Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Tippu Tip, King Leopold II Governor

In the mid 1870’s Tippu Tip was indisputably the most powerful of the Zanzibari slave traders; King Leopold II wanted him as governor of the Congo Free State present day Republic of the Congo.

Zanzibari slave traders

Tippu Tip, a renowned Zanzibari slave trader, was considered by King Leopold II to become the governor of the notorious Congo Free State. In the mid-1870s, the most notable figure in Zanzibari trading was Tippu Tip, also known as Hamed bin Muhammed el Murjebi. When he ventured into the Congo Free State, he established his headquarters in Kasongo.

Tippu Tip held a position of immense wealth and influence throughout East and Central Africa. He commanded vast networks engaged in ivory, slave, and rubber trade, forming strategic alliances along the way.

During that period, the Congo Free State, under King Leopold II's reign, was keen on exploiting the region's resources, particularly slaves, rubber and ivory. 

King Leopold II of Belgium was known for his brutal exploitation of the Congo Free State during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, resulting in widespread suffering and loss of life. Tippu Tip's significant role in the slave and ivory trade made him a desirable ally for King Leopold II.

While Tippu Tip did interact with European powers, including agents of King Leopold II, there's no historical evidence confirming that he explicitly accepted the role of governor within the Congo Free State. 

Interestingly, King Leopold systematically destroyed many of the Free State's records prior to the Belgian takeover, preserving only a handful in Brussels and other locations.

Tippu Tip's collaboration with the Free State stemmed from the weakening authority of the Sultan of Zanzibar. Recognizing European strength, the Sultan sought trade goods and weapons in exchange for ivory and slaves. 

Tippu Tip, being the most influential of the Zanzibari slave traders, capitalized on this opportunity to collaborate with the Congo Free State.

It's clear that Tippu Tip's calculated decision to ally with the Free State was rooted in King Leopold II's ambition to control the resource-rich Congo Basin. Tippu Tip saw this as a chance to maintain his economic and political dominance while partnering with a formidable European entity.

King Leopold II employed a combination of military force and diplomacy to establish dominance in the Congo Basin. In Tippu Tip's case, he received privileges and influence in exchange for supporting the Free State's objectives.

Tippu Tip's influence extended across substantial portions of the Congo Basin. Through his collaboration with the Free State, he retained control over specific territories while aligning himself with a powerful colonial force. 

This arrangement served the interests of both Tippu Tip and the expansionist goals of King Leopold II and the Congo Free State.


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