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Tides in Sierra Leone [Poetic History Of Sierra Leone]

Tides in Sierra Leone [Poetic History Of Sierra Leone]


In 1462, the waves carried the shrill cry, “Sierra Lyoa!”
Lion Mountains! Professed the sailor, Pedro Da Cintra
To this wonderful abode of nature, valour and power
Reduced to a mall for humans during the colonial era
Land of the homeless, the Athens of old West Africa…

Early History

Historiography has it that the land was inhabited by numerous independent natives,
With religious similarities but different languages and independent political motives
The Buloms anchored in the coastal areas between the Sherbro and Freetown estuaries,
Lokos clung further northwards of the Freetown estuary, extending to the Little Scarcies,
Temnes nested close to the mouth of the Scarcies; Limbas moved farther up the Scarcies,
The Mendes were interspersed; emigrants of sporadic migration from Sub-Saharan colonies,
The Susus and Fulas settled in the hilly Savannah, trading along the coastal boundaries.

15th Century

This period was graced by European contacts, who visited regularly,
Maintaining a fort on the north shore of the Freetown Estuary,
Giving rise to the incessant trading and the birth of slavery…
‘The brutal and harsh transatlantic practice’ that continued for centuries,
Mostly patronized by the Portuguese, Dutch, French and English colonies;
As their quivering captives, tilled the United States, Brazil and the West Indies.

16th Century

Around the mid 16th century, events of profound importance
Changed the scenery and means of survival and sustenance;
Expelled from Mandimansa, unleashing mayhem with fierce agitation;
To lands they subdued; with warring factions, they caused a division…
As warriors armed with shields, reeds, quivers… to combat resistance
From their victims, meet the Manis in their historic Mane invasion.
Plunder and acquisition, clearly spoke for the pains they inflict…
When resistance, plunged a continual state of chaos and conflict,
With Chiefs forming a confederacy, to which they pledged their loyalty
As their benighted subjects, stood up for theirs, by taking an oath of fealty;
Ostensibly, to protect, formed secret cultural practices; such as the Poro society,
Analogous to the female Sande society; the transience to adulthood, from puberty.
In 1652, the first batch of slaves set sail for the fields of North America,
To till the sugar and rice plantations in Georgia up to South Carolina
Recanting on the promise made to the children of Mother Africa…
Bounded with chains, stocked in dungeons, severed from families,
They soiled in blood, with whip-cracked skins, clinging to fading vestiges
Of hope; they sang, as they labored; for their blighted cultural practices.

17th Century

Imperialism waned in; heightening the nascent invasion, by means of trading;
In the auspice of religion and civilization; the bedrock of the imminent usurping,
This atavistic urge sprung trading posts; ‘Factory’, a highly fortified building…
Trading, migration and acquisition for gains, gave a tone for the imperialism,
As displacements and division, embroidered the acquiescence of colonialism;
The continent yielded to the clever ‘oyibo’ in a pliant gesture akin to quietism.
The ‘Province of Freedom’ a scheme designed as an adjunct for the ‘black poor’
Became an ideal move for the defunct ‘Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor’
Set up in 1787 by Granville Sharp – the British abolitionist, along the coastal swathes
Of Sierra Leone, already booming with the medieval concepts among indigenous natives;
Such initiative was a kicker, gracefully embraced by Thomas Peters, the African American
Who later, in the company of compatriots, saw it fit that ‘human machine’ trade faced a ban!
Lieutenant John Clarkson, to be the first Governor, in the company of the Nova Scotians
Established the ‘Colony of Freetown’; for the freed slaves, who predominantly were Christians.
A pyrrhic victory! To those brave and useful hands, called the ‘Negroes’ or ‘Liberated Africans’
On 11 March 1792, the first Baptist service in Africa, voiced by Rev David George, the preacher
Under the obelisk, the ‘cotton tree’; Nathaniel Gilbert gave the exhortation and a word of prayer.
The land was christened, dedicated…; an epoch moment for the colonial era, in old West Africa.

