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10120 Posts

Posted - 27 Jun 2017 :  18:24:38  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote

By Dembo Fatty

Part One

I have been thinking about the above assertions by Jammeh for a WHILE NOW AND EVERY TIME I TRIED TO respond, I hesitated for various reasons. I would have wanted to ask Jammeh himself to answer certain question for me to be able to provide a response. Secondly, I have to admit, I did not want to be labelled a “tribalist” even though that word should have long since been retired in our vocabulary. This is purely an academic exercise that should normally be conducted in an academic environment but because I have no access to such a setting, I hope some readers will understand.

We have for 22 years been fed tribal rhetoric and which has sunk deep into our memories that many fell for it and began to see an individual by his/her “tribal” AFFILIATION rather than as a human being. Our responses, our reactions and our decisions have for the most part been clouded by this only criterion. Along the way, many good and excellent citizens fell victim not by their actions or inactions but simply because they identified with or were born into a certain ethnic group. Sounds like Pharaoh’s decree that the male child of the Israelites must be killed. It was death on arrival if a child was born male. That was the life many Mandinka people lived and endured all the 22 years.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am Mandinka by ethnic AFFILIATION but my identification in no way makes me demean anyone who identifies himself as a different ethnic group nor my being Mandinka takes away anything from you being different. I believe we all can and should encourage our individual, group or national identities and still the world can be at peace. Trouble it seems, is brewed when one group tries to impose its culture and values on to others. In fact, our diversity should be encouraged and celebrated as we have for centuries enjoyed in that tiny strip of land we now call Gambia. There is an old adage that says that we can always choose our friends but not our family because we are born into it. Good or bad, we have no ability to choose our family before we are born. That is decided for us by our parents. You can attempt to deny your family heritage but you still remain part of the family. Sort of building a castle in the air or make belief approach does not help either. There is an African saying that no matter how heavy the rainfall, it does not wash away the black spots of a tiger.

I am not going to tell you the different ethnic groups in my family to try to proof that I am not “tribalist” or my family is not. I think that is the lowest form of proof. The proof is in our individual actions and not how much of the rainbow colours are in one’s family. People should be judged by their actions period.

I would however hasten to add that some people were targeted not because they were Mandinka, but because they identified themselves with a different ethnic group. Others, simply because they could not be classified that enough of the group he liked best. Some were punished because they were not Jola enough. So it's a fallacy to assume that only Mandinkas were targeted for their ethnic affiliation although they got the brunt of the policy. May be the word policy is the wrong word because it was not a written and thought out document with the mechanisms for implementation such that it could be assessed and evaluated for its effectiveness. But certainly it was an unwritten directive that even the blind could see and read.

I believe that it had very little to do with ethnic identity but everything to do with a man who would by all means necessary want to cling onto power pitting one group against another thereby making it difficult for citizens to come together and form a united front to challenge his rule. This, has been the biggest arsenal in the political armory of Jammeh. His ability to deflect criticism and make us believe that if we are undergoing hardship, it was not because of him or his policies but because of a neighbor who does not look like you or identifies himself with you ethnically. Therefore, they must got rid of.

Unless our brains are wired to have only short memory, Jammeh himself a few years into his presidency sometime around the year 2001 or thereabout took to the airwaves and told the nation that he was a Mandinka by ethnic affiliation and not Jola. That should have rung a bell to all of us that the rhetoric was not rooted in any good reason why he held the believe that the Mandinka are foreigners or that they do not love the land they were born in or they are not ready to die for Gambia if the need arose. He told us that his paternal ancestor migrated from Baddibu in protest because his kinsmen refused to coronate him king when it was his turn and gave the throne to someone else instead. That’s how his ancestor left Baddibu to settle in Foni.

I wondered why Jammeh took a sudden u-turn in his ethnic affiliation. It was a political move to gain support of the people of Baddibu who we all know posed one of the biggest
resistance to his rule second to Kiang. So if he was Mandinka as he claimed, why did he persecute his own people. What has changed that your own family have to be put to the guillotine. There is just one simple answer. It had nothing to do with tribe or ethnic affiliation but simply the ballot tokens.

That history was concocted and I must admit many in Baddibu fell for it. Trust me because I held a front row seat to this drama. I put on my history cap trying to dig into his new-found theory of the Jammehs in Foni. I eat and breath history and so his story fascinated me not because of anything, but I wanted to improve my understanding of our history. It did not take me long to find out that it was a trap and another theatrical from him.

Historically, that story has no basis or foundation rooted in both written and oral accounts but no one dared to tell him otherwise and don’t ask me why unless if you are an extraterrestrial. The Jammehs in Baddibu, precolonial time, were not part of the ruling clan in Baddibu. Baddibu had a system of rotating kinship among only five families. These are the families: Marong Clan, Jadama Clan, Singhateh Clan, Mamburay Clan and Colley Clans ( I NEED CORRECTIONS PLEASE. I BELIEVE I MISSED ONE. Not sure of colley). Commonly called “Baddibu Sinkiri Looloo”. So, it could not have been possible that his paternal ancestor was denied the throne unless that ancestor was in fact not a Jammeh but one of the above five in which case, it makes his position even more confusing and untenable. The Marongs am told are the uncles of the Jammeh.

We cannot therefore provide a scholarly response to the allegations/rhetoric/statements above without first asking the following questions and finding answers to them:

1. What does the name Gambia mean?
2. When did we become Gambia?
3. What geographical area constituted Gambia?
4. What/who gave us the name Gambia?
5. How did we change our name from Gambia to The Gambia?
6. What necessitated the change of name?
7. Was the name change tabled in parliament?
8. Were the citizens consulted before the name change was adopted?
9. If so, in what form did the process take?
10. Who oversaw the name change?

In my stint as a history teacher, I never came across any document or policy statement approved by the Gambia Government during the first Republic regarding the official version providing an answer to any of the questions raised above. I believe we need to have answers to these questions if we are to do justice to a fitting response. Because then we will be able to determine whether in fact Mandinka were either in Gambia prior to 1864 or not.

As to the origins of the name Gambia, there are several different accounts all competing for recognition. One account has it that it is corrupted Portuguese word “Cambio’ which may mean exchange or trade. This a close name to Gambia and the Mandinka appear to call the country Cambia instead of Gambia. The Portuguese visited our coast around 1452 when Alviso sailed south. With this theory, it’s safe to say that we got the name Gambia around 1452 or thereabout. However, the next question would be did the name extend all the way to the interior and if so how far inland did the Portuguese do trade with the locals. Are there accounts in the diary of Alviso as to which ethnic group he found on the coastline? Cambia Weschel which is synonymous to Exchange Bureau appears to also have a Wolof word WECHIT similar to Weschel which accidentally also means change. If we take both scenarios, could Alviso have found both the Wolof and Mandinka in Gambia or perhaps on his stops on the coastline in present day Senegal. Senegal is north of Gambia.

“The country, like the river, was called "Gambra"; its king, Farosangul, lived ten days 'journey toward the south, but he was himself under the Emperor of Melli, chief of all the negroes”. (The Project Gutenberg eBook, Prince Henry the Navigator, the Hero of Portugal and of Modern Discovery, 1394-1460 A.D., by C. Raymond Beazley, 2006)

Emperor of Melli (Mali) certainly was under the manding speaking people since Mali never became an Empire until after 1235. Clearly by this account of Alviso’s diary, in 1452, we were Gambra or we could have been Gambia. Perhaps it was his understanding of the name.

Let’s not forget that sometime between the 5th and 6th century Hannon the Navigator sailed south all the way to preset day Gambia but accounts of his journey are scanty and the only reference material was the Periplus which was more like a log of the settlements along the coastline from Carthage down south. Some academics are arguing that the voyage never took place. But according to Emma Gregg, Richard Trillo in their book “Rough Guide to Gambia” pp233, around this time, the area we call Gambia was part of the Ghana Empire and seven centuries later power exchanged to the Mandingka people. We should be careful to assume that just because the Area was part of the Ghana Empire, does not mean that it was inhabited by Ghanaians.

There is another account that goes like this: That when the Europeans first arrived on ourshores, they encountered a man called Kambi Sanneh who when asked thought they wanted to know the name of the nearby settlement responded “Kambiya” which in Mandinka means Kambi’s homestead or residence. Now is the name Kambi Mandinka or some other ethnic group? We have the Kambi family in Kiang but also in Kombo specifically in Busumbala ( or Busi abala). Some accounts have it that they are owners of Kombo in ancient times and that was before the Bojangs of Sukuta, Brikama and Yundum moved into the area. If Kambi is a Mandinka last name then certainly Mandinka have roamed this land well before Jammeh’s cutoff date of 1864. Let me not discharge my cannons too soon. Am still very far away from addressing his position. I am just laying the foundation for clarity and flow of the historical narrative.

The land we know as Gambia today was called Gambra including the river. Richard Jobson who sailed to our region between 1620 and 1621 published his memoirs of his journey and titled it “The Discovery of River Gambra”. This memoir is one of the earliest sources on the area.

Questions 5 to 10 above have no bearing on the response. They are based on contemporary history and fairly recent and I would expect that our government forms a task force to adopt an official version of our history. Imagine working in a foreign embassy and in comes a visitor who asks you the above questions and you start scratching your head in bewilderment. An official policy helps clear the air. It also helps the teaching of history and our evolution in schools.

There are professionals who can help us in reviewing the various versions and help adopt an official policy. The University of the Gambia is in a good position to help along with the National Archives and the National Council for Arts and Culture. Before Banjul became Banjul, it was Bathurst. Why did the Government in 1970 decided to change the name of the capital to Banjul. What is the name? Some accounts have it that someone was asked by a European what he was doing and he responded that he was looking for bamboo ropes-; “Bang Joolo” in Mandinka. But is there an official policy regarding this? We cannot name our capital without having an official policy regarding same.
Having a national policy helps clear the air and avoid rhetoric we witnessed over the years.

Questions 1 to 4 are also in dispute but certainly does not affect the response to the rhetoric.

Please note that this response is purely an attempt to rediscover ourselves and I would not respond to derogatory response nor is it intended to generate one. Please correct where necessary as we learn from each other. My attempt at responding is dictated by the fact that the rhetoric distorts our evolution and we owe it to our children to correct it before it is taken as face value with all the associated consequences.
Be rest assured that I would have jumped in defense if our history is being distorted or any group targeted e in the process. It has nothing to do with me being Mandinka but everything to do with me being a Gambian.

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone


10120 Posts

Posted - 28 Jun 2017 :  10:40:24  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote

By Dembo Fatty
Part Two


1. Our next question we need to ask is what are the geographical limits of the area called Gambia, Gambra or Cambia? Out of curiosity, I decided to look up the word Gambra and found that it is a Spanish last name. I was surprised and shocked. Have we ever been visited by the Spaniards? If that were the case, then we have a lot to dig up.
The Portuguese traded long enough to leave impacts on our culture and language. The local word kalero (cooking pot in Mandinak) for exmaple, is attributed to have portuguese origins.

My take on this is that the names Gambia, Gambra, Cambia have nothing to do with the indigenous people that inhabited that part of West Africa. Every time the name Gambia comes up, research tends to give its genealogy to foreign contact. So Gambia, Gambra, or cambia are foreign names given to us by outsiders partly (my believe) to problems in translation. We never gave ourselves this name. In ancient times, oral history is very scanty about a region called Gambia. It never existed. We had our own kingdoms like Walo, Saloum, Nuimi, Baddibu, Niani, Jimara, kantora, Niamina, Jarra, Kombo, Eropina and so on but never Gambia or Gambra or Cambia.

Senegal, it appears seems to have only one narrative regarding their name: SUNU GAL corrupted from the LEBU phrase which means “our canoe” who according some accounts were docked at shore from Cape Verde and as always, it was an encounter with outsiders and a loss of translation which gave rise to the name Senegal. At least, they have worked hard to narrow their evolution to a single event. We have not because we are too lazy to do it and expect outsiders to come and do it for us.

It might sound radical, but may be its time to retire the name Gambia and we call ourselves what we have always called ourselves by choosing one of the many kingdoms in the area. It may be tough sell because we seem to be dogged in tribal identities more than a national identity. But if we are to be proud people, we have to take a name our ancestors gave us not what appears to be a corrupted translation problem. So our name Gambia is an inaccurate translation of events. Who wants to bear a name that is deficient?

So if President Jammeh says that Mandinka were not part of the Gambia before 1864, I wonder which Gambia he was talking about because we have never called ourselves Gambian and so if his premise was about who were the indigenes, my response is that the indigenes he was trying to promote and sell will be surprised and would ask him where Gambia is because they never were Gambian and have never named any region called Gambia. Can you begin to see the fallacy in the name Gambia? It is not based on any indigenous event, activity or anything of that sort. It almost always takes a foreign dimension to a local event. So Jammeh is wrong about Gambia because prior to foreign contact, there never was Gambia and if he is a true Pan Africanist as he claims, I wonder in awe how he can, at best, tout a name that is foreign in the first place and at worst deny an indigene an identity by using a foreign name and an imaginary boundary that most probably was drawn by a foreigner who has no right or privilege in the area in the first place.

2. KANDEMA SILO LAY SILA BAA ( Mandinka initiation song)

Another surprise to Jammeh would be that the region called Cassamance which he was trying to promote was not always called Cassamance. That land was Manding territory under the Mali Empire, with Kaabu as an overseer. To appreciate this history, please watch this YouTube video. To my female readers please do not watch because this video is rooted in an oath I took as a young Mandingo boy while on a three month initiation training in the thickets of my village to never divulge what I learnt. But circumstance is forcing me to come in the open. Please watch especially where they are singing “Kandema Siloleh , Sila baa…”. At 10.42.

The song is nothing but a reinforcement of the evolution of the Mandinka people in our sub region and to teach initiates the migration routes and a reconfirmation to them that what they were being subjected to, were in fact sanctioned by their forefathers centuries ago and so they must strive to continue the tradition. The song is simply a validation of the history of the Manding migration.

I would apologize to my KINTANG,(name of an initiate’s prefect) because he will be disappointed in me sharing this publicly but am sure he would also be happy that the I have not wasted my three months training in the thickets where I was taught to defend myself, my family, my community and my ethnicity. Where I was trained self-defense, hunting, respect for the individual I come into contact with, and also sign language that could only be decoded by initiates. This was Mandinka secret society at its best.

That land called Cassamance in modern times was called KANDEMA according to legendary Sidiki Jobarteh. I am trying to upload the audio but am hoping to find a link on the internet and will share if I can do that. Kandema was administered from Pakau all part of Kaabu. Kaabu was annexed by Tiramakang on his way to fight the King of Walo, Ndiadian Ndiaye who provoked Sundiata when he seized Sundiata’s horses and sending his men to report to Sundiata that he never knew a Mandinka with horses and gave them a dog instead to take to Manding. Those familiar with ancient Manding songs “ soosa le jo Tiramakang …” was invented as a result. I will get back to this in more detail in part 3. This is a snippet.

If you are still not satisfied with the origins of Cassamance, please watch the video below from the perspective of the Fulani who lived in the area and how Fulladu as a kingdom emerged in the area. Fulladu is by all accounts not a Fulani name but a name given to the Fulani in the area by the Mandinka to mean the place where the Fulani live when they migrated into the area. The narrator who is Fulani by ethnic origin, and of the Baldeh family, who dominated the area, admits to the fact that it was Manding territory. Am sure we can all agree that Kolda is part of Cassamance. So if Jammeh is trying to promote a region that most probably did not exist in its current form by 1864, I don’t know how he could deny the fact that the people who controlled the area were not indigenes. Dont get me wrong. cassamance was inhabited by many ethnic groups including the Mandinka.

Further evidence of the Mandinka control of what is now known as Cassamance can be found in the book “Historical Dictionary of Gambia” by Arnold Hughes and Harry A. Gailey pp104 confirming earlier accounts by Mungo Park (1795), and Francis Moore both alluding to Mandinka control of the area. Mungo park was travelled in our region in 1795 and his confirmation clearly predates 1864 which is the subject of contention. So how can the Mandinka be strangers or foreigners in a Gambia that never existed? Gambia is a myth in so far as our indigenous history is concerned.

To appreciate the writing, you have to travel to the region and you will be surprised how mixed Cassamance is. The Fulani and Mandinka appear to be in the majority. History can be cruel and am sorry if I rubbed your shoulders badly. This is why our elders for the most part, have kept historical accounts to their chest to ensure a peaceful coexistence, instead of touting accounts of the past which only breeds suspicion and unearths old wounds. Enjoy the video. Warning, it’s long though.

3. What is a Tribe:

We cannot also do justice to the response if we do not define the meaning of the word tribe. The best definition obviously may not an English dictionary but from the perspective of anthropology which deals with the origins, the physical and social customs, cultural development and biological characteristics of mankind and how they evolve over time. I looked for the definition of tribe in an Encyclopedia and this is what I found:

“A tribe is a human social system existing before the emergence of nation-states, and, in some cases, continuing to exist independent of the state structure. Historically, tribal societies consisted only of a relatively small, local population”.

This definition of tribe clearly does not fit the Mandinka people. So one thing Jammeh said above and he was right about is that the Mandinka people are not a tribe. That I agree. Please take it as a compliment. For a group of people to be classified as a tribe, they had to be small and in most cases operate outside of formal structures.

I don’t need to talk about the formal bureaucracy that evolved throughout Manding history. From the Manding Charter in 1235 to the formation of one of the most influential empires in Africa, the University at Timbuctu with over 10,000 students studying literature, astrology and Algebra well before the emergence of universities in the west and the advancement of military science, Manding people certainly cannot and should not be classified as a tribe because they operated formal institutions not outside of a state structure. They had coded laws with functioning judiciary as “primitive” as one may want to describe them but certainly well advanced for its time and period in comparison to what happened in other societies around the world during a comparable period.

In fact it’s safe to say that there is no tribe in the Gambia and it should be made a derogatory term to describe any group in the Gambia as a tribe. It’s offensive because we have a central government and we are all subservient to the supreme law of the land and that is the Constitutions. We are affected by the decisions of the central authority irrespective of where we live within the territorial boundaries of that land called Gambia. So it’s also a fallacy to address anyone as a tribe or belonging to a tribe in the current Gambia. There are few people around the world that qualify to be called a tribe certainly not in Gambia. Perhaps a few in the Amazon jungle who still live is small groups and almost unaware of the bigger society outside of the Amazon may qualify.

4. Are you sure of your last name?

We sometimes seem to classify people just by looking at their last name. But the fallacy is that many people adopted different last names as they moved around the region for various reasons. Some did it to blend and find acceptance especially among a dominant group, some for security whilst others simply changed their last names because they were slaves who gained their freedoms and adopted the last names of their patrons. These things happened. So we have to be careful in quickly categorizing people based on last names.

What if I tell you that the Joiner in Banjul are in fact Mandinka people. I read it somewhere years ago that the patriarch was a Mandinka slave sold in the Americas but who was able to gain his freedom and return to Gambia in 1805. His name was Thomas Joiner and who died in 1842. He traded upcountry and became a very successful businessman even before Banjul was founded in 1816. He had over 100 employees working for him and his business extended all the way to Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Isles de Los and the Maideras. This is also confirmed by Arnold Hughes and Harry A. Gailey.

So we have to be careful of categorizing simply by a last name.
To be continued……..

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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10120 Posts

Posted - 03 Jul 2017 :  10:22:28  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote

By Dembo Fatty


We have looked at how we likely got the name Gambia and also that there never was a land called Gambia in its present form , let alone prior to colonialism. Therefore, when we are arguing about timelines especially historical ones jn relation to events that happened prior to when the Protectorate Ordinance was passed allowing the British access to most of the interior of the country, its best to describe the area referencing the kingdoms we had. Gambia as a kingdom never existed in its present form or in any other form. It’s a myth. Otherwise, we had Baddibunkas, Nuiminkas, Jarrankas, Nianinkas, Niaminankas, and so on. They were citizens of those kingdoms.

So let’s get rid of the believe once and for all. There never was a group of people called Gambians prior to colonialism. Perhaps St. Andrews, but that land was not called Gambia by then. This was the period dubbed the “Colony of Senegambia” as parts of the Nuimi and St. Louis were under British control.

