Centenial of The Arrest of AlimAmi sAmori ture 28 Sep 1998
By Ibrahim Iba Ndiay- Translation of Janet Goldner
The text below is the fruit of the benevolent effort of Ibrahim Iba Ndiaye Coordinator of the Social & Economic Commission of the Initiative mAliWatch. mAliWatch assumes all the responsibilities for them. Please contact the Coordination of the Initiative at email@example.com for all your questions.
The date of September 29, 1998 corresponds to centenary of the arrest by the French colonial troops of a famous son of the mAli, and discusses, : AlimAmi sAmori ture (1830*-1900).
On this occasion, mAliWatch presents you with the man, the builder of state and of resistance that he was:
” If you cannot organize, direct and extend the Country of your Fathers,
Call the more valorous men;
If you cannot say the Truth in any place and in any time,
Call the more courageous men;
If you cannot be impartial,
Cede the throne to the just men;
If you cannot protect the weak and face the enemy,
Give your saber of war the Women,
Who will show the way of the Honor to you;
If you cannot honorably express your thoughts,
Give the Word to Griots!
fAmAA, the People trust you,
Because you embody these virtues. ”
(translated Extract of the National anthem of the sAmorien State )
I. THE MAN:
Little attention has been given to the family situation and the childhood of sAmori ture in the writings of French colonial officers and historians who report about him. With the exception of work of great quality of Yves Person, there are only more or less surface and contradictory references, to which it is important to add manden oral testimonies and writings in order to completely understand the personage.
The ancestors of sAmori came from the village of sIdIkIla, located in the gold zone, mandenkOrOO, the ” old manden “. They emigrated to the low area of kOnyAn in the middle of the 18th century and ended up settling in the village of mAnyAnbAladugu. jUlAw specialized in long distance trade and Moslems who were practicing on their arrival, they came gradually to lose these two characteristics because they integrated themselves into the local community. The father of sAmori, lAnfiyA ture, married a woman of the great local family of kAmArAw, with the name of masOrOna. He was a farmer – he cultivated the ground and raised animals — and practiced traditional worship at the time when sAmori, his first son was born in about 1830.
According to customs, sAmori was raised closer to his maternal uncles than to his father. He did not come, very often, to the paternal compound except at the times of initiation ceremonies; or for training in agricultural work. He had a sharp and independent spirit. As soon as he could, sAmori sought to leave the status of farmer and undertook the profession of jUlA. He was curious to cross the surrounding countries, to visit the distant markets, and to become a good merchant. His father was not very happy. But, before the obstinate character of sAmori, lAnfiyA ture was obliged to let him do as he wished. He recommended him then to his friend kAsiyAntErEna mArA, head of the Eastern province of kurankO. Under the tutelage of this last, sAmori discovered all the elements of the identity of the jUlAya. Whether he practiced the gold trade in wasolon, or of beasts with futa ‘ jallO, he himself recognized entirely the search for solidarity, hospitality and religious fraternity of his jUlAw companions (and ancestors). Thanks to this network, he could travel as far as Freetown and could also visit part of the takurari Empire of talmoriw. Impressed, he ended up converting to Islam. It was a little before 1850; sAmori reached the 20th year.
The manden had then military-political movements. Taking the example of the fulbe theocracies of the middle valley of the jolibaa, the sisemoriw of the futa ‘ jallO had undertaken, since 1835, the creation and the consolidation of an Islamic state. It was under the leadership of moriwulen sise. In 1853, the son and successor of moriwulen, named sere ‘ burulayi’, annexed the province of the tOrOn after a series of raids and sieges. At the battle of seedugu, he made captives of many residents and visitors, among them the mother of sAmori. When he learned the news, sAmori presented himself to the royal court of sere ‘ burulayi and pledged himself for seven years, for the immediate release of his mother. The offer was accepted; sere ‘ burulayi integrated sAmori into his army.
Quickly, sAmori established a reputation of a courageous soldier and a talented strategist. He brought upon himself then the increasing animosity of the new leader of the sisemoriw, sere ‘ burama. In 1858-59, at the end of his ” contract “, he left the sisemoriw army and moved away from their capital, mAdiinA. But, he did not go as far as giving up the occupation of the army. Ambitious, he had calculated all the potential for the jUlAw communities of the manden. He joined the beretew gUndo to reconquer the provinces of kOnyAn and kurankO. With a small break, he tried to establish himself in the upper valley of the river milo, but failed in this enterprise. Continuing then with the beretew, he became a refugee in the mountainous buttresses of sImAndugu and surroundings. His security and survival assured, sAmori did not delay to display his remarkable qualities of strategy. It was about 1861.
