togo in this case refers to the area around Togoville, the village which gave its name to the entire country. As always, European colonizers used one main treaty in one area of the country (mostly coastal) to claim ownership over the rest of the country. The original in German can be found in Geschichte der deutschen kolonien by Horst Gründer, UTB (2018) p. 91-92
The Consul General for the German Reich, Dr. Gustav Nachtigal, in the name of His Majesty the Kaiser of Germany, and Mlapa, King of Togo, represented for himself, his heirs and his chiefs by Plakkou, carrier of King Mlapa’s stick, have come to the following agreement :
Article 1 King Mlapa, desiring to protect legitimate trade, which mostly is carried out by Germans, and to grant the German merchants full security for their lives and property, requests the protection of His Majesty the German Kaiser, so that he is enabled to uphold the independence of his territory, which stretches from Porto Seguro‘s eastern border to the western border of Lomé or Bey Beach. His Imperial Majesty grants such protection, with the reservation of legitimately acquired rights of third parties.
Article 2 King Mlapa will cede no part of his lands and sovereignty rights to any foreign country of person, and he will not sign any treaty with any foreign power without the previously given approval of His Imperial Majesty.
Article 3 King Mlapa grants protection and free trade to all German subjects who live in his land, and promises never to grant merchants of other nations privileges, preferential treatment or protection beyond what is granted to the Germans. King Mlapa, without His Imperial Majesty’s approval, will refrain from collecting tariffs other than those presently collected, which are 1 Shilling for every ton of palm kernels 1 Shilling for every barrel of palm oil which are to be paid to the chief of the respective location.
Article 4 His Majesty the German Kaiser will respect all trade treaties previously signed by King Mlapa and others, and will in no way place burdens upon free trade in King Mlapa‘s land.
Article 5 His Majesty the German Kaiser will not interfere in the manner the tariff so far has been collected by King Mlapa and his chiefs
Article 6 The signatory parties reserve matters of mutual interest, not included in this treaty, for future agreements.
Article 7 This treaty takes force immediately, reserved ratification by the German government. In order to testify, we have signed in the presence of the witnesses which have signed
J.J. Gacher, J.B. Ahpevon, interpreters H. Randad Josua Lenze Mandt, Lt. at sea Dr. Max Buchner Chief Plakko Chief Adey of Lomé or Bey Coodaycee Hadji, 2nd chief of Bey Okkoo Nukoo King Garsa of Bagida
1 Translator’s footnote : Here a text originally written in English, and printed in German translation in the RTA, has been re-translated into English. Thus it might differ slightly in diction from the original text.
I never thought that bombing, grenades, and warships had been used in wars in Africa prior to the 20th century. Little did I know that it had been in use in the 19th century, during the European invasion of Africa that is known as the scramble for Africa. Today we will talk about the first bombings on Cameroonian soil which occurred on 22 December 1884, when Germans on warships SMS Bismarck and SMS Olgabombed Hickory Town (Bonabéri) in Cameroons Town (modern-day Douala). What might have caused these bombings by German forces on Cameroonian soil, long before the area was ever known as Kamerun?
Well, when the 12 July 1884Germano – Duala Treaty was signed between the representatives of the Jantzen & Thormählen firm and some of the Douala kings, King Ndumbé Lobé Bell and King Akwa, it was not a unanimous choice among the locals. As a matter of fact, most of the population was against the treaty, and sided with Kum’a Mbappé also known as Lock Priso, King of Hickorytown. The other kings had signed treaties ceding their lands to the Germans without consulting with the others. Kum’a Mbappé refused to sign the treaty. On that fateful day, when the Germans raised their flag in Hickory Town, after raising it in Joss Town, Kum’a Mbappé reacted by writing to the German consul: “Pull that flag down. No man buy we. They want to give us plenty dash, we tell them no. Leave us free and not make us plenty trouble.” The Germans, of course, did not heed the warning, and Kum’a Mbappé ordered the flag to be taken down and the mast ripped apart, a German merchant was killed in the fightings that ensued.
Kum’a Mbappé and his people courageously resisted and defeated the German army. The Germans were outnumbered. After this defeat, German consul Max Buchner wrote to Germany to send troops with real armament, cannons, bombs, grenades, in order to level out Hickory Town and kill Kum’a Mbappé who was a thorn on his side.
Opposition to German rule followed the annexation of July 1884. Lock Priso still favored the British and staged a rebellion in December 1884. Around this same time, King Bell faced off against his own people, who were largely opposed to the German rule. Bell then found himself up against the other Duala chiefs in the Duala War, which was fought over the killing of a Bonabéri Duala and Bell’s alleged refusal to share his profits with the other sub-lineages. Germans played the competitors against one another – this is a classic technique used by Europeans: divide-and-conquer. They supported the weaker King Bell to counter the powerful KingAkwa.