The period May 25th 1765 to February 11, 1779 was when both settlements were under British control even though these two settlements were not within a unitary kingdom or state. It’s a term coined very recently and appears in modern literature but during that period, it was never called the Colony of Senegambia. It is therefore an inaccurate and inappropriate term to refer to that period as Colony of Senegambia. It distorts history.

Unfortunately, it does not appear there are any records at the National Archives of the names of the Governors during the ”Colony of Senegambia” as the head office was in Senegal (St. Louis). It would be interesting to visit the Senegalese archives and dig into this.

In fact by 1783, the greater part of Senegalese part of the area around St. Louis was handed back to the French whilst the Gambia section ceased to be a British colony and was returned to the Royal African Company. These were merchants who had royal grants to do business. The British then just gave up on colonizing. Between 1783, when merchants oversaw the lands and 1815 when Alexander Grant became Commandant, there was no Governor or administrator for “Gambia”. The land was sublet to British merchants.

Gambia as a colony was twice, (in 1821 and 1866) placed under the jurisdiction of Sierra Leone. If in both instances we did not refer to those instances as “Colony of GamLeone” or some similar name, then in the same vein, the term “Colony of Senegambia” was equally inappropriate. British colonialism in Gambia formally took off in 1816, whilst the “Colony of Senegambia” predates this date. The closest we came to a Senegambia was as a result of the Taxi Driver’s coup of 1981. Taxi Drivers, based mainly in Tallingding greatly coordinated the uprising. Certainly, if they had succeeded we would have better road networks and car parks.

As to how we became “THE” Gambia, some accounts have it that our mails were being sent to Zambia which is also a member of the Commonwealth and to avoid the confusion, we added the definite article “the” to our name. This seems to be the most plausible reason and as to whether that was tabled in parliament or not, I could not find any material supporting that it was. That process seems to be off limits for now. Perhaps, with the enactment of the Records Act, those records are still classified as semi-current in which case they are not open to the public but only public officials in the course of their duties. I use to be responsible for the semi-current records then located inside the State House just by the then NSS office. Hopefully, we will have access with time. Personally, I do not see any secrecy that surrounds the process and it should be made available for public viewing if there ever was such a file. Remember, most of our old files were given to market vendors to create space for new ones. That was before the National Records Services Act came into being around 1992 or thereabout.

At least, I would expect civic societies and pressure groups to push for legislation providing for an Act of the National Assembly for a freedom of information act that citizens can demand of public officials to make available anything that is in the public domain and of public interest in so far as such a release would not compromise national security. Until we legislate, we will never have access to public officials as they are gagged by the provisions of the General Orders, which is still in force. Let me not digress.
To still be able to lay the foundation for easy flow of my rebuttal, I need to:

1. Define the term Mandinka.

2. The various dialects that form part of this large linguistic group.

3. Provide the differences between the Manding (Mali) Empire from the Manding State.

4. Provide a timeline of events from their emergence as a state or stateless people to creating an Empire which fringes on the Atlantic Ocean. More or less the migration trail.
Hopefully, with these finalized, I will now be able to effectively provide a surgical analysis of the chronological events from 1864, the date Jammeh used as the baseline and travel back in time to years gone by, and provide accounts of events that are of significance to proof that the Mandinka were here before 1864 and in fact several hundred years earlier. Of course, I would use my own family migration in support of my thesis.

1. Who is a Mandinka?
The generic name of this linguistic group varies from region to region depending on the dialect of the people but the generally accepted generic name is Mande. In our neck of the woods, they are sometimes called the Mandinka, Mandinko, Mandinga, Mandingo. Some of the other Mande people include the Dyula, Bozo, Bissa and Bambara.

According to Sidiki Jobarteh, there are four variations of the Mandinka group as they are called in the Senegambia, Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Mali as follows:

Mandinga – Those who live in the areas adjacent to Segu, Bamako and Kaba.

Mandinka – Those living in the areas adjacent to Sebekoro to Nyagasola (Guinea Conakry). I looked up for Nyagasola but could not find it on the map. A quick call to a Guinean friend confirmed the location of the area to be in Guinea Conakry.

Mandingo – Those occupying the areas adjacent to Toukoto all the way to the Senegal Mali border.

Mandinko – Those living in the areas close to the Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau border near the Koli River, all the way to Saloum covering the whole of present day The Gambia.

In passing, I would like to note that the Manda Fortress built by the Sarahule people is situated in this area which set the scene to the eventual showdown between Kaabu and the Fulani, when the Sarahule slaughtered 30 of the 32 emissaries of the King of Kaabu for trespassing into a Muslim fortress, the emissaries being animist.
From henceforth, and for purposes of this response, any reference to Mandinka is meant to represent the whole ethnic group.

The Mandinka initially were quite fragmented into small kingdoms after the collapse of the Ghana Empire (which has nothing to do with modern day Ghana). It was during the time of Sundiata CONATEH, that the fragmented nations were unified. The legendary General Turamakan Taraore led the expansion westward toward the Niger River Basin (Toby Green, 2011; The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa, 1300–1589. Cambridge University Press. pp. 35–38. ISBN 978-1-139-50358-7)) all the way to Charoye (present day Senegal. Oral tradition also credits him with the founding of the present-day city of Dakar, where the Jobe, as the original settlers were in fact Traore).

Another group of Mandinka people, under Faran Kamara – the son of the king of Tabou – expanded southeast of Mali, while a third group expanded with Fakoli Kourouma. (Michelle Apotsos (2016). Architecture, Islam, and Identity in West Africa: Lessons from Larabanga. Routledge. pp. 52–53, 63–64, 91–94, 112–113. ISBN 978-1-317-27555-8).

Slowly, the Empire expanded all the way to the Atlantic and by 1240 it had already covered most of modern day Senegal.
It was said that the correct name of Ghana Empire was AKWAR. Ghana or Ga’na was the title of the ruler which later morphed into the state identity (Burr, J. Millard and Robert O. Collins, Darfur: The Long Road to Disaster, Markus Wiener Publishers: Princeton, 2006, ISBN 1-55876-405-4, pp. 6-7). The name Ghana simply means “warrior” (Willie F. Page; R. Hunt Davis, Jr., eds. (2005), "Ghana Empire", Encyclopedia of African History and Culture, 2 (revised ed.), Facts on File, pp. 85–87)

Ghana Empire is believed to have been in existence from 400 to 1200 and that there were 22 kings before the Islamic Hijra and 22 kings after the Hijra (Hunwick 2003, p. 13 and note 5).
Below is list of the kings of Ghana Empire until its annexation into the Manding Empire:

King Kaya Magha (or Kaya Magan): circa 350 AD (Gravrand, Henry, "La civilisation Sereer, Cosaan : les origines", Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1983, pp. 75–76. ISBN 2-7236-0877-8).

22 kings, names unknown: circa 350 AD–622 AD
22 kings, names unknown: circa 622 AD–790 AD
King Reidja Akba: 1400–1415 (in Awkar)
SONINKE PERIOD (Cisse Dynasty):
Mayan Dyabe Cisse: circa 790s
Bassi: 1040–1062
Tunka Manin: 1062–1076

The surprise for me is why and how the Cisse dynasty failed to maintain or negotiate kinship in one of the Manding states under Sundiata Conateh but instead chose the path of religion in becoming Marabouts.


Abu Bakr ibn Umar: 1076–1087
Kambine Diaresso: 1087-1090
Suleiman: 1090-1100
Bannu Bubu: 1100-1120
Majan Wagadou: 1120-1130
Gane: 1130-1140
Musa: 1140-1160
Birama: 1160-1180


Kaniaga simply means the “Land of the Fearful” and the state was created by Soninke animist with patronymic Diarisso (Joseph Ki-Zerbo , History of Black Africa, from yesterday to tomorrow , Hatier, Paris, 1972, p. 172). Later on, as humans have almost always done, the Diarissos changed their patronymic to that of Kante. The Diarisso descend, according to the Mandingo oral tradition, of Mama Dinga, the ancestor of Soninkés or Sarakhollés. One of the first kings of the Kaniaga was Goumaté Fadé Diarriso, who was one of the generals of the Emperor of Ghana, who bore the title of Kayan Maga

Goumaté Fadé Diarriso
Diara Kante: 1180-1202 (father of Sumanguru Kante)
Soumaba Cisse as vassal of Soumaoro: 1203–1235

Soumaba Cisse as ally of Sundjata Keita: 1235–1240

“Ghana, is a west African country, bounded on the north by Burkina Faso, on the east by Togo, on the south by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the west by Côte d'Ivoire.

Formerly a British colony known as the Gold Coast, was led to independence by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah on the 6th of March, 1957. Ghana became the first black nation in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve independence from colonial rule.
The country is named after the ancient empire of Ghana, from which the ancestors of the inhabitants of the present country are thought to have migrated”. (“About Ghana". Ghana Embassy website, Washington D.C. Retrieved July 2, 2017).

These ancestors were the Akan people. So, could Ghana Empire have been founded by the Akan? The correct name of the Empire is Akwar and in Akan, Akwaaba means welcome. If they are thought to have migrated south after the collapse of the Ghana Empire to later found the Ashanti Empire, the believe that the Sarahule are the founders of the Ghana Empire can be seriously challenged. Yes, the Sarahule did rule at some point during Ghana Empire’s existence but it appears the Kante family who descended from the Diarisso beat them to it.

While Jammeh argued that the Mandinka is not a tribe, evidence has shown that the Cisse ruled the Ghana Empire around 790AD which is approximately 1227 years ago this year. I am sure I don’t need to convince anyone that Cisse is Mandinka although my cousins in Saloum would want to think otherwise.Ceesay Paa

Diara Kante was succeed by his son Sumanguru Kante whose reign of terror would pave the way for Sundiata Conateh to free his people (Manding state of Kangaba) from the Sosso people at the Battle of Kirina in 1235 which Sundiata won. Kirina effectively became the first held rebel territory of the Manding uprising. To this day, there is an annual music festival organized in Kirina. Enjoy link below where Baba Maal was performing.

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

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Posted - 03 Jul 2017 :  10:50:48  Show Profile Send toubab1020 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
MY UNDERSTANDING FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCES I AM NO EXPERT or history buff, this should be borne in mind by anyone who reads what I have written below.

Interesting history lesson which should be incorporated and cherished within the history of the man made demarcation of the boundaries which form the accepted limits of a country.It should be remembered that Africans have for centuries have been used to roaming wherever they want to on planet earth and join their tribal family wherever they stop,boundaries in the form of borders of man made countries are an anathema to Africans who cannot understand why they are not able to travel anywhere on the planet they wish the idea of having to carry documentary evidence in order to achieve their goals appears to them to be very unnecessary.

"Simple is good" & I strongly dislike politics. You cannot defend the indefensible.
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Posted - 04 Jul 2017 :  10:08:00  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote

By Dembo Fatty

Sundiata died in 1255 and from then onwards his successors assumed the title of MANSA and the Empire continued to expand until 1670 (after 435 years of existence) when internal struggles rendered the Empire susceptible to secessions and revolts with the Songhai Empire being a major benefactor of the squabbles. One of his famous descendants was Mansa Musa. Mansa Musa was succeeded by his on Mansa Maghan I in 1337 but by 1341, Mansa Maghan was deposed by his uncle Suleiman. The famous Arab historian Ibn Battuta visited Mali Empire during the reign of Mansa Suleiman. ( Imperato, Pascal James; Imperato, Gavin H. (2008-04-25). Historical Dictionary of Mali. Scarecrow Press. p. 202. ISBN 9780810864023.).

Earlier on, a former slave of the royal court named Sakoura seized power in 1285 and ruled for many years. It was after his death that Sundiata’s lineage once again took over the reins of power.

Kaabu Empire was in existence from 1537 to 1867 having initially been a province of the Mali Empire and covered parts of present day Guinea Bissau, Senegal and The Gambia until the Fulani revolt which rendered it weak and with coming of Europeans, the introduction of modern warfare and the Berlin Conference, colonialism became the final nail in the coffin.

According oral tradition, Kaabu was inhabited by the Mandinka people around 1200 and by 1235, they invaded and made Kaabu a province or “Tinkuru” (in Mandinka) of the Mali Empire. The Commander of Kaabu or “Farim Kaabu” (in Mandinka) became the representative of the Emperor of the Mali Empire. However, due to internal struggles in the Mali Empire, Kaabu gained independence in 1537 and from then on used the title of “Mansaba” meaning “Great Ruler” for their kings. Sami Koli became the first king of independent Kaabu who was in fact a grandson of Turamakan Traore. This is the lineage of the Nyachos in kaabu (Sanneh and Manneh). Oral tradition has it that the Sanneh and Manneh were in fact Traore and their claimant to the throne was through Sami koli.
Earlier on, we discussed the Koli River near which was situated the Manda Fortress of the Sarahule near present day Guinea Conakry. It is believed that the River was named after Sami koli, the first Mansaba of independent Kaabu.

At its peak, Kaabu composed of the following provinces with capital at Kansala: Firdu, Pata, Kamako, Jimara, Patim Kibo, Patim Kanjaye, Kantora, Pakane Mambura, Kudura, Nampaio and Pacana although other accounts mentioned 32 provinces.

Kaabu like all kingdoms before, almost always reach their peak and begin to decline. Internal disputes and usurpation of power by Jankay Wali, and the Fulani revolt and Jihadi wars from Foota, rendered the kingdom incapable of holding on. The assault by Alfa Molo Bandeh at Berekolong, it is narrated that the Kaabu Mansaba, Jankay Wali ordered that the gunpowder store be set ablaze and the explosion killed all of the occupants of the fortress including the invaders that were inside. In the end, it was suicide not the bullet of the enemy that stopped the Kaabu Mansaba.

We have now defined who is a Mandinka, the migration, the state of Kangaba which later became the offshoot of the Mali Empire, how the Ghana Empire fell leading to the Sosso control and Mandinka revolt and creation of Mali Empire.

It must be stated that when the Mandinka arrived in what is now Guinea Bissau around 1200 and eventual conquest of the area by Turamakan Traore, they found other ethnicities in the area most of whom assimilated. It must also be made clear that the conquest by Turamakan Traore was a more organized and systematic approach so it would be wrong to state that the Mandinka only arrived in kaabu around that period.

There have been Mandinka speaking people in the area even before Turamakan. Family records and accounts I was able to dig up in Kaabu place my ancestors in the area by 1185, having previously migrated from Timbuctu, 50 years before Sundiata became Emperor of Mali Empire. It so happened that as an educated religious family, they kept accounts of family migrations and my paternal ancestor who migrated to what is now Gambia and settled in Kunting, was also recorded as having left never to return. I was one of a few to travel back tracing the route my ancestors most likely took. Today we are found in Jarra, Niani, Jokadu, Kiang and Kombo. What struck me most on my visit was that the family still holds pieces of property for those who left should they decide to return to build their houses. That was the deal breaker for me because someone was always expecting me even though they did not know me.

It will be a suprise to many Gambians that Kunchumpa Fatty was born in Gambia at Mandinari village, where his father is buried. He went back to trace his roots and settled in Guinea Bissau just as his ancestors did. The Fatty founded one of the oldest Mandinka muslim settlements in Kaabu. Perhaps the only settlement to be named a mosque; a testimony to times when Islam was in its infancy where a lonely mosque in an area took over the name of the settlement. Now known only as Maana Jamang but to the founders, it is Pajass.

So yes, official timeline of Mandinka migration is set around 1200 but many have already been living in the area years earlier just like the Cisse been kings in Ghana Empire around 790 AD, hitherto believed to have been principally a Sarahule kingdom. Migration is as old as mankind.

Below I provide a list of notable Mandinka people that have international recognition (Wikipedia). If Jammeh is still not satisfied that the Mandinka people do not exist, I will, in the next and final episode provide a chronological account of events involving Mandinka people in our sub region to proof that the Mandinka have been here well before 1864 and that the Mandinka are a nation not a tribe.

Sierra Leone

• Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, President of Sierra Leone from 1996 to 2007
• Haja Afsatu Kabba, Former Sierra Leone's Minister of Marine Resources and Fisheries; Energy and Power; Lands
• Alhaji Mohamed Kemoh Fadika, Sierra Leone's High Commissioner to the Gambia and former High Commissioner to Nigeria, former Ambassador to Egypt and Iran.
• Mabinty Daramy, Sierra Leone's Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry
• Fode Dabo, former Sierra Leone Ambassador to Belgium, France, Netherlands, Luxemburg and Italy and former High Commissioner to the Gambia.
• Alhaji Shekuba Saccoh, former Sierra Leone's ambassador to Guinea and former Minister of Social Welfare
• Ibrahim Jaffa Condeh, Sierra Leonean journalist and news anchor
• Neneh Dabo, former Director of the Sierra Leone Anti Corruption Commission (ACC).
• Mohamed Kakay, former MP of Sierra Leone from Koinadugu District (SLPP)
• Mohamed B. Daramy, former minister of Development and Economic Planning from 2002 to 2007, former ECOWAS Commissioner of Income Tax.
• Alhaji A. B. Sheriff, former MP from Koinadugu District (SLPP)
• Tejan Amadu Mansaray, former MP of Sierra Leone representing Koinadugu District (APC)
• Kadijatu Kebbay, Sierra Leonean model; Miss University Sierra Leone 2006 winner and represent Sierra Leone at the Miss World 2006 contest.
• Sheka Tarawalie, Sierra Leonean journalist and former State House Press Secretary to president Koroma. Former Deputy Minister of Information and current Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs.
• Alhaji Bomba Jawara, former MP of Sierra Leone from Koinadugu District (SLPP)
• Kanji Daramy, Sierra Leonean journalist and spokesman for former Sierra Leone's president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. He is also the former Chairman of Sierra Leone National Telecommunications Commission
• Brima Dawson Kuyateh, Sierra Leonean journalist and president of the Sierra Leone Reporters Union
• Karamoh Kabba, Sierra Leonean author, writer and journalist
• Sitta Umaru Turay, Sierra Leonean journalist
• K-Man (born Mohamed Saccoh), Sierra Leonean musician
• Alhaji Lansana Fadika, Sierra Leonean businessman and former SLPP chairman for the Western Area. He is the younger brother of Kemoh Fadika.
• Sidique Mansaray, Sierra Leonean footballer
• Isha Sesay, journalist
• Lansana Baryoh, Sierra Leonean footballer
• Brima Keita, Sierra Leonean football manager

Guinea Conakry

Ahmed Sékou Touré, the President of Guinea from 1958 to 1984
• Samory Touré, founder of the Wassoulou Empire, an Islamic military state that resisted French rule in West Africa
• Sekou Touré, President of Guinea from 1958 to 1984; was also the grandson of Samory Touré
• Alpha Condé, current Guinean President. A Mandinka who negotiated his safe exit from Gambia.
• Lansana Kouyaté, former prime minister of Guinea
• Kabiné Komara, former Prime Minister of Guinea
• Diarra Traoré, former Prime Minister of Guinea
• Sekouba Bambino, Guinean musician
• Sona Tata Condé, Guinean musician
• Fodé Mansaré, Guinean footballer
• Daouda Jabi, Guinean footballer
• Mamadi Kaba, Guinean footballer
• N'Faly Kouyate, Guinean musician
• Kaba Diawara, Guinean footballer
• Mamady Keïta, Guinean musician
• Mory Kanté, Guinean kora musician
• Mamady Condé, Guinean foreign minister from 2004 to 2007
• Alhassane Keita, Guinean footballer
• Djeli Moussa Diawara, Guinean musician (also known as Jali Musa Jawara ).
• Famoudou Konaté, Guinean musician
• Momolu Dukuly, former Liberian Foreign Minister
• Amara Mohamed Konneh, Minister of Finance
• G. V. Kromah, member of the defunct Liberian Council of State


• Alhajj Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, former first President of the Gambia
• Sheriff Mustapha Dibba, former politician and the First vice President of the Gambia
• Ousainou Darboe, Gambian opposition leader and current foreign Affairs Minister.
• Sidia Jatta, opposition politician
• Jatto Ceesay, footballer
• Foday Musa Suso, international musician.
• Jaliba Kuyateh, the most celebrated musician in the Gambia.
• Yahya Jammeh former president, before he changed his ethnicity again.
• Adama Barrow, current President.