He proclaimed himself defender of the kAmArAw not-Moslems — his maternal uncles — against the religious imperialism of the sisemoriw, in order to mobilize strong local support. At the same time, he let it be known by the sisemoriw that he was their ally against the beretew, in order to guarantee political legitimacy. In 1864-65, sAmori and his troops of brothers, childhood friends and adventurers joined a coalition directed by the sisemoriw, with whom also participated the non-Moslem soldiers of nAntEnE ‘ fAmUdU, the head of sabaadugu. The coalition attacked victoriously and destroyed the fortress of siranbAdugu. At the end of the battle, sAmori was successful in preserving his troops against the threat of the sisemoriw. He retired more to the south, in the forest land of tOma.
In 1867, he secured control of the commercial city of sanankOrO, made of it a center of recruitment and training, then started a policy of northern expansion. sanankOrO opened to him the traditional roads of the cola trade towards the upper valley of the jolibaa and ensured him the possibility of collecting taxes. Between 1867 and 1870, he reorganized his army in bolow, or very mobile ” contingents “, of one hundred men each. He had massively recruited adventurers and old prisoners of war, then, acquired their personal loyalty for his side by the means of the kAlIkandi, the individual oath of fidelity. He re-enforced cohesion and discipline, imposing a new way of life in the garrison so that his soofAw, or infantrymen, did not go home after each battle any more. Lastly, he guaranteed freedom to any prisoner of war who agreed to join his army.
This strategy paid off in 1871, when sAmori inflicted a defeat on the allies and pawns of the sisemoriw, nAntEnE ‘ fAmUdU. He then moved on the commercial city of kankan, took control of the province of the tOrOn and the entire valley of the river milo. On this date, he became the best known political leader in the area. He adopted the title of fAmAA, undertook the construction of his new capital, which he finished and named bisAndugu in 1873. The army was placed under the direct command of his younger brother, kEmEE ‘ burama. It included ten fArIw, or “army corps “, and an elite unit which included of woman soldiers. The ambition of sAmori was from now on to protect and to prolong the trade route as far as the Atlantic coast which used network of the jUlAw. He sought thus to reinforce the economic, political and military position of his new state. He supported and intensified domestic trade as much as the exchanges with the Coast, in particular the purchase of rifles, ammunition and powder coming from the British colony of the Sierra-Leone.
sAmori had the intelligence to ally himself with the powerful jUlAw families of kankan. They helped him take the control of kunban in 1875, to penetrate the lands of kUrUsA and of sigiri between 1876 and 1878, and to reach to the gold producing province of bure, which paid him a significant tribute in gold. The other military conquests of sAmori were, among others, bAliya, to the west — which brought him still closer to the major axis of trade of the futa ‘ jallO and in Sierra-Leone — and wuladaa, to the border of the takurari empire. In April 1881, sAmori succeeded finally in beating and capturing his traditional challenger, sere ‘ burama. He transferred him to bisAndugu and definitively sapped his legitimacy there by making him follow the entire population of mAdiina, the ex-capital of the sisemoriw that sAmori then reduced to a ghost town. sAmori negotiated also a strategic alliance with the jUlAw of ojEnnE; alliance which was reinforced by marriage links between him and the Moslem family ture of this other large commercial city of Western suudan.
The first military clashes between sAmori and French took place in this context of expansion and consolidation of the jUlA state, in 1881-83. An significant episode was the capture of kEnyEra, close to kItA, after an expensive siege and in spite of the intervention of the colonial troops. The retreat of the French increased the prestige of sAmori as the military head in the area. He extended his authority as far as kangabA, and part of the bElEdugu. On April 2, 1882, the sAmorien troops again ran up against French in the near the small commercial village of bAmAkOO, located on the jolibaa. The French had to resort to artillery in order to free themselves from the bad ground of the river woyowayankOO where the soofAw had pushed them. But, the skirmish continued throughout 1882 and 1883.
Meanwhile, sAmori sought to protect his rear. He inflicted defeat on the formidable non-Moslem chief of the kOnyAn rebellion, sAgAjigi. The extent of the jUlA state thus began to take shape clearly in 1884. In the East, the soofAw reached the river baajE and the outposts of the powerful kingdom of gEnEdugu. In the West, they devastated fAlAbA, the capital of the solimAna, and secured the roads to the borders of Sierra-Leone. The kingdom of sAmori then counted ten faabAw, or provinces, and a hundred sixty two (162) kAfow, or cantons. The same year ,1884, sAmori took the title of AlimAmi, or religious head.
