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Foday Kaba Dumbuya – The Jihadist from upper Gambia  From P3

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During the 1880s Foday Kaba consolidated his control over the south bank and extended his state into Foñi Casamance. In this endeavour he had allies among some of the former rulers of Kābu, some Fula families at odds with Musa Molo and a few of the Mandinka Muslim lineages. He established his headquarters at Madina at the invitation of Tombong Badji who was the leader of this Muslim community, and he erected a fort at Dator, which was dominated by the Jobe lineage of Kabada West. He subdued the towns of Kulayi and Bongna, but was defeated at Sinjang. It took him 11 years to conquer Foñi. These military campaigns brought him into conflict with Fula Muslim lineages in Kabada, with some of the Manding Mori and Jahanka scholars in Pakau, and with Musa Molo of Fulladu.

In 1885 Biram Sisé, a former ally of Foday Kaba, crossed the Gambia River to join forces with Musa Molo against Foday Kaba in Jarra, but he was forced to return to Baddibu because of civil war there. If Foday Kaba had been attacked, Sait Matty, his former opponent, was prepared to assist him. Foday Kaba had recently been driven from Bintang, and the alkalo and elders sought to place their land under British protection. By late 1885 the “king” of Jarra, Koli Dampha, was offering to cede his territory to Great Britain. Foday Kaba had conquered most of the territory and reduced several villages to ruins.

By 1886 Foday Kaba seemed to be in a position to consolidate his control over Foñi, Kiang, and Jarra. Some Jola and non-Muslim Mandinkas had converted, and masjids and madrassas were being constructed in towns conquered by Foday Kaba’s forces. In early 1888 Foday Kaba was using the title amir al-muminīn. He had not established a unified state, however, and therefore faced stiff opposition south of the Gambia River; the decline of Foday Kaba’s power was imminent.

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The demise

During the 15 years since his father’s death, Foday Kaba failed to build a state on the south bank and in Foñi Casamance. Although he made many alliances, he created many enemies in the process of destroying Muslim towns and killing converts. He could not expand into Kombo where Kombo Silla ruled, while Musa Molo continued to contest for territories, particularly in Jarra and Foñi. Ultimately, Foday Kaba had the misfortune of standing in the way of British and French plans for territorial expansion. Musa Molo was an eager ally in Foday Kaba’s demise, but at the cost of substantial reduction of his own territorial and political plans.

After the Berlin Conference of 1885, the British and French quickly began to arrange their affairs in Senegambia. In 1887 and 1888 the British signed a number of treaties, and flag-raising ceremonies took place along the south bank in territory claimed by Foday Kaba. In addition, Musa Molo’s forces – in support of the Soninké ruling lineages – raided villages in Jarra and Foñi. Foday Kaba retaliated, and the British sent a delegation on a ship of war to meet with him at Toniataba in April 1888. The acting administrator Gilbert Thomas Carter firmly informed him that war against British-protected territory must cease.

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The British sent Foday Kaba a list of the towns under their protection, and he complained that his subjects had betrayed him. Military conflict continued in the region, and Musa Molo wrote in 1889 that trouble would not end until Molo punished Foday Kaba severely. The British began to discuss a military expedition – coordinated with the French – to drive Foday Kaba out of the region, proposing to recruit Musa Molo to assist in the expedition.

Foday Kaba’s position in the south bank was decided by the activities of the Anglo-French Boundary Commission between 1889 and 1892. In 1891 the commissioners heard rumours that Foday Kaba intended to attack them during their work in Jola territory, which resulted in the British sending a large military force from Banjul to Bondali. The French commandant at Sedhiou was informed about the situation. He reported that Foday Kaba had signed a treaty with France that acknowledge his territory in the Casamance, and had declared that he had no dispute with the boundary commission and had instructed his followers not to interfere with its work. Thereafter, Foday Kaba was a subject of France, although he continued to encroach upon Gambian territory, and in January 1892 the British sent a force to Kiang to try to capture him. He escaped to Madina, which was to remain his headquarters until the French defeated him in 1901. The French maintained that the British had exaggerated Foday Kaba’s activities in Kiang and embraced him as a distinguished marabout, but in 1893 his territory was severely reduced in return for 5,000 francs each year.

Surrounded by numerous farming villages that acted as a buffer against attacks by his enemies, Foday Kaba flourished in Madina. No doubt he would have died there peacefully had it not been for a land dispute between the Soninké of Jattaba and the Muslim followers of Foday Kaba at Sankandi British Kiang. The British sent Commissioner Cecil Frederick Sitwell to examine the dispute in 1899, and he awarded the land to Jattaba. Sankandi did not accept the decision, and Sitwell returned in 1900 with Commissioner Frederic Edgar Silva to meet with the elders in Sankandi to settle the affair. They met a hostile reception, and Sitwell ordered the arrest of Alkali Dabo. The British party was fired upon, and Sitwell, Silva, Sergeant Cox, Mansa Koto of Jattaba and four others were killed. The Sankandi people fled to Nema near Dator, Foday Kaba’s fort closest to British territory. The British demanded that Foday Kaba return the leaders of the village. The French sent a negotiator to Madina, but Foday Kaba said he was obliged to give them refuge.

Other villages loyal to Foday Kaba on the south bank rose up against British rule, and in January 1901 the British dispatched a large force into Kiang to put down the revolt. As Foday Kaba still refused to return the culprits, the French, in alliance with Musa Molo, mounted an attack on his strongholds. Madina was besieged on 21st March 1901.

According to his grandson, Ebraima Ousmane Doumbaya, who was ten years old when Madina was attacked the next day, Foday Kaba knew he was going to die and after prayers he came out of the fort against the French and was shot in the head. His eldest son, Ibrahima, buried him secretly and his body was not found. Musa Molo took Ibrahima to Hamdallahi, Fulladu, but when Molo fled to The Gambia in 1903, Ibrahima was detained by the French in Senegal. In 1912 Ibrahima Dumbuya settled at Morikunda in Casamance and later became chef du canton of Inor.

This article is principally sourced from ‘States, Conflict and Islam:

A Reconsideration of Jihād in the Gambia River Region, 1850–1900’ by David E Skinner.

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