CHAPTER XIX. RESTORATION OF THE LIBERATED SLAVES.
Girls are always purchased, if required, as wives. It would be quite impossible to obtain a wife for love from any tribe that I have visited. "Blessed is he that hath his quiver full of them" (daughters). A large family of girls is a source of wealth to the father, as he sells each daughter for twelve or fifteen cows to her suitor. Every girl is certain to marry; thus a dozen daughters will bring a fortune of at least 150 cows to their parents in all pastoral countries.
In Unyoro, cattle are scarce, and they belong to the king; therefore the girls are purchased for various commodities - such as brass-coil bracelets, bark-cloths, cotton shirts, ivory,
I was anxious to establish a new and legitimate system of trade in this country, which would be the first step towards a higher civilization. I accordingly devoted every energy to the completion of the station, in which we were assisted by the natives, under the direction of their various headmen.
The order and organization of Unyoro were a great contrast to the want of cohesion of the northern tribes. Every district throughout the country was governed by a chief, who was responsible to the king for the state of his province. This system was extended to sub-governors and a series of lower officials in every district, who were bound to obey the orders of the lord-lieutenant. Thus every province bad a responsible head, that could be at once cut off should disloyalty or other signs of bad government appear in a certain district.
In the event of war, every governor could appear, together with his contingent of armed men, at a short notice.
These were the rules of government that had been established for many generations throughout Unyoro.
The civil war had ceased, and Kabba Rega having ascended the throne, the country had again fallen into the order that a previous good organization rendered easy.
The various headmen of the district now appeared daily, with their men laden with thatch grass and canes for the construction of the station.
I commenced a government house, and a private dwelling adjoining for myself.
On my first arrival at Masindi I had begged Kabba Rega to instruct his people to clear away about fifty acres of grass around our station, and to break up the ground for cultivation, as I wished my troops to sow and reap their own corn, instead of living at the expense of the natives.
The system, both in Uganda and Unyoro, is bad and unjust.
Should visitors arrive, they are not allowed to purchase food from the people, but they must be fed by the king's order at the cost of the inhabitants. This generally results in their not being fed at all, as the natives quit the neighbourhood.
I had suffered much from hunger in Unyoro, during my former visit, in the reign of Kamrasi; therefore I wished to protect myself against famine by a timely cultivation of the surrounding fertile land, which was now covered with rank grass about nine feet high.
In a military point of view it was impolitic to sit down within a station incircled by a dense grass covert, and although I had not the most remote suspicion of hostility in this country, I preferred a situation whence we could enjoy an extensive landscape.
The Albert N'yanza lay distant about twenty miles on the west, in the deep basin which characterizes this extraordinary sheet of water. Immense volumes of cloud rose in the early morning from the valley which marked the course of the lake, as the evaporation from the great surface of water condensed into mist, when it rose to the cooler atmosphere of the plateau 1,500 feet above the level.
The proposal of farming did not appear to please Kabba Rega. It was explained that the men were not accustomed to labour in the fields, as agricultural work was performed by the women, all of whom were now absent and engaged in preparing their own land.
Although Masindi was a large town, I was struck by the absence of females. The only women that I saw were two, one of whom was the pretty wife of Umbogo the dragoman. It has already been explained, that the absence of women generally denotes hostility, but as the rainy season necessitated hard work, I accepted the explanation.
The corn for the supply of Masindi was brought from a distance of two days' journey, and numbers of people were daily employed in going to and fro for the general provisions of the station.
The slave-hunters belonging to Suleiman, who were now prisoners under a guard, numbered twenty-five men: I employed these people daily to clear away the high grass, which was piled and burnt, the ashes were then spread, and the ground was hoed up and thoroughly prepared by the troops.
It was in vain that I urged upon Kabba Rega and his chiefs the necessity of cultivation for the supply of corn requisite for the troops. Every day they promised to clear away the grass, provided the soldiers would then dig and prepare the ground. This I agreed to do, but the natives showed no intention of working.
I began to suspect that Kabba Rega had an objection to a large open clearing. The tactics of all natives are concealment; if a man is frightened, he hides in the grass; in case of hostilities, the high grass is a fortress to the negro. It became evident that we were to remain surrounded by this dense herbage, which not only obstructed the view, but rendered the station damp and dreary.
I explained to the chiefs the folly of Kabba Rega in thus neglecting such magnificent soil, which, with a little labour, would produce all that we could require, and would save both him and his people the trouble of feeding us. At the same time I set all hands of my own people to clear a large space and to make gardens.