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City of Banjul
Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Sait Matty Bah, Warrior saint

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By Sainey Faye

Sait Matty Bah was only 12 years old when his father known as Eliman Maba Jahu Bah to the Wolof and Ama Bah to the Mandinka died. He was of Toucouleur origin from Nyoro, who met El Hadj Omar Taal in his early years around 1846; and he influenced him enormously to wage jihad in Baddibu, and Saloum and also help and lead as one of his lieutenants in Senegambia. Being a devout student he obliged, becoming an imam and waging wars of conquest, and winning many. He built villages like Kerr Maba, and Nyoro his main capital.

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Briefly, he continued his attacks on Sine and was killed in 1867 in a battle with Burr Sine Koumba Ndoffen Joof. After he was killed his son and heir Sait Matty was too young to take over, from where his dad left off; being only 12 yrs. His father’s brother, Mamour Nderi was then selected by some to take over until he (Sait Matty Bah) was old to take over.

This arrangement never worked with some insisting that the role of imam was not hereditary, but was selected by elders on the basis of knowledge and knowledge alone. The majority went ahead and made him a replacement anyway. Tensions and infighting and quarrels escalated; dividing this vast kingdom and making it ungovernable for many decades to follow.

In the mean time, Gedel Mboge, who lost part of territory to war and the traditional Jolof ruler, reorganised to retake back his land, capitalising on Maba’s  death and absence of a unified command, taking back much of their territory.

In short, after many years  Sait Matty too reorganised and surprisingly armed, went back after Burr Saloum in a bloody battle capturing his capital Kahone. But Gedel asked the French for help, and they agreed by playing divide and rule tactics and helped defeat Sait Matty around Kafferine around 1885. Gedel then chose the loyal warriors close to him, choosing Jatta Selling Jammeh, for Rip (Baddibu), Sait Kani Ture for (Sabach), who built a fort at Kataba and Gumbo Gaye (Sanjal), who also built a fort at Ngeyen Sanjal. Sait Matty was pursued and he fled into Niumi to Albreda’s ceded mile where the British saw an opportunity to make a deal with him for asylum and protection against his enemies and the French. He was said to have stayed in the army barracks located in Half Die, Banjul close to the old Secretariat by the old Albert Market. There after he was allowed to move and live at Wasulung Kunda in Bakau, near Cape St Mary. He died there in 1897 and was buried near the Cape Point, close to the Sun Wing Hotel. People often visit this site on pilgrimage and the late imam ratib of Banjul, Alhaji Modou Lamin Bah was one of his grandsons.

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