Hon K. C. Gbamanja: The passing of a great Kono leader
The people of Kono District have again suffered the loss of another great leader in the person of the Honourable Komba Claudius Gbamanja of blessed memory.
The people of Kono are mourning the passing away of a great personality who in his own way made an impact not only on his people and his homeland, but also on the nation.
Honourable K.C. Gbamanja was born in Tombodu in Kamaa Chiefdom, Kono District in 1925, five years after the end of the First World War, and attended schooling in the Jaiama Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) School, now known as the UMC.
Hon. Gbamanja showed exceptional brilliance, according to his age mates and was therefore chosen at an early age to teach pupils within his own age bracket. His life as a teacher started in his own home town of Tombodu where he taught at the EUB School there.
After serving several years as a teacher, K.C., as he was popularly known was chosen through his popularity and respect for order and the Rule of Law to be the Court President, now known as the Court Chairman where he served a period of two terms successfully.
From then, the popularity of K.C., as he was popularly known soared and he came to the notice of the prominent Kono politician and later paramount chief, the late Tamba Songu M’briwa.
Tamba Songu M’briwa selected K.C. Gbamanja to be one of his able political lieutenants, and that is how K.C. entered the field of politics. From the time he joined T.S. M’briwa, K.C. Gbamanja never looked backward anymore as he participated fully into the affairs of the country.
At the time, Sierra Leone was on the verge ofÂ self rule from British ColonialÂ governance and Kono District, as the sole area occupied by the Kono ethnic group also becameÂ a hot bed of politics.
T.S. M’briwa and his main man, K.C. Gbamanja formed the Sierra Leone Progressive Independence Movement (SLPIM) which later was transformed into the Kono Progress Union (KPU), or Dawo, meaning in the pot.
When Sierra Leone became independent from Britain, SLPP members and members of the newly formed APC formed a coalition government. This coalition however failed later and before the 1967 elections, the SLPP and the APC split. The KPU transferred its allegiance to the APC, seeing that they had the aspirations of the people of Kono at heart. Kono politicians, including T.S. M’briwa and K.C. Gbamanja gave their unflinching support to the APC. As a result of this, Chief Kamachiende, paramount chief of Gbense Chiefdom in Kono District and the late Reverend Dumber, both SLPP supporters in Kono, prevailed on Albert Margai who was then Prime Minister following the death of his brother Albert Margai,Â and T.S. M’briwa was sent on exile to Kamakwie. K.C. Gbamanja and other important Kono politicians and activists were harassed by the SLPP and most of them had to hide in the hinterlands of Kono.
During the 1967 general elections, the KPU joined and actively campaigned for the APC and the leadership of Siaka Stevens. It was a close fight and K.C. Gbamanja was in the midst of the battle, with threats of death hanging over their head if the SLPP won as promised by the henchmen of Sir Albert. In the end, the APC won the elections.
However, instead of enjoying their benefit, theÂ victory of K.C. Gbamanja and other prominent Kono leaders was cut short when they were informed that a SLPP inspired coup had been machinated and that Siaka Stevens will not be allowed to assume office as Prime Minister. K.C. and other prominent politicians fled to neighbouring Guinea instead of allowing a military rule, with plans to return their government in office. Luckily, as fate would have it, the soldiers fought among themselves and the power was eventually handed over to Stevens and K.C. Gbamanja who returned to Sierra Leone as heroes of the people.
After this political interregnum, Siaka Stevens, as soon as his power was established, went on a country-wide tour to all supporters who had been with him. In his visit to Kono District in Fiama Chiefdom, K. C. Gbamanja was introduced to Siaka Stevens by T.S. M’briwa as one of the loyal supporters of the party and a youth leader with the potential to win the support of his people. Siaka Stevens immediately took a liking to K.C. and from then till his death, the former president of Sierra Leone always had a high respect and close links with K.C. Gbamanja. When Chief T.S. M’briwa suddenly died barely days after he was appointed Member of Parliament representing Kono chiefs and a Minister of State under the APC, K.C. Gbamanja’s life took a totally different turn.