From December 20th – 22nd, Commander Eduard von Knorr sent by Berlin decided to intervene immediately, and sent ashore a landing party of some three hundred men from warships SMS Bismarck and SMS Olgato arrest the leaders of the anti-German tribes and destroy their villages. The troops from SMS Bismarck that went ashore and landed north of Hickorytown, while the men from SMS Olgawent ashore south of the village. The Germans fought their way into the town, forcing the local forces to retreat into the mangrove forest, where they could not easily be pursued. While this operation was underway, Knorr received word that other hostile locals had attacked the trading post operated by Jantzen & Thormählen in Joss Town and had captured the company’s local manager. Knorr sent SMS Olgaupriver to shell enemy positions, and on 22 December, the landing parties returned to their ships, having lost one man killed aboard SMS Olgaand eight men wounded between the two ships. German sailors descended on Bonabéri, and burnt the city down; the deluge of fire was endless and lasted several days. They also stole the princely bow or Tangué from Kum’a Mbappé’s ship, considered the symbol of the Belé-Belé people (people of Hickory-Town): the Tangué is a sort of a bow, carved and personalized, sort of a pennant that identifies a king among the people of these water tribes. The German consul Max Buchner wrote in his war diary,
“Lock Priso’s palace is plundered, a colorful and striking image. We set it on fire. But I have asked all the houses to be inspected before to find ethnographic treasures. My main booty is a great wooden carved work, the princely bow (tangué) of Lock Priso, which will be sent to Munich.” [“Le palais de Lock Priso est mis à sac, une image colorée et saisissante. Nous y mettons le feu. Mais j’ai demandé avant d’inspecter toutes les maisons pour trouver des trésors ethnographiques. Mon butin principal est une grande œuvre sculptée en bois, la proue princière (tangué or tangu’a bolo, in Duala language) de Lock Priso, qui sera envoyée à Munich.”]
After several days of fighting, the German army won because of their superior arms, and also the help sent by other Duala kings. Negotiations went on, and a peace treaty (i.e. a treaty acknowledging defeat) was finalized on 13 January 1885, forcing Kum’a Mbappé to accept German rule in Hickory Town. This hero of Cameroonian resistance, passed away in 1916.
The symbol of the Belé-Belé people, the Tangué, was only returned over 100 years later, after tireless work from one Kum’a Mbappé’s grandsons, Prince and professor Kum’a Ndumbe III and others. To learn more, please read the book Kum’a Mbappé Bonabéri 1884 Liberté! by Enoh Meyomesse, and visit the website of this proud descendant of Kum’a Mbappé, Prince Kum’a Ndumbe III at AfricAvenir.
Last week I published a poem by Sarah Anyang Agbor about the Anglophone plight in Cameroon, and the fact that Anglophones as any other children of Cameroon are treasured children of the nation and also ‘sing Cameroon’. Given that the history of Cameroon is so intertwined with that of the European colonizer: first becoming a German colony, then after Germany lost World War I, being divided into 2 and shared between France and Great Britain (the spoils of war, I guess), I have decided to publish here a few notes on German protectorates on the West Coast of Africa from 1884 to 1890. Note below that Cameroons, in the Ambas Bay section, refers to Cameroons Town which was the name for present-day Douala, Cribyrefers to the city of Kribi, while Victoriarefers to present-day Limbe in the country Cameroon. Porto Seguro is now Agbodrafo and Little Popo is now known as Anéhoin Togo. South-Western Africarefers to present-day Namibia.
NOTES on German Protectorates on the West Coast of Africa 1884—1890, Map of Africa by Treaty vol 2, P. 694.
On the 5th July, 1884, an Agreement was signed between Germany and Togo, by which the territory of the King of Togo, situated on the West Coast of Africa, from the Eastern frontier of Porto Seguro to the Western frontier of Lome or Bay Beach was placed under the Protectorate of Germany.
Cameroons. Togoland. Slave Coast, &c.
On the 12th July, 1884, a German Protectorate was proclaimed over the whole of the Cameroons District, and on the 15th October of the same year†, the following official communication was made by the German Government to the principal Powers of Europe and to the United States Government, notifying the exact extent of territory on the West and South-West Coasts of Africa which had been placed under the protection of the German Empire :—
Baron von Plessen to Earl Granville.
(Translation.) German Embassy, 15th October, 1884.
“The Government of His Majesty the Emperor, with a view to insure more effectually German commercial interests on the West Coast of Africa, has taken certain districts of this coast under its protection. This has been effected in virtue of Treaties which have been in part concluded by Dr. Nachtigal, the Consul-General dispatched to West Africa, with independent Chiefs, and partly in virtue of applications for protection made by Imperial subjects, who have acquired certain tracts by covenants with independent Chiefs.
