1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Muni River Settlements

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MUNI RIVER SETTLEMENTS, or Spanish Guinea, a Spanish protectorate on the Guinea Coast, West Africa, rectangular in form, with an area of about 9800 sq. m. and an estimated population of 150,000. The protectorate extends inland about 125 miles and is bounded W. by the Atlantic, N. by the German colony of Cameroon, E. and S. by French Congo. The coastline, 75 m. long, stretches from the mouth of the Campo in 2° 10' N. to the mouth of the Muni in 1° N., on the north arm of Corisco Bay. The small islands of Corisco (q.v.), Elobey Grande, Elobey Chico and Bana in Corisco Bay also belong to Spain.

From the estuary of the Campo the coast trends S.S.W. in a series of shallow indentations, until at the bold bluff of Cape San Juan it turns eastward and forms Corisco Bay. The coast plain, from 12 to 25 m. wide, is succeeded by the foot-hills of the Crystal Mountains, which traverse the country in a north to south direction. These are a table-land, from which rise granitic hills 700 to 1200 ft. above the general level, which is about 2500 ft. above the sea. The mountainous region, which extends inland beyond the Spanish frontier, contains many narrow valleys and marshy depressions. The greater part of the country forms the basin of the river Benito, which, rising in French Congo a little east of the frontier, flows through the centre of the Spanish protectorate and enters the sea, after a course of 300 m., about midway between the Campo and Muni estuaries. The southern bank of the lower course of the Campo and the northern bank of the lower course of the Muni, form part of the protectorate. The mouths of the Campo and Benito are obstructed by sand bars, whereas the channel leading to the Muni is some 36 ft. deep and the river itself is more than double that depth. It is from this superiority of access that the country has been named after the Muni River. The course of all the rivers is obstructed by rapids in their descent from the table-land to the plain. The greater part of the country is covered with dense primeval forest. This forest growth is due to the fertility of the soil and the great rainfall, Spanish Guinea with the neighbouring Cameroon country possessing one of the heaviest rain records of the world. The humidity of the climate joined to the excessive heat (the average temperature is 78° F.) makes the climate trying. In the eastern parts of the protectorate the forest is succeeded by more open country. Among the most common trees are oil-palms, rubber-trees, ebony and mahogany. The forests are the home of monkeys and of innumerable birds and insects, often of gorgeous colouring. In the north-east of the country elephants are numerous.

The inhabitants are Bantu-Negroid, the largest tribe represented being the Fang, (q.v) called by the Spaniards Pamues. They are immigrants from the Congo basin and have pushed before them the tribes, such as the Benga, which now occupy the coast-lands. The villages of the Fang are usually placed on the top of small hills. They cultivate the yam, banana and manioc, and are expert fishers and hunters. The European settlements are confined to the coast. There are trading stations at the mouths of the Campo, Benito and Muni rivers, at Bata, midway between the Campo and Benito, and on Elobey Chico. There are cocoa, coffee and other plantations, but the chief trade is in natural products, rubber, palm oil and palm kernels, and timber. Cotton goods and alcohol are the principal imports. Trade is largely in the hands of British and German firms. The annual value of the trade in 1903-1906 was about £100,000.

Spain became possessed of Fernando Po at the end of the 18th century, and Spanish traders somewhat later established "factories" on the neighbouring coasts of the mainland, but no permanent occupation appears to have been contemplated. During the 19th century a number of treaties were concluded between Spanish naval officers and the chiefs of the lower Guinea coast, and when the partition of Africa was in progress Spain laid claim to the territory between the Campo river and the Gabun. Germany and France also claimed the territory, but in 1885 Germany withdrew in favour of France. After protracted negotiations between France and Spain a treaty was signed in June 1900 by which France acknowledged Spanish sovereignty over the coast region between the Campo and Muni rivers and the hinterland as far east as 11° 20' E. of Greenwich, receiving in return concessions from Spain in the Sahara (see Rio de Oro), and the right of pre-emption over Spain's West African possessions. In 1901-1902 the eastern frontier was delimited, being modified in accordance with natural features. The newly acquired territories were placed under the superintendence of the governor-general of Fernando Po, sub-governors being stationed at Bata, Elobey Chico and Corisco.

See R. Beltrán y Rózpide, La Guinea española (Madrid, 1901), and Guinea continental española (Madrid, 1903); H. Lorin, "Les colonies espagnoles du golfe de Guinée" in Quest. dip. et col., vol. xxi. (1906); E. L. Perea, "Estado actual de los territorios españoles de Guinea" in Revista de geog. colon. y mercantil (Madrid, 1905); J. B. Roche, Au pays des Pahouins (Paris, 1904). A good map compiled by E. d'Almonte on the scale of 1:200,000 was published in Madrid in 1903. Consult also the works cited under Fernando Po.