12 – Mirambo, The Bandit King

On the 28th of February Stanley reached Kafurro, where he remained for a month as the guest of king Rumanika.  The king was a kind old man who had a giant stature of 6 ft 6 in, but was a man of great hospitality and was very peaceful.  Stanley thought of him as a true African gentleman.

Some Native Stories

After Stanley had left Rumanika’s country, he shot three rhinoceros, and from them obtained enough meat to last him for the journey through the wilderness of Uhimba.  The animals were enormous, with one of them having a horn that was two feet long and with a sharp dagger-like point.  Immediately below it was a stunted horn that was 9 inches in length. 

The natives told Stanley that the elephants frequently mistreated the rhinos because of their jealousy for them.  When the rhinos met an elephant, they were quick to walk away from them.  If they did decide to be headstrong and go against the elephant, he would force the rhino against a tree and gore and eventually crush him. 

Meeting with Mirambo, the Bandit King

When Stanley arrived at Serombo on April 20th, he learned that Mirambo, the mighty warrior of Unyamwezi was there.  Learning this greatly frightened the Waganda soldiers who had been sent with Stanley by Mtesa.  Just as they were thinking about deserting, a friendly message came from Mirambo, and it eased their fears. 

Mirambo’s messengers were three fine young men.  They were handsomely dressed in fine red and blue cloth coats, and snowy white shirts, with ample turbans around their heads.  They brought him the following message: 

“Mirambo sends his salaams to the white man.  He hopes the white man is friendly to him, and that he does not share the prejudices of the Arabs, and believe Mirambo a bad man.  If it is agreeable to the white man, he will send words of peace to Mirambo!”

Stanley sent word back that he would love to meet with him.  He also told him that he had already made friends with Mtesa and Rumanika, and would also love to have him as his friend. 

The next day Mirambo sent a Ruga-Ruga (one of his captains), with about 20 men to escort him back to his house.  Stanley was quite captivated by him, and found him to be nothing like all the terrible stories that he had heard about him.  Mirambo was very gentlemanly in appearance and very friendly, and they parted with high regard for each other. 

On the following day Stanley returned the visit, and the two participated in a ceremony making them blood-brothers.  When Stanley left, Mirambo went with him for a considerable distance outside the village.  He also gave him several presents.  Stanley felt that such excellent progress was being made with many of the ones who were in leadership areas.

On May 2nd, the expedition approached Ubagwe, which was the capital of the Watuta country.  The Ishmaels lived here, and were called that because they were against everybody that was not one of them, and it seemed that everybody else was against them.  The Arabs despised them and killed them every chance they got – the same thing applied to the Watutas killing the Arabs. 

Stanley knew that a show of force would not intimidate these people, and he would need to be cool and calm if he encountered any of them.  They were always ready to fight and even cultivated their fields with spears in their hands.  Fortunately, Stanley was able to evade any of their villages and passed through their country undiscovered. 

The expedition reached Ujiji again on May 27th.  They observed no major changes except the Arabs had placed their mud tembes all over the square there.  This was the same square where Stanley had first met Livingstone in November of 1871.  The house where Livingstone had lived, though, had long ago been burnt down and all he could see was just a big void now where it had been.

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Circumnavigating Tanganika Lake

Stanley was very disappointed to learn that he didn’t have a single letter waiting for him after he had been gone for 17 months.  He desperately wanted to hear from home, and had requested that the Governor of Unyanyembe request his mail to Ujiji.  Evidently, the Governor had failed to do this.  He dispatched 10 men to go get the mail, but they never returned. 

On the 11th of June, he launched his boat out onto the beautiful waters of Lake Tanganika.  He had the intentions of circumnavigating the lake to find its outlet.  He carried a large canoe for provisions, and started southward on his voyage. 

At Urimba, he remained for two days on the same spot where he and Livingstone had camped four years before.  Then, on the afternoon of the 19th, they came to a village called Kiwesa.  This village was built on a high hill.  They landed and climbed up the steep hill to the village in the hopes of purchasing milk.  When they reached the top, they were astounded to find that the whole population was dead.  The desolation was total except for finding one black cat.  They found men, women, and children of all ages, many of who were horribly mutilated with a knife and spear. 

The Wabembe Cannibals

They continued on, and nothing else interrupted their journey until July 27th.  They were coasting along Burton gulf near a village when they were warned by the people there not to land.  These people were the Wabembe cannibals.  When they neared the shore, their boats were attacked with the cannibals throwing heavy stones at them.  The ones on shore struck the ground with their spears, hopped up and down, or beat the water. 

Stanley’s interpreter explained that his visit was a peaceable one and he only wanted to buy grain from them.  They shouted back at him that they were not slaves and had not grown the grain to sell it to strangers.  Stanley saw that they were not going to be hospitable, so he tried to slowly back out of their reach.  They evidently decided that they wanted some fresh meat from a white man, and tried to attack his boat.  It was much better than what they had, and as a good breeze had come up, the boatman were able to swiftly row away from the cannibals. 

It took Stanley 51 days to complete the circumnavigation of the lake before returning to Ujiji.  He found it to be 810 miles in length and the coast line around it to be 930 miles.  Its breadth ranged from 10 to 45 miles, with the average being 28 miles wide.  Its whole area was 9,240 miles.  They did repeated soundings with a plummet line that reached 1,200 feet in length, but failed to find any bottom after they were 1 mile from shore.

Facts About Lake Tanganika

Stanley had done careful explorations of the entire lake and proved that it had no outlet at the time he was there.  The body of water had previously been at a much higher altitude and had an outlet through the Lukuga river on the west coast.  There had been an earthquake or some other internal disturbance, though, that had sunk the bed of the lake until its waters fell below the level of the river.  It was in this condition when it was first discovered by Burton and Speke. 

With no outlet for the lake and several large rivers still running into it, it had risen to a great extent between Stanley’s first and second expeditions.  It had covered large tracts of land that had formerly remained high and dry.  By 1875, it had risen so much that its waters started again to extend into the dry river bed of the Lukuga.  Stanley felt that this river would once again start to resume its function and become a rapidly flowing river again which would flow into the Atlantic Ocean. 

With Stanley being armed with these facts, he could settle beyond dispute the sources of the Nile, which was the Lakes Victoria and Albert. 

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About Cathy Deaton

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My name is Cathy Deaton, Owner of Fan the Flame Ministries. God has radically changed my life, and He has shown me that I am to share the awesome things I am learning especially with the Millennial Generation (1981 – 1996), but I love connecting with Christians of all ages. I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life. You truly can make a difference for God in an uncertain world.

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