CHAPTER XXV. I SEND TO GONDOKORO FOR REINFORCEMENTS.
On 25th November, 1872, I started Wat-el-Mek to Gondokoro with a force of irregulars, in addition to a captain and twenty regular troops in charge of the post. His party consisted of 100 men.
The fleet from Gondokoro had left on the 3rd of November, 1871: thus it was natural to suppose that reinforcements had arrived from Khartoum, according to my written instructions on that date. I now wrote to Raouf Bey at head-quarters, to send up 200 men under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Tayib Agha, of the Soudani regiment. I also wrote for a supply of cattle, as my stock had dwindled to a small herd of milch cows, and the people at Fabbe had no meat except the flesh of any game that might be killed.
A short time after the departure of Wat-el-Mek and his party for Gondokoro, Suleiman the vakeel arrived from Fabbo with the intelligence that a large body of Abou Saood's slave-hunters, including 3,000 Makkarika cannibals, had arrived on the Nile from the far west, with the intention of taking the ivory from Fabbo!
It appeared that Abou Saood had gone from Gondokoro to his station at the Bohr, upon the White Nile; from thence he had sent a party with a letter to Atroosh, the vakeel of the Makkarika station, about 200 miles distant, with orders that he should send a powerful force, with sufficient carriers, to take the ivory by violence from Fabbo.
Abou Saood had not expected that the people whom he had left at that station would have enlisted under the government standard. Thus he imagined they would at once fraternize with the invading force.
The natives of the country were thoroughly alarmed, as the cannibals were eating the children of the Koshi country on the west bank of the Nile, in about 3 degrees latitude; and should they cross the river, the Madis and Shoolis expected the same fate.
I ordered Suleiman (who had received a letter from Atroosh) to take a letter from me to Ali Emmeen, the vakeel of the invading force, instructing him to present himself before me at Fatiko instantly with an escort of his own people, limited to twenty-five men. At the same time I gave instructions to the natives upon no account to furnish boats for a larger party.
After some days' absence Suleiman returned, but without Ali Emmeen, who was afraid to appear. This vakeel had received my verbal assurance from Suleiman that, should any persons attempt the passage of the river without my permission, they would be instantly shot; at the same time, if he wished to convey the ivory to Gondokoro by the usual route, he could do so with an escort of regulars.
This was an awkward position for Ali Emmeen, who had expected to find allies at Fabbo, but who now found a faithful corps of irregulars with Suleiman at their head acting under my orders.
He accordingly took 100 men and returned about 180 miles to the camp of Atroosh for fresh instructions. The 3,000 Makkarika cannibals were left with the remainder of his company on the west bank of the Nile to feed upon the natives of Koshi until his return.
Every day people arrived at Fatiko with horrible reports of the cannibals, who were devouring the children in the Koshi district. Spies went across the river and brought me every intelligence. It appeared that the 3,000 Makkarikas had been engaged by Ali Emmeen under the pretence that they were "to go to Fatiko and fight a chief called 'the Pacha,' who had enormous flocks and herds, together with thousands of beautiful women and other alluring spoil;" but they had not heard that they were to carry 3,000 elephants' tusks to the station of Atroosh.
My spies now told them the truth. "Fight the Pacha!" they exclaimed: "do you not know who he is? and that he could kill you all like fowls, as he did the people of Ali Hussein? He has no cows for you to carry off, but he has guns that are magic, and which load from behind instead of at the muzzle!"
This was a terrible disappointment to the deluded Makkarikas, which at once spread dissension among them, when they found that they had been cajoled in order to transport the heavy loads of ivory.
A providential visitation suddenly fell upon them. The small-pox broke out and killed upwards of 800 bloodthirsty cannibals who had been devouring the country.
The Nile was reported to be about six miles in width opposite their station, in about 3 degrees latitude, which is only a few miles from the Albert N'yanza. This visitation of small-pox created a panic which entirely broke up and dispersed the invading force, and defeated their plans.
We were now in frequent communication with Rionga, who was always represented in my Fatiko camp by the presence of one of his sheiks and several men.
Ali Genninar had made a combined attack upon Kabba Rega, together with Rionga and the Langgo tribe, and had utterly defeated him. His people were now deserting him in great numbers, and were flocking to the winning side. Kabba Rega had taken to flight, and was supposed to be hiding in the neighbourhood of Chibero, on the borders of the Albert N'yanza.
M'tese, the king of Uganda, had invaded Unyoro from the south, and having heard of Kabba Rega's treachery towards myself, he had sent an army of 6,000 men under his general, Congow, to be placed at my disposal.
This friendship was the result of my diplomacy in having sent him valuable presents from Masindi, together with a letter warning him against Kabba Rega, who wished to prevent the goods of the north from reaching Uganda, in order that he might monopolize the trade in Unyoro.
The subsequent conduct of Kabba Rega had proved this accusation, and M'tese had heard with rage and dismay that I had been forced to burn all the numerous goods, which otherwise would have passed to him in Uganda.