Saidu Keita in action for FC Barcelona in 2008
• Soumaila Coulibaly, Malian footballer
• Bako Dagnon, Malian female griot singer
• Massa Makan Diabaté, Malian historian, writer and playwright
• Mamadou Diabate, Malian musician
• Toumani Diabaté, Malian musician
• Yoro Diakité, former Malian Prime Minister
• Daba Diawara, Malian politician
• Aoua Kéita, Malian politician and activist
• Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, current President of Mali
• Modibo Keïta, President of Mali from 1960 to 1968
• Salif Keita, Malian musician
• Saidu Keita, Malian footballer
• Sundiata Keita, founder of the Mali Empire
• Moussa Kouyate, Malian musician
• Mansa Musa, the most famous and celebrated of all the Malian emperors
• Mamady Sidibé, Malian footballer
• Modibo Sidibé, current Prime Minister of Mali
• Baba Sissoko, Malian musician
• Mohamed Sissoko, Malian footballer
• Amadou Toumani Touré, President of Mali from 2002 to 2012

Ivory Coast

• Alassane Ouattara, current President of Ivory Coast
• Sékou Touré (Ivory Coast) Ivorian politician, Environmental Engineer, former UN Executive
• Tiken Jah Fakoly, Ivorian (Reggae) musician
• Guillaume Soro, Ivorian politician
• Henriette Diabaté, Ivorian politician, former
• Kolo Touré, Ivorian footballer
• Arouna Koné, Ivorian footballer
• Abdul Kader Keïta, Ivorian footballer
• Bakari Koné, Ivorian footballer
• Alpha Blondy, Ivorian (Reggae) musician
• Yaya Touré, Ivorian footballer
• Didier Drogba, Ivorian footballer
• Ahmadou Kourouma, Ivorian writer.
• Sidiki Bakaba, Ivorian actor and filmmaker


• Aminata Touré, former Prime Minister of Senegal
• Seckou Keita, Senegalese musician
• Souleymane Diawara, Senegalese footballer
• Papiss Demba Cissé, Senegalese footballer
• Moussa Konaté, Senegalese footballer
• Cheikhou Kouyaté, Senegalese footballer
• Sadio Mané, Senegalese footballer
• Mohamed Diamé, Senegalese footballer
• Aliou Cissé, former Senegalese footballer
• Ludovic Lamine Sané, Senegalese footballer
• Lamine Gassama, Senegalese footballer
• Keita Baldé Diao, Senegalese footballer
• Papa Demba Camara, Senegalese footballer
• Zargo Touré, Senegalese footballer
• Boukary Dramé, Senegalese footballer
• Amara Traoré, former Senegalese footballer
• Diomansy Kamara, former Senegalese footballer
• Souleymane Diawara, Senegalese footballer
• Sidiki Kaba, Justice Minister of Senegal

Burkina Faso

• Amadou Coulibaly, Burkinabé footballer
• Cheick Kongo, Burkinabé mixed martial artist
• Joseph Ki-Zerbo, political leader and historian

United States of America

• Martin Delany, abolitionist, journalist, physician and writer
• Alex Haley, writer and author of the 1976 book Roots: The Saga of an American Family
• Foday Musa Suso, Griot musician and composer
• Black Thought, rapper and co-founder of hip hop band the Roots
• Kunta Kinte, Captured Mandinka warrior from the Atlantic slavery trade Drama "ROOTS".
• Thomas Joiner captured Mandinka slave who gained his freedom in 1805 and returned home to Gambia to become a successful businessman.
To be continued……

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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11138 Posts

Posted - 04 Jul 2017 :  20:33:21  Show Profile Send toubab1020 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thanks a great history lesson.

"Simple is good" & I strongly dislike politics. You cannot defend the indefensible.
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Posted - 06 Jul 2017 :  08:25:31  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote


It dawned on me that before concluding the general background to the response, two things needed to be addressed and recognized as follows:

A: The dilemma of an “Independent African”;

B: The composition of Manding Empire

As a young boy in Primary one, it did not take me long to realize that my life was never going to be the same. As a young village boy, I was exposed to life and cultures that were very strange to me and I found them very hard to relate to them. My contemporaries would recall the famous book “Mark and Anne” based on the life of two English children and their family which included a dog. I still can remember some of the first sentences in the book” Mark has a ball”; “Anne has a doll”. At the end of the school day, I wondered why I was in class because what I was being taught had nothing to do with my environment and no one lived like this family I was reading about. The food they ate, the clothes they wore, the camping and so on.

I had my own private frustrations. May be it is just taking this late in my life to admit the dilemma. At Armitage, this dilemma became even more apparent. I was required to eat using a spoon and was punished severely for using my hand which sometimes could mean cleaning the whole dining hall and putting away the plates and bowls for 500 students. I became a sort of rebel questioning everything I saw. Sometimes I saw the school monitors as not proud enough of their culture like I was. I sometimes wondered how they were able to cross that bridge never to look back on the culture their ancestors lived. May be the village in me refused to die and I must admit, that village is still alive and kicking. Back at home, I was told the reward in using the hand when eating. You can begin to see how confuse every African child is crisscrossing two cultures in a given 24 hour cycle.

I thought I was the only one until I came across Ali Mazrui also writing about the “dilemma of an intellectual African”. Ahaa, I knew I was not alone. If an East African was struggling, then there was nothing wrong with me struggling. This internal struggle, whether manifested or internalized, lives with all of us and affect how we view policy or formulate them in the normal course of public life. Sometimes I wonder if Jammeh was not also struggling like I was; trying to reconcile Africa precolonial times and the 21st century. The Pan Africanist rants could be manifestations of the struggle just like Idi Amin of Uganda. Trying to live both worlds at the same time is almost impossible.

This frustration is sometimes manifested in tribal rants. The dilemma of an independent African on the other hand is an identity crisis. When the Berlin Conference ended, arbitrary lines were drawn separating communities and families who woke up one morning and were told they no longer could cross an imaginary border without a piece of paper they have no idea what it contained. At least they knew that their forbearers did cross those lands since time immemorial without restrictions. I am sure they would be even more confused than me as I was born after independence and grew up seeing those restrictions and accepted them as normal but not those old enough to see the lines being drawn. At least I could go back to my village without restrictions. My only worry would be whether my young feet could undertake the trek through the thicket.

The arbitrary borders may have also affected Jammeh in seeing some of his own nationals as foreigners, especially the Mandinka. What Jammeh never realized, was that the Mandinka in The Gambia don’t know any other place other than Gambia. Deporting all of them to Mali, which sadly is no longer the Mali Empire it used to be, only compounds the problem. The would-be deportees are almost very likely going to be treated as foreigners in Mali. Perhaps Jammeh forgot as he was a history major in High school that Gambia was part of the Mali empire at some point. So the mandinka were home the samevway a Gambian does not need a visa to travel from Banjul to Turamakan Tenda. This is the dilemma of an independent African who in one moment, basks in glories of the past almost to the level of hallucination only to wake up and realize that it was all a dream. Unfortunately, our Jalis have kept us mesmerized and excited of the distant past and try to re-live it every day.

These dilemma could be found in the "Lion and the Jewel" by Soyinka when Lankunle, a western educated man refused to pay the bride price equating it "buying a heifer from the market" and lost the girl to Baroka, the local chief who was willing to "respect " the traditional values. Surprisingly, the author who had education, sided with tradition. Was he too struggling for an identity? Chinua Achebe too in Things Fall Apart played out this clash of cultures with Okonkwo advocating for culture and traditions of his forbearers to a point he killed Ikemefuna to later lead to his banishment to his mother's village. When people are taken out of their natural environment, they struggle hard to adapt.

This dilemma leads us to the second part of this write up; the composition of Mali Empire. May be Jammeh never realized that the Mali Empire was not constituted by Mandinka speaking only. That Empire was as heterogeneous as there were the different ethnic groups spanning from Timbuktu to the Atlantic on the west coast; as far south as the shores of Ivory costs and as far west as the northern fringes of present day Ouagadougou.

Sundiata’s most famous General was not a Mandinka. Fakoli (Fakoli Daaba, Fakoli Kumbaa), was a Sosso by ethnicity according some accounts. He was a nephew of Sumanguru kante; the notorious king who rained terror on his subjects that even his own nephew could not be spared and took his wife. Fakoli was the son of Sumanguru’s sister. Fakoli changed sides and supported Sundiata in all his expeditions according to some sources except the western expansion into our present day Senegambia region to avenge for his wife he loved so much but lost to his uncle.

If Turamakan Traore had not planned a suicide and was ready to act on it, it was not likely that Sundiata would have allowed him to lead the army westwards against the Jolof King.

Turamakan dug his own grave and asked to be wrapped in a shroud, and would kill himself if he was not given the chance to lead the expedition. Sundiata caved in to his demand. Fakoli’s father was said to be a spirit in another account but in my opinion, the second theory is the more plausible one that Fakoli was born of a king who ruled around present day Sierra Leone. Sumanguru had earlier on sent his sister to be taught sorcery from that king to help him increase his magical prowess. Unfortunately, the sister got pregnant while in the study of the king and to hide the circumstance of his birth, a story was concocted that his father was a spirit. Naturally, Fakoli’s magical prowess appeared to support the theory, and the rest was history.

Manding army had 16 divisions each headed by a clan and her military was called the “Djon-Tan-Nor-Woro”. They were the Conate, Coulibaly, Traoare, Kone, Dannyoko, Magassouba, Jawara, Dabo, Jallow, Diakiteh, Sidibeh, Fakoli, Sangareh. The remaining three clans were each represented by two as follows: Dereba-kamissoko; Camara-Komagara; bagayogo-Sinayogo. (Encyclopedia of Islam Vol. 4).

The Fulani, and to be specific, the Jallow clan was part of the arsenal of the Mali Empire and so when a 19th century encounter between Fulladu and Kaabu is analyzed from a tribal perspective, I don’t blame anyone but the historians because in the 13th century these two worked hand in hand to expand an empire.

It has to take a feat of diplomacy to maintain order in an empire as vast as the Mali Empire and as complex as it were. So Cassamance was and still is as heterogeneous as the groups there and so is Guinea Conakry and it will be a fallacy to think that only the Fulani populated it.

People have always adapted and took on different identities for different reasons and so it will be difficult to be 100% sure that an individual’s family genealogy had only one ethnic group. But when we travel back in time, we arrive at a stage in human evolution when human society was just one pair; a man and a woman. Think of that and reflect deeply. We all bleed red.

Good night.

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Posted - 17 Jul 2017 :  10:00:34  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote

By Dembo Fatty

Captain History: Flight Attendants prepare cabin for take-off.

Chief Flight Attendant Time: Please put your seat in an upright position. The captain has also put on the seatbelt sign. Buckle up until he turns off the seatbelt sign and then you are free to roam about the cabin.

Captain History: My name is Captain History and I am assisted at the controls by Co-Pilot President Jammeh. The time capsule is the latest in a family of time machines and so we can take comfort in the fact that the technology is quite ahead of its time. We will be cruising at 100,000 feet above sea-level and will be travelling back in time to find the Mandinka people who for some reason are reported to not exist.

You therefore do not need to set your watches because our destination for this flight is unknown and sometimes we may have to oscillate between the future and the past in order to provide a better perspective of the events being discussed. So, save your watches the unnecessary adjustments as we will not be responsible for any damages caused to your watches by our travel into the future and a sudden travel back in the past. Unfortunately, there is no insurance company ready to insure your watches.

We will fly until we run out of fuel. Weather reports are not favorable either and you can at least avoid making this flight an unpleasant experience if you can be quiet and not interrupt unnecessarily.

Like I said, we are on a mission to find the Mandinka, who according to Co-Pilot Jammeh did not exist or if they did, were never in Gambia before 1864.

So you will experience sudden loss in cabin pressure as we quickly travel at the speed of light from year 2017 to 1864 in five seconds to fight gravity and avoid overheating of the solar panels. It is a dangerous undertaking but the effort is worth it. Guaranteeing rights of every citizen is worth the risk. Lives are at stake and so we must rise to the challenge.

We have now reached our cruising altitude and you are free to roam about the cabin. However, if you are seated, please keep your seat belt on as we may experience unexpected turbulence. If for any reason, an account of a historical event runs against your grains of understanding, bear with us until we land and the aircraft has come to a complete stop.

Year 1864

We have arrived back in time to year 1864, the cutoff date by Jammeh that the Mandinka were never in Gambia.

Our first port of call will be the Kingdom of Kombo. For those of you seated to the right of the cabin, you may look over and enjoy the scene I am about to explain. If for some reason, the address system is not functioning well, let my Co-Pilot know.

Tomani Bojang Mandinka king of Kombo is seated with Foday Sillah, Foday Kabba and Governor D. A. K. d”Arcy signing a truce after series of wars between 1863 and 1864 against the Muslim forces both factions led by Mandinka men.

I wish they knew what they were signing because by 1871, this truce will not be honored and war will break out again between him and the Foday Sillah and Tomani will seek refuge in Lamin town in 1874, by which time Busumbala and Brikama would have already been taken by Foday Sillah. The British would inform Tomani Bojang that they were not going help him and Tomani is going to be forced to face his enemy who will shave his head and convert to Islam (Arnold Hughes and Harry A. Galey 1999, pp 44).

Even though the scene we just saw was in 1864, and we travelled this time into the future for the benefit of the ones going to be born so they can understand. But we will not stop there. We need more than just one proof of evidence to rest our case.

Year 1863

History recorded that in 1863, the north bank based Marabout cleric, Maba Bah decided to set his eyes on the south bank of the Gambia river. Destination Kiang, and to be specific Kwinella. With a large army, he crossed the river and suffered one of his worst defeats (Arnold Hughes and Harry Gailes; Historical Dictionary of the Gambia, 1999, pp8) second to his campaign against the Serer kingdom of Sine in 1867 where he died. Kiang is a Mandinka Kingdom and Kwinella was and still is a Mandinka settlement.

Year 1862

The story goes that around 1862 a native of Baddibu, in the person of Sambou Oumanneh Touray, who later became a disciple of a Maba Diakhou Bâ initiated his own Jihad in the provinces of Sabakh and Sandial. He was disturbed by the fact that it would take an outsider to propagate Islam in his neck of the woods whiles the indigenes sat by and watched. He felt, that role should be taken by the indigenes. It was his victory in both provinces that led to their unification and he sat at the helm as the leader. Thus, was born what we still know as Sabakh-Sandial. Both provincial leaders died in the 1862 Jihad of Sambou Oumanneh Touray (Ba, Abdou Bouri, "Essai sur l’histoire du Saloum et du Rip. Avant-propos par Charles Becker et Victor Martin", p 18; & Diouf, Niokhobaye, "Chronique du royaume du Sine", Suivie de notes sur les traditions orales et les sources écrites concernant le royaume du Sine par Charles Becker et Victor Martin. (1972). Bulletin de l'Ifan, Tome 34, Série B, n° 4, (1972), p 707 (p 5). Hitherto, the title of the rulers of these provinces were Fara Sabakh and Fara Sandial (Wikipedia).

Year 1861

Governor D A K D’Arcy mounted a campaign against the “Mandinka” king of Baddibu with help of the French forces who travelled south through Saloum and the king of Baddibu was defeated. There were accounts that Maba Jahu secretly supported the move since the Mandinka king was not a Muslim and that it was Maba who helped negotiate the peace term. A weak Soninke king was very much in Maba’s favor and after the British attack against the King of Baddinu, the latter sent his son to kill Maba but survived the assassination attempt by the son of the king of Baddibu in 1862. (Arnold Hughes and Harr A. Gailey, 1999, pp35).

An interesting figure in this British campaign was Major Finden Harry, an African of Igbo (Nigeria) origin who in 1849 succeeded Thomas Reffell as leader of the Igbo Friendly Society. (Arnold pp66). Perhaps, under separate cover, I may need to write about the growing Nigerian and Ghanaian populations during colonial times.

The 1850s

The scene we are about to review is the coming into Nuimi a man named Masamba Koke Jobe who was a brother to Lat Dior, the King of Kayor. It was said that Lat Dior had sent him south to buy gunpowder from the British to help him in his conquests. When he arrived in Nuimi, naturally his first port of call was the court of the King of Nuimi in the person of Demba Sonko. For some reason, Masamba never continued his journey to British Kombo having been convinced by Demba Sonko to live in his Kingdom. Demba, it was said even gave him his daughter Jebu Sonko in marriage.

Masamba was asked to meet the elders of Tubab Kolong where the elders showed him a land called Bantang Kiling forest which was reputed to have a lot of spirits residing in it, which Masamba fought and conquered (Assan Sarr, “Islam, Power and Dependency in the Gambia River Basin. The Politics of land Control 1790 to 1940 pp 98).

This spirit of good neighborliness is what is characteristic of our Senegambia where we offer refuge to anyone irrespective of ethnic origin or religious orientation. Maba Jahu’s father was a recent arrival in Baddibu and was welcomed when he migrated from Futa. Maba was born in 1809. The migration into our region was a complex one. It is not true we all moved from the east to the Senegambia region. Some moved from the north down south.

Year 1833

Netx stop Badibu. As we enter the year 1833, Mansa Jeriba Marong ascended the throne and within a short period, had earned himself title of a brave warrior. British merchants had series of complaints against him but Governor O’connor was not the type attracted to war. By 1859, the merchants will find a willing Governor in the person of Colonel d’Arcy who was reputed to be one of the colonial Governors who was ready to fire his cannons at a moment’s notice. During his time the Gambia experienced series of expeditions from the Barra War to the campaigns upriver and the Baddibu War. Baddibu in the 1840s was embroiled with a war with Saloum and in the interim, one of Jeriba’s Generals Yira Massan took over power rendering Jeriba more or less a nominal ruler until the death of Yira. So, in 1860, Governor d’Arcy travelled to Baddibu to sign an agreement with Jeriba and they agreed that the Baddibu king will pay compensation to the merchants for their loses due to his attacks. (CO/87/69 d”Arcy to Newcastle 24 February 1860 and Charlotte A. Quinn, Mandinka Kingdoms of the Senegambia, 1972, pp101).

Jeriba later could not pay because some of his people refused and was unable to enforce it. With the support of the Legislative Council, a blockaded of Baddibu was declared which proofed ineffective. With reinforcement from Sierra Leone and the West India Regiment, the Governor on February 21, of 1861, attacked and his first campaign was against Suwareh Kunda but what followed next as reported by the Governor to the Secretary of Colonies was amusing:

“the enemy did not quail before our fire – even during the time the sixty-eight pounder was crushing away and making large gaps in the earthwork some of the warriors were walking calmly up and down on the top of the work for purposes of encouraging others” (CO/87/71 d’Arcy to Newcastle 26 february 1861) (Quinn pp101.)

It ended in a hand to hand fight. They proceeded to Saba, Kinteh kunda and kerewan and burnt these settlements to the ground. A treaty was signed and the king was fined 100 pounds, 400 heads of cattle and 15,000 trade measures of groundnuts which was later revised to avoid weakening of the authority of the king against the impending of marabout threats. The king was to be paid an annual stipend of $600 and the Alkalos of Suwareh kunda, Saaba, Bani, Salikeni and Katchang each $100. It was too little too late because Maba Jahu by this time was becoming a rising star and the British campaign had the unintended effect of rendering the Soninke kingdom weak to repel external aggression which they will later regret as thousands of malnourished and starving refugees flooded Barra and Bathurst.

Year 1840

Mansa Suling Jatta, king of kombo was forced to cede a portion of his territory to Lieutenant Governor Sir Henry Vere Huntley which later became known as British Kombo or Kombo St. Mary. He further was forced in 1853 to cede more land approximately 25 square miles of territory to the British and was no longer able to collect rent and customs duty in compensation for an annual payment from the British. Mansa Suling’s territory was one of the first to be attacked by the Marabouts mainly Gunjur and Sukuta although majority of the inhabitants of Sukuta were by then Soninke. He would suffer further losses when the British asked for more lands to expand British Kombo and insisted on adding Sukuta to British Kombo. Mansa Suling had no choice but accepted the request in May 1853.

