By Dembo Fatty
The interview: 3 December 1974
I am only interested in the history that leads me to Jammeh’s claim and so I will be very precise and selective in order not to bore you with unnecessary and unrelated information.
Landing Jammeh explained to Donald Wright how and why the Jammeh family migrated from Illiasa to Bakindiki in Niumi. According to Jammeh, when the leader of the Jammeh clan at Illiasa died, he left behind four sons. Unfortunately, Jammeh did not name the name of this clan head but did place some meat on the bone for further digest.
When it was time to decide who among the four sons would succeed their father as ruler, natural and traditional law then dictated that the first son should normally be crowned as king. But in living with tradition, the gods must be consulted to peek into the reign of a future king and so, the eldest son called Sambula was sat before the jalang (god) and was told that if he were to be king, his reign will be prosperous but in the end the state will be beset by war. The elders then decided that they would not crown him king. In anger, Sambula left Illiasa and founded the settlement of Sambula in Niumi which was later renamed as Bakindiki by the first king of the settlement called Samake Jammeh.
The second eldest son we will skip for now. He is the centre of this thesis.
The third eldest son was also sat before the jalang and was told that while there was not going to be war during his reign, he lacked the command to have a large following. Naturally, it is said that a leader who does not have a following is only taking a walk. And so the third eldest son left Illiasa and settled in Pakau Bunyadu but as predicted, that settlement has still not been able to grow in size. The Jammehs are still the alkali of this settlement.
The fourth eldest (and the youngest) was also sat before the jalang and was told that his reign will bring prosperity and there will be peace in the land and also that the kingship will remain in Jammeh Kunda. And so, the elders crowned him king, perhaps the reason why there have been successive kings in the Jammeh clan if you believe the jalang.
Now let’s turn our attention to our most coveted prince; the second oldest. This prince was also told by the jalang that if he became king and succeeded his father, there would be peace during his reign and there would be prosperity but he was not going to hold on to the throne for long. So he was denied and he too left Illiasa and settled in Bajana in Foni.
Could this second son be the ancestor Jammeh claimed to have been bypassed by the council of elders of Illiasa and in response went into self-exile to Foni? Jammeh never told us where in Foni his ancestor settled (unless I missed that part) but President Jammeh’s story matches with the story of the second oldest prince, the only difference being that Landing Jammeh, the interviewee established the very settlement.
As foretold, this second oldest son became ruler in Bajana but lost power quickly unlike the youngest brother whose line maintained a steady hold on to power in Baddibu for many years. I guess the jalang predicted the future for all four sons and each came to pass. Bakindiki was ravaged by war, Pakau Bunayadu could not grow in size, the throne at Bajana was lost quickly and only the youngest son and his lineage maintained a larger following and a hold on to power for long.
Attached is a flow chart I prepared based on the interview for ease of reference.
Connection between Bajana Jammeh Kunda and Kanilai Jammeh Kunda
Previously, I asked if these two Jammeh families are related and the response I got was yes they are. This therefore makes the Jammeh of Kanilai blood relations with the Jammeh of Bajana. If the theory that the second oldest prince founded Bajana when he left Illiasa, then that makes every Jammeh family member in both Bajana and Kanilai members of the same Jammeh family of Illiasa and by extension, President Jammeh.
I am sure some of you reading have built up your own opinions about this thesis but I have to admit that I have changed my position with regard to Jammeh’s claim to ancestry to Illiasa. Now, the following ifs will help you come to a conclusion:
A. If you believe the story narrated by Landing Jammeh;
B. If you believe that President Jammeh was indeed born in Kanilai or even if he was not born in Kanilai but his family are the same relation with the Jammeh of Kanilai or Bajana,
Then Jammeh’s claim to ancestry to Illiasa Jammeh Kunda is plausible. I have now changed by position with regard to Jammeh’s claim from PROBABLE to POSSIBLE and would score his claim 70 out of 100. When faced with alternate facts (because I trust Landing Jammeh and I am unable to disprove that Jammeh was not born in Kanilai or that his family are not related to the Jammeh of Kanilai or Bajana), then I should be able to yield in and that’s exactly what I have done. The coronation should have taken place because there is a high degree of possibility that Jammeh has roots and a genuine claim to Illiasa.
This story was recorded when Jammeh was nine years old and Landing Jammeh would have had no motivation (other than saying what he was told as a child) to connect the Jammeh of Illiasa to the Jammeh of Bajana Foni given that Jammeh was not president then neither was there any motivation or gains to be expected. This recording was perhaps unknow to President Jammeh but as a history student, it is possible President Jammeh may have heard of it. Besides, Bakary Sidibé at the Museum was the interpreter.
For me, it matters not if Jammeh is Jola or Mandinka but everything to do with trying to give Jammeh the benefit of the doubt with regard to his family relationships from his perspective. At this stage, I think the crucial thing is establishing whether Jammeh is related to the Jammeh at EITHER Kanilai or Bajana.
Now we have to disprove his birth in Kanilai and also disprove that he has no relationship with the Jammeh of Kanilai or Bajana for this thesis to collapse. Because the Jammeh of Kanilai are said to be the same family as the Jammeh of Bajana, who migrated there from Illiasa if you are to believe Landing Jammeh.
How about you? Are you still a Doubting Thomas?