18th Century

In 1800, the Colony of Freetown was turned to British adjudication,
Through which disputes amongst indigenous natives sought pacification,
With indigenous Mendes and Temnes forming a bulk of the population,
Dissents were stifling, among chiefs, for the imminent colonial dictation;
An ethereal feat also, was matching up with the ardent British exaction…
The final straw and sore to injury being the minority, the Creole intervention.
The arbitrary clustering and audacity totally feigned insubordination
By some Chiefs who saw the colonial powers to be a unilateral acquisition;
To this sprout annoyance, remonstrance and a call for total emancipation
And with fierce resistance, they responded to this British arrogation
Dissident comments amongst others were an apt to broil the uprising;
This was succinctly evident in the demotic eruptions, which were forth coming!
In 1827, the first European-styled institution in the western sub-Sahara Africa
Was erected for English speaking Africans to be a magnetic learning Mecca;
Frouah Bay College – Sierra Leone, profoundly, ‘the Athens of old West Africa’…
In the midst of soaring public dissensions, chorused by the indigenous natives
For taxes, asymmetric treatment, power toppling; they cried with spirited voices,
As principals – Bai Bureh, Gbana Lewis, Nyagua… rose to form dissident forces.
In January 1839 the Spanish cruise ‘La Amistad’ set sail with an illegal commission
Of hundreds of native African slaves; reneging on the 1807 afore British’s prohibition;
A faux pas by the Merchants led to a deadly siege, the renowned ‘Amistad revolution’
Set scene, on the high seas, 1st July 1839; with Sengbe Pieh as one of the leading actors,
In a mutinous attack, they defeated, turned both tables and tides by subduing the Captors;
Later to be charged with murder; S. Staples, R. Baldwin and T. Sedgewick were the proctors.
Acquisition and extension, the bedrock and blueprint for the spate of Colonialism
Gave an impetus to the ‘Scramble for Africa’, also synonymous to sectionalism;
As both Western and European powers, like a piece of cake, took share by incursion
Extending and at the same time protecting their already carved demarcation,
Hostility was a factor, with the most hostile, fiercely bagging the most delimitation…
Until the treaties in January 1895; this used geographical references, ignoring affiliation.
The upheavals by the natives – an unavoidable consequence of sectionalism,
Inevitably suppressed and undermined the all-pervading redolence of racism,
In August 1895, an Order-in-council found these factors to be very delicate,
Yielding the declaration on 31st– 10- 1896; Freetown – a British protectorate.
In 1898, effects of prolonged repression, to which the natives had a proclivity
Summed up their strength in the hut tax war; amassed for the sake of posterity.

19th Century

After the hut tax war, the resistance to colonialism progressively toned down
Owing the many lives that counted, and the major players exiled from Freetown
To Gold Coast, present day Ghana; in the most fearsome prison at James Town…
Fanning the flames were a few creoles, who returned back home as educationists;
Prominent amongst were Henry Carter Bankole Bright, a middle class capitalist,
And Isaac Theophilus Akuna Wallace Johnson, the bold and accomplished socialist.
In 1924, a new constitution was drafted, prior to the calm that was solicited
To introduce potential individuals to have the natives squarely represented
In the political rigors; the need for a bicameral administration was deliberated
In the same year and thus the political institution was divided, as they opted
For two entities, a ‘colony’ and a ‘protectorate’, based on proposals submitted,
However, though of different political systems, antagonism was duly unabated.
The uproar between the two independently defined entities escalated
As the minority Creole colonists found out their powers were substituted,
This was made true in 1947, in a debate as dissatisfactions were demonstrated
Owing to the proposals which the majority and minority factions presented
With the protectorate raising the stake, I. T. A. Wallace Johnson protested
To the imbalance, creating a rift, to which the astute Milton Margai mitigated.
In a bid to keep the peace, calm the ensuing violence and intransigence
Educated Creole elites, paramount chiefs and loyalists of prominence
In a delegation led by Milton Margai for the quest of non-dependence,
Left the shores of Freetown, April 20 1960 for the constitutional conference
At Lancaster House, London, they held ‘The Negotiations for Independence’.
Queen Elizabeth II, H. R. H – Head of the British Monarchy
Lain Macloed – then the British Colonial Secretary
Sir Milton Margai                               
Sir Banja Tejan Sie
Siakia Probyn Stevens                                   
Sir Albert Margai                   
Lamina Sankoh                                  
Prof. Kandeh Bureh
Dr John Kerefa Smart                        
Amadu Wurie
Isaac T. A. Wallace Johnson              
Mohamed Sanusi Mustapha
PC Ella Koblo Gullama                    
Hector Reginald S. Boltman

***Complete version: Jay’s Anthology – “Cradle of the Mind”***

© Jusu Jaka Yawmah (in photo)

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