Posted - 26 Feb 2023 : 11:32:35
FEBRUAY 21, 2023: 162nd ANNIVERSARY OF THE BRITISH ATTACK ON BADDIBU SUWAREH KUNDA
By Dembo Fatty
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.
Dedicated to the Marongs of Baddibu, my uncles although they are yet to give me a maanyo.
You see as a man, there comes a time when you must stand your grounds despite the consequences. Suwareh kunda did just that and as leaders in our various institutions, we cannot escape this reality.
Leadership is authority but what is a leader without a following? The authority of competence will take one very far and Jereba did his best to protect his people and history will be very kind to him.
A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone