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I speak of Africa

Togoland treaty

This collection of official German memoranda, extracts of treaties with the indigenous rulers and extracts of correspondence between the German government, German trading organisations and the commissioner for West Africa, Gustav Nachtigall (1834-85), gives an important insight into how the German protectorates over Togoland (now Togo and part of Ghana) and the Cameroons (now the Republic of Cameroon) were established in 1884.

Extract from Togoland treaty: Togogebiet und Biafra-Bai. [Berlin: Deutsches Auswärtiges Amt?, 1884] [FCDO Historical Collection FOL DT34.5 GER]Extract from Togoland treaty: Togogebiet und Biafra-Bai. [Berlin: Deutsches Auswärtiges Amt?, 1884] [FCDO Historical Collection FOL DT34.5 GER]In 1882 the German government, apparently worried about German traders being disadvantaged by a convention between the French and British governments concerning their respective spheres of interest in West Africa, asked the Chambers of Commerce in Hamburg and Bremen to express their ‘wishes’ as far as ‘protection’ and ‘representation’ of German trade in the area were concerned.

The Hamburg Chamber of Commerce replied by suggesting the creation of German consular representation in the area and the completion of treaties between the German government and indigenous rulers. The Chamber stressed, however, that such treaties were useless unless indigenous rulers’ compliance could be guaranteed by the permanent presence of German warships in the area. Furthermore, the traders suggested the establishment of a German colony in Biafra Bai, on the coast opposite the island of Fernando Po, to gain access to interior markets.

The German government reacted by nominating Gustav Nachtigall, explorer and consul-general in Tunisia, as commissioner for West Africa, instructing him to sign treaties of friendship and trade, as well as protectorate treaties in the area of Angra Pequena and Biafra-Bai, at the mouth of the Cameroon river. The government explicitly stated, however, that it had no intention to establish any administrative organisation or permanent military presence there, nor did it want to be under any obligation to protect German enterprises.

Nevertheless, on 4 July 1884 Nachtigall signed a protectorate treaty with the King of Togo in the name of the German Emperor, even though he was fully aware that Togo, on the Gold Coast, was outside the area he had been authorised to visit. As justification he claimed that the local rulers had asked for the protection of the German Empire against the British and that the treaty was needed to uphold the interests of German traders in this region. Nachtigall then travelled onwards to Biafra-Bai, where he officially placed the territories, which local rulers had ceded to the German trading organisations in this area only a few days before, under the protection of the German Empire.

On display are several paragraphs of the treaty signed by Gustav Nachtigall with the King of Togo.

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