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 Response to Jammeh: On tribal rhetoric
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8659 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 concience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone


8659 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 concience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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8659 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 concience 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 concience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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9038 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 concience 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 concience 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 concience 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 concience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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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 concience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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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 concience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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