British Empire
Living in the British empire - Africa
British Empire logo
  full transcript - source6  
Extract from a government report on action against slavery in East Africa, 1895
(Catalogue ref: CAB 37/40/45)
Source 6a

Sir Bartle Frere's mission had for its object "the negotiation of fresh and more stringent Treaties with the Rulers of Zanzibar and Muscat for the suppression of the Slave Trade;" and the Sultan was "invited to join Her Majesty's Government in framing measures which shall have for their object the complete suppression of this cruel and destructive Traffic." The Special Envoy was instructed "to impress upon His Highness the extreme disappointment of Her Majesty's Government at the want of efficient execution of the provisions of his existing Treaty engagements," and to demand a new Treaty on that ground.

On the Sultan declining to grant what was demanded of him through Sir Bartle Frere, steps were taken to force his compliance, and the matter was left in the hands of Sir John Kirk after the departure of the Envoy, the result being that in 1873 a Treaty was signed making illegal all transport of slaves by sea, whether from the mainland to Asia or the islands, or between island and island, any slave thereafter found afloat, whether taken for sale or working on board as a sailor or domestic, if held against his will, being entitled to be taken by any of our cruisers and freed through the British Prize Court at Zanzibar.

The effect of this Treaty was to practically s[t]op the export to Arabia, and to reduce the Slave Trade from the Zanzibar Coast from 30,000 to a very much smaller, although still a considerable, number, the slaves being taken chiefly to the island of Pemba and overland to the Somali Coast. ......

Source 6b

Towards the end of 1888 a joint blockade of the Sultan's coast was proposed by Germany. The avowed object of this measure was to stop the exportation of slaves and the importation of munitions of war, as it was alleged that there had been of late renewed activity on the part of the slave-traders. The proposal was agreed to by Her Majesty's Government, as it was thought prudent that any measures undertaken by German ships should be shared by British ships.

The co-operation of the Sultan was obtained and the blockade was announced in His Highness' name. It lasted from the 29th November, 1888, to the 1st October, 1889. During its existence, the British and German ships exercised the right to search dhows belonging to the Sultan's subjects in his territorial waters.

On the 20th September, 1889, His Highness, by Proclamation, made the right of search perpetual.

On the 13th September, 1889, the Sultan, yielding to strong pressure which had been brought to bear upon him by the late Sir Gerald Portal, in which he received the tacit support of the German Consul, concluded an Agreement to the effect that after the 1st November, 1889, all persons who should enter his dominions should be free, but that slaves so freed should remain the subjects of His Highness; and that all children born in his dominions after the 1st January, 1890, should be free, but should remain the subjects of His Highness if the parents were his subjects.
Top of page | Close