Paul Jean Clays – Belgian and French warships …

Paul Jean Clays – Belgian and French warships during the Rio Nuñez Incident

The Rio Nuñez incident or Rio Nuñez affair was an international incident which occurred on the Rio Nuñez near Boké, in modern-day Guinea, in 1849. The incident occurred when vessels of a joint Belgian and French naval force fired on two British traders in the area.

During the 1840s and 50s, West Africa was the site of fledgling colonial rivalry between European powers. The Nuñez region lay between the French colony of Senegal and British Gambia and Sierra Leone. French traders were increasingly challenged by commercial trading expeditions from Britain, Belgium and America.

The French regional commander, Édouard Bouët-Willaumez, hoped that the Nuñez region could be formally annexed as a protectorate of the French colonial empire. The attack, far from securing the region for France, went contrary to Bouët-Willaumez’s plans. Both France and Belgium led a cover-up. Attempts by the British Prime Minister, Viscount Palmerston, to force France to pay reparations for the incident were ultimately unsuccessful and the affair lasted four years.

The incident formed part of the “Prelude to the Scramble for Africa” and, as Bouët-Willaumez had hoped, did lead to increased French control of the Nuñez. In 1866, French forces occupied Boké. The affair was therefore one of the first signs of future French hegemony in West Africa in what would become French West Africa (AOF).

Paul Jean Clays (27 November 1819 – 10 February 1900), Belgian artist, was born at Bruges, and died at Brussels.