This angered the people of Sukuta, who although mainly Soninke sympathized with the marabouts and refused to recognize the agreement and the British sent forces to put down the rebellion. However, by June 1855, the Marabout under Foday Kaba attacked British Kombo and almost took Bathurst whilst another attack was launched on Busumbala.

Although the attack on Busumbala was repelled, Mansa Suling Jatta was killed. Later struggles between the Soninke families of Yundum and Busumbala greatly weakened their base and made it easier for the Marabout to gain more territory in Kombo. (Arnold pp97-98) Foday kaba was assisted by the imam Foday Kari and by Omar of Sabiji an obscure Mauritanian national who saw combat in the Algerian uprising by Ab-d-el Kadir in 1847. Omar later moved to Sabiji and was much involved in the Marabout wars having already got a name for turning bullets to water. However British regrouping and assault on Sabiji in July 1855, the town was desolated and Omar fled probably into the Cassamance never to return.
To be continued……………………

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Posted - 18 Jul 2017 :  08:37:40  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote

By Dembo Fatty

Year 1840 (continued)

Destination Nuimi. The scene we are looking at is the arrival of about 700 Sarahule mercenaries brought in to the Kingdom at the request of Manda Demba Sonko king of Nuimi hired 700 Sarahule mercenaries to maintain order and to exact taxes on the kingdom’s rebellious eastern border. (see Quinn, pp27). The Sarahule private army under their leader of Ansumana Jaju married Demba Sonko’s daughter and was given land to cultivate and stayed for a period of 12 years (Quinn pp 42). However, by around 1857, this private army was becoming uncontrollable and the king was forced to request that they leave the Kingdom but not before they destroyed several settlements in their wake. In other accounts, the king had to seek refugee on the other side of the river Bank.

This is the reason why I think that the joking relationship between the people of Baddibu and the Sarahule should probably be between Nuimi and the Sarahule who came to the king’s aid in time of need and saved a kingdom. Hiring of private armies were not unusual as oral history would record that when the people of Kombo were facing an onslaught by the Bainunka tribe, they called for help from Kaabu and that partly explains the large number of people with Kaabu ancestry in and around Kombo especially Brikama.

It appeared out of place to have a Sarahule leader with the last name Jaju. I had all along believed that the last name Jaju was either Jola or Mandinka but not in my wildest dreams was I stretching my imagination in the direction of the Sarahule. Then again….

Year 1823

Kemintang Camara, a maternal ancestor of mine, who was king of upper Niani was involved in a series of wars against the King of Lower Niani at Kataba partly angered by the decisions of the king of Kataba, Mansa Koli to sell the island of Maccarthy to the British. In 1834, he seized the vessel of a British merchant at Tendaba which was just two years when the first Wesleyan missionaries arrived on McCarthy Island . By August 1834, the British launched and attack against him but by then he had retired to his fortress at Ndungosine (present day Senegal) which was heavily fortified. The British loss the war and retreated. Kemintang mounted two of the guns left by the British in his fortress to the embarrassment of the colonial forces. ( Arnold pp108).

Eventually, it was diplomacy not war that calmed this king. It was said that a diplomat ithe person of a clergy was sent to his capital to request the return of the guns to the British. A son of his I was told was also taken to provided western education but this son appears to have never returned and no trace of him exists. Perhaps, his family may be resident in Banjul and most likely Christians.

However, to better appreciate this scene, we may have to travel further into the past and probably into the 13th century whne the Kingdom of Niani was said to have evolved.

Oral tradition has it that after the conquest of Tiramakan Trawally, two Camara Princes were sent from Mali to survey the area and familiarize themselves traditionally called “Bankoo Taamo” in Mandinka. These two Princes were Prince Huwang and Prince Jenung. It happened that while they were on the river bank at present day Niani Maro, Jenung fell into the river and disappeared for a while.

Everyone thought he had died and people were walking along the river bank to search for him. It so happened that he was found alive at a place now called Jenung Tenda just around Wassu which is now a sort of tourist beach/ resort. The place where Prince Jenung was found alive was named after him. So Jenung Tenda, is merely an affirmation of the incident mentioned above.

So the people present shouted “Sabally” which in Mandinka means the one who does not die. Up till today, the family that ruled the area was called Sabally but they are actually Camara. After the tour of the lands, they went back to Manding to report.

One of the senior Protocol Officers at the king’s palace in Manding liked the younger Prince Jenung and confided in him that on a particular night, he must make sure he slept in the front of the bed because by early morning, the coronation team will walk in the their room and the one found sleeping in front will become King of Niani. And so the younger Prince for some reason managed to sleep in the front and he was coronated. In the morning, the elders realized that it was the younger brother who was crowned not the elder brother.

That triggered Article 12 of the Manding Constitution which states that:

Article 12: "The succession being patrilineal, never relinquish power to a son when one of his father's brothers is still alive. Never relinquish power to a minor just because he has goods"

And so, the law was broken and as a compromise, Niani was divided into Lower and Upper Niani. Jenung ruled over Lower Niani with his capital at Kataba which is northwest of Kuntaur around Palan village whilst Huwang ruled over Upper Niani with his capital at Ndungosine in present day Senegal. That is north of Sami Karantaba. A Senegalese village still bears the name of this history. Malem-Niani still in existence. You will also still find Mandinka villages in places like Kungel –Sosseh, Ko-Sosseh where some Touray families and Camara still live and also Taba.

The famous Wolof song “Niani Bangena” meaning Niani is not relenting, was testimony to the recalcitrant King of Upper Niani who was very fierce in his campaigns against British interest especially when a brethren of his, sold the island of McCarthy to the British in 1823.

That history is a separate discussion not suitable in this response if we have to do justice to the history. God willing, I will get to that as well.

When Kemintang died in 1843, his kingdom was annexed under the Protectorate Ordinance and the signing of the 1889 Berlin Conference, parts of his kingdom was split between the French and the British. The British part is what we now call Sami District which is a very recent creation. After the end of the Camara dynasty in both Nianis, then we had the keitas, Mannehs, Kommas, Ndows, Jawlas and so on becoming traditional chiefs.

Year 1821

The scene being set is a land dispute between the people of Mandinari and the king of Kombo who had granted land at Mandinari to two missionaries John Baker and John Morgan to build a church in the town. (John Mogan, Reminiscences of the Founding of a Christian Mission in the Gambia, London Wesleyan Mission 1864)

But before we delve into the conflict, a background to the evolution of the kingdom of Kombo will be necessary.

According to oral accounts, a group of karoninke moved into what is now Sanayang town and settled there when it was all wilderness running away from war in karoni (most likely present day Guinea Bissau). A mysterious lady in the name of Wuleng Jabbi lived in the forest and had a cave as her abode. She ruled over the area as Queen. The story further went that the Jatta family were the first rulers after Wuleng Jabbi abdicated the throne in an epic historical account I would like to share.

There was a great hunter by the name of Karafa Yali Jatta known in the surrounding villages as a proficient hunter.
One day, as he was walking in the woods, he heard a cock crowing from a distant and curious to find out what was happening, he moved in the direction of the sound until he arrived at the outskirts of what is present day Sanyang and saw women pounding grain. He got closer and had a contact with the Queen Wuleng Jabbi who was said to have spiritual powers to drive the spirits. The two fell in love and they got married but not before Karafa insisted that he be crowned king which she accepted and abdicated the throne.

An important issue here is that it appears people migrated into this part of our world not knowing the various authorities’ existence. If Karafa, who lived in present day Busumbala (old busumbala which is off the road towards Jabang Village) and never knew of a Queen who lived about 20 miles away, says a lot about who arrived here first and whether the migration was an organized one. We may never know who really arrived here first since Kingdoms in those days appear to be few square miles of land not necessarily a vast span of land under a central authority with a council in place.

This is the version narrated by Bakary Kutu Jatta in 1973 when he was Alkalo of Busumbala in an interview he granted to the staff of the oral History and Antiquities Division. This version was upheld almost in its entirety in the Commissioner’s Report on 1939.

Another version indicated that Queen Wuleng Jabbi did not marry Karafa but rather it was one of her daughters who fell in love with Karafa and when they got married, she abdicated her throne in favor of her son in-law.

The famous Bai Conteh however narrated that Karafa Jatta was actually a brother of the King of Kaabu who was also a hunter. They founded the settlements of Busumbala, Jambur, Yundum, Manduar and Brikama. (Skinner, David, E; “Islam in Kombo: The Spiritual and Militant jihad of Foday Ibrahim sillah Ture; Islamic africa3 no. 1; 2012, pp87-126).

Whatever the version, there is at least agreement that the Jatta were the first Mandinka rulers in Kombo after the Jabbi, who until my recent research never heard of a Jabbi dynasty in Kombo. My suspect is that Wuleng Jabbi may perhaps have been daughter of a venerable religious scholar and perhaps the encounter may have been misunderstood to liken her to a Queen.

As always, another version has it that it was the nephew of the Brikama ruler, with a Jatta last name who founded Busumbala and that a son of ruler of Busumbala being unsatisfied with his position left to found the town of Jambur, whose son also went to found Brufut.(See Sarr pp53 and Skinner, David, E; “Islam in Kombo: The Spiritual and Militant jihad of Foday Ibrahim sillah Ture; Islamic africa3 no. 1; 2012, pp87-126).

By these accounts, the Bojangs would be later arrivals in Kombo having migrated from Kaabu. According to professor Sarr, they came along with their own Marabouts: the Janneh and Touray. The Touray were settled in Pirang, Brikama, Jambur and Kartong.

Now that we have a perspective of the evolution of Kombo, we can now go back to our land conflict in Mandinari in 1821.

Mandinari was founded by a religious leader named Moriba Ceesay who migrated from Pakau (modern day Cassamance) and asked for a place from the King of Kombo who by then was a Bojang in Yundum. He was granted permission to settle subject to payment of royalty. It happened that the daughter of the Kombo King, Madiba Bojang got sick and was taken to Moriba for treatment and after a successful diagnosis; the King gave him his daughter in marriage and Moriba was no longer required to pay royalty on the land he lived on. (see Sarr pp67).

After the king’s death, and precisely on May 5, 1821 (Kevin Morgan diary), a meeting was called by the King in Mandinari to find a solution to the problem of the missionaries in their town. The people of Mandinari argued that since they first settled on the land even though they were allocated the land by a previous king, and now that they were no longer required to pay royalty to the crown, then the new king of Kombo had no right to allocate their land to another person without being consulted and compensated. And ofcourse they healed the previous king's daughter.

Eventually, the king ruled that the Missionaries would stay and threatened to behead anyone who went against his ruling and the rest was history.

Mandinari town is dear to my family because a grandfather of mine is buried there and an uncle in the person of Kunchumpa Fatty was born there as well.
To be continued……………………………………..

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Posted - 24 Jul 2017 :  08:34:55  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote

By Dembo Fatty


Even though we have passed the 1850s, I just thought it necessary to provide the names of the Mandinka people who signed or witnessed two very important historical events namely the acquisition of the Ceded Mile from the King of Nuimi and the Kombo St. Marys.

November 18, 1850

This scene I am about to describe is the signing of the document which gave the British more rights to land beyond the Ceded Mile.

These were our own Gambians present:

Demba Sonko King of Nuimi
Amado Tall Alkalo of Juffreh. (The Taal are the founders of Juffreh)
Mahmoudi Sankoora Alkalo of Berending and brother of Demba Sonko

(See Parliamentary Papers (UK) Select Committee on Africa (West Africa) House of Commons, Gambia Treaties; Session Feb. 7-July 6 1865, Vol. V, 410 also see Sarr page 80).

December 26, 1850

This scene is about the signing ceremony of the accession of the land we now know as Kombo St. Mary’s by the King of Kombo to Governor Richard Graves MacDonnell which took place at present day Old Jeshwang.

Those present with the King of Kombo were as follows:

Tomani Bojang King of Kombo
Ansumana Jatta
Mardy Mariama (Yundum)
Ansumana Ceesay, Alkalo of mandinari
Foday Ansumana Munang

Other Attendants

Majibo Ceesay
Bass Bootoko
Foday Bacary
Moosa Channang
Janka Fatima
Kassee Koonkong
Samba Deber(Dibba most likely)
Ansumana Jatta Alkalo or Chief of bedjulo ( most likely Bijilo)
Alkalo of Baccon (most likely Bakau)

(See Parliamentary Papers (UK) Select Committee on Africa (West Africa) House of Commons, Gambia Treaties; Session Feb. 7-July 6 1865, Vol. V, 411; and Sarr Page 80)

Year 1826

This scene I am about to describe is the signing of the document which gave the British rights to the Ceded Mile which covers what is now Fort Bullen from Jinak Creek to Jokadu Creek and one-mile inland. The Fort was named after Admiral Sir Charles Bullen who enlisted in the Royal navy in 1779 and Commanded HMS Britannia at Trafalgar in 1804. He was sent to West Africa Station first in 1801 and again from 1824 to 1827 but this time on HMS Maidstone to Gambia to assist Acting Governor of Sierra Leone Kenneth MacAulay in negotiating agreement with Burungai Sonko to allow the British access to the coastline known as the Ceded Mile.

Those present were:

Burungai Sonko King of Nuimi
Seney (probably Taal) the Alkalo of Juffreh
Other Alkalos

Year 1827

Burungai Sonko Mandinka king of Nuimi, becoming very disturbed by the British attempts to build a fort (Fort Bullen) on the Ceded Mile (Barra point) decided to abrogate the Ceded Mile Treaty of 1826 and Commodore Charles Bullen (Fort Bullen named after him) at some point abandoned Barra until he was assisted by the French before work on the fort could restart. This led to the Barra War from 1827 to 1832. It would be interesting to the reader that the name Barra was derived from the Portuguese meaning “ narrows” or “straits” due to the narrowing the River Gambia from that point into the interior. (Pp38 Arnold). The ceded Mile covered the area one mile from the coastline inland from Jinak Creek to Jokadu Creek.( Arnold pp46).

Mansa Kollimanke Manneh who was king of Barra at the time Captain Grant started building the first buildings in Bathurst, allowed Captain Grant to quarry stone from Dog Island for free in return the King will enjoy a portion of the duties levied on ships entering the river which was reduced over the years.

This ill-treatment of the King was a long-harbored anger towards the British and so when he died {Kollimanke Manneh), this was still fresh in the memory of Burangai Sonko and was partly one of the reasons for the outbreak of the Barra War. (Arnold pp120).

It is said that the Jammeh clan were the first Mandinka group to move in the area from Manding and were later joined by the Manneh from the kingdom of Kaabu. The Jammeh founded the settlements of Bakendiki first and later Sitanunku.

The Manneh founded Kanuma first then later Bunyadu.

The Sonko were later arrivals from the east and initially were tax collectors for Bur Saloum from the Wolof and Serer communities and first settled in Bankiri (near Saloum border) a Mandinka word meaning “by force”. When they fell out with Bur Saloum, they joined the Jammeh and Manneh and fought the King of Saloum and won. Thus, started the three-rotating kingship system between the three families of seven towns as follows: Bakindiki (Jammeh), Kanuma (Manneh), Sitanunku (Jammeh) Essau Jelenkunda (Sonko), Bunyadu (Manneh), Esau Mansaring Su (Sonko), and Berending {Sonko). (Quinn pp38-39)

Year 1816

After the British defeat of the French at the Battle of Waterloo, British influence in our neck of the woods started to increase from being traders to settlers. And so, the attempt to settle was marked by the purchase of the land we now call Banjul earlier on named Bathurst after the Secretary for Colonies.
It must be stated that the name of the island where Banjul is located is called St. Mary’s and the name was chosen by Captain Grant.

Although in 1973, the name was changed from Bathurst to Banjul, it appears we have not changed the name of the Island. It is still St. Mary’s island. One interesting thing about Banjul is that most of the main streets were named after Allied Generals at the Battle of Waterloo who were Captain Grant’s superiors.

To be precise, the island was bought on April 23, 1816 from the King of Kombo who was Mandinka. However, this was not
the first time the land we now call Banjul was subject to foreign possession. In 1651 Banjul was leased by The Duke of Courland and Semigallia (German: Herzog von Kurland und Semgallen) from the King of Kombo (Arnold pp15).

Eventually the Duke was captured by Charles X of Sweden and their influence in the Gambia was drastically reduced. By 1664, Courland ceded its right to Gambia to England in return for a guarantee of their rights to Tobago in the Caribbean.
While we had long believed that the name Banjul was corrupted from the Mandinka words “bang julo” John Morgan the Wesleyan Missionary we discussed earlier on and who built a church in Mandinari, in 1821, however reported that the:

“native name of the island of (Bathurst) was Ben-Joul or Pen-Joul, a word……..meaning the devils head”. (Sarr page 91).

This translation of the name of Banjul is a first for me. He had been here just few years after the island of Bathurst was bought so his version may have some impact. Is this interpretation of another language other than Mandinka? I believe I speak adequate Mandinka but this interpretation runs against my grain of understanding. Could it be Bainunka? Certainly if this interpretation is true, then it opens another can of worms in our understanding of our evolution as a nation state.

Later on in 1870, when the British proposed cession of the Gambia for other French territory, Tomani Bojang King of Kombo wrote to Queen Victoria that if she no longer wanted the land that was given to her that she should:

“return my territory back to me as an act of friendship” (Arnold Huges and Harry A. Gailey pp43)

Year 1805

An important event happened in the Gambia with the arrival of Mr. Thomas Joiner a Mandinka slave who gained freedom in the United States. He was a successful businessman of his time and traded mainly upcountry. It was said that he had over 100 employees in his business and his business extended all the way to Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Isles de Los and the Maideras. He died in 1842 well before Jammeh’s cutoff date of date of 1864 (Arnold pp103)

June 21, 1795

A Scottish explorer in the person of Mungo Park arrived on the shores of River Gambia in his quest to discover the River Niger. He travelled about 300 kilometers upcountry to Pisania, formerly Upper Niani but present-day Sami District. Pisania was a trading station under Dr. Laidley. Mungo Park stayed in Pisania (Sami Karantaba Tenda) for a period of six months to learn Mandinka which language he needed to master in order to communicate with the locals as he travelled further in the interior. (Park, Mungo 1799; Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa: Performed Under the Direction and Patronage of the African Association, in the Years 1795, 1796, and 1797. London: W. Bulmer and Company & Arnold pp 138).

May be Jammeh would be surprised to know that as a young boy, I made several visits to the epitaph marking the spot where Mungo Park embarked his journey from Pisania, while we were young village shepherds. Pisania is where Karantaba Tenda is. My maternal grandfather was the Alkalo of the settlement when I was young and he was a very good friend of Jawara who during his vertinary services years, used to visit him. He was also a very good friend of late Momodou Musa Njie.

Year 1767
And of course we cannot forget a famous Mandinka personality, Kunta Kinte, who was born in Juffreh and was one of 98 slaves captured in 1767 and sailed on the slave ship Lord Ligonier which brought them to Annapolis, Maryland. (Alex Hailey; Roots: The Saga of an American Family).
To be continued. . . . .

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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10120 Posts

Posted - 28 Jul 2017 :  09:43:43  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote

By Dembo Fatty


Year 1738

A freed Mandinka slave in the person of Lahamin Jay arrived in Gambia in 1738 whose freedom was petitioned by Job Ben Solomon or Job Jallow himself a freed Fulani slave whose father was respected person in Bundu. When Lahamin Jay arrived in Gambia, he joined Job in Bundu. Job Jallow was educated in Arabic and it was said that because of his proficiency in Arabic, he was presented at the court of King George II. (See Arnold and Gailey pp 112)

Year 1623

Richard Jobson in his travels in our sub region met a successful Mandinka businessman in the person of Buckor Sano who traded between Gambia and Niger commercial towns and recorded part of his encounter:

“I am as you are a Julietto, which signifies a merchant……I seeke abroad as you doe.” Sano further went on saying: “neither do I, as the kings of our Country do which is to eate, and drinke, and lye still at home amongst their women.” (Richard Jobson, The Golden Trade, 1623, London 1923, pp124-125)

Year 1651

Barrakunda, a Mandinka settlement in Wuli was established 1651 as a trading post by English merchants. ( Arnold and Gailey pp39).
Duke of Courland leased the land now called Banjul from the King of Kombo and Juffere and an island from the King of Barra which they called St. Andrew later renamed James Island when the British seized the fort in 1661 by Major Robert Holmes. Both kings were Mandinka kings. (See Arnold and Gailey pp54).


