File No. 882.00/478.
The American Chargé d’Affaires to the Secretary of State.
Monrovia, May 15, 1913.
Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that it is being reported to me from various sources that there is a good deal of unrest among the Liberian natives who inhabit that portion of Liberian territory that is adjacent to the Sierra Leone-Liberia boundary. In fact, I am reliably informed that the paramount chief of this section, Mambu by name, was recently captured by a powerful rival chief called Bumbo-koli, and killed in a very barbarous fashion. From what I have learned of the matter it would seem that this recent trouble is an echo of the disorder fomented in this district by Cooper and Lomax more than a year ago, which culminated in the execution of eight chiefs of the action. It appears that it was through the support given by Messrs. Cooper and Lomax to Mambu that he succeeded in becoming paramount chief of the district. As a result he was exceedingly unpopular with the natives whom he governed, principally, it is stated, in his own interests. It is also claimed that a large portion of the domain ruled by Mambu originally belonged to the eight chiefs who were executed; and their relatives, one of whom is Bumbo-koli, swore vengeance. The Liberian Government desired to have Mambu and Bumbo-koli come to Monrovia and present their respective grievances, with a view to composing their difficulties and pacifying that section of the country over which they ruled. It is said that Mambu was on his way to Monrovia, in compliance with the request of the Government, when he was captured and killed.
The foregoing is the bare outline of a situation which, in my opinion, will call for very energetic treatment on the part of the Government to prevent a native disturbance which might easily assume considerable proportions. This matter is further complicated by the presence in the disturbed area of Liberian commissioners representing the Government who have apparently allied themselves on opposite sides of this question. One is constrained to feel that the Government has been particularly unfortunate in the choice of the commissioners who are operating in the affected territory, * * * and it is not unlikely that the case under discussion has in it the germ of more difficulties between the Liberian and Sierra Leone Governments. Two of the best Liberian lieutenants in the Frontier Force service are in the district with 100 men, but it appears that they are not able to cope with the situation.
Major Young had expected to send Major Ballard into this section of the country as soon as he could leave River Cess, but now that Major Young’s health has broken down it will undoubtedly be necessary for Major Ballard to remain at Monrovia as the administrative officer, and Captain Hawkins will perhaps go to the Sierra Leone-Liberia boundary. Captain Newton is in the Cavalla River district, where it looks as if conditions will require that one American officer be permanently stationed. The Sierra Leone boundary will require [Page 682] another, and the Kru Coast between Bassa and Sinoe will need the third. Indeed, it is asserted that the Kru Coast has only been subdued on account of the wholesome fear the natives have of Major Ballard and it is anticipated that as soon as he leaves that station and puts a Liberian officer in charge there will be trouble again.
This leads me to express an opinion which I have entertained for some time, in which the Military Adviser and the General Receiver of Customs concur. In view of the failure of the Liberian Government to furnish proper material out of which to make competent officers, and, further, because of the actual scarcity of such material in the country, I feel that at least two more American officers will have to be obtained. If not, the three men already in the service will be overworked and not accomplish the task assigned them. I need not dwell on the severity of this climate on persons alien to the country. The job is too big for any three men in the world when one considers, along with all other factors, how little effective assistance Liberia herself is rendering. To attempt to disguise this truth is to defeat all proper measures of reorganization.
It is hoped that this matter will receive some attention before Major Young goes on leave, and if the Liberian Government agrees to the engagement of two more American officers, and the General Receiver of Customs thinks the finances will warrant his becoming responsible for their salaries, it is likely that an effort will be made to secure them. Major Young has stated that he thinks he can obtain two good men to serve as first lieutenants for $1400.00 each per annum. If this additional help can be secured a very effective Frontier Force can be maintained, whether the Liberian Government furnishes any efficient material for officers or not.
At an early date some working arrangement will have to be established for correlating the functions of the Liberian Frontier Force officers and the interior commissioners. Hitherto officers and commissioners have been one and the same person, but with the passing of the Frontier Force under American officers the old system has been discontinued and nothing has as yet been done to provide for the altered conditions. The situation can easily prove a fruitful source of vexatious questions.
These problems, and many others that I might mention, cause me to deplore the necessity of Major Young taking a leave of absence at this time on account of his broken health. If it had been possible for him to have remained at work without interruption for a few months longer, a very orderly and systematic condition of affairs would have been evolved from what heretofore has been a chronic state of confusion and chaos.
I have [etc.]