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Dhanis, Francis

DHANIS, FRANCIS, Baron (1861-1909), Belgian administrator, was born in London in 1861 and passed the first fourteen years of his life at Greenock, where he received his early education. He was the son of a Belgian merchant and of an Irish lady named Maher. The name Dhanis is supposed to be a variation of D'Anvers. Having completed his education at the Ecole Militaire he entered the Belgian army, joining the regiment of grenadiers, in which he rose to the rank of major. As soon as he reached the rank of lieutenant he volunteered for service on the Congo, and in 1887 he went out for a first term. He did so well in founding new stations north of the Congo that, when the government decided to put an end to the Arab domination on the Upper Congo, he was selected to command the chief expedition sent against the slave dealers. The campaign began in April 1892, and it was not brought to a successful conclusion till January 1894. The story of this war has been told in detail by Dr Sydney Hinde, who took part in it, in his book The Fall of the Congo Arabs. The principal achievements of the campaign were the captures in succession of the three Arab strongholds at Nyangwe, Kassongo and Kabambari. For his services Dhanis was raised to the rank of baron, and in 1895 was made vice-governor of the Congo State. In 1896 he took command of an expedition to the Upper Nile. His troops, largely composed of the Batetela tribes who had only been recently enlisted, and who had been irritated by the execution of some of their chiefs for indulging their cannibal proclivities, mutinied and murdered many of their white officers. Dhanis found himself confronted with a more formidable adversary than even the Arabs in these well-armed and half-disciplined mercenaries. During two years (1897-1898) he was constantly engaged in a life-and-death struggle with them. Eventually he succeeded in breaking up the several bands formed out of his mutinous soldiers. Although the incidents of the Batetela operations were less striking than those of the Arab war, many students of both think that the Belgian leader displayed the greater ability and fortitude in bringing them to a successful issue. In 1899 Baron Dhanis returned to Belgium with the honorary rank of vice governor-general. He died on the 14th of November 1909.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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