The interpretations of the historians in this regard underscore both the passions, as well as the multiple facets of the man himself. For some, sAmori could not read Arabic, or only read this language very passably; but, he took the title of AlimAmi, all the same, in his thirst for glory and power. For them, this showed his irrational and arrogant character. For others, he gave himself the title for opportunist reasons; who made a pretense of support to Islam only when such policy allowed him to destroy and to replace the political-religious order of a country which resisted his domination. sAmori would have thus killed the marabouts and ransacked the cemeteries, would have forced the construction of new mosques and would have named Imams who were in his service in each village of his kingdom. Testimonies agree, however, that of all the theocratic states created in the 1800’s, the state of sAmori was the one which did not make sure of the strict application of the Islamic laws and precepts.
Contradictory arguments can be presented too. Certain French colonial officers, therefore not very likely to be sympathetic towards sAmori, wrote that AlimAmi sought to promote an expansion of Islam gently. This policy, then completely adequate, was a counterbalance to the former years of religious wars led in the area by the sisemoriw and their allies. For this reason, sAmori adopted throughout his state a broad principle of tolerance towards non-Moslem worship. He also did not seek to strictly impose Islamic principles on the dignitaries of his own court, on the rest and on their sub-administrators, out of fear of alienating them. But, he made the continuous effort to encourage them and convince them by example.
sAmori interpreted the Koran. He had for “spiritual guide ” a young marabou educated by the twarEg traarza, who also was his advisor. He watched strictly that all the children of dignitaries went to the Koranic school. He invited these children to his capital, from time to time, and questioned them directly. He imposed heavy fines on the parents of those students who did not show an appreciable level of knowledge. sAmori did not forget his own sons. He supervised their progress and questioned them each Monday and Thursday. He blamed the mother of the child who did not give him satisfaction. As a religious head, he was known to be constantly assiduous.
It would seem that the compromise developed by sAmori — lax religiously with his dignitaries, but the strict Islamic education of their children and his own — also functioned with a good amount of political realism. sAmori had undertaken a disastrous siege — economically and militarily — of the fortified capital of the gEnEdugu, sikAso-solokAn, and needed to preserve the total support of the heads of the provinces. The moment, for him, was thus not favorable for extreme decisions in connection with the expansion of the Faith. At the end of 1888, the army of sAmori was practically in rags, after eighteen months of presence at the gates of sikAso-solokAn. Cut off behind his formidable tAtA, the king of gEnEdugu, cEba taarawele, was thoroughly prepared for this eventuality. He had moved his subjects inside the protective walls, had accumulated significant reserves of food, had burned the fields and had closed the wells in a radius of fifty kilometers around his capital. Despite his title of AlimAmi, some of sAmori’s Moslem allies did not assist him; the links with the jUlAw of gEnEdugu having been the strongest. On the other hand, others non-Moslems allies were more loyal. Lastly, sAmori was preparing himself gradually for the confrontation, which he now knew was inevitable, with the French.
II. THE BUILDER OF STATE AND RESISTANCE:
sAmori’s figure as ” resister to French colonial penetration ” is better known than what has been presented before. This is with the many references which are made to him in the reports and writings of French colonial officers; some having had to fight him. sAmori was the most determined and most effective of the mAlien leaders in the opposition to the ” pacification ” of the Western sudaan. It is because of him, primarily, that France missed controlling the most populous sectors of the area, even though expansion came about later.
sAmori was the last mAlien leader to conceive in an autonomous way and to undertake a large scale political action, which was almost entirely independent of the French policy in West Africa. For this reason, he is often criticized and condemned for the extreme violence of his strategies of survival vis-a-vis the poussees colonialists; just like he is often sung about as a hero of mAlien and African nationalism. He resisted the French for seventeen years and caused the adhesion or the rejection of very many communities of the Western sudaan during his political and military enterprise. As a “young historical figure “, sAmori forms part of a quite lively collective memory in the current post-colonial states of Mali, Guinea, Sierra-Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina-Faso and in Gabon where he died in exile.