The sudden demise ofÂ T.S. M’briwa was a disaster for Kono, but Siaka Stevens in his shrewd political foresight immediately appointed K.C. to be one of the new crop of Kono actors for the new APC. The vacuum left by T.S. M’briwa was filled by K.C. Gbamanja even though he was at the tender age of youthful zest and was yet to face the challenges.
As soon as he was faced with the new responsibility of taking up where T.S. M’briwa had left off,Â K.C. moved fast. First, he convened a mass meeting in his home town of Tombodu where, together with such prominent names like Alhaji S.H.O. Gborie, Fillie Faboe, T.Y. Gbondo, Gandi-Capio and S.E. Kasegbama among others, a new elite of Kono politicians in full support of Stevens came on the scene, led by K.C. Gbamanja.
Under think and thin, K.C. Gbamanja stood by Siaka Stevens, and in return, he was one of the few people trusted by the former president.
K.C. Gbamanja, in winning over the heart of the president of the Republic of Sierra Leone, was able to make the then government aware of the needs of the district. Through the tireless works of K.C. Gbamanja, Kono was provided with a highway leading to Freetown rather than the long, tortuous and round journey through Kailahun, Kenema, Bo.
The German built highway to Kono, popularly known as the Wahmann Abu Road, was built thanks to the efforts ofÂ K.C. Gbamanja.
Electricity provided by the Sierra Leone Electricity Company, now known as the National Power Authority was extended to Kono and even the town of Tombodu had constant electricity. Roads within the township were also constructed and a series of studies were undertaken to look into the harnessing of the Binkongo falls in Nimiyama Chiefdom in Kono District, for which K.C. worked tirelessly to ensure it is done but age and the decision of Stevens to hand over power to Joseph Saidu Momoh caused the final demise of the Binkongo project.
Hon. K.C. Gbamanja held a series of cabinet positions in the government of President Siaka Stevens. His was positions of first. K.C. Gbamanja was the first civilian to be appointed defense Minister and was the first minister to be appointed to the Fisheries Ministry later known as the Marine Resources Ministry.
The people of Kono will continue to praise K.C. Gbamanja for his unique role in helping bring a series of gravity pipe borne water to various chiefdoms in Kono, including Jaiama, Fiama, Nimiyama, Kamaa, Gbaneh Kandor, Gbaneh, Sando and Koidu Town.
KC was also instrumental in the agriculture drive in Kono and saw to it that several Kono youths were trained as agriculturists while tractors and other machinery were made available to them.
Several Kono youths were sent to Russia and China for training through the APC government and with the recommendations of Hon. K.C. Gbamanja. In Tombodu, a rice mill was built to meet the challenges of threshing and beating rice harvested by the community.
In education, K.C. Gbamanja ensuring education for all was able to convince the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission to construct a school in Tombodu, his constituency. This was to help bring education to the level of the community as not all parents had the financial strength to pay for their children or their wards, who had passed exams to secondary schools, to attend schools in Koidu Town or in Freetown.
Today, K.C. Gbamanja has passed away, never to be seen by his loved ones anymore, though his goodness and interest in his people will always be remembered. He will be remembered also as one of the peaceful leaders of Kono, who unlike S.H.O.Gborie and other political leaders from Kono, always avoided violence as a means of dominating his opponents.
He believed in religion and God as the great arbiter and even under stress and during political challenges, he had always called for prayers as the solution.
As a well known politician, his importance long after the death of Siaka stevens was shown when the then leader Mr. Mohamed Tejan-Kabbah called on him to join the then government and contribute in the Parliament. His presence was needed because this was a time when most of the Parliamentarians were new and had no concept about the workings and procedures in the House. He served two terms before resigning from active politics to concentrate on agricultural engagements. Hon. K.C. Gbamanja is survived by his wife Madam Yei Gbamanja and sons and daughters both in Sierra Leone and abroad.
We thank God for giving us a great leader.
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