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Last Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Ashes of Congo explorer to return
By Richard Hamilton
BBC News

Brazza was more considerate and humane than other explorers of his time
A ceremony is to take place in Congo in December to mark the arrival of the ashes of the country's founder - a French explorer.

Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza gave his name to its capital, Brazzaville.

He opened up parts of West Africa for French colonial conquest in the 19th Century, during the era known as the "Scramble for Africa".

In 1905, Pierre de Brazza sailed for France but died suddenly in Senegal. His body went to Paris for burial but

his ashes were re-interred in Algiers.

His adventurous life began on board a ship - on a vessel in the harbour at Rio de Janeiro in 1852.

Planting flags

Fascinated by tales of travellers returning from Africa he came up with the idea of exploring the River Ogowe in West Africa which he thought might connect to another river that had just been discovered by the British missionary David Livingstone.

In 1875 he left Paris and spent three years travelling the river.

When he returned to France he learned with envy that the explorer Stanley had just navigated the Congo.

As British influence grew in West Africa, Brazza was anxious to stake claims in the region on behalf of France.

So in 1879 Brazza left Paris again with orders to go to the Niger river area, make treaties, and plant French flags.

But history changed on the basis of a single piece of paper - as he was setting off he received a telegram cancelling the expedition and re-directing him towards the Congo again.

Here he founded Franceville and later the town after his own name - Brazzaville.

After concluding treaties with the local chief, Makoko, he created a new country, Congo, under French protection.

In 1880 Brazza finally met Stanley, on the River Congo coming upstream - he had been making treaties on behalf of the Belgian King Leopold.

As an explorer and later an administrator his dealings with indigenous people were said to be considerate and humane.

In later life Brazza investigated abuses against Africans by officials of the Congo colony. But his inquiry was suppressed. In 1905 he sailed for France, but died suddenly from a fever in Dakar in Senegal.

His memory lives on in curious forms including a species of monkey named after him.

Timeline: Republic of Congo
16 Apr 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Republic of Congo
12 Aug 05 |  Country profiles

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