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11037 Posts

Posted - 21 Nov 2021 :  06:26:44  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
(Text of speech at the Faculty of Law as part of Law Week 2021 on November 18, 2021, PART ONE)


By Dembo Fatty

When I was first approached by Ms. Sowe via Facebook Messenger expressing her organisation’s intention to invite me as a guest speaker, I was taken aback. I know I have sometimes written controversial articles in the past and even now and I had my fair share of the consequences. This time, when it was from the University of the Gambia Law Students’ Association, I thought it was a prank at the least or a potential litigation at the most. But she was quick to allay my fears and so this Kaabunka man could once more be trusting of a Fula lady but certainly with some level of caution.
With all honesty, I never ever realized that my writings were being appreciated outside of my Facebook circle of friends and that was what surprised me most when Ms. Sowe approached me because she was not a friend on Facebook.

I quickly did a search on her on the internet because I was perplexed by her constant use of the phrase “Yes Sir” to every comment I wrote. It did not just add up for a Lawyer or Law student to be this regimental. Eventually, I saw a flyer with a brief bio on her. I then knew she was a serving member of our security forces more specifically the army because I saw her in uniform. It’s always good to know who you are dealing with especially with the tale of the encounter between Fouta and Kaabu still fresh in my psyche. A Kaabunka is always apprehensive of the Fula and hence why we call them Fula meaning two. I also read a material about her life’s journey and how determined she was in getting her education to a higher level.

I want to cease this opportunity to personally congratulate you for the trail blazer you are and a beacon of hope to many. Whether you know it or not, you are standing in the path of great women of this country especially pre-colonial times who ruled vast expense of territory as Queens.

Having worked as a Paralegal for almost 16 years in the United States, I know how stressful the legal profession can be: constantly on guard not to offend anyone; carefully choosing one’s words and holding oneself to the highest levels of ethical standards while at the same time fighting to defend the rights of clients especially those defense attorneys.

I therefore thought it wise to try to crack a joke and probably allow ourselves to be vulnerable and put some smiles on our faces.

A lawyer defending a man accused of burglary tried this creative defense: “My client merely inserted his arm into the window and removed a few trifling articles. His arm is not himself, and I fail to see how you can punish the whole individual for an offense committed by his limb.”
“Well put,” the judge replied. “Using your logic, I sentence the defendant’s arm to one year’s imprisonment. He can accompany it or not, as he chooses.”

The defendant smiled. With his lawyer’s assistance, he detached his artificial limb, laid it on the bench, and walked out.

May be this is why I always believe that the law is not about the truth but everything to do with winning. Don’t quote me on that because my mouth is not myself.

Quite often, we hold the conviction that the African had lagged behind when it comes to legislating laws that protect the rights of his or her people. This doctrine has been bombarded to us through western literature, media and art and we consumed it line hook and sinker; partly reinforced by centuries of enslavement of the African but also through colonialism.

The African morphed into a submissive relationship as a result and through centuries of design, has accepted this condition which even our educated professionals have come to be the biggest defenders of this relationship.

This is clearly discussed by Wole Soyinka in his book the Lion and the Jewel when the western educated School Teacher Mr. Lankule frowned upon paying the bride price of his fiancée because he believes that that was equivalent to buying a heifer from the market. Thank God, Soyinka sided with tradition and culture by making the local Chief Baroka, the winner in this contest of love for the beautiful African girl.

This is the dilemma of the intellectual African who despite his education, is trapped between his own and the western culture but quite often appears to tilt towards the latter.

We have been programmed since our formative years in school to frown upon our languages, and cultures. Many of us have had to undergo degrading punishments in school for speaking any of our national languages. The consequence was to hang chain of empty milk cans around the neck of any student caught speaking a national language and sometimes it was animal horns like that of a cow just to degrade the student further under supervision of teachers. The result is a society of intellectuals who are so dismissive of their own people which when translated at the policy level; tend to discriminate against their culture in favour of the western as that is all they know and have been programmed to believe.
In order to address the subject at hand, we all must be ready to buckle up inside a time capsule and take a mental flight to the year 1235 hovering over the laterite plain of Kangkaba and survey the very landscape teemed with thousands of dignitaries and among them twelve kings from the states of DO, JALO, BAMBOUGOU, BOZO, KRI, ZAHARI, TABON, DJEDEBA, KANIAGA, SIBI, TORON AND OUALATA, crowned above all by Sundiata Keita as Emperor of the Manding Empire.

As the ceremonies continued, the people gathered to found a Constitution known locally as the KURUKAN FUGA meaning the discussions on the laterite plain or generally as The Manding Charter or Manding Constitution, which in 2009 was listed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO and can't wait to see the Kourokang Fouga included in the history syllabus both at secondary and tertiary levels.

