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Momodou Posted - 03 Aug 2022 : 19:59:08
By Dembo Fatty

For as long as men committed to memory, it has almost always been the case that those who wielded power over others, tended to abuse the relationship by carving out certain privileges for themselves and in extreme situations, have forced others especially the weaker ones, to serfdom. Enslavement became a norm and practiced in almost all cultures. The difference was the varying degree of abuse in enforcement but enslavement was practiced around the world.

One of the most prominent and still being taught in academia is the enslavement of the African by both the Arabs and Europeans during which millions perished across the Sahara and the Atlantic Ocean. For us Africans, these two geographical features are hallow ground for us and it will not be out of place to dedicate a month every year to pause and reflect on the abuses our forebears endured and to teach our children the sacrifices and efforts of many who toiled and risked their lives to put a stop to the barbaric trade in humans.

Historians will recollect that one Nandanko Suntu Sonko, the fifth King in the Sonko lineage of the pre-colonial state of Nuimi, attempted to stop enslavement by trying to bridge the river around Barra in 1760 as recorded below.

“.. The king ….is on a scheme of stopping some Part of the River, in order to prevent large vessels from passing his country & of course to bring the [slave] coffels down. We look upon it as chimerical and what cannot be effected…”( Joseph Debat and Robert Coulton to the Committee, James Fort, December 8, 1760, T 70/30, 358)

Nandanko Suntu Sonko in my opinion, is our first Babili Mansa, who despite the limited engineering knowledge, mobilized his people to throw boulder stones in the river to make navigation difficult and some believe that the effects of these boulders still pose problems to the ferries plying between Banjul and Barra.
And so on March 25, 1807, a Royal Assent was signed banning enslavement and the trade in humans for profit across the British Empire.

In the case of the “Gambia”, (which did not exist at the time as we know it today), an attempt was made to enforce the law but because the only Crown land at the time was the fort at James Island, instructions were given to Captain Grant, an Engineer, then resident at Goree, to rebuild the fort and mount military hardware to stop slave ships from entering or leaving the River Gambia.

We need to remember too that Goree Island was British territory at this time and when you hear Colony of Senegambia, it simply means the islands of Goree and James Island. This was the first political Senegambia and lasted from 1776 to 1783.

Grant actually left Goree on March 19, 1816 with Ensign Adamson, an assistant surgeon, 50 men of the African Corps and 24 artisans. He first landed on the island of Kunu Su Joyewo (native name of the island) at Banyon Point now Half DIE or Leopold during the time of the Latvians in the 17th century. Let's not digress.

Grant did like the island and approached Tumani Bojang Senior if he was willing to give up the island who, six weeks earlier, on February 4th 1816 had 10 men, 2 women and 8 children of his near relations captured and enslaved by men of Spanish ship called Panchita. It was a possibility in principle and Grant then left for James Island.

Whatever was happening in Kombo by 1816, it appears that a very powerful Third Force was very active outside of the native authority such that such a daring and brandish attack on the Royal House of the Bojang could be carried out. We may have to find out who this force was but it certainly disrupted order and this should be of concern to students of history to find out.

To be continued............................
3   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Momodou Posted - 05 Aug 2022 : 14:02:57

By Dembo Fatty



In almost all the deliberations on the Soninke-Marabout Wars, a third force which had been an underlying catalysts to disturbances, but which force has been downplayed but quite central was the case of the Liberated Africans, who were rescued from the high seas and brought ashore by British naval ships and resettled mainly in McCarthy but also in Bathurst.

As the population of Bathurst grew, along with the population of the Liberated Africans many of whom served in the British military, there became an urgent need to find more land to house these people especially those who retired from the force or from the colonial civil establishment. This pressure for land necessitated the need to approach the native authorities to cede land for the purpose.

We have to also understand that most of these Liberated Africans were Christianized, through an elaborated scheme in order to qualify for some benefits. They had no choice in deciding which religion they would want to be identified with. The resettlement of these Christians was a cause for concern to the Muslims especially in Kombo and trouble would start at Sabiji which was teeming with many Marabouts and under the direction of a Mauritanian Jihadist known simply by the name Omar, who saw combat in Algeria fighting on the side of Abdel-Kader. He had a great military experience and appeared to have been directing the attacks by the people of Sabiji. And although having never visited “Gambia”, there was another important spiritual leader of the Marabouts called Haji Ismail who had some following especially in Bathurst and were credited with smuggling guns from the Colony to the Marabouts of Kombo.

Perhaps at this juncture, we may need to do a quick detour and provide some history into the founding of the settlement of Sabiji. According to mainstream oral accounts, Sabiji was founded by the Cham clan migrating from Futa Toro and the journey was undertaken by three brothers. One settled in Chamen in Nianija, the other at Jara Sutukung and finally the last brother continued to found Sabiji but not before seeking permission of the king of Busumbala for a Royal Charter to acquire land. The story further goes that when the people of Busumbala were approached, it was agreed to give them land where a big snake was said to have been hiding. The name Sabiji is said to be from the Mandinka phrase : SAA BEE JAY which means “where the snake is” and hence Sabiji.
It would of course have to take a strong will and bravery for the Cham clan to settle in such a dreadful environment but they did and rest is history. Sabiji would attract many Muslims in the area and swell her population to be reckoned with as a major player in the political and religious arena of Kombo, a position that was not lost to the British colonial administration.

The SAA BEE JAY migration story of the Cham clan of Sabiji is a story from the accounts of the Jatta clan of Busumbala or Busi Abala, but which settlement was initially called Jata Sangsang. The Jatta controlled the region of AFET which is the area from Brikama all the way to the Atlantic at Bakau and the Bojang from Kafuta to Gunjur.

The other contending migration story of the Cham clan is the one touted by the Bojang. In the Bojang version, the origins of the Cham would extend as far back as Saudi Arabia and Mecca specifically and were from the Bani Ummayah clan (one of four in Mecca). A long winding migration story was espoused until they landed in Mauritania and then to Alwar in Futa Toro and then to Kombo in the 1650s, first to Busumbala who drove them away and they later went to Yundum who accepted them. Note that in the Jatta account, they were not driven away but settled at Sabiji straight.

The Bojang version continued to describe how they were given land to settle which is the area today known as Kotu because they found a lone palm wine tapper there called Kotu Kalleh and hence the name Kotu. They then migrated to Jeswang, Tallinding then to Sabiji.

The migration stories of the Cham by the Bojang and Jatta run parallel to one another and will need serious mediation to reconcile because by 1650, Futa Toro did not exists (although Tekrur existed much earlier) and even by 1903, Jeswang had no Alkalo. It was a dependent settlement of Bakau. In any case, that is not the object of this assignment.

One thing I would like to state is that the two Kombo migration stories of the Cham cannot be treated in isolation because an earlier migration story of the Cham would have to be also reconciled with the story told in the southern fringes of the pre-colonial state of Saloum in the region of PAKALA of the Ceesay clan.

In the PAKALA story, the Cham migrated from Futa Toro then settled at Kerr Alfa among the Wann clan also from Futa Toro before founding Chamen which today is in Nianija and the seat of native government where the first colonial chief of Nianija was resident. It was from Chamen, that some family members moved to Jarra Sutukung and then to Kombo. If the 1650 Kombo account of the Bojang is accepted, then Chamen in Nianija must be a very old settlement. The first Cham colonial Chief of Nianija was Ture Cham.

To be continued .......................................................
Momodou Posted - 04 Aug 2022 : 13:32:20

By Dembo Fatty


In the end, the deaths that would have occurred in the bowels of the slave ships on the Voyage of No Return, did mature on the island. They were in my opinion wrongly classified as Liberated Africans because they had no liberty on the island. They were simply traded from one master to another as forced labour was legalized in colonial Gambia.

And in the words of Macbrair regarding slavery and slave trade:
"and for such deeds of cruelty as these, European and American slave-dealers have to answer at the bar of God, since it is they who incite the naturally-peaceful African to violence and murder in procuring slaves".

