Back to my grandfather shall we? He was a warrior in defense of liberty and a lesser man will succumb to the tyranny of the majority and accept subjugation. Not Duwa Banna Ceesay. He wouldn’t have any of it and in a split second he put his life and that of his clan on the line. It reminds me of a saying that is attributed to old Patrick Henry of New Hampshire; “Give me Liberty or Give me death”.
The story goes that our ancestor who first settled in the village of Saba, was a native of Salikenne …a village located in what is today central Badibu district. It is approximately five to six miles from Saba. He got into a fight with a group of men on the outskirts of town and end up killing one of them. Fearful of the retribution he will face if he went back to the village [Salikenne], he decided to flee and seek refugee with his cousin in the village of NjabaKunda, a few miles away from Salikenne. His cousin advised him to move west to the village of Saba and seek refugee with Konkono, the elder of the founding clan that inhabit that settlement. He will be spared if found living with Konkono, since his clan has “dancuto” [a joking bond] with Salikenne. Dancuto to this day is very sacrosanct in relationships and communal harmony. That is how Sano Ceesay settled in Saba. He was given land and married one of Konkono’s children. His settlement came to be known as “CeesayKunda Ba” ..The original Ceesay Kunda in Saba. There are numerous Ceesay Kundas, but this is the original settlement of our ancestry, Nestled between Suso Kunda and Drammeh kunda.
Sano was blessed with children. He prospered in Saba. In those days, the more children you have, the more farm hands, hence productivity increases. His success reached an old friend of his in Salikenne, who eventually came to visit him and decide to stay as well. That friend of Sano’s is the ancestor of Today’s Drammehs in Saba. Drammeh Kunda today is located on land allocated to their ancestry from my ancestor. It is bewildering that due to his business success, the drammeh friend turn foe and tries to rewrite history. His offspring to this day continue on this path of deceit. They have a superiority complex about them and go to the length of not marrying within my clan. The stupidity of caste lives within their ignoramus lot. Unfortunately that is not isolated to them; it is very prevalent in Saba. The bigotry that is involved is breath taking.
Sano lived a free man in Saba till his death. He never ventured back to his native Salikenne. That is where my grandfather’s war starts. Upon Sano’s death, the Janteh Kunda Kabilo decided that, since Sano was spared his liberty and didn’t pay for killing a man back in Salikenne (in self defense by the way), they are going to make his children pay for it, by forcing them to work for their clan or they will unleash the wrath of Salikenne upon Sano’s children. It is an insidious blackmail for lack of a better word. Duwa Banna, the eldest of Sano’s children and the heir to the clan upon his father’s death told the elders of the Janteh Kunda kabilo, who brought farm implements with them to shove it up where the sun don’t shine. Bullies for ages have glass jaws. They were not expecting the resolute stance Duwa Banna took. Taken aback, they re-group and called on their allies in the neighboring villages to confront what they termed intransigence on my grandfathers’ part. It never occurred to them that my people have a God given right to liberty and self determination. What ensued was an epic battle in the village of Saba. Duwa Banna ordered his clansmen to fight with all they’ve got. He positioned himself by a lake located and still located behind the cemetery called “Buukay Daala”. It is more of a pond these days… the effects of erosion and nature taking its course. From this vantage point he waited for his men to capture and bring the captives from the other side. He submerged their heads in the glistening waters of the fresh water lake; inducing the fear of drowning in them; a crude form of water boarding for sure. The result is instant diarrhea. Extreme? You bet. But, extremism in defense of liberty as Barry Goldwater lamented, is no vice. By the end of the battle (when the other side surrendered) the lake was polluted with feces, thus the term Buukay daala. Nine alikalos were arrested by the colonial government from all over Badibou for the role they played, in trying to subjugate my clan. It is believed that they were sent to Sierra Leone for incarceration and nobody ever heard a thing about or from them. They end up like fart in the wind; lost to a cruel cause. The Gambia in those days was governed by a governor general stationed in Freetown on behalf of the British throne.
Duwa Banna was offered the alikaloship of Saba after this event. He turned it down; reasoning that all he was fighting for, is his dignity and that of his clan. Power was not part of his calculus. The bad blood from this event, continues to this day, albeit, in a subtle way. It is never in your face kind of bigotry, but we all know the under currents. The phrase I know it, when I see it describe the conundrum that comes into play when you try to describe the bigotry that happens in Saba to this day. The comedy of ignorance still pervades a community that thinks they are better than their fellow villagers based on ancient feuds. Inter-marriage is virtually non-existent in Saba, there are two cemeteries in the village and yet people faked smiles at one another in communal gatherings. The hypocrisy of it all is nauseating. To add insult to injury, the younger generations devoid of any knowledge of Saba’s history are taking to cyber space, to spread made up stories, stoking their own egos. I cannot for the life of me, let that go unchallenged. If Duwa Banna in the face of thuggery and violence stood up, fought for liberty, and what is right, the least I could do is turn my computer on and set the record straight on the history of a village we all call home. This is not the most flattering history, but it is our history. And history someone said is prologue, thus we have to be eternally vigilant. It is afterall the price of liberty.