Friday, June 1, 2007

Ill intentions

These were the events that transpired prior to the invasion of Benin Kingdom in 1897. From the text of the following , it is obvious that there were already ulterior motives governing the minds of the officers involved.

Ralph Moor, the Consul General of the Niger Coast Protectorate, felt hampered by the Foreign Office's reluctance to allow him to mount an armed expedition against the kingdom of Benin. This is the background against which the events of 1987 occurred, when Moor was on leave in England and a newly arrived Acting Consul General, James Phillips took up his post.

Phillips had met Consul General Moor only once, in London, just before his departure. Moor, who had a history of violence against African rulers who did not submit to his authority, had already proposed a military operation against Benin but had been prevented by his more cautious superiors in Whitehall (military expeditions could become very expensive and produce disappointing returns).

Phillips intentions become clear in his despatches to the Foreign Office. Immediately on arrival he called a meeting of traders and officials and wrote a report to Whitehall:

"The whole of the English merchants represented on the river have petitioned the government for aid to enable them to keep their factories (trading posts) open, and last but not least, the revenues of this Protectorate are suffering ... I am certain that there is only one remedy. That is to depose the King of Benin ... I am convinced that pacific measures are now quite useless, and that the time has now come to remove the obstruction ... I do not anticipate any serious resistance from the people of the country, there is every reason to believe that they would be glad to get rid of their King but in order to obviate any danger, I wish to take up sufficient armed force ... I would add that I have reason to hope that sufficient ivory may be found in the King's house to pay the expenses incurred."

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