Perhaps the only westerner willing to tell the truth that slavery and slave trade were engineered and the violence sustained by the West.

Cupidon asked for arrests but both the Lieutenant Governor and Colonial Secretary refused to effect arrests. He would take his case to the Secretary of State for the Colonies before a warrant was issued from London. According to the senior priest, Reverend Macbrair, justice came when the "finger of God" burnt down the colonial Administrator’s storehouse in McCarthy. Cupidon became a teacher responsible for the school in McCarthy and also as a Missionary. He retired in 1848.

The Kombo Road Ordinace for example had an element of forced labour and it would have to take the protest of the League of Nations for forced labour to be removed from our statutes. TESITO (self-reliance), was probably coined by politicians but was crafted by a lawyer or someone with some legal background. TESITO is nothing but mellowed forced labour and the only difference being that TESITO at least provided food to workers who could not refuse a call from their Chief.

A Lawyer must have devised this to circumvent being accused of enslaving citizens especially in the Protecorate. That is why I am not a fan of TESITO because it was exploitation of the poor to work for the state even after citizens have paid their taxes. It was double taxation of the most vulnerable of our societies who were time and time again, called to duty and they never failed.


Why am I bringing these examples of flagrant and deliberate disregard to the enforcement of the anti-enslavement statute in the Colony? These examples and many more, are part of the foundation upon which I am basing my argument that the Colonial administration was not serious about enslavement and was more preoccupied with how to halt the growth of Islam and the popularity of its leaders.

In a bizarre case in Bathurst, a man who lived in Cassamance, (a French territory) had his wife captured and enslaved when war broke out in his area. He had been looking for his wife in many places only to find her in Kombo Faraba in the king’s court. The reader must note that by this time, Kombo Farraba was neither part of the Colony or Protectorate. As a matter of fact, a Protectorate had not existed which would not be until 1894.

The man tried to seek the freedom of his wife but unsuccessful. He hatched a plan to escape with his wife which he did via a canoe to Bathurst. Shortly after his escape with his wife to Bathurst where under British law, they were entitled to full protection, the King of Faraba sent a Messenger by the name Shebu Brister to the Governor in Banjul demanding the return of the two fugitives. The husband was accused of “stealing three bundles of pagns and a slave (obviously his wife) and making his escape to Bathurst.”

The man was arrested and later brought to trial and Mr. Pine who then was the Queens Advocate presided over the case and after deliberations, no evidence of theft was proven. Instead of being released he was sent back to his death as detailed below:

" The matter was then presented before his Excellency, (Governor) and the decision was that the man and his wife were to be put in irons, and carried secretly into a canoe by two constables, and conveyed to the king of Farraba. This duty was performed and the man and his wife were put in irons and carried by two constables and a Police Sergeant and carried to "Half Die," where they were shipped and well tied in the canoe which conveyed them to the King of Farraba ; and the poor fellow was immediately murdered on arrival “ (The African Times, April 24, 1865)

A native took the case up and protested to Mr. Pine about the travesty of justice and the unwillingness of the colonial administration to enforce the law and provide protection to British subjects on the island. This was also conveyed to Governor d’Arcy but fell on deaf ears on the grounds that the Governor did not want to start a war with the native Kings.

“A few days afterward Mr. Pine called on the said native gentleman, to ascertain from him whether he had given up the matter. Mr. Pine asked if he was satisfied so far with the decision. He received answer, that there was no help for it but to be satisfied, seeing it had gone so far and the man could not be obtained, but that it was not according to British principles ; British Governors ought not to be so afraid of war as to cause them to hand over their subjects to native kings, &c. Mr. Pine then replied, " But do you drop the matter ?" Answer, " Yes, I do ; " and Mr. Pine added (after knowing that the matter was dropped), " I am very glad to hear that you have dropped this matter, because if such a thing were heard in England--I don’t say anything about myself--but the Governor would not be five months holding his office, nor I five days longer.” (The African Times, April 24, 1865).

