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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

‘Mandinka is not a tribe and before 1864, there were no Mandinka speaking people in Gambia’ says Jammeh – My response

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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 in 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, it’s 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, Niuminkas, Jarrankas, Nianinkas, Niaminankas, and so on. They were citizens of those kingdoms.
So let’s get rid of the belief 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 Niumi and St Louis were under British control.

The period 25 May 1765 to 11 February 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 while 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 colonising. 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.

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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, while 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 Talinding 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 used 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 to 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:

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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 finalised, 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 prove that the Mandinkas 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 Mandé. In our neck of the woods, they are sometimes called the Mandinka, Mandinko, Mandinga, Mandingo. Some of the other Mandé people include the Dyula, Bozo, Bissa and Bambara.

According to Sidiki Jobaté, 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 Sarahulé people is situated in this area which set the scene of the eventual showdown between Kaabu and the Fulani, when the Sarahuleé 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 Conaté, that the fragmented nations were unified. The legendary General Turamakan Taraoré 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 Thiaroye (present day Senegal. Oral tradition also credits him with the founding of the present-day city of Dakar, where the (Diop) Jobe, as the original settlers were in fact Traoré).

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).

The Ghana Empire is believed to have been in existence from 400 to 1200 and 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
22 kings, names unknown: circa 350 AD–622 AD
22 kings, names unknown: circa 622 AD–790 AD
King Reidja Akba: 1400–1415 (in Akwar)
Soninke Period (Cissé Dynasty):
Mayan Dyabe Cissé: circa 790s
Bassi: 1040–1062
Tunka Manin: 1062–1076

The surprise for me is why and how the Cissé dynasty failed to maintain or negotiate kinship in one of the Manding states under Sundiata Conaté but instead chose the path of religion in becoming marabouts.
The Almoravid Period
Abu Bakr ibn Umar: 1076–1087


Sosso Period
Kambine Diaresso: 1087-1090
Suleiman: 1090-1100
Bannu Bubu: 1100-1120
Majan Wagadou: 1120-1130
Gane: 1130-1140
Musa: 1140-1160
Birama: 1160-1180

Rulers during the Kaniaga Occupation
Kaniaga simply means the “Land of the Fearful” and the state was created by Soninké 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 Kanté. The Diarisso descend, according to the Mandingo oral tradition from 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 Kanté: 1180-1202 (father of Sumanguru Kanté)
Soumaba Cissé as vassal of Soumaoro: 1203–1235
Ghanas of Wagadou
Soumaba Cissé as ally of Sundiata 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 6 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”.
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 belief that the Sarahulé are the founders of the Ghana Empire can be seriously challenged. Yes, the Sarahulé did rule at some point during Ghana Empire’s existence but it appears the Kanté 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 Cissé ruled the Ghana Empire around 790 AD which is approximately 1,227 years ago this year.

I am sure I don’t need to convince anyone that Cissé is Mandinka although my cousins in Saloum would want to think otherwise.
Diara Kanté was succeed by his son Sumanguru Kanté whose reign of terror would pave the way for Sundiata Conaté 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 organised in Kirina.
To be continued

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