44 Articles were enacted in to law and thus was born one of, if not the only constitution in Africa and second in the world at the time. Students of history would agree that the Magna Carta evolved in 1215 due to a revolt of the people but mainly by land owners or the Barons and that’s why it is called the Baron’s War. The Manding Constitution was enacted through a voluntary process borne out of the realisation that people should live dignified lives and that all men were born with inalienable rights.

The people were on a march and the Empire would expand in all directions from Northern Nigeria to Chaaroye in present day Senegal and from thence to the fringes of the Sahara covering a great expanse of territory.

They would go on to build one of the best military structures in the region and enjoyed the trademark: "Quiver Carriers". Their art of war is still taught in some military schools.

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

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone


11037 Posts

Posted - 21 Nov 2021 :  20:53:22  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
(Text of speech at the Faculty of Law as part of Law Week 2021 on November 18, 2021, PART TWO)

By Dembo Fatty

They were not satisfied. They built great institutions of learning where it is recorded that one university boasted of 10,000 students foraging in science, astrology, medicine and so on when many parts of the world were in the dark ages.

They would perfect the art of diplomacy by guaranteeing the safety of diplomats and at the same time opening embassies outside of the Empire.

Up until today, they produced the wealthiest man in human history. Mansa Musa was worth $400 billion in today's value. No one has come close to even $300 billion, not even Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or anyone for that matter.

And of course, promoted art and music enjoyed to this day by creating a class of historians called the JALI. Sundiata understood the importance of history and during his time, the JALI did not have to worry about anything. In fact all that Sundiata inherited from his father were the JALI and the metal and wood workers.

It was on this day too that the Manding song called "Bi Lamban" or "Jaaaliya" was recorded dedicated purely to the Jalis. "Allah menka mansa yaa daa, wolleh ka Jali yaa daa". (The God that ordained the position of a king is the same God who ordained the art of Music".

These laws over centuries shaped our way of lives in great significance than any act of government. We must understand that Manding Empire was a homogeneous society not necessarily that it was strictly an Empire lived by the Mande speaking people only.
Prior to Kurukan Fuga, the people gathered to fight Sumanguru Kanteh, a dictator who muzzled free speech and trampled on the freedoms of the people of Manding.

In the Epic of Sundiata, Sumanguru was described as wearing a jacket made of human skin, shoes made of human skin and a hat made of human skin. Although these descriptions appear to be hyperbolic, it clearly was an attempt to describe the brutality of the king who would not even spare his own nephew whose beautiful wife he snatched for himself.

At Kankaba, war criminals were tried, a coalition government formed and a reconciliation process much like our TRRC was founded to heal the wounds and for once ensure that a repeat of a tyrannical government was dead and buried.

The Kurukan Fuga was preceded by the Hunters Oath enacted in 1222 which later developed into the Charter in 1235.


1.The hunters declare:

Every human life is a life.
It is true that a life comes into existence before another life
But no life is more ‘ancient’, more respectable than any other
In the same way no one life is superior to any other

2. The hunters declare:

As each life is a life,
Any wrong done unto a life requires reparation.
No one should gratuitously attack his neighbour
No one should wrong his neighbour
No one should torment his fellow man

3. The hunters declare:

That each person should watch over their neighbour
That each person should venerate their progenitors
That each person should educate their children as it should be done
That each person should provide to the needs of their family

4. The hunters declare:

That each person should watch over the country of their fathers
By country, or motherland, or ‘faso’ one must understand also people
For ‘any country, any land which were to see people disappear
Would soon become nostalgic’

5. The hunters declare:

Hunger is not a good thing
There is nothing worse than this on this earth
As long as we hold the quiver and the bow
Hunger will no longer kill anyone in the Manden
If by chance hunger were to arrive,
War will no longer destroy any village for the acquiring of slaves
That is to say that no one will from now on place the bit in the mouth of his fellow man
In order to sell him.
Furthermore no one will be beaten
And all the more so put to death because he is the son of a slave

6. The hunters declare:

The essence of slavery is today extinguished
‘from one wall to the other’ from one border to the other of the Manden
Raids are banned from this day onwards in the Manden
The torments born of these horrors have ended from this day onwards in the Manden
What an ordeal this torment is!
Especially when the oppressed has no recourse
The slave does not benefit from any consideration
Anywhere in the world.

7. People from the old days tell us:

‘Man as an individual
Made of flesh and bone
Of marrow and nerves
Of skin covered in hair
Eats food and drink
But his ‘soul’, his spirit lives on three things:
He must see what he wishes to see
He must say what he wishes to say
And do what he wishes to do
If one of these things were to miss from the human soul
It would suffer and would surely become sick
In consequence the hunters declare:
Each person from now on is free to dispose of his own person
Each person is free to act in the way he wishes
Each person disposes of the fruit of his labour from now on
This is the oath of the Manden

For the ears of the whole world.

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

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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