In the diary of Alviso Cadamosto, he signed a treaty of friendship with Batti Mansa whose residence was 60 miles from the mouth of the Gambia river. He was reported to have been very welcoming to the Portuguese who stayed with him for eleven days. Batti Mansa was the ruler of Baddibu. Arnold pp47.

Year 1335


Sine and Saloum are known Serer Kingdoms that do not need much debating about. However, what may surprise you is the origins and eventual composition of these Kingdoms.

We need to give some perspectives to be able to understand the evolution of these states. Kaabu was a province of Manding Empire after it was conquered by Tiramakan Trawally in the 13th century after killing the Bainunka king, called Kikikor.

The Nyanchos (Sanneh and Manneh) descended from Tiramakan Trawally and have held the royal dynasty until its collapse in the 19th century. However, not all was going well in the state of Kaabu.

A Mandinka group called the Gelowar, who are believed to be descendants of TiramakanTrawally on the paternal side and the Bainunka on the maternal side. (Fage, J. D., Oliver, Roland Anthony, "The Cambridge history of Africa", p282, Cambridge University Press, 1975. ISBN 0-521-20413-5 and also Innes, Gordon; Suso, Bamba; Kanute, Banna; Kanute, Dembo, "Sunjata: three Mandinka versions", p 128, Psychology Press, 1974. ISBN 0-7286-0003-X).

“The Guelewar were probably a Mandingo aristocracy who went to rule over the Serers of Sine-Salum: a tradition common to the history of both countries tends to confirm this origin.

We know with certainty that according to tradition, Sundiata Keita, King of the Mandingo, had been helped by his sister to triumph over his enemies; in exchange for this service he instituted a matrilineal succession in the royal branch. The present day Guelewars of Sine-Salum also claim that matrilineal filiation was introduced among them in the same circumstances. This was confirmed for me by a conversation I had with Fode Diouf, head of the province of Salum and traditional king of this country, during his visit in Paris in 1956” (Cheikh Anta Diop, Precolonial Black Africa, pp 58, 1987).

You cannot but notice the Mandinka name “Fode” which is a title given to a religious scholar for an achievement in the area of Islamic studies. When you become a “fodewo” you are awarded a turban wrapped around one’s head, more like a graduation gown of the modern era.

In fact you will notice as well as we list the names of some of the Guelewar kings, names like MANE are found in their names.

Secondly, you cannot but also notice that most of the kings adopted names of women basically tracing their legitimacy through the mother’s line.

In kaabu, ascendant to the throne was mainly through the maternal side and this group who also descended from Bainunka nobility was also a contender to the throne. For whatever reasons, they left Kaabu to the Serer kingdom of Sine in 1335 (Sarr, Alioune, Histoire du Sine-Saloum (Sénégal) Introduction, bibliographie et notes par Charles Becker. 1986-87, p 19) and were granted refuge by the Lamanes ( Serer nobility) and through intermarriages with the Joof and Faye clans, a new dynasty comprising of the Serer paternal dynasty and the Guelowar maternal dynasty evolved and the first marking the end of the old Wagagou maternal dynasty ( For paternal serer dynasty see Colvin, Lucie Gallistel, "Historical Dictionary of Senegal", Scarecrow Press/ Metuchen. NJ – London (1981) ISBN 0-8108-1885-X).

Some historical perspective is need here. There are oral accounts that the maternal dynasty in Manding was first introduced by Sundiata CONATEH (Keita was not his surname name which simply means “heirs to the throne” referring to the Princes that were directly in line for kingship) after the formation of the Mali Empire is recognition of the help and support his sister gave too him.

In the words of Ibn Battuta who visited the Mali Empire from 1351 to 1353), maternal influence in Manding was very strong. Battuta visited the Mali Empire during the reign of Mansa Suleyman. (Anta Diop pp 84).

“They (the Blacks) are named after their maternal uncles, and not after their fathers; it is not the sons who inherit from their fathers, but the nephews, the sons of the father’s sister. I have never met with this last custom anywhere else, except among the infidels of Malabar in India”. (Cheikh Anta Diop, Precolonial Black Africa, pp8, 1987).

In the Mandinka language, the name for “family” is “Mbaa Ding” which directly translates as “My mother’s child”. So if you are not of the same mother, technically you do not fit the definition of family. “Faa Ding” father’s child” connotes competition, rivalry etc.

So it should not be a surprise to learn that even in the Kaabu Empire, this tradition of maternal lineages rising to prominence was adopted.

The relationship between a Mandinka boy and his sister is very strong and perhaps the only person in his family a boy could trust with his life. The only thing the Mandinka believe a sister will not support his brother for is in matters of Kingship. She prefers that for her husband because she wants to be Queen of the land. We saw this same trust between Sumanguru Kanteh and his sister when she was sent to learn from a fetish king to increase his magical powers and became pregnant.

The first Guelowar (Mandinka descendant) king of Sine was in the person of Maad a Sinig Maysa Wali Jaxateh Manneh (Sarr, Alioune, "Histoire du Sine-Saloum" (Sénégal), (introduction, bibliographie et notes par Charles Becker), in Bulletin de l'IFAN, tome 46, série B, nos 3-4, 1986–1987. p 19. See also: (in French) Éthiopiques, Volume 2, p 100-101, Grande imprimerie africaine (1984).

He was reported to have ruled the Kingdom of Sine from 1350 to 1370.
This king also went by the various names like (Maissa Wali or Wali Dione) who ascended to the throne in 1350). He was initially co-opted into the Serer high council and after years of assimilation was crowned king of Sine. His descendants married into many Sere noble families who ruled Sine and Saloum. (Gravrand, Henry, "Le Gabou dans les traditions orales du Ngabou", Éthiopiques 28 special issue No, socialist journal of Black African culture (1981); Ngom, Biram,(Babacar Sédikh Diouf). "La question Gelwaar et l’histoire du Siin", Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1987, 69 p. & Gravrand, Henry, "Le Gabou dans les traditions orales du Ngabou", Éthiopiques 28 special issue No, socialist journal of Black African culture (1981).

It was generally a majority vote appointing Maysa Wali as king of the Serer although one notable Lamane by the name of Lamane Pangha Yaya Sarr objected to his appointment since Maysa Wali had no Serer blood in him at the time from both his mother’s and father’s sides despite Maysa Wali having his own “pangool” (cult or shrine with his own spirits that intercedes between the Serer people and “Roog” (the higher god”). Maysa Wali’s “Pangool” was called “Ginaaru “.

We have to remember that Maysa Wali was a recent arrival and with 15 years became king of the Serer (migration from Kaabu was 1335 and his election was in 1350).

In fact the second name Dione or Jon, in Serer was a derogatory title because of the long period of rule (20 years) and some people wanted him gone (Diouf, Niokhobaye, "Chronique du royaume du Sine", suivie de Notes sur les traditions orales et les sources écrites concernant le royaume du Sine. p 3-4 (p 703-5).

These Mandinka descendants adopted Serer life and saw themselves as one. It is still not uncommon to find Mandinka names like Wali and Jahateh (Jaxateh) in both Sine and Saloum up to this day. Saloum, according to some oral traditions was the name of a Mandinka Marabout Saloum Suwareh who prayed for the king Mbegan Ndour and asked that if they win the war, the kingdom be named after him. Mbegan Ndour won the war against a Toucouleur leader Ali Elibana and the rest was history. The name changed from Mbey to Saloum. Perhaps the last name Mbye may be a corruption of Mbey. Saloum was previously called MBEY.

There are countless individuals in my family in kaabu who are called Saloum up to this day. Just like in Kaabu, Maysa Wali’s paternal descendant never ruled in Sine and Saloum. Only the maternal side of his offspring who married into Serer nobility continued the line. (Ngom, Biram (Babacar Sédikh Diouf; " La question Gelwaar et l’histoire du Siin, Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1987, p 69")

In Serer language, a king is called “Maad, Mad or Maat” but with the advent of the Geulowar dynasty the title became Maysa or Maisa a corrupted Mandinka word for Mansa according some accounts but at times used interchangeably.

Below are some of the kings who are descendants of the Geulowar dynasty from Kaabu.

Kingdom of Baol and Cayor

Damel Makodu Yandeh Mbarou Joof Faal, who was king of Baol in 1832 and from 1860 - 1861 in Cayor. He died in Saloum (where his mother hails from) in June 1863. (Klein, Martin A: "Islam and Imperialism in Senegal Sine-Saloum, 1847-1914." Edinburgh University Press (1968), pp 74-77).

Kingdom of Saloum

• Maad Saloum Mbegan Ndour, king of Saloum ruled in 1493 (Ba, Abdou Bouri. Essai sur l’histoire du Saloum et du Rip. Avant-propos par Charles Becker et Victor Martin. Publié dans le Bulletin de l’Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire. pp 10-27). It was this king who changed the name of the kingdom to Saloum.

• Maad Saloum Malaotan Joof, king of Saloum ruled in 1567 (See Ba, Addou Bouri)

• Maad Saloum Balleh Njugou Ndaw (Ballé Khordia Ndao), king of Saloum ruled from 1825 – 1853 (Klein, Martin A: " Islam and Imperialism in Senegal Sine-Saloum, 1847-1914." Edinburgh University Press (1968), p 15)

• Maad Saloum Bala Adam Njie, king of Saloum ruled from 1853 – 1856 (See Klein Martin)

• Maad Saloum Kumba N'Dama Mbodj, king of Saloum ruled from 1856 – 1859 (See Klein Martin)

Maad Saloum Samba Laobeh Latsouka Faal, king of Saloum ruled from 1859 – 1864 (see martin Klein)

Kingdom of Sine

• Maad a Sinig Waagaan Tenin Jom Faye (Ndiaye, Fata: " La Saga du peuple Serer et L'Histoire du Sine. Ethoxies n°54 revue semestrielle de culture négro-africaine Nouvelle série volume 7 2e semestre 1991)

• Waagaan Kumbasaanjaan Faye (See Ndiaye Fata)

• Laasuk Fanaan Faye (see Ndiaye fata)

• Maad a Sinig Sanmoon Faye(see Ndiaye Fata)

• Maad a Sinig Niokhobaye MANE Nyan Joof (Niokhobaye Diouf: " Chronique du royaume du Sine. suivie de Notes sur les traditions orales et les sources écrites concernant le royaume du Sine. p 712-733)

• Maad a Sinig Guejopal MANE Nyan Joof (see Niokobaye Diouf)

• Maad a Sinig Kumba Ndoffene Famak Joof, king of Sine from 1853 - 1871)

• Maad a Sinig Mbackeh Kodu Njie (M'Backé Mak), from 1884 – 1885 (see Klein Martin)

• Maad a Sinig Kumba Ndoffene Fa Ndeb Joof, from 1898 – 1924 ( see Klein Martin)

• Maad a Sinig Mahecor Joof, from 1924- 1969 (when he died apparently a nominal figure with the advent of colonialism and Senegalese independence in 1960).

Kingdom of Jolof

• Bourba Mbagne Pateh Penda Kumba Ngouille Joof Njie ruled 1846 just for a year and was killed at the Battle of Diakhabour (1846) (Ndiaye Leyti, Oumar . "Le Djoloff et ses Bourba". (1966)

• Bourba Biram Penda Kumba Ngouille Joof Njie also killed in 1846 (Ndiaye Leyti, Oumar. "Le Djoloff et ses Bourba". (1966)

One of our own colonial chiefs in the person of Mama Tamba Jammeh is claimed to have descended from Lingeer Kaasa Mengeh (see Ndiaye Fata). Lingeer in Serer means Queen or Princess and in the latter years before colonialism, three strong Lingeer groups emerged namely Keway Begay Clan, Jogop Begay clan and Horaja Begay Clan.

Interestingly, according to Diof Nokobaye, Ndiadiane Ndiaye himself received his name from the mouth of Maysa Waly the first Mandinka Geulowar king. Ndiadiane Ndiaye real name was Ahmad Abu Bakr also called Ahmadu Abubakar. It was Maysa Waly who asked all the Serer people to submit to the Jolof King and that’s why the Jolof kingdom was considered a federation where the neighboring states readily submitted rather than it being formed though military campaign.

One suggests that he was:

"the first and only son of a noble and saintly Berber Almoravid father Abubakr Ibn Omar also called Abu Dardai and a Toucouleur princess who was the daughter of the Lam Toro, Fatimata Sall. This gives him an Almoravid lineage, ie a Berber and Islamic background, on his father's side, and a link on his mother's side to the Takrur aristocracy” (Fiona Mc Laughlin; Salikoko S. Mufwene (2008). "The Ascent of Wolof as an Urban Vernacular and National Lingua Franca in Senegal". In Cécile B. Vigouroux, Salikoko S. Mufwene. Globalization and Language Vitality: Perspectives from Africa. Continuum. p. 148. ISBN 978-0826495150. Archived from the original on 17 December 2011.)

"In all versions of the myth, Njaajaan Njaay speaks his first words in Pulaar rather than Wolof, emphasizing once again his character as a stranger of noble origins (Searing, James (2003). West African Slavery and Atlantic Commerce: The Senegal River Valley, 1700-1860. Cambridge University Press. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-0521534529).

My personal reason why Maysa Wali never wanted to go to war against the Jolof King was that since he had no hereditary rights to the throne in Sine, sustaining a long campaign against the Jolof state would embolden his enemies like Lamane Pangha Yaya Sarr and others will eventually undermine his rule. So he voluntarily encouraged the states to submit to Ndiadiane Ndiaye a mythical figure who according oral history was known to help settle disputes among the people, of the Senegal River Basin.

One account had it that he solved a problem relating to wood near a lake which almost lead to bloodshed among the locals. He appeared from the lake and divided the wood fairly among them and disappeared.

Now the people could not find him and so faked a dispute hoping that he will come out again. When he appeared, he was kidnapped and offered the position of king of the STATE of Jolof and was given a beautiful woman to Marry. And so when Maysa Waly, the King of Sine heard of this incident, he shouted “Ndiadiane Ndiaye" in Serer in amazement. Remember, Maysa Wali was himself a magician because he had his own “Pangool” (cult) and so understood the powers of Ndiadiane Ndiaye.

The Jolof Federation was formed in 1360, nearly 120 years after the Jolof State was conquered by Tiramakan Trawally around 1240. Tradition has it that it was the King of the Jolof State (not the Federation) who seized Sundiata’s horses and gave his emissaries a dog to take to him because in his opinion, he had never seen a Mandinka with horses. Fast forward, Mali Empire raised an army to punish the Jolof State.

Unless we discuss history within a timeline, it becomes very difficult to comprehend. Mali Empire conquered the Jolof State in 1240. The Guelewar migrated from Kaabu to Sine in 1335. Maysa Wali Jahateh was crowned king of the Serer in 1350 and Ndiadiane Ndiaye was crowned ruler of the FEDERATION in 1360.

So while Jammeh and almost everyone was looking for the Mandinka in Mali, it is interesting to note that they were right before our eyes in Sine and Saloum all through from the 14th century not only as ordinary peasants, but also of the aristocracy in these Kingdoms. In effect, the ruling aristoracry in Sine and Saloum are cousins of the Mandinka in Kaabu because Maysa wali’s daughters married into the Serer nobility who bore the future rulers of both Sine and Saloum for generations.

The link below by Lalo Kebba Drammeh.
The plot of the song below would be hatched and played out in Jimara in the settlement of Tambasangsang in the Upper River Region of Gambia.

It was recorded that is based on a dispute between two brothers over the Chieftaincy in Tambasansang following the death of their father, Chief Falai Kora. The eldest, Mamadi Kora although entitled to the throne according to the Manding Constitution, was sidelined by his younger brother Kemonding Kora who exiled his elder brother. Long story short, Mamadi consulted a spiritual leader for help and was advised to go back and embrace peace with his younger brother.

Upon his return, Mamadi was assaulted arrested by guards of Kemonding. The then Colonial Governor Denton intervene because bringing the case to court will cause embarrassment in the land and the family. mamadi was then appointed chief and kemonding removed. Mamadi however showed mercy to his younger brother and forgave him and the rest was history. This song was sang and it was invented by the Suso family of Tambasangsang and today the song has been adapted all over Senegambia but the origin is in Tambasangsang.

Lalo Kebba just modified the song but it was invented in Tambasang sang Pa Suso In this song, the konting is being played by Ida Samba's grand father i believe or some close relation to her.

A, Ala l'a ke, silan jon m'a ke
Ah, God has done it, now it was not a man.
Kuo bee kari bai,
All things can be delayed,
Kunfai kuno te baila.
[but] not the wish of God.
Ala ye men ke te baila.
What God has done can't be delayed.
Kori bali ku la manso le
The omnipotent king
Kun far a kina ngana nin tabisi nani.
Head-splitting celebrity and...
N'ali be nganalu lala, nganalu man kanyan.
If you are calling great people, they're not all equal.
Damansa Wulandin nin Damansa Wulamba
Damansa Wulan the small and Damansa Wulan the big.
Moke Musa nin Moke Dantuma
Moke Musa and Moke Dantuma
Tarokoto Bulai bangeta.
Tarokoto Bulai was born.
Ala ye men ke te baila
What God has done can't be delayed.
Dula be ngana juma fanan kilila
This song is calling other celebrities too
Somani Tamba, a Bajo bane.
Somani Tamba, ah, only child.
N'ali be nganalu lala, nganalu man kanyan.
If you are calling great people, they're not all equal.
E, nafa a barika. Sidi nuku makoto nin
Eh, thanks for profit. Sidi the greedy one and
Sanu men sanna, a, mansa silan.
buyer of gold, ah, king now.
Dua le jabita,
Prayers have been answered,
ba nin fa dua le jabita.
mother's and father's prayers have been answered.
Lun min na nte lota julo da la
On the day I stood at the trader's door
Wori jula nin sanu jula.
Trader of silver and gold.
Suoluo, Samban Jime!
The horses, Samban Jimeh!
Suoluo, Samban Jime!
The horses, Samban Jimeh!
A, Ala l'a ke . silan jon m'a ke
Ah, God has done it, now it was not a man.
Kuo bee kari bai,
All things can be delayed,
Kunfai juno te baila.
[but] not the wish of God.
Kun fara kina ngana nin tabisi nani.
Head-splitting celebrity and...
Nte lota Soma Maha da nani.
I stood at the four doors of the eldest son, Maha.
A barika.
Thank you.
Moriba Jane, Jane ngana la
Moriba Janneh the celebrated
Mandin mori Manju
learned Manding,
Ture ngana Mandin mori Manju,
Turay Manju, the celebrated learned Manding,
m b' e lala.
I am hailing you.
A, Ala l'a ke, silan jon m'a ke
Ah, God has done it, now it was not a man
Kuo bee kari bai,
All things can be delayed,
Kunfai kuno te baila.
[but] not the wish of God.
Lyrics translated by
Todd Martin
PhD Candidate, Ethnomusicology
York University

To be continued…………………………………..

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Posted - 09 Dec 2017 :  12:44:43  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Part TEN

By Dembo Fatty

In part Nine, we saw how Gambia became Gambia and that it was not until 1904, that the current boundary actually was “adopted”. I deliberately put the word adopted in quotes for a good reason. It never appeared that there was some official signing ceremony with all parties drinking some cocktails or champagne opening to the delight of an end of a project. The current straight lines on both the north and south bank of the Gambia River were drawn by the French Governor in Senegal Mr. M. Bayol in 1889, who was assisted by Mr. M. Nisard, the Director of Protectorates of the French Ministry. The British were represented by E. H. Egerton of the Foreign Office and Augustus Hemming of the Colonial Office.

Eventually, by 1904, subject to further negotiations, French demands for rights to trade in pockets of the protectorate were refused by the English but at least some sticky issues like fishing rights off the coast of Newfound Land, development of Ziguinchor and Kaolack ports, the building of the railway and road systems in Senegal and the demarcation of borders in north Africa made the French less willing to engage the British over Gambia. And with German influence in Europe, France was not willing to offend the British as a potential showdown was imminent which lead to the First World War. Thus, the boundaries drawn by M. Bayol over a cup of tea in 1889, although considered temporary by then later became the permanent boundary.

