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Foday Ibrahim Sillah Touray or Kombo Sillah – The Jihadist

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He was born Ibrahima Sillah Touray. His father was Manly Touray from Gunjur, Kombo and his mother Mbisine Ndiaye was the daughter of the king of Sine (Burr Sine).

Manly like his father, Amatora Touray, was a famous marabout who occasionally toured the region. During a visit to Senegal, he went to Sine and married Mbisine.

It happened that Ibrahim Silla, a famed marabout from Darsilami Silla Counda in Pakao in the Casamance, was visiting Gunjur when Mbisine gave birth to a son. He asked Manly to name his son after him and the parents agreed and named the baby Ibrahima Sillah Touray.

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When Ibrahima came of age, he was sent to Darsilami Silla Counda to learn the Qur’an and Islamic lores and mores.

He was one of many students under the tutelage of his master and in order to differentiate him from the many others who had the common names of Ibrahim, he was given the sobriquet ‘Kombo’ as a distinction of his origin.

Ibrahima excelled in his studies and as is the tradition in those days, outstanding Qur’anic scholars are given the title of Foday or Master. After he was turbaned, he became known as Foday Sillah or Kombo Sillah.

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Upon completing his studies, Kombo Sillah returned to Gunjur and several years later, left to sojourn on the island of Sangamar in the Atlantic Ocean, to worship Allah. He was aided in his crossing by the people of Niumbato.

After sometime, the people saw Kombo Sillah sailing on a praying skin from the island. The following Friday morning, he was discovered sitting under a baobab tree where he spent a few days in devotion before packing up and returning to his native Gunjur.

A delegation of Muslim elders asked him to lead them into war against the Soninke settlements in the Kombos principally Brikama, Manduar, Busumbala, Yundum, Talinding Kunjang, Bakau, Pirang, Farabanta and Kafuta. He accepted.

In preparation for the impending jihad, Kombo Sillah retreated into a period of prolonged sequestered prayer called halwa entreating Allah to grant him victory over the marauding Soninke overlords and their people. He ordered mass mobilisation and ramped up production of arms and ammunitions headed by blacksmiths Amara Sulu Sawo of Gunjur, Saba Cham of Gunjur and Famara Keita of Tujereng.

Then Kombo Sillah’s forces attacked and the principal towns of Brikama and Yundum fell in succession.

The Soninke warriors at Busumbala held out and killer bees from Yarambamba forest decimated the jihadist troops. The bees were said to have been released by the Soninke idols and when they bit Sillah’s men, they either died or were rendered completely useless and ineffective in the battle. Facing annihilation, the jihadist troop leaders demanded the physical presence of Kombo Sillah on the battleground. 

On arrival, he was astonished and shed tears when he learned about the fall of his bravest soldiers. He immediately gave orders to withdraw, regroup and launch a fresh assault at a better time. When they attacked again, Busumbala fell in June 1875 and Kombo Sillah’s forces subdued all the heathen lands of the Kombos and pushed well into the Casamance. He thus succeeded where his deceased forebear, Kebba Touray, the Jihad King, failed.

The suzerainty of the Gunjur jihadist was suppressed and eventually ended by the British after he rebuffed their demand that he ceased warring. Kombo Sillah characteristically replied that he would wage war until all the Soninkes embrace Islam. The colonialists invited him to a meeting but suspecting a sleight of hand, he refused to meet them and made the notable statement: “The bird in the air or on top of the tree is happier than the bird in a golden cage.”

The British dispatched forces to capture him, but they were sent back on the double in two battles in Kembujeh near Brikama and in Gunjur. Smarting from their defeat, the British dispatched a naval force, which bombarded Gunjur destroying the town’s principal mosque and killing many people. Fearing further British assault, the scared villagers inveigled him to leave town and after pleas from his griot, he acquiesced and crossed the Alahein Bolong into the Casamance.

The British then reported his presence in the Casamance to the French, who promptly hunted him, captured him and restricted him to the village of Nkaye Meke and forbade him from ever visiting Gunjur. Kombo Sillah passed the rest of his days in this Casamance backwater until death came calling. He was survived by many wives and children. Kombo Sillah remains the icon of Gunjur’s long association with the faith of Islam.

In 2014, Kombo Sillah’s great grandson, Pa Malick Touray, told The Standard: “Unlike others, Kombo Sillah waged a pure jihad. He was fair and just and distributed booty accordingly. He completely rejected the idea of selling slaves and converted the captives, kept them in Gunjur and taught them Islam. My great grandfather’s exploits should be shared with his generals, chief among whom were Manjang Fing, Lang Sula Darbo, Bunja Janneh and Sita Kunda Jammeh.”

Sourced mainly from https: africablogs.wordpress.com

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