The New York Times, October 24, 1886, p.6:|
AN OLD CASTLE IN AFRICACHRISTIANBORG FORTRESS AND ITS FURNISHINGS.
A CHEERY GOVERNOR WITH A STAFF OF FEVER-STRICKEN OFFICIALS--DAHOMEY LOSING ITS PRESTIGE.
...It is quite a relief to turn away from all these sights of horror to the open sea once more, although the panorama of the shore from this point onward is if possible more uninteresting than ever. It now consists merely of a flat, narrow sandbank stretching interminably between the sea and that curious string of lagoons which extends unbroken from the borders of Dahomey to the mouths of the Niger.
The first gleam of daylight on the morning after leaving Accra finds us hove to between the ports of Jellah Coffee and Quittah. Each of these famous seaports appears to consist of a single house, which, as if unashamed of its own insignificance, seems to be trying to shrink back into the gloomy shadow of the impenetrable jungle beyond. Both, however, are famous as the best places hereabout for obtaining provisions of all kinds, especially fowls, of which we lay in a good stock before going on again.
An hour or two later we sight Bagidah [Lomé, Togo; Bagida, Togoland], marked on the charts as Bagdad! It is represented by four or five white dots on the skirt of the dark green thicket, with the flag of the Fatherland waving jauntily above them in the morning breeze; for this is one of the many scraps of seaboard picked up by Germany in the general scramble for unoccupied land in Africa.
Not many miles further along the coast we find a rival candidate in the field. The tricolor ensign of France flutters defiantly at the mastheads of the two merchant barks which are lying at anchor off her new settlement at Little Pope, the tiny white buildings of which cluster round the big red trading house in their midst like a brood of chickens nestling under the wing of the mother hen. By means of this station the French Government hoped to obtain the command of some of the smaller lagoons, and thus to draw away at least a portion of England's local traffic. But in this, as in other attempts of the kind, France has merely succeeded in spending a great deal of money without any appreciable result.
By nightfall all this is left behind and the last rays of sunset light upon our port bow the flat, dreary, bush-clad stone of that mysterious kingdom which was as fruitful in mythical wonders 40 years ago as China in the days of Edward III. or Peru in those of Henry VIII. Who does not remember how his childhood was haunted by the dreaded name of Dahomey, that unknown and terrible region whose very name was synonymous with cruelty and wholesale massacre, whose men were fiercer than its beasts and whose women were fiercer than its men, whose King was popularly supposed to decorate his palace and dinner table with bleeding heads, and to amuse himself by "paddling his own canoe" over an artificial lake of human blood, and whose people were wont to celebrate the death of each successive ruler by burying alive several hundreds of helpless men and women in order to give the deceased potentate plenty of company on his last journey.
And now this grim Terra Incognita lies here before us in actual presence. But like many other popular bogeys, Dahomey is not by any means so black as it is painted. The bloody human sacrifices of the good old times still exist, it is true, but in a greatly modified form. The present King, as an English official approvingly remarked to me the other day, "only cuts off heads in the way of business," and even the terrible city of Abomey is becoming accessible to Europeans, while the once formidable prestige of Dahomian invincibility in war and merciless cruelty after victory has begun to wane from a terror into a scoff since the two crushing defeats inflicted upon "the lord of the golden umbrella" and his warriors by the despised Elbas of Abbeo-Kuta.
It is quite dark when we pass Whydah [Ouidah, Benin], (the single port possessed by Dahomey,) and the only token of its presence is the solitary eye of fire wherewith its lighthouse looks forth into the gloomy sea. But all at once a dusky red glow begins to define itself amid the darkness against the dark background of pathless thickets. It brightens, broadens, deepens, and then suddenly flings up into the surrounding blackness a quivering jet of bright flame, waxing and waning by turns like the light of some vast lamp. Happily it is only a harmless bush fire, clearing the ground of scrub and undergrowth, but it brings with it a grim recollection of the wider and fiercer blaze which, cast up against the midnight sky by scores of burning villages, has so often told the panic-stricken tribes of the coast that the hellhounds of Dahomey were loose once more.
Early the next morning we pass the mouth of the Ogoon, forcing its way boisterously through the sluggish lagoons of Lagos just as young Bismarck's headlong energy shouldered itself 50 years ago into the heavy, pulseless respectability of the Prussian Parliament.
And now we turn southward again to double the great angle of coast terminated by Cape Nun, which forms a kind of partition wall between the Bight of Benin and that of Biafara. The strong head wind we encounter while running down the coast, although it bangs us about very unceremoniously and puts our glass and crockery in consideralble peril, is at least a timely preservative against the foul and deadly malaria which any breeze from the land would inevitably have brought to us as a foretaste of what we might expect from the still unseen delta of the Niger.
On the third morning after leaving Accra the sudden change which turns the clear bright blue of the tropical sea into a foul and sickly green warns us that we are nearing the countless mouths of the great "River of Death," as its first European navigators called it with only too good reason. But where is the land? Look which way we will, nothing can be seen of it beyond one low, dark band of interminable mangrove thickets, which seem not so much to rise from the water as to float like scum on its top. Ever and anon a narrow gap in the endless line marks the mouth of one of those numberless streams in which the dying Niger bleeds itself away to the sea. But all that we behold, however dismal, is as nothing to what lies hidden beyond.
From the mouth of the Benin to that of the Bonny the whole of this gloomy region is one horrid, complicated cobweb of slimy, fever-stricken creeks and channels, creeping heavily through a dreary swamp which is neither land nor water, but a hideous and unnatural mixture of both. Justly indeed do the natives call it, in grim unconscious poetry, "The Home of the Fever Spirit," and the ill-fated traders who have settled there know to their cost how mercilessly he exacts his tribute of human life.
The beginning of the article above can be found at Ghana News
See also: Ghana News - Nigeria News|
All of Togo is
one time zone at GMT,
with no Daylight Savings time.
Togolese Republic: French Togoland became Togo in 1960. Gen. Gnassingbe EYADEMA, installed as military ruler in 1967, ruled Togo with a heavy hand for almost four decades.
Despite the facade of multiparty elections instituted in the early 1990s, the government was largely dominated by President EYADEMA, whose Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) party has maintained power almost continually since 1967 and maintains a majority of seats in today's legislature.
Upon EYADEMA's death in February 2005, the military installed the president's son, Faure GNASSINGBE, and then engineered his formal election two months later. Democratic gains since then allowed Togo to hold its first relatively free and fair legislative elections in October 2007.
After years of political unrest and fire from international organizations for human rights abuses, Togo is finally being re-welcomed into the international community.
CIA World Factbook: Togo
Area of Togo:
56,785 sq km
slightly smaller than West Virginia
Population of Togo:
July 2008 estimate
Languages of Togo:
Ewe and Mina in the south
Kabye or Kabiye & Dagomba in the north
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2208 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008
Tel: (202) 234-4212
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