Gambia therefore, was almost an accident in the making and is still a country in the making. It might surprise many Gambians that Gambia has virtually no air space. Our space is limited to just a mere 5,500ft above sea level. This translates to just 1.7kilometers above sea level, a height even a toy drone can achieve. In effect, Gambia is still evolving as a nation and if oxygen were to be rationed, we may all suffocate for lack of one given our limited air space. There is no need for even an air force and so I laughed my head off when we had those First World War eastern European planes disturbing the tranquility of neighbors pretending to defend an airspace that does not even exist. Policy and reality have to match to avoid wasting tax payer’s money. To develop an air force, we must first renegotiate our skyward boundary.

Jammeh, some years ago would toy with the idea of building a missile defense system only to realize that we don’t even have an airspace. He was reported to have cursed the British at that meeting with his Defense Chiefs that the British could not negotiate a better air space for us before they left. Gambia was created in a hurry and no one cared how or what or who of this young nation in 1965. I think the current government needs to renegotiate our air space with the United Nations to be at par with the rest of the world. Most of those ECOMIG planes were in fact in international airspace by our constitutional instruments even though most Gambians thought they were in Gambian airspace. So when the order was given to close our airspace during the impasse, I laughed wondering which airspace?

Although there is no international agreement on the vertical sovereign airspace, there is a suggestion of 30km to 160km high as standard airspace. The Federation Aeronautique International has established a Karman Line at an altitude of 100KM although the United States adopts that anyone who has flown over 80Km to be an astronaut which means that they simply consider their airspace to be up to 80Km above sea-level. Our 1.7 kilometer airspace pales in comparison to any of the above standards. We need to renegotiate our airspace to at least 50 kilometers for purposes of our defense system and ensure our sovereignty.


The English word “Mumbo Jumbo” is said to be influenced by Mandinka culture. The term was first coined by Francis Moore and also appeared in the diary of Mungo Park. It was a Mandinka cultural figure dressed in leaves who is called to judge the virtue of an individual. Because of the secret cant language he spoke which was difficult to understand, its usage in English was attributed to this Mandinka cultural figure.( Arnold pp124). Moore was a representative of The Royal African Company who sent him to Gambia in 1730. His works were later published in a book “Travels in the inland Parts of Africa”. So language can be influence by interaction with other cultures and so Jammeh will be surprised that a word he learned in school growing up, was indeed influenced by the very Mandinka he denied ever existed in 1864, when that word evolved sometime around 1730, some 130 years earlier than his cutoff date of 1864. Looks like everywhere Jammeh turned; he saw a Mandinka or Mandinka influence around him.

I may have to explain a little in detail the history of this Mandinka figure based on the accounts of Mungo Park I read some years ago. This Mandinka figurine dressed in leaves was in most cases a member of the community he was asked to adjucate.

According to Mungo Park, in an account where this incident involved disputes among co-wives, it is usually a friend of the husband of the wives who is dressed in these leaves and asked to come and mend fences. Because he has fore knowledge of the squabbles, and not to risk being recognized, he changes his voice to sound spiritual.

Normally on the evening of the day set for the council meeting ( as it takes place in the dead of the night to instill fear and add another layer of mystery), he would be around the compound observing the flow of activities and would later use some examples of things he saw in his deliberation, which would amaze the women confirming that the masquerade must truly be of the other world.

The men actually knew who he was but that was a taboo never to be discussed. It was a mechanism of control and you know what, who wants to give away power so easily and run the risk of being swallowed by the women. It was one arsenal in the social control means of the men.


Let’s pause for a moment and ask what if Jammeh was right? Does it change anything on the ground? My answer is no.
First, Jammeh would be wrong by his date because there never existed a Gambia as we know it by 1864. It was only in 1904 that we had some understanding that a new territory with marked boundaries was about to evolve.

By 1864, we had our individual states of Foni, Kombo, Jarra, Baddibu, Niani, Eropina, Kantora, Wuli, Saloum and Nuimi. We were citizens of these states and we never carried any documents that bore the name Gambia on it to show we were citizens of the Gambia or even the citizens of these states. Because most of these states were Mandinka states that preceded 1864, it is just a matter of time for Jammeh to realize that his assertion cannot hold water.

With the advent of colonialism, we were either protected people (from Lamin Bridge to Koina) or colonized (Banjul and Kombo St. Mary’s). Protected people enjoyed a special status of protection from the Colonialists than a colonized people. When a people are protected, they are in effect considered “citizens” of the protector nation.

Let’s assume all the Mandinka’s in fact arrived in modern day Gambia after 1904. Does it still make any difference? My answer is still no. With colonialism, citizenship laws were drafted explaining in detail how anyone becomes a Gambian. We had laws that conferred citizenship and certainly anyone who arrived in Gambia by 1904, his offspring would by 1965 be Gambian.

The 1970 constitution defined citizenship as well through birth, through a parent or grandparent. I think that would be what matters because if we go by Jammeh’s own cutoff date, he would be considered not a Gambian since his own family crossed the border into what became Gambia well after 1904, when our official boundary was drawn. So, is it a pot calling a kettle black? In fact there is no kettle here since the kettle was already her well before 1864 and we saw a Mandinka settlement that existed by 1240, nearly 777 years ago.


t looks like those who arrived recently, actually made it than those who were the indigenes. Below I try to provide the biography of few of them.


Samuel John Forster Snr, an Igbo from Nigeria was nominated to the Legislative council in 1886 to replace an outspoken J. D. Richards and served until his death in 1906 in Las Palmas. His son Sir Samuel John Forster also nominated to the legislative council in 1907 and served for 33 years until his death in 1940. (Arnold pp70-71). Certainly Samuel Forster Senior was first generation immigrant in Gambia but he was on the Legislative Council one of the highest body that existed then. I guess Jammeh did not know of the Igbo immigrants of Nigerian descent who held high profile positions in our administration.


He was the son of Samuel John Forster Senior in 1873 and died 1940. He was the first Gambian knighted by the British. Educated in Banjul and the Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS) Grammar School in Freetown, he went on to read law at the Inner Temple, Oxford (1893-1896). He returned to Gambia and became Acting Colonial Registrar and Public Prosecutor in 1901. He was later nominated to the Legislative Council in March of 1907, which post he held for 33 years until his death in 1940 because at the time, the British felt that having a native holding position of Prosecutor was a bit too much and might have far reaching consequences down the road.


He was born in 1925, educated in Gambia, Sierra Leone and UK. He was principal at Government Secondary school at Bo in Sierra Leone, Author of a book in 1960 called “The African” the first book written by a Gambian and one of the first books by an African to gain worldwide circulation and acclaim. His father was a clergyman from Bermuda, his mother from Barbados. He was also Principal of Accra High School, Chief Education Officer of Sierra Leone, worked for UNESCO and died in 2002 in Conakry. I guess in Jammeh’s chronology of dates, 1925 must be much older than 1864 and yet he never pointed a finger at William Conton. Perhaps he never heard of him and I so I will give him a pass.


Pierre was born in 1909 and died in 1993. He was the leader of the United Party and also rose to become the Chief Minister of the Gambia I 1961. However, history would record that Pierre’s maternal grandfather, Semou Joof is a native of Saloum which makes Pierre a very recent addition to the history of the Gambia yet he managed to hold the highest Office in 1961. Considering the first settlers of Banjul arrived in 1816, and even if Pierre’s parents arrived with the first batch of settlers, that is still a period less than 100 years to the date he was born. Has Jammeh not read about Pierre Njie while in history class?


Jawara was born in 1924 in Barajally. However, it is also said that Jawara’s maternal grandfather, Dankunku Fatty was from Kaabu, just like Pierre Njie’s maternal grandfather was not from Gambia. And so Jawara too, has part of his family recently migrated to the area we now call Gambia at least on his mother’s side. Could the settlement of Dankunku, where the Fattys are found be related to this same Dankunku Fatty? I know they are Jawara’s nieces and nephews.


While I am not able to confirm with certainty, no public figure in Gambian history has attracted so much stir in terms of his or her birth than Jammeh. There are several accounts that he crossed the border to Foni and was actually born in Cassamance. Others say he was born in Foni but his parents came recently to Foni. In both instances, that would not make Jammeh a citizen by our 1970 constitution since we are not aware of any naturalization request made by his parents adjusting their status. By the 1970 constitution, one of your parents had to be born in the Gambia or a grandparent. That was why applications for passports had a supplementary sheet added to the application to provide information regarding grandparents.

What has eluded many is the whereabouts of his immediate family. Brother of his father or sisters of his father. How about his mother’s side? Where are they from? Who are his blood uncles in the Gambia? The more you ask these questions the less answers one gets fueling the debate as to his place of birth and whether Jammeh was in fact Gambian.
So I believe, Jammeh should have been the last person to stir the issue of indigeneity when his own story is still being contested.


He was a recaptive slave of Igbo ethnicity who in the 1820 resettled in Bathurst from Freetown. It is said that he took his last name from the European manager of the Liberated African Department in Sierra Leone. He was the founder of the Igbo Friendly Society of the Gambia in 1842 an association open to the people of Igbo descent. Prior to that, he was a merchant and also a volunteer in the Barra War of 1831 on the side of the British. That war was partly because the British refused to honor the subsidy owed to Burungai Sonko for quarrying rights on Dog Island to build the colonial houses in Banjul.


Harry was an Igbo of Nigerian origin, barely literate but a successful merchant. In 1849, he was elected leader of the Igbo Friendly Society of the Gambia succeeding Thomas Reffel. He was also commandant in the African troops in the Baddibu war of 1861 with the rank of a Major. But his participation on the side of the British was not for long as he was one of the champions of an independent and separate Gambia and had written severally to the Crown stating the opposition of the Bathurst merchants to any exchange of Gambia for French territory.


By his own admission via the video link below, Chief of Defense Staff Ousman Badgie told the nation that his parents crossed the border from Cassamnace and settled in the Gambia. He himself according to Wikipedia was born on November 15, 1967, just two years after we attained independence.

Now, what baffles me is that someone whose parents crossed the border probably on Independence day, and he was born as recent as 1967, can be trusted and be Gambian enough than a Mandinka who arrived in this region in 1864 if we take his version of history, but who by all accounts is still a foreigner. At least, if we apply the Principles of Indigeneity, an immigrant to our region 153 years ago, is more of an indigene that someone who arrived just 50 years ago.

How can Badgie be more Gambian enough to rise to the position of Chief of Defense Staff but a Mandinka whose parents arrived in 1864 is not Gambian enough for anything, that is if we are to believe his theory of migration which by all accounts is false?

I don’t want to litigate CDS Badgie’s citizenship nor do I have any interest in discussing it but I cannot but help bring it forth as part of my response to show that the basis of Jammeh’s theory falls flat because he was willing to make great exceptions when it benefited his interest otherwise, he should not have appointed Badgie in the first place. Badgie is two years younger than Jammeh and a far more recent arrival in Gambia. I will leave his citizenship issue to constitutional experts visa vis our Independence Instruments of 1965 and the 1970 Constitution with regard to who is a citizen. I am just a history enthusiast.


I cannot conclude this response without attempting to demystify certain believes or stories we grew up hearing and some of these are as follows:


I have heard it said a few times that the original inhabitants of Kombo were the Bainunka people, although I have not seen any concrete evidence to the story. I have never heard of the capital of the Bainunka State or at least three of their Kings mentioned anywhere. What is the name of the Bainunka state that existed before Kombo existed? What are the names of at least three of their kings? Where was the capital of the state? If I have answers to these questions, I am ready to change my mind but until then I still hold that history suspect.

I do however know that the Bainunka people had a state called Bainuk but that was a region in present day Guinea Bissau and the last king was Kikikor whom Tiramakan defeated. I just hope we are not confusing Bainuk as an extension of Kombo? Yes the Bainunka people lived in Kombo and so were the Mandinka. Kombo is certainly a Mandinka name. How come, the Bainunka had no name for their state?

The official story of the history of Kombo was that a resident of Busumbala was on a hunting expedition and chanced on the settlement of Sanyang where, Queen Wuleng Jabbi was resident. Long story short, the Queen abdicated to this hunter who married her daughter and that’s how kingship came to Busumabala specifically to the Jatta, then the Bojangs.

Of late I have heard that it was Queen Jassey not Queen Jabbi. Let’s no belabor on the Jabbi and Jassey issue for now but look at the narration in more detail. We now know that the distance between Busumbala and Sanyang is less than 20 kilometers if you drive straight to Sanyang. Since the story said that the people of Busumabala chanced on a civilization just 20 kilometers away, means that the two settlements were never aware of the others existence. Now the questions that arise are as follows:

How big was the Kingdom of Queen Wuleng?
Did she have an army?
Which villages were part of her Kingdom?

If for once we part with the official version of history that Queen Wuleng Jabbi was in fact Queen Wuleng Jassey to give it a Bainunka presence, a kingdom that was certainly less than 10 mile radius circling the settlement of Sanyang was nothing but just a hamlet that cannot even stand the test of a village. So a tiny hamlet ruled by a Queen qualifies as a Kingdom? This has been the very issue with most of our history where every village head claims to be a king. Kings are for kingdoms and village heads are for villages and so even if we change the official record and make it a Jassey Queen, that still begs the question as to whether it qualified as state. Kombo, however, is large enough to be called a state as it spans over several settlements and had a system of authority that we can ascertain truly existed.

Do not try to convince me that the Bainunka did not establish kingdoms as they have no social hierarchy to institute kingship. They had one called Bainuk around 1240 in present day Guinea Bissau. For all I know, the name Sanyang is a name of the “Koring” branch of the royal house of Kaabu including the Sonko. They are the paternal side of the royal family whilst the Manneh and Sanneh hail from the maternal side just the same way it was during the Gelewar dynasty in Sine and Saloum where princes of the matrilineal line ruled.

Other lesser known Bainunka “states” were Bichangor, Jase and Buguando but these are to be found in lower Cassamance or towards Guinea Bissau and not large territories. Some of these areas are probably less than the size of a district or nothing but collections of few settlements. Perhaps many are mistaken these states for Kombo.

To be continued………………………………

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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10120 Posts

Posted - 19 Apr 2018 :  11:35:24  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote

By Dembo Fatty
Demystification continues………..

In part 12, we looked at the issues surrounding the Battle of Kansala dubbed as “Tooro bang”, a Mandinka term meaning annihilation or Armageddon. We eventually looked at the formation of the Imamate of Futa Jallon and its rise and fall briefly.

However, one mystery which needs to be demystified is the region called Futa Jallon. What was it called before it became known as Futa Jallon is a question we need to find answers to? We must remember that the Imamate of Futa Jallon did not take off until around 1725 after the Fulani migration into the area from Massina in the north an also from Futa Toro around Podorr and Matam in present day Senegal.


That land was initially inhabited by the Jallonke people as early as the 11th century (Anthony Appiah; Henry Louis Gates (2010). Encyclopedia of Africa. Oxford University Press. pp. 490. ISBN 978-0-19-533770-9.) 700 years before the Fulani migration into the area.

The area was originally called Jallonke-Dugu, which is Mandinka means the land of the Jallonke. There are variants in the way their name is written. From Yalunka, Jallonke, Djallonke, Djallonka or Dialonke butthey all mean the same. Their name simply means “the inhabitants of the Mountains”. Jallon simply means mountain.

So while, it is being touted today that Futa Jallon is Fulani territory, history tells us otherwise. That land was the land of the Jallonke people and it was after the Fulani, under the Imamate of Futa Jallon conquered this region, did they add “Futa” before “Jallon” and it became Futa Jallon but still maintaining the genetic marker of the indigenes, who are the Jallonke people.

“And importantly, Machat noted the theory of Maclaud that the Sidianke, who give their name to Islamic community of Futa Jallon, were Mande peoples who established themselves in Jallonke-Dugu under the leadership of Karamokho Alfa. Moreover, he claimed that these Mande must be distinguished from the pastoral people who arrived in this region in a succession of migrations from the Niger Bend” (John Ralph Willis, Studies in West African Islamic History: The Cultivators of Islam (Routledge Library Editions: International Islam) (Volume 6) 1st Edition, pp25).

Obviously, the migration from the Niger Bend is none other than the Fulani migration from Massina, Bundu and Toro as discussed in earlier sections of this write up.

The above quote is proof of what my position has been all along that the battle of Kansala was not a Fulani/Mandinka war but simply a religious war. A group of Mandinka people rallying around Karamokho Alfa in expanding Islam in the region.

The Jallonke people of Jallon belong to a branch of the Mandé speaking and are much related to the Susu who are also another branch of the Mande people. Some of these people are found mainly in Guinea Conakry and Sierra Leone. They founded a notable town called Falaba, in Sierra Leone, Some Jallonke people migrated south and settled among the Limba, Kissi and Koranko people.

In fact quite very interesting history to note is that the famous Alfa Yaya of Guinea who was exiled in 1905 to Dahomey, and son of Ibrahim Jallow, a then leader of Labe, was in fact born in a Mandinka settlement called Fulamori. I guess this does not need any translation.

Alfa Yaya’s remains were returned to Conakry by Sekou Touray in 1968, for a fitting state burial at the Camayanne Mausoleum, situated within the gardens of Conakry Grand Mosque, where the tombs of both Sekou Toure and his great grandfather Samori Toure are also located.

One question that keeps popping up in my mind is whether Jallow is in fact a Fulani last name? Could Jallow have been a corrupted name derived from the Jallonke? After all, both names are very similar and Jallonke predates Jallow in the area. The reason why I ask this question is that of all the 16 divisions of Mali Empire, the only last name that stood out as different was the Jallow clan. The following are the 16 divisions.

Manding army had 16 divisions each headed by a clan and her military was called the “Djon-Tan-Nor-Woro”. They were the Conate, Coulibaly, Traoare, Kone, Dannyoko, Magassouba, Jawara, Dabo, Jallow, Diakiteh, Sidibeh, Fakoli, Sangareh. The remaining three clans were each represented by two as follows: Dereba-kamissoko; Camara-Komagara; bagayogo-Sinayogo. Could Jallow have been mistranslation of the Jallonke? After all, all the other 15 divisions are headed by Mande clans with the exception of Jallow. Besides, Jallow is for the most part found mainly in Labe area which is the same area occupied by the Jallonke people.

Could the Jallonke people have adapted to the pressure of the Fulani migration and assimilated to become Fulani thereby losing their identity? Why Alfa Yaya’s birth place is called Fulamori? This hypothesis needs further research and I hope some history enthusiast will take this up as a thesis paper.
Another myth that needs to be demystified is what constituted the Mali Empire. Before there ever was a Mali Empire, there was a state called Manding which the core or nucleus of what constituted the largest concentration of the Mande people of which there are many offshoots.

This Manding state had its capital at Kangkaba. This was the state that revolted against the Susu leader Sumanguru Kanteh under the leadership of Sundiata Keita. Before Sundiata, there were many kings who ruled Manding and in some instances as vassals of foreign jurisdictions.

From this newly independent Manding state, were added several other states to form the Mali Empire which constituted several ethnic groups. It was then, that the imperial capital was moved to Niani.

The present day caste system as we have today, in my opinion did not exist as such during the Mali Empire. Caste was simply a division of labor to ensure that groups specialized in certain trades in order to perfect their skills and be of use to the Empire.

Each caste was treated with dignity and respect and there were no barriers marrying across castes. The Jali for example were advisers who were summoned to the Royal Courts to provide historical perspectives of the ways of the people gone by and how a particular case was to be adjucated based on tradition.

The Jali in effect were high ranking administrative officers who were in fact the only group that were allowed to have a joking relationship with a King.( D. T. Niane, Sundiata: An Epic of old Mali (China: Pearson Longman, 2006) 1-4). They enjoyed free hand in speaking truth to power and were great confidantes of the Kings. Nothing in the Kurukang Fuga, suggests a limitation of interaction between the castes.

Therefore, what may seem today as being a norm of yesteryears is nothing both the desire of a few to exploit the social structures for power and influence.


To those historians who always believed that history always repeats itself, I always caution that it does so but with a difference. The Kurukang Fuga was the Assembly of great men, kings and opinion leaders of the newly minted Mali Empire who converged at Kangkaba to show allegiance to the new Emperor Sudiata Keita. At that assembly, they promulgated 44 Articles which will for centuries be the basis of legal jurisprudence for the Empire. From these 44 Articles, each representative was armed with power and authority to pass on to his people. Regional interpretations and implementations varied slightly as expected but the core principle remained the same.

