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Maba Jahu Bah’s Campaigns

When Maba’s raids started on the Soninki villages in Badibou, Colonel D’Arcy proceeded to the spot in H.M.S Dart and was able to get in communication with Maba who sent a message to say the war was over, that he was disbanding his army and that he had declined the kingship.” That was not to be the case as would be proven by later events. Maba declined the kingship because according to him “the office was maintained by plundering the property of others and that henceforth in Baddibu the title should be dispensed with.” That too, will not come to pass.

“Throughout the war, Maba adopted an unusual attitude. Subsequent events proved that he was by no means a physical coward, but, unlike most African leaders of revolt, he personally abstained from any participation in the actual fighting. He adopted the role of a Mahdi, but combined with it many of the relics of his former paganism.”

Colonel D’Arcy described Maba’s conduct in the field of war as follows:

On approaching a town he intends to destroy, he dismounted from his horse, ordered his praying carpet to be spread and calls for writing materials. A staff of blind Marabouts now surround him repeating in a low chaunt that God is great and that there is only one God and Mahomet is his prophet. Mahaba then most earnestly writes grees, or charms, which he hastily distributes to his warriors, who, as they now imagine themselves doubly armed, rush to victory or heaven. It is said that Mahaba has never yet been seen under fire or even been known to carry a weapon. He is superstitious to a degree and fancies that his power will be secure forever if can obtain a particular mare, which is now the property of my aide de camp, Lieutenant Stubbs of the Militia Artillery.

After this ritual, the village to be attacked was stormed by his men and “the fighting which followed was ruthless.” The captives of war were given the option of conversion, which included shaving the head and declaring their faith or be put to death; a lot of people did so to save their lives. But although the Marabouts were staunch faithful, a lot of the Mandingo Soninkis were equally strong in their beliefs. “On one occasion, a European eye-witness beheld a string of Soninki prisoners, who in front of Maba resolutely declined to renounce their old beliefs and were instantly massacred.”

After his raids to neutralize Baddibu, it seemed Maba was good for his word. But one of his captains, a man named Amer Faal would take advantage of a kingship succession wrangling to invade Niumi. He speedily overran Jokadu, compelled the under king to shave his head and renounce his faith.” His successful conversion of the under king pushed him to attempt to further claim more territory in Niumi, his success also got Maba back in war mode, he “collected a force and followed him [Amer Faal]”. Amer Fall will later resettle in Tubab Kolon from where he continued to cause more trouble and the British decided in 1866, with the help of the Sumar of Essau to send a punitive expedition to deal with him.

After Mansa Demba Sonko died, it seemed there was a disagreement as to who his successor would be. This was the opportunity Amer Faal seized to invade Niumi. The Soninki population fled before the advancing forces to “Berrending and Essau, the two chief villages of the heptarchy. The new king (Buntung Jammi) took refuge in Bathurst, but the Sumars, or headmen of Berrending and Essau prepared to make a stand.”

The people of Berrending gathered to their cousins in Essau, asked the Governor for asylum for their children and women. “Colonel D’Arcy undertook to protect them. Several hundred people took refuge under the guns of Fort Bullen.” Colonel D’Arcy also sought Maba to withdraw his forces from Niumi but his response was that “the only condition, upon which he would consent to call his men off, would be if the Soninkis would consent to have their heads shaved and become Marabouts.”

“That was out of the question.” The people of Niumi will not give up the ways of their ancestors without a fight, they “concentrated all their forces in the stockaded town of Essau, where 500 of them, dressed in death colours, yellow, prepared to make a last stand. On 26 May 1862 Maba invested Essau but did not attempt to take it by assault.” That standoff held for a few days and on 1 June, the town of Berrending was seen to be in flames and a message came from Maba to say that in deference to the governor’s wishes he had decided to withdraw his me.” Meanwhile Maba withdrew from the standoff at Essau because he had more on his plate to deal with. He had to beat a retreat back to Baddibu to put out the fire in his own territory when the “king of Sine Salum invaded Baddibu.”

The Sumar of Essau was determined to undo the ills of the invading Marabouts, he led men to recapture the cattle which had been taken by the invading Marabouts. That led to more skirmishes which lasted six months. Towards the end of that year, Fodi Kabba and the Marabouts of Gunjur would come to lend a hand to the Marabouts in Niumi. Peace would finally be attained on February 23 1863 when the two sides agreed to it by burning down their stockades. “Maba had sworn on the Koran to abide by his word to Colonel D’Arcy and he did not break his oath. He also agreed to refrain from any further interference in the affairs of Niumi.”

After his return home to fend off the invading men of the king of Sine Salum, he succeeded in driving them back and pursued them into their own territory, but he was defeated and “severely wounded in Kaolak, when French troops came to the aid of the king of Sine Salum.” During that raid, a lot of the local population were displaced and most sought refuge in British territory. In may of 1863, “a band of 2000 unarmed men, women and children” would arrive at Barra point. “They were Jollofs and Serers whose country had been devastated by Maba and who had come to seek British protection. The British resettled the refugees in Kanume [sic] and later relocated them to Banta Killing which was later renamed Fitzgerald Town.” Another 700 will follow five months later, they were given a “settlement known as Outram Town on the mainland on the shore of Oyster Creek.”

With his defeat in Kaolack by the combined forces of the King of Sine Salum and the French, renewed hope was given to the people of Baddibu to reclaim their territory. “A son of the former king made a bid to recover his father’s cap.” Those Soninkis who fled Baddibu to Tendaba at the onset of Maba’s raid decided to return and “stockaded themselves at Tunku.” Before they could properly regroup, Maba decided to attack them at Kwinella with a force “which was said to be 5000 strong.” But he could not break the Soninkis and had to flee the battlefield “with a few horsemen, leaving behind him over 500 dead Marabouts. He took refuge in Sumbundu amongst the Tukulors.”

But Maba was too restless to settle, he would return to Baddibu to try to reclaim more territory and would again collide with the French in 1866 and fled to Niumi.  He would conduct another raid into Sine Salum the following year where he was killed in 1867. His position was succeeded by his nephew, “Momodu N’dare Ba (Mamut Nderri?), who served as regent for Maba’s son infant son Said Matti (Sait Matty Ba). In 1884, when he became of age, Said Matti proceeded to claim his father’s chieftainship but was opposed by Momodu N’Dare Ba and Biram Sisi. Sait Matty was about to start a campaign of his own starting with his cousin.

 

 

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