The conquest of German East Africa proved to be the most difficult task of all. Not only did the German-native forces outnumber the British in the beginning, but they also held the Uganda railroad, which afforded them a strategical point of attack. The British campaign opened with an attack on the capital of the colony, Dar-es-Salem, which was taken on August 13, 1914. The scene of warfare then shifted to the south, when the Germans attempted unsuccessfully to drive the British from Karonga on Lake Nyassa, and from Abercorn on Lake Tanganyika. Turning their attention to the north, the Germans delivered a total of seven attacks on British positions along the Uganda railroad and in the vicinity of the lakes, with varying success.
In the process of carrying out this policy of colonisation a dispute arose between Sir Charles Eliot , Commissioner of British East Africa, and Lord Lansdowne , the British Foreign Secretary . The East Africa Syndicate had applied for and been pledged the lease of 1,300 square kilometres (500 sq mi) of land. Lansdowne, believing himself bound by the pledges, decided the applications should be approved. In a separate matter, two South African applicants who were each attempting to lease 130 square kilometres (50 sq mi) were declined by Lansdowne, and he refused Eliot permission to conclude the transactions. In view of this Eliot resigned his post, giving his reason in a public telegram to the Prime Minister , dated Mombasa , 21 June 1904, stating: "Lord Lansdowne ordered me to refuse grants of land to certain private persons while giving a monopoly of land on unduly advantageous terms to the East Africa Syndicate. I have refused to execute these instructions, which I consider unjust and impolitic." Sir Donald William Stewart, the chief commissioner of Ashanti ( Ghana ), was announced as Sir Charles' successor on the day the telegram was sent.