When Jammeh refused to give up office after his defeat, it just then appeared that another reenactment was in the making. President-elect Barrow was flown out of Banjul to Mali to attend the 27th Africa-France Summit in Bamako. The re-enactment is in the same country (Bamako being about four hours’ drive to Kangkaba), and also the heads of states for the most part, that attended, were from countries that were formerly part of the Mali Empire of Sundiata Keita.

From this summit, Presidents offered their support in ensuring that President elect Barrow becomes the legitimate leader of Gambia and like in 1235, were willing to go to war to see through their desires. And so when the jet fighters roared over our skies, I could not but draw a comparison between these two events although 800 years apart.


While Jammeh had all along denied the existence of the Mandinka as a people, it so appears that in the final days of his presidency, the last person Jammeh saw trying to save his life was a Mandinka in the person of Alfa Conde, President of Guinea.(…/dangerous-game-guinea-s-pr…).

Almost all of Jammeh’s people left him in the dying hours of his presidency and it would take two Mandinka people: Conde and Barrow to give him safe passage to enjoy the freedoms that he has denied many. Sadly, only a handful of people joined him on that aircraft while the rest melted into the greater society ready to retool and carve out a path for themselves in the New Gambia.

In the end, it was the Mandinka ethnic group which he despised most, who would come to his aid when he needed it most. The morale lesson to be drawn here is that we must always be careful of the people we hurt because it seems these are the people who help us when we least expect it. Those whom we dine with during times of plenty and jubilation, are the first to give us their backs and no wonder Jammeh himself told us on national TV that those who were green turned yellow by the morning; a realization of this very fact of life that people for the most part, support you just for their own personal gains and are quick to desert you when the going gets tough.

A somber Jammeh was seen on TV, perhaps regretting the help he has accorded to many people and may be remembering the promises of some of his inner circle, who pledged their blood for him but who have morphed into the wider society not be identified with him.

This is one reason I keep my old friends around me since primary one. These people will never be shy to tell me the truth and they have on many occasion. I get mad, rethink and realize that they were just being genuine. We must always be careful of the people being oppressed today because tomorrow will be their field day and karma truly is a b$tch.
It has always been my way of life to enter a crowd unrecognized.

I am happier if no one gives me attention for I always know that deep down, when the cards fall, only a few will be around. Most men of history, who during their peak, seemed invincible but in the end, they fall and live their later years in solitude.

When Captain Strasser of Sierra Leone was booted from Banjul years after his honey moon as president of Sierra Leone, I could not believe that a man I listened to on Focus on Africa, was sitting right before me at the airport with nothing to his name nor a simple escort. All his fame and following disappeared with his fall.

Since then, I decided to comport myself in humility because for me, a man sitting down does not fear a fall.
To be continued……………………………………

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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10120 Posts

Posted - 20 Apr 2018 :  09:53:33  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Part 14

By Dembo Fatty


When I started the series in June of 2017, it was not intended to last a single posting. I had never developed an outline of my response nor did I have a plan of approach. I thought I was going to make a casual statement regarding events surrounding the treatment of the Mandinka people. Honestly, I was looking at a two page response and never imagined that at this stage I am writing page 120 of the response.

Clearly, we are all aware, or at least have heard through third parties the stoking of tribal sentiments at the very top of our administrative organ of government, the vitriol directed at a people who, through no choice of theirs, were born into an ethnic group. They never asked to be Mandinka nor by virtue of being Mandinka takes away any other person’s rights as citizen of the Republic of the Gambia.

I scouted both social and print media in Gambia, and although I saw a few comments here and there, I felt none had risen to the level I thought was sufficient in challenging this notion, that my people are foreigners in their own land, that we were chased by the Bambara from Mali even though the Bambara and Mandinka are the same people of the larger Mande group.

I had pondered on writing a response but was pulled back by the unkempt comments I have seen that followed almost every posting on tribe and tribal issues. So I let go for a while. Then I remembered that in life, we all have different callings and it is the sum of all individual callings that make a nation flourish. Each of us have unique qualities and traits that when we all pursue, will make that country of ours to be great and successful.

And so, I said to myself that perhaps, this was my calling to rise up when the occasion calls for it just the same way others stood before me, centuries ago, to speak up against injustice and colonial rule. I owe it to them, myself and country to add my small voice to the spirit of reconciliation and camaradie that snake-like country has always been known for: peaceful, docile and welcoming people, who even in times of strive, still manage to share the little they had with one another irrespective of language, creed, ethnic or regional background.

That was the Gambia I was born into and in the villages, especially in very large compounds, you could never tell which of the meals your mother cooked. We all converge in the middle of the compound, after the mothers had brought the cooked meals and we just sat close the bowl nearest you. We trusted each other and sons of different mothers ate together without suspicion.

It was okay to eat and sleep at a friend’s house and it was an offence for a parent to come looking for his child at meal time. You sure would be scolded for trying to take your child away as if his friend’s family had no food to offer him. Every compound was home from home.

In my village of Demfaye, my best friend was late Ali Kunjo, who was Wolof. I always had my dinner at his home while I visited on holidays. My family knew where to find me and if his family did not see him, they very well knew that I was around. I knew I was a Mandinka but not to the extent that I felt I needed to impose that on any other group nor felt any superior to anyone. I just saw it as an identity and a language to speak.

In fact in the village, we spoke Mandinka, Wolof and Fulani. One part of the village was called Futa, populated by the Futanka and Laobe speaking. I must admit, Futa was the most lively section of the village where we all went to for the night “hiro”. The late Ba Tumani Camara, a Fulani, was the sort of leader of the Fula community and he appeared to have an endless following of Fulani musicians that frequented his home.

I learnt at a very early age to dance to the rhythms and slow pace dance of the Fulani and “Yaa Taa Kaaya”, which was and still among the top ten singles on the Fulani music chart, was sang by all and looking back, I can see our small frames twisting and pacing back and forth in excitement especially if that were on the night of the 15th when the moon, the only source of light in the village, was up in the sky as though it was our guiding angel lighting the alleys and bends that village layouts are known for.

We did not have much but we shared all we had and we were one family. Touch one, touch all.

And so, after long reminiscence of such a life, all of a sudden I jolted out of my seat on a warm Saturday morning in Seattle, and after a cup of Ovaltine (which is a ritual), I grabbed a piece of paper and pen sketching an appropriate title. I must admit, some of them I will not share here especially at moments when my thought was cloudy and my heart pumping in frustration.

I realized one lesson of life. That one should never make a decision when one is angry or very happy. Both instances, tend to appeal to emotions without much thought and sooner that the stimulant precipitated, and reality sets in, we begin to question ourselves why we made such decisions. This is why I never negotiate out of fear or expediency no matter the circumstance otherwise you live to regret your decisions.

There are several reasons why I decided to write a response. Halfway through the first response, I realized that I will need another response to finish my thoughts because I wanted to show proof that my people were here all along. To achieve that, I would have to come up with not only accounts based on oral history but also written texts to calm the dangerous waters I was about to wade through. I also realized that issues bordering on tribes are sensitive adventures not for the faintest of hearts.


The first reason why I attempted to respond was to restore the dignity of my people. For far too long, my people have been suffocating under the cloak of ridicule and insults from a man, who swore to defend the Constitution which guarantees the rights and existence of every citizen and equal protection by the state.

It became so bad, that many Mandinka people would rather not be identified with their own people and those who were lucky enough to have last names that could also be found in other tribes, have drifted towards those group to try to hide their ethnicity.

We all heard of the Whatssapp debacle between a one Marenah and a Mandinka woman from Brikama who believed that Jammeh was after the bad Mandinka who were out to end his presidency. I forgave her because the pounding in the media of the belittling of a people who gave it all to see a prosperous Gambia, had sunken so deep in the fabric of society, that it was just a given and accepted norm that being Mandinka was synonymous to being a “saboteur” if I may borrow a very popular word in the early days of the coup in 1994.

This is what happens to a people who are stripped of their worth and become so helpless that they join the crusade to harass their own kind just to try to fit it. In fact, a large portion of the Mandinka people had always voted APRC all these years yet, that could not be recognized.

Have you noticed that most of the henchmen that carried the APCR were Mandinka men. Go check the list. You will find the Barrows, Jobes, Singhateh, Manjangs, Camara and so on who made notoriety in oppressing people while standing few inches from the same man who would insult their kind and they felt unoffended. Jammeh was truly a diplomat hands down. He had the ability to tell these Mandinka henchmen to go to hell every day, and they looked forward to it while still committed ever than before to run errands for him and seek him his blessing. A very classic case of Stockholm syndrome.


The second reason is simply, to provide for the young generation and those yet unborn, an alternative to the narratives that were already infused in the strata of society that the Mandinka are foreigners and therefore unworthy of being Gambian.

Many APRC generation kids bought into this idea and trust me even some young Mandinka kids felt this guilt of not fitting in. This had two consequences. Firstly, it distorted history and for us to move on, we must rewrite the narratives otherwise, the trend was leaning towards a Gambia where other ethnic groups, who hitherto, had no ill feelings towards the Mandinka and even intermarried, began to buy into the scheme and it just a matter of time when the lid covering an ethnic strive would explode. 2017 was just the calm before a storm and had Jammeh won the elections, it was just certain that that country will be robbed further of her innocence as being one of the most accommodating in our region.

Secondly, it had the tendency of creating second class citizens which is a recipe for civil strife.


The third reason is personal. It was a therapy for my soul. Perhaps not many people know this about me but I was a public official who on or around November 21, 2001, received my marching orders from State House that I should be dismissed from my job without reason.

Prior to this executive order, I knew all along that my days were numbered and it was just a matter of when not whether their ‘electric broom” will sweep me off my feet into the cadre of what I call the “ Era of Staggered Careers” which to me, best describes the life of public officials in the 22 years of the junta; where people are recycled, kicked, stoned and rolled into public office with or without regard to constituted guidelines.

When I worked at PMO, I used to spend the best part of my week at the Public Services Commission as an adviser and representative of the Permanent Secretary since I worked in a unit called the Personnel Division that was responsible, for recruitment, appointments, promotions, emoluments like pensions and gratuities and disciplinary matters which functions are what the Public Service Commission to a large extent performs. I left the unit as a Principal Personnel Officer heading it.

In one instance at the PSC, my fuse could not be contained. Commissioners were unwilling to dismiss a public official who was an employee of the Ministry of Health on the grounds that the executive did not give them a reason why someone was being dismissed. I responded to them that they then needed to tell us why they then approved many dismissals for which no reason was given.

What pricked their conscience now that they are asking questions? That did not sit well with them , since I was in an advisory role, they refused to heed to my advice even though the Public Service Commission Act clearly states that any one helping the Commission in performing their duties is also a member of the Commission. They immediately called the State House and set up an appointment the following morning for an audience with Jammeh which was granted. This public official’s dismissal was rescinded.

I then came to the conclusion that I would not survive in that environment because I could not hide my frustrations and quietly left on Secondment to GIA as head of the Human Resources.

Looks like trouble follows a Mandinka no matter how far away you try to hide yourself. The long arm of the state was within reach. When I was being introduced, I was shocked the number of people who asked for my last name before they even knew my name. I realized that in fact, the system had been infiltrated and polluted and that I was actually in a cage with only a door, where stood this canker called tribalism was waiting to devour me. I either charge the lion and escape or be the dinner on the table.

I heard of lists of names being tabulated, mainly Mandinka people to be dismissed. I believe I made that list a few times but for some reason, I managed to stay on for almost five years but the list that was prepared in 2001, finally swept me off. On that fateful morning, there were at least 12 people dismissed most of whom were Mandinka or married to Mandinka. It was also a crime being married to a Mandinka in public office.

I lost everything. No salary, no pension, no gratuity. Not even a bye-bye handshake while I could hear giggles coming from probably people who may have had hands in this scheme happy that they have got rid of one Mandinka.

My story is not a lone story. It is the story of many Mandinka people who got up every day ready to serve their country but who, every day on their way to work, never could tell if they will be in office for the 8 hour shift. In fact, when I worked at the Quadrangle, a famous Messenger called Pa Fatty, was the smoke screen to disaster. With his Messenger bag under his arm, extension phones explode as every public official would alert colleagues which direction he was heading to. He carried the dismissal letters and most often he was seen between 3pm and 4pm. If he was not heading towards your building, you breathe a heavy shy of relief that at least you survived that day and would at least come to work the next day.

When last week my Jewish friend brought me Passover bread, and while munching at it, I could not but see the parallel in my life to the story of the Hebrew in Egypt. The 22 years was like Passover in Egypt, when Angel of death killed the first born of every Egyptian male so the Hebrews could be freed. The crying and wailing in that night, was synonymous to the 22 years that people like me and others had to endure, through no fault of ours but simply because we were born into an ethnic group. That was our crime. A crime that we never committed and were punished for it. Yet, somewhere I read in our constitution the freedom to be who you want to be, a constitution guaranteed my rights to self-actualization and that I should not be discriminated on the basis of religion, creed, ethnic or even physical limitations unless if such limitations were inhibitive to me performing the functions of my office.

I also read somewhere in our constitution the right to free speech and assembly and also the right to not only belong to a political party of my choice, but also the right to elect and be elected. We as Gambians had committed ourselves to the ideals of a democratic society where every Fatou, Boido and Hooligoonay are guaranteed the basic fundamentals of life, liberty and equal protection by the state and an equitable access to state resources including but not limited to the right to due process.

Many like me were never accorded due process up to this day. This road was not a lonely one. I found many descent Gambians trudging and some found me dragging my feet trying to reach the door steps of justice which although present in abundance, was not accorded to us. The state dropped the ball on us and became morally bankrupt in living to its ideals as the final protector of her citizens when a government refuses to play by the rules. In short, the state morphed into the government and with it, mere anarchy was loosed upon us.

I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but I sure know that I have added value to that country in far many ways than many who served all their lives in public office. “.. Today, we have lost one of the most intelligent and brightest civil servants to private and corporate world….” were the parting comments in my person file by the then Chairman of the Public service Commission, with whom I had several times argued with, but he came to respect me for who I was. That I did it for country even in moments when I knew my personal safety was on the line.

On one occasion, I stood up for a former Cabinet Minister who was fired and her service was refused by the Auditor General’s Office as not pensionable because her service as Minister was during a period she was on leave of absence. Nobody wanted to take up the case when it came up for a decision. I grabbed the opportunity, and with a supporting Permanent Secretary in the person of Therese Drammeh, I wrote my opinion of approximately three to four pages giving reasons why she must be paid rooted in the statutes of the service and copied the Accountant General, Auditor General, Secretary general, Attorney General and Public Services Commission asking all of them to respond to my position, if they have a different opinion. To this day, not one of these officials challenged my position. I can say with certainty, that that minister was paid her pension.

Years later, a copy of that letter was still being circulated and photocopied by many officials as precedence. I knew about it from a Director at the office who I met in Banjul and said in Wolof “ sooma raka, sa letarr, be is a hot cake. Everyone is coming and asking for a copy”.

I was going to publish my dismissal letter from State House, but out of respect for the others on that list, I decided not to. When life gives you a lemon, try and make a lemonade out of it. I refused to take on a victim mentality because that is self defeat. This world promises nobody anything. We must work for it and even at the point of taking one's last breath, be hopeful.

A story goes that a group of people in a taxi were apprehended by rebels and each was asked to say his last wish before they were killed. They killed everyone except one. They asked him to say his last wish. The man raised his hands to the Heavens and said:

"God I know You said that You always answer the prayers of all Your people but sometimes, I believe You are slow in responding. In my own case, I want You to respond immediately let these people allow me to go. If You delay, then I am finished"

The rebels all burst into laughter and said to him you are too funny. They let the man go unharmed.

That's the God I seek. The God that makes the impossible possible. Enjoy a royal treat by Salif Keita as he dissects the Mansas . The true Mansa is only God, before whom all Mansas, are subservient.

“…..Mansa kiling teh duniya labang” salif keita

To be continued………........

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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10120 Posts

Posted - 21 Apr 2018 :  07:58:16  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Part 15
By Dembo Fatty

I stood up against injustice very early on as founding member of Amnesty International Branch in Gambia at a time when I was an employee of the Vice President’s Office. In fact I wrote to the then Secretary General informing him of my membership of an international organization as required by the Civil Service rules. Not many people will be that willing to expose themselves. Amnesty International had no office then and our office was under the trees by the entrance to Saint Therese’s Primary School . A handful of us would meet and discuss, sometimes in a car that belonged to magistrate Gassama.

I would like Jammeh to know that I was the one who supplied his Council with copies of the General Orders, Public Service Act and Public Service Commission Regulations through a friend and brother who was a Captain in the army by then because I was of the believe that this young council should be exposed to the inner working of the civil service and it was my attempt at making them hit the ground running. I was hopeful that they would adhere to the desire of an independent civil service shielded from politics.

And so I laugh when I hear some people asking others on social media where they were during the struggle as if owning a radio, or writing on one’s walls or a an online paper were the only ways of fighting the system. I can tell you that some people were not in the media because they were dead. Some people did not have Facebook accounts either.

But some people have been fighting the system inside the system itself and have attracted far more risks to their persons than shouting from the comfort of a western country far away from danger. Some took to the streets and lost their lives so you could finally come home to bury your dead or see loved ones in many years.

Ultimately, the heroes and heroines to me are the ones who went to the polls, waited long hours to cast a vote. The old, the weak and the sick, despite all the good excuses they could give for not voting, decided that that the issue at hand was far greater than their individual problems. So stop checking on people’s Facebook timelines pre January 2017 as if that is the only way to determined who was part of the struggle.

The voter in Yoro Bawol has no Facebook nor the voter in Demfaye ever heard of an online radio, yet, these unsung ordinary people, without attracting any attention to themselves, did what has eluded many; a peaceful transfer of power through the ballot.

For many years, I was a site administrator to an online medium that many Gambians frequented and I am still the site administrator. I had a pen name only two people know about. I sit on a sizeable number of IP addresses.

This struggle was a people’s struggle and we must never discount anyone or sit on our high horses pointing fingers at people we think did not do much. There are many seemingly quiet people who took decisions that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand. Some are quiet because they did it for country and like my friend Katim Touray used to say at Armitage “ there are many ways to kill a cat”. The cumulative effort of all of us, saw us through. each effort is important in this continuum. 99 bututs does not make a dalasi, however you try.

Later on, in life, I would take on a greater calling while working at the Airport. To be part of history in securing FAA certification to allow direct flights from Banjul International Airport to the United States. The reason for the most part why we never had direct flights to the USA was not because of visas but largely because the airport was not secure. And so, in collaboration with GCAA, my office took up the issue of aviation security training with great seriousness.

We brought in an expert in the person of Philip Baum of Green Light in the UK to help train our security personnel in the area of aviation security which we happily extended to GCAA staff to join us during the training. The attached picture was the first training in a series and you will notice that not all the staffs are GIA employees. It was a realization that both institutions had a symbiotic relationship. A success full airport operation was of mutual benefit. We were tenants and they were the landlords.

Philip was a retired Major from the British army if I recollect well and is also the Editor of Aviation Security International and Managing Director of Green Light Limited specializing in passenger profiling and has created a number of in-flight security and hijack management programs. He was the security analyst for CNN in the early 2000s and appears also on BBC , Sky and ITN news. That’s Philip to the right. Good luck in finding me. I was a young man in my 20s when we started this program. The guy standing to my right was the training Officer at GCAA and now the Director General and my brother from another mother.

I was not satisfied but also brought in Moshe Cohen of Renful Aviation based in Frankfort to create competition. Eventually we had the needed clearance to fly directly to the United States. People like Abdoulie Jammeh current Director General , Gambia Civil Aviation Authority and Claude Jensen then Director Human Resources at GCAA were good allies I had. Both my former colleagues at PMO who took up the issue in their own organization to push for training and resources.

