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Moyen-Congo (Middle Congo) - Formation

As interest developed in the exploration of the interior, Libreville became the center of French activity in equatorial Africa. French interests in the region of the Congo were well served through the explorations of Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza. In a series of expeditions carried out between 1874 and 1884 Brazza, from a base on the estuary of the Ogooue River, explored the interior as far as the Congo River, established outposts, and concluded treaties with African chiefs.

In September 1880 he signed a treaty with the Makoko of the Teke kingdom, which established the region as a French protectorate. He set up a post on the northern shore of Stanley Pool, which the Paris Geographical Society later named Brazzaville. This firmly entrenched the French on the northern bank of the Congo and enabled them to block successfully the attempt by Henry Morton Stanley, the English explorer, to claim the region for Belgium's King Leopold II.

The French Parliament ratified Brazza's treaty with the Makoko on November 30, 1882, creating the colony of French Congo, which included the approximate regions that comprise present-day Gabon and the People's Republic of the Congo. Brazza was named commissioner of the colony and was directed to take possession of the ill-defined territory in the name of France and to set up an administrative framework.

Lack of natural frontiers and overlapping territorial claims in Africa led to the convening of a conference of European powers at Berlin in 1885. One result of this conference was the historic Act of Berlin, which established the general ground rules for European occupation and development of African territories. The treaty proclaimed the Conventional Basin of the Congo a free trade zone and provided that claimed territories must be explored and effectively occupied by the claimant. Effective occupation meant the presence of European administrators. This prompted a rush by European powers to establish themselves in the African hinterland and to push the frontiers of their claimed possessions as far as possible. During the decade after the Berlin Conference, France extended its claims to the Oubangi (Ubangi) and Tchad (Chad) regions and negotiated, sometimes reluctantly, the settlement of boundaries with Portugal, the Congo Free State, Great Britain, and Germany.

Occupation of the territory proved more difficult than exploration, as African opposition to the French was often strong. A number of military campaigns were conducted to bring about the submission of resisting tribes. Throughout the first decade of the twentieth century there were periodic local disturbances, particularly in the region of the Likouala and Alima rivers. Complete pacification of the area was not achieved until after the Great War.

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Page last modified: 12-06-2017 19:26:03 ZULU