“Accordingly, the Togo tract, with the harbours of Lome and Bageida, the districts of Bimbia, with the Isle of Nicol, Cameroons, Malimba, to its northern extremity, Little Batanga, Plantation, and Criby, on the Slave Coast, and the tract of coastland between Cape Frio and the Orange River, with the exception of Valvisch (Walfish) Bay, in South-Western Africa, have been placed under the protection of His Majesty the Emperor. This has been notified by hoisting the Imperial military standard and planting frontier poles, and the engagement at the same time announced that all demonstrable existing rights of third parties are to be respected.”
Ambas Bay, Victoria.
On the 19th July, 1884, a British Notification was issued announcing the assumption of British sovereignty over Ambas Bay,* but this territory was transferred to Germany on the 28th March, 1887, since which date it has formed part of the German Protectorate over the Cameroons.
Mahin and Mahin Beach.
On the 29th January, 1885, Mahin was sold by the King of Mahin to a German subject, Herr G. L. Gaiser ; and on the 11th March, 1885, a Treaty was signed by the King of Mahin with the German Commissioner and Consul-General for the West Coast of Africa, Dr. Nachtigal, for extending a German Protectorate over Mahin and Mahin Beach, but it was not ratified by the German Emperor ; and on the 24th October following, both Mahin and Mahin Beach were ceded to Great Britain.
Bight of Biafra, Slave Coast (Togoland, Little Popo, and Porto Seguro), Senegambia, and Southern Rivers Districts.
On the 24th December, 1885, a Protocol was signed between France and Germany, for defining their respective rights of Sovereignty or Protectorate in the Bight of Biafra, on the Slave Coast (Togoland, Little Popo, and Porto Seguro), on the Coast of Senegambia, and in the Southern Rivers Districts.
British and German Limits.
On the 1st July, 1890, an Agreement was entered into between the British and German Governments defining their respective spheres of influence in East, West, and South-West Africa. With respect to the West Coast, the line of boundary was marked between the British Gold Coast Colony and the German Protectorate of Togo, the Volta Districts, and the Rio del Rey.
† “ National Zeitung,” 15th February, 1885. S.P., vol. lxxvi, p. 756,
Here is the text of the 15 July 1884 treaty signed between the Chiefs of Jibarret (Djebale) and Sorrokow (Sodiko) and the German merchants of the Adolph Woermann and Jantzen & Thormählen firms in Cameroons. It basically does not show the entire text, but rather cites the treaty signed on 12 July 1884 between Kings Bell and Akwa and the Germans. It is pictured here:
“We the undersigned chiefs of Jibarret and Sorrokow, under King Bell’s juridiction declare herewith that we are perfectly agreeing with the treaty made by Mr. Edouard Schmidt acting for the company C. Woermann and Mr. John VoK acting for Misters Jantzen & Thormählen both of Hamburg, with the said King Bell.
The treaty has been properly explained to us and we have signed this paper as follows.
Cameroons the fifteenth day of July one thousand eight hundred and eighty four.”
Source:Abretungs-Urkunde Jibarret und Sorrokow, 15-7-1884 DZA-potsdam 4204 f.192.
Here is the text to the Pre-treaty approved by King Ndumbé Lobé Bell and King Akwa of Cameroons River (Wouri River, Douala) before agreeing to signing the 12th July 1884 Germano-Duala treaty. It is called the “Wünsche der Kamerun” (or the Cameroonians’ wishes) and was signed by the German consul. Note that only the German consul signed to engage his country into this pre-treaty; and no Cameroonian party signed it. It is only once this was done, that the Kings Bell, and Akwa signed the treaty of sovereignty. Here is the text of the pre-treaty.
“Cameroons River, July 12th, 1884
Our wish is that white men should not go up and trade with the Bushmen, nothing to do with our markets; they must stay here in this River, and then give us trust so that we will trade with our Bushmen.
We need no protection; we should like our country to annex with the government of any European Power.
We need no alteration about our marriages, we shall marry as we are doing now.
Our cultivated ground must not be taken from us, for we are not able to buy and sell as other countries.
We need no Duty or Custom House in our country.
We shall keep bullocks, pigs, goats, fowls as it is now and also no duty on them.
No man should take another man’s wife by force or else a heavy fine.
We need no fighting and beating without fault and no imprisonment on paying the trust without notice and no man should be put to Iron for the trust.
We are the Chiefs of Cameroons.
The Imperial German Consul
Source:L’Afrique s’annonce au rendez-vous, la tête haute! Du Pr. Kum’a Ndumbe III, P. 145-146, Ed. AfricAvenir/Exchange & Dialogue 2012