And “on the return of the messenger, the king (of Faraba) made Governor d’Arcy a present of a cow for his Excellency’s kindness, which was such as had never yet been obtained from his Excellency’s predecessors. But the poor man was already murdered”.

Corruption is as old as humanity. How could a cow be equated with the life of a human being?

To be continued ................................
Momodou Posted - 03 Aug 2022 : 20:05:00
By Dembo Fatty


On April 19, 1816, Colonel Thomas Brereton left Goree for James Island to see for himself the progress of rehabilitation on the island and he was disappointed. So on April 23, 1816, these two Officers met Tumani Bojang Senior and negotiated a treaty "and Grant, with the APPROVAL of Brereton, entered into a treaty with that Chief, whereby the Chief agreed to allow the British Government to occupy Banjol with liberty to erect such buildings and fortifications as might be thought expedient and further to surrender all his right and title to the island in exchange for an annual payment of 103 bars of iron to himself, his wife, and his principal retainers ".

But as we will see later, the purchase of St Mary’s island did not immediately stop enslavement and as a matter of fact, enslavement continued in Bathurst after it being taken over by the British. Few examples may be necessary to drive the message home.


Though slavery was abolished, the colonial government allowed skilled slave labor from Goree who would return after their assignments. Lieutenant Governor George Rendall in particular ignored this illegal business to flourish on the grounds that Bathurst lacked labor.

Reverend Robert Maxwell Macbriar, a linguist employed by the Fula mission made it his work to expose labor abuses. One Pierre Salla who later became a Weslyan preacher was only liberated when the Mission raised money to buy his freedom.

In another incident a lady who converted to Christianity in Bathurst was forced to chop fire wood in the bush in without pay. When she refused, her husband was taken to the bush and beaten.

When they complained to the Magistrate he said he had no powers and only the Governor could do something. When they approached the Governor, his response was that the bush was outside of his jurisdiction as if the island of Bathurst was not British territory. (MacBriar page 213).

In another incident, the children of the concubine of the Governor were taken back to Goree because the children's mother was an enslaved woman and her master demanded the children as his property. So the Governor knew that his concubine was an enslaved woman right from the start. There could never be a better example to proof that enslavement was only forbidden on paper but not in practice.

The father of children was asked to pay the children's worth or lose them. Directives from London, because of a complaint lodge there as the local administration was unwilling to take action, changed the course of events and a frigate was sent to Goree ready to fire her cannons to enforce the order but the French handed over the children and united with their father without incident. We too had our own Gonzales theatre much earlier.

In fact the Signoras from Goree had an intricate network of escorts placed among the rich merchants and along the corridors of power, and made fortunes out of these escorts to the knowledge of the powers that were.

In the case of another enslaved African in the person of John Cupidon, he "was of respectable parentage, but had been taken captive and reduced to the condition of a domestic slave"(Sketches of a Missionary's Travels by Macbrair page 202). Further evidence of the story of John Cupidon can be found in another text: The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society at page 129 as follows:

"Among those who had, through the faithful ministry of John Morgan, received the freedom with which Christ makes men free was a young Jalouf(Wolof), who had received the name "Coupidon" from the French at Goree".

The colonial officials first developed hatred for the mission to the extent of instigating burning down the residence of John Cupidon, a Liberated African turned missionary simply because some European found the location of his house strategic and wanted his land which was legally assigned to him.

Some Liberated Africans on the island of McCarthy were served rum, and overseers appointed with whips to ensure that they destroyed Cupidon's house.

It was black on black while the Commandant of the island quietly left his residence to create the impression that he was not around even though Macbrair did inform him of a planned destruction of the residence of Mr. Cupidon.

Yes, they may have escaped the whips on the slave ships to the Americas but had their own from the overseers. This would have been in contravention of the conditions of asylum granted to them in Bathurst.

Not only did the Lieutenant Governor refused to issue a warrant but also the Colonial Secretary who was also the chief judge of the colony. This was a blatant disregard of the very policy that made them who they were; employees in the service of the Crown to protect and defend the rights of these Liberated Africans. No wonder the scheme failed with many lives lost.

To be continued....................................

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