Don’t ask me why we are no longer flying. The administrative hurdled has been overcome. The issue is policy and management of the last 22 years from a government that does not value protocols. In fact in the picture, one the attendants who later became Deputy Chief Security Officer, was hit with a gun to his head for simply trying to enforce new procedures regarding weapon handling through the terminal. He nursed his wounds at home without compensation and I believe was even jailed for some time after several backroom negations to plead for his release. The rest is history.

The Airport ID Cards that were later developed are now being used by many offices today. And so when I visited Gambia after many years of absence, It as if everyone was an airport employee because by the time I left, only the airport had such ID cards. Today, it can be found in banks and private institutions. I smiled, happy that an earlier effort is being duplicated. It is a sort of feeling that permeates the body.
When Jammeh inaugurated the first maiden flight to The United States, people like me, who worked the gutters and trenches when few were ever optimistic or even thought of it, were denied access to the apron. I watched the ceremony from afar through the fence of the Airport even though my office was about 300 meters from where the aircraft was parked. People claiming credit for something they had not originated. But that’s Gambia for you. We are not creative but will steal someone’s sweat and make our own.

GIA was in my opinion, the best managed Public Enterprise. Every month our finance department must produce a balance sheet and every employee had the right to access this document to read first hand, company income statements, cash flow, receivable and payables and so on. Every set period we had general staff meeting where management would put on the table the plans and strategies being pursued and employees have every opportunity to criticize such policies or ask questions. If an answer was not available, it would be at the next meeting and if corrective actions were necessary they we implemented there and then. I doubled as interpreter in the local languages as some of our operational staff did not have western education.

We have the highest parastatal ownership of landed properties at Brusubi where every employee who is approved a property by Social Security was given a loan commensurate with his salary to build a dwelling for his family.

The Managing Director maintained an open door policy. Anyone can walk in anytime without appointment if he is available and if a Director found a Messenger waiting to see the MD, the Director must wait until the Messenger had his turn. You could never jump the queue. I was proud of our Human resources strides to an extent that some parastatals visited our offices to understudy how we do things there.

Another history I am proud to be part of is the famous “Operation Save a Baby” which today is a hot political cake. I have read on socila media the cutthroat fight as to who loved our babies best. I would refresh the minds of many people that as early as the late 1990s, I was one of the people who formed a committee at GIA tasked with the responsibility to look for ways we could discharge our corporate responsibility to the community. The Maternity Ward was chosen.

Because it was one of the biggest wards ( both pre and post-natal), they had no sponsorship. We accepted to be their sponsor and every year committed at least D100,000 to the ward. We bought bedsheets curtains, fixed the leaking roofs, bought medical equipment from Echo International and gifts for the first baby of the year.

As this endeavor started to gather traction, we were pushed out and it became a function of the First Lady. When we came to submit our gifts, little did we know that another group was also working behind our backs and in came with the then Director of GRTS and the First Lady and we were shoved to the corner as though we did not mater. They had the TV Cameras and our people abandoned us. We were even edited from the GRTS tapes and I don’t recall them mentioning that they found us there.

In fact, at the entrance to the building should still be a placard hung up with the words “ GIA, FROM THE DAY YOU ARE BORN”. Those words were my making and when we came to put up the placard, there was an old rusty board with the name of Lady Chilel on it. Some people asked that we pull it down to which I answered no. I insisted that Chilel’s placard must remain after all it was loosely hanging by a single nail and any strong winds will throw it off the hook, but more importantly, we must value the efforts of others who came before us and I was not the one to attract unnecessary political attention on myself. What later happened to Chilel’s placard is not something I am privy to.

These and many others are events I am proudly associated with. I believe I added value to my country by the time I left public office. That alone is a solace and comfort. As a citizen, that is to be expected. After all, what is a man who does not wish his people well?

I am comfortable that if i stand before the God of history, i would proudly say, yest i did my best given the circumstance. I am not perfect nor do i claim so, but certainly my love for country is unquestionable.

To be continued………………………………………….

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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10120 Posts

Posted - 24 Apr 2018 :  08:44:45  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote


By Dembo Fatty

And so, when at the initial stage of the series, I got bombarded by budding historians sometimes asking me to check the National Archives, two emotions are reactivated in me. Firstly, I get excited and happy that yes, our earlier efforts at rescuing valuable documents from various government offices had not gone in Vain and that there are indeed Gambians who have started visiting the National Archives and therefore, research into our evolution is being taken up by the younger generation.

Secondly, I get excited because little did some of these people know that as early as 1991, myself and colleagues (Stephen Bahoum, David David Jr., Vera Prom, Gidom Mballow, Demba Baldeh and Mankey) had started a revolution in the field of records management. Those steel shelves at the Archives were erected by us and prior to 1991, most documents lay scattered on the floor deteriorating at an alarming rate. Armed with hacksaws, hammers and screw drivers, we cut into hard steel and erected all the shelves that are presently at the Archives. We had no fabrication training but I brought to bear the little metal work skills I learnt at Armitage. Those shelves are still standing a testament that when a people are committed to achieve anything, they can do it. It’s the will, which is the driving force in achieving anything. We used to call ourselves “Dimbalanteh Workshop”.

As a junior officer, it was my duty to attend to researchers by providing them with materials that they may find useful in their research. All I needed then was the subject matter of one’s research. I attended to several foreign PhD students. The few Gambians that came knocking were mainly Sedia Jatta, Halifa Salla, AE Cham Joof, Mr. Allen of Gambia Echo and occasionally late Mansour Njie.

Eventually this would be taken further through help from the Commonwealth Office in providing both financial and technical assistance from Nigeria in the person of Chief Evobrokai to revamp the Records Cadre and a National Records Act was passed in parliament and signed into law. Records would then be classified into three categories: current, semi-current and archival. Destruction, retention and migration policies of public records began to be implemented and today, the Janneh Commission or the prior Algali Commission would not have taken place in the manner they did or are unfolding without prior efforts in rescuing public records for future use.

And yes, I am proud of being associated with this national landmark revolution. Prior to the setting of the National Records Services, public records were simply tossed out of offices eventually picked up by market vendors especially the peanut sellers at the old customs. It was not unusual then to buy peanuts wrapped in official correspondence. Thank God, that can never happen again.


Throughout history and for the most part, the way of love and truth has always won in the end. Societies evolved as a result of the realization that one person cannot live alone and that collective approach provides success in many ways. It provides security, skills, specialization, but above all, a common bond that we all look out for each other. Eventually we transfer this genetic strain to our off springs who continue to perfect it every generation.

For example, the modern concept of a Police Force started very differently. In the medieval times, strong men volunteered to protect the citizens. They provided their own cloths, and armor but were not paid. In return, society showered them with favors like nonpayment of rates and taxes and in some cases certain privileges that were not accorded to commoners. In ancient Greece that was common and even in Rome.

The need for an organized society was never without problems. Realizing that we all cannot speak at the same time or be consulted at every stage of societal challenges, it required a paradigm shift in the way decisions are made. Representatives were selected. However, in the initial stage, the stronger ones became default leaders.

Before proceeding further, it is important to note that leaders are not always selected. Some impose themselves on society whilst others rise up to the challenge when a vacuum lends itself. The latter are called Situational Leaders. Every society should have many of such leaders. They are the types that speak up when others choose to be silent. They shed their blood for common good and in most cases never seek recognition for their actions. Students of Gambian history will remember the then Commissioner of URD, one Mr. Mamour Jagne, who during the turmoil of 1981 coup attempt, called for a Civil Defense Force in Basse to keep the peace whilst the capital lost its soul in the mayhem rained us by a group of Taxi Drivers and a Communist without an agenda. Solo Sandeng is an example of a situational leader who rose and pricked the conscience of his people and with his rise; we all stood and never sat till to the end. Sadly, situational leaders have short life cycle in the public glare.

Another classic example is George Washington, who after the war of independence in the United States against the British was offered the position of a King. He gladly declined. He declined based on principles that if he raised his sword against the domination of the majority by the minority, it will be hypocritical to continue to perpetrate the same line of action. The issue then becomes a matter of legitimacy.

For a leader to be legitimate, he/she must have the support of the masses. Such support must be EARNED and not DEMANDED. It’s a great departure from what Idi Amin used to say. That “.. people must love their leaders”

Leaders are therefore given authority by society to make decisions. There are three types of authority open to every leader. There is the “Authority of Office”. This is the authority that a leader enjoys which comes with the privileges of the position he/she holds. For example, a Judge can pass a sentence; a President can pardon a criminal etc. There is another type of authority which is called “Authority of Personality”. How amiable you are, how friendly and how emotionally balanced you are, can influence how members of society react and respond to your call.

The last and the most important is the "Authority of Competence". How well you know your roles, how skilled and articulate you are, makes a whole difference in the outcome of policy decisions. It must be stated that, this kind of authority is not set aside for selected leaders only. Even most junior members of society, who, if able to show competence will definitely attract respect and a large following. Situational Leaders generally derive their legitimacy through authority of competence. However in most cases they exhibit the authority of personality traits too.

I am sure you are wondering why I am taking you through this winding and meandering slope of public administration discourse. It’s important to understand why we have societies and how we are governed and what society in turn expects from the leaders. This discourse therefore forms the basis of the social contract between the elected and the electors.

With the end of the Second World War, came a more troubling nightmare for the Colonialists in Africa. When Africans were being recruited to defend freedoms and free speech in faraway lands, that act in itself was unintentionally speaking to the subjects that they must also rise and demand their own freedoms. Those who followed American history will agree that when Mohammed Ali was asked to fight in Vietnam, he refused. He said that he had no problem with the Vietcong. For him, it was a moral problem to defend the Vietnamese against communism and ensure the survival of a democratic and capitalist society whilst in his own country; he could not eat at the lunch counters or even sit in the front section of a bus.

The end of the Second World War therefore opened the eyes of many an African in demanding freedom and their right to self-rule. Many hopes were raised but many quickly vanished partly due to long periods of neglect on the side of the Colonialists. In the Gambia for example, public education did not start until in the 1950s. All other schools hitherto built were being run by Missionaries or Islamic fraternities like Mohameddan School with the exception of Armitage High School which started as a School for the sons of local Chiefs. Unfortunately, that school only continued to entrench patronage and deny the masses their fundamental rights to knowledge. This clearly explained why some families dominated post independent Gambian public life and for many years. In Malawi for example, there was only one University graduate at the time of independence. So independent Africa can be simply summarized as dream deferred. It was not by accident but by design.

Currently, our education system has failed us and dictatorship survives very well in societies less educated and exposed. Unless we change our educational system from producing clerical staff to a skill based system, it will always be easy to for our people to willingly bend their backs so politicians could ride and whip us to our deaths and still smiling while dying. A man is not a man without control of his own mind.

This apathy is what led to mass migrations of our young men and women across the scorch desert enroute to Europe for better lives. No one wants to leave his country willing unless conditions at hope provide no hope for the future. Hope it is said, is a force multiplier. We have lost more of children in the Mediterranean than probably the number of Pharaoh’s men in the red sea while pursuing the Hebrews. Yes, the argument was Africans were forced to serve as slaves in the Americas but today; Africans are actually with their own free will leaving home in droves to be exposed to abuse in Europe as invisible labor force with no protections. I am not against migration. Migration is as old as humankind. Whilst we may not agree on how life started, we would at least agree that man was on the move the moment he was able to stand up and walk the earth. This human phenomenon is an integral part of human survival and largely how we were able to disperse on this continent.

One of Gambia’s biggest challenges will not come until in 20 years’ time when these tens of thousands of young men and women who are supposed to take over the affairs of our country are all stuck in Europe with no skills. When we disrupt the natural population growth, nature fights back and it will drag us back as a shortage of skilled labor further eliminating any gains we may have been making. And so, we must as a matter of urgency, vigorously engage those left behind by arming them with skills and prepare them to fill the void that will happen very soon. I hope our policy planners recognize this as a national security issue.

The election of President Barrow should serve as a fresh start for Gambia. Not because Barrow is a nice man, or his the most handsome but on how we the people worked out our differences until we succeeded. We cannot afford to hide behind excuses anymore because we have created precedence that when a people are united, they can move mountains. One key area that Gambia needs is to continue to develop and nourish good governance standards. We must be able to proof to the world that the ideals of a free and fair election on which we changed our political trajectory, means something to us. President Barrow did not become president through a coup or rigged elections. He did so in a transparent manner, canvassing for votes. He earned his victory and therefore has the legitimate mandate to rule within the confines of CONSTITUTED authority respecting the separation of powers.

This change of guards goes to enforce that true authority resides in the people and not the other way round. However, I am tired of seeing one President in exile when another is coming in with virtually no transition of any sort. It happened twice and we must never allow history to repeat itself again.

There is what is called institutional memory which every Government has but which can be shared if there is a good will. Institutional memory is not what is written in the public memos or dossiers but that which is stored in the hearts and minds of public officials. In any organization, there is lot of information that is not written down but that which flows as streams in the chests of employees. This is the very reason why exit interviews are held when an employee leaves.

We cannot blame the Colonialist any more. They left our shores over fifty years ago and unfortunately; we seem too stuck in the past and not looking forward. Yes, colonialism was bad but the good thing is it is over now. That argument may have been true in the 1960s but not anymore. Furthermore, since when has it become a crime to be a master of one’s destiny? Are we saying that colonial bondage should continue? I would assume a free people are better positioned to better their lives than when under bondage.

Africa in general has enough of political sycophants, and in one particular African country, their President receives salary higher than the British Prime Minister. In this same country, Members of Parliament earn about $72,000.00 (seventy two thousand United States Dollars) annually whilst basic malaria vaccines cannot be supplied to the sick and the dying. A member of parliament was challenged to justify his salary and he responded that ”…democracy is not cheap..” as though to be elected meant to live off of the masses and that democracy is a sort of perpetual gymnasium where leaders can practice virtue if they so wished. Yet these same leaders are seen at Number 10, seeking aid that only goes to be used on recurrent expenditure crafted to serve the elites and not the masses.

We as Gambians must start to wean ourselves out of foreign aid. What that country needs is partnership and transfer of technology in terms of both the human software and the technical hardware which are in dire need. But that can only happen when we have set up governments/institutions by the people and for the people. We must demand more accountability from our leaders. Throughout history that has never been given without a struggle of some sort. The last 22 years is a classic example of what political apathy breeds.

Power and money are two dangerous cocktails fused in one individual and we the people cannot just expect that leaders can easily become virtuous buy throwing a magic wand.

The kind of investment in infrastructure like Nkrummah did for Ghana, building roads, schools, the dam and the silos need to be revisited. Nkrummah had free education for all levels of learning in Ghana.

We must rethink and redesign our priorities again if we as a people are to be participants and not spectators in the advancement of humankind. We must take stock of our problems and at least renew our commitments to ourselves. It’s not late but we must act now otherwise the opportunity will have passed with the hope of a vibrant Gambia engaging as a partner with the rest of the world in the cause of human advancement.

Our leaders must ask themselves why they have been elected and gauge for themselves how well positioned they have been in the defense of the defenseless, just in the face of injustice; been accountable and transparent in the business of state.

Remember the social contract you had with the people. You are there because all of us cannot be consulted all the time. You are there because of the trust and confidence of the people who elected you. You are there not because you are the bravest, smartest or the most handsome but because of our firm believe that power resides in the people and the trust and confidence we have you all.

The masses should not been seen as pawns but people with hopes, ambitions, aspirations and a whole set of feelings and desires for better lives for their families. Do not turn our love for democracy into a promissory note and send it back to us with the words "insufficient funds".

That promissory note you signed with us was fully funded at the time of signing the social contract which brought all of you into office. We continue to fund the promissory note with our hard earn tax monies despite all odds against us. We kept our side of the deal and so should all of you.

You see, in management school, I was exposed to a bit of finance and I learnt that even successful and viable businesses can get become bankrupt. How, by simply ignoring the basic principle of disciplined cash flow management. A company can be profitable but all of a sudden go down in the drains because of its inability to meet its obligations to the payables. An overstock inventory can be an easy culprit. It therefore requires a delicate balance between supply chain management and payable forecasts.

A state as well can also become bankrupt or insolvent just like a business outfit if it is not able to meet its social contract. When a state ceases to protect her citizens, provide basic services, ensure security, create opportunities and a conducive environment for critical thinking to flourish, refuse to allow her citizens to criticize policies, then such a state has become in my books bankrupt and insolvent. It has lost credibility and such a government would become a threat to the state and citizens must rise to defend the state from the government.

This is the very basic reason why in the United States, the right to bear arms is entrenched in the Constitution such that in the event a government tries to oppress the citizens, they can rise up “under a regulated militia” and take such government out and ensure democracy never dies. It is a lofty ideal if you ask me.
May be Africa needs that law more urgently than the United States. In my opinion, it will serve as a check to elected leaders that if they ever betray the social contract, then there will be consequences.

Our leaders must also understand that the common man on the streets all yearn for better lives for themselves and their children. Opportunity must be available to every Mary, Foorrmoosh and Janko. When we cease to provide anything less, chaos rules supreme as we saw in Liberia, Sierra Lone and currently in Congo. All these three countries are not poor.

Only in societies where the social contract was abused or not honored, have such societies become ungovernable. There is a simple reason for that. When trust and confidence are eroded, the sense of collective interest which is one of the cornerstones of the formation of societies is put on the burner.

Humans will do what they have always been good at throughout history. And that is our instincts to survive. In the process many innocent casualties fall along the way and survival for the fittest becomes the guiding principle.

When each of our leaders raised their hands and pledged before all members of society that they will respect the rule of law, defend our sacred national constitution without fear or favor ill-will or affection, and then conclude by asking for the guidance of God, we have in effect signed the social contract.

It’s on that basis that the general society abdicates its powers and hand them over to the leader to speak for the voiceless masses. That trust must never be compromised at any time. Otherwise, history will have judged us as a people that chose to be so indifferent to the needs of our own collective interest that we never left any foot prints in the sands of time.

But for a people who do not realize that power actually resides in them, it’s very easy to tell them to go to hell and they actually look forward to going. We have all been to hell and back for the past years and still some people are not tired of retracing the journey over and over again.

Our National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance provide motivation for any willing citizen in the cause of our development if only we could follow those guiding principles, Gambia can and will emerge as a beacon of hope to many a people as we did in the 1820s, when despite our size and limited resources, opened our arms and provided asylum to thousands of freed slaves and resettled them in Georgetown. The current Albert Market served as the Elis Island Gambia where these freed slaves were processed and resettled. And so we have the capacity. It has been tried and tested. We just need to develop the will to succeed. There is enough room for all of us in our constitution.

Our leaders must understand that they can only harness the opportunities that come with skilled labor if they are ready to renew the words of the contract and provide a conducive environment for a free flow of ideas. They must be prepared to reward success and open themselves to constructive criticism if we are to succeed.

Mistakes are a necessary part of development. The road to success is paved with mistakes and it must be understood that success is a destination that does not exist. In other words, we must strive more than ever before and never feel contended that we achieved a level of success to make us rest on our laurels. It’s a continuous journey that needs to be perfected all the time. What is not acceptable is our unwillingness to learn from our mistakes and be stubborn in the face of common sense practice.

They must also come down from the high chair of patronage and be willing to be of service to their political constituents. Because in the words of the social contract, they would be serving and not served. That shift in political paradigm has to take root in the hearts and minds of every citizen living in every hamlet in that country of ours. That is the only surest way of ensuring that citizens can demand of their elected representatives and make them accountable for their actions. That capacity is the core to ensuring that government by the people shall not perish.

Until then, our social contracts will always be dishonored and the consequences are out there for all to see: death, famine, lawlessness, forced migration and disappearances and an atmosphere of fear with the resultant effect of forcing our citizens to perish in the desert thereby putting our future as a viable state at risk and the cycle of seeking foreign aid will forever be with us. And because there is no free lunch, we can never bite the hand that feeds us.

We are underdeveloped because our natural resources and technical competence of our citizens cannot support the state. Let’s invest in education that allows our graduates to develop and absorptive capacity to be able to allow technology transfer for use at home.

If we don’t, our social contracts will continue to be redefined by history and the biggest enemy is time. Failed social contracts will never lead to improvement in our living standards and whilst the rest of the world is now racing to planet Mars, we will always wake up trying to reach the village.

This video link was when we the people signed the social contract that demanded to be free and elected leaders to discharge on our behalf.
To be continued................................

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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