CHAPTER XIX. RESTORATION OF THE LIBERATED SLAVES.
It appeared that on the day that Abd-el-Kader had ordered Kabba Rega to disarm the people of Suleiman upon his first arrival at Masindi, the young king had certainly ordered their disarmament, but he had himself retained their arms and ammunition, in addition to a goatskin bag with about 300 rounds of ball-cartridge. This had never been reported to me.
The mendacious young king had the audacity to deny this, in face of several witnesses; and he would at once have retired from the divan (and probably I should never have seen him again) had I not insisted upon his remaining until the affair had been thoroughly explained.
It was then discovered that he had returned all the muskets to Abd-el-Kader, except five; which were not forthcoming.
I requested him in future to adhere more strictly to the truth; as it was a disgrace for a man in his position to tell a falsehood, which would render it impossible for me to place implicit confidence in him; at the same time I insisted upon the immediate return of the guns, together with the cartouche-belts and ammunition.
The young king retired in great confusion and stilled anger, with a promise that everything should be restored!
In the afternoon he sent five wretched old muskets that had been injured in the stocks, and repaired with the raw hide of crocodiles. These had never belonged to the irregulars; but he had kept their good guns, and hoped to exchange these wretched weapons, which had been given some years ago to Kamrasi by the vakeel, Ibrahim.
I spoke very strongly to Kittakara, his favourite minister; and explained to him the folly and discredit of such conduct.
Kittakara replied: "Is not Kabba Rega your son? Do you begrudge him a few good guns and ammunition taken from your late enemies, the slave-hunters?"
It was in vain that I endeavoured to explain that these people were subjects of the Khedive, and had now received forgiveness: therefore, as they were engaged as irregulars they must receive their arms. Kittakara simply replied: "Do you believe in these people? Do you think that, because they have now enlisted through fear, they will ever change their natures?"
I asked him "if soap would wash the black spots from a leopard's skin?" but I explained that I could strip the skin at once off the leopard, and should quickly change their natures.
Day after day passed, and the ammunition was only returned in driblets, after constant and most urgent demands.
On 21st May I sent word to Kabba Rega (who had declined to appear in public or private) that if he persisted in this deception I should myself be compelled to return to Fatiko, as it would be impossible for me to hold communications with any person in whom I could place no confidence.
In the event of my departure from Unyoro he knew the consequences. He would be ridiculed by Rionga, who would join the slave-hunters and attack him should I withdraw my protection. On the south he would be invaded by M'tese, who would imagine that Kabba Rega had prevented me from visiting him; thus his country would be utterly ruined.
The chiefs, Neka, Kittakara, and Matonse, to whom I spoke, appeared thoroughly to comprehend the position.
During the day the five missing guns were returned, together with the goatskin bag (chorab), containing much of the missing ammunition - some of which had been abstracted.
On 23rd May I sent off the party to Fatiko, together with the post - including letters to Egypt, Khartoum, and England, to be forwarded by first opportunity. (These never arrived in England.)
I wrote to Wat-el-Mek to offer him the command of an irregular corps of 400 men, which he was to raise immediately from those companies that were now thrown out of employment by the termination of the contract with Agad Co.
I sent written instructions to Major Abdullah to arrest Abou Saood, and to liberate all the Unyoro slaves in the possession of his people. He was then to forward Abou Saood, together with Suleiman, as prisoners, to the care of Raouf Bey at Gondokoro; and to march himself with his detachment and all effects, together with the liberated slaves, to Foweera.
Three hundred natives accompanied my party from Unyoro to transport the baggage of Major Abdullah.
I had not seen Kabba Rega since the day when he had lied concerning the possession of the muskets and ammunition. Whether from shame or anger I could not tell, but he declined to appear.
The party started with the post, thus reducing my force by the departure of thirty-six men, including eleven regulars and twenty-five of the new irregular levy.
I was now left with one hundred regulars, four sailors, and four armed Baris.