It is generally allowed that the true politico-military action of sAmori started in 1860, when he conquered sanankOrO and established his center of recruitment and training there. He had just come from the supervision of sere ‘ burama, after a long service (1853-59) with the sisemoriw. The sAmorien troops were relatively quick to extend the limits of the new state. In 1866, they inflicted a defeat on fAmUdU, the head of the kunadugu. They then made successful incursions into the provinces of tOrOn, konyE, bore-hole, bIdIga, seekEE and wasolon. In 1873, they reached kankan, which they integrated gradually into the jUlA state between 1881 and 1887.
In February 1882, they met the French troops; who answered thus ” the affront ” and underwent defeat at kEnyEra, a few months earlier. In conquering this fortified place, sAmori had also taken as an hostage a lieutenant sunungaalais of the name of AlAkAmisa. AlAkAmisa was the emissary of the ambitious French commander Borgnis-Desbordes, who had sent him for ” negotiations ” with sAmori. The soofAw also attacked nAfAjE; then, the new French station of nyAgAsola defended by the troops of captain Louvel. The post was built to protect French trade on the jolibaa. In 1884, the troops of sAmori beat the army of amadu tal of seegun, son of lAjI UmarU tal.
Until 1881-82, sAmori paid little attention to the French, who had deliberately undertaken the conquest of the valleys of the rivers sunungaal and jolibaa since 1878. In the first years of their policy of expansion, they had beaten lAjI UmarU tal futa ‘ tooro (1847-1864) and ERNO ‘ burama of the danga (1867-1869); then, they had occupied baafiilAbEn in 1879. On this date, they built a fort at kItA, the old center of manden trade. The ambition declared was to reach the river jolibaa, the significant waterway through the Western sudaan and which reached tOnbOktu in the north. It should be said that, up to that point, the strategies of conquest of the valley of sunungaal by the French did not enter into conflict with those of the conquest of the high valley of the jolibaa by sAmori. In 1883, at the time of the skirmish at the gates of the village of bAmAkOO, it was obvious that it was not the case any more.
The episodes of military and diplomatic confrontation between sAmori and the French contributed to solidify significant elements of the method of ” administrative command ” which appeared later in French West Africa. sAmori initially underestimated the ambitions and the influence of French, whom he considered like a race without many educated people, living on small islands in the middle of the ocean and whose only preoccupation was trade. According to this vision, they thus did not represent a very significant danger as the competitors and leaders of the immediate neighboring states. The analysis of sAmori was incorrect. But, his reach could have been — irony of history! – – given the full range of the preoccupations of the French population themselves.
Indeed, the colonial enterprise of the Third French Republic, under the government of Jules Ferry especially, was unpopular. Defender of an ideology of expansion according to which, ” the colonial policy is the daughter of the French industrial policy “, Ferry was constrained elsewhere at the demission in March 1885. sAmori would thus have judged rightly, were it not for the fierce will of the colonial officers to be distinguished in Africa at all costs for reasons of careerism, glory and personal fortune. Inspired by their elder, Louis Faidherbe, these officers made alliances with the merchant and financial (Marseilles, Nantes) interests for the protection of commercial trading posts, and benefiting by some support of some influential members in the Assembly National with” the mission of civilization and of christianization ” of the metropolis in Africa. Their ideal was also to confirm France as a European power; in particular before the “enemy Germany ” which invested actively in Africa and which had convened the conference of Berlin in 1884-85 to guarantee its breakthroughs.
Proclaimed on September 4, 1870, the Third Republic managed, since then, the national traumas which were for the various French political camps the defeat and capture in Sedan of the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany, the massacre of almost twenty thousand citizens of the Commune of Paris by the government in 1871 and the ceaseless changes of government. In this climate of political upheaval, parliamentary control on international and colonial questions was weak, authorizing the particular interests and the special interest groups — such as the Colonial Party — to impose their own strategies as the apparatus of the state. Between 1870 and 1914, the Third Republic had sixty governments, which gave the most contradictory directives as regards colonial policy.
The military expeditions in Tunisia in 1881, Indo-China and Madagascar in 1884-87 revealed themselves to be inappropriate, for example, for the dignitaries and the economic milieu interested in the colonialist policy of France. Public finances suffered an imbalance; the state had to increase the tariffs and taxes. Public opinion did not accept the death of conscripted soldiers overseas, including in almost unknown Africa. It was considered, in the minority fringe of informed people, that the government was irresponsible by not preparing revenge on Germany across the line of Vosges, or better, in its majority fringe, it did not have a plan for difficulties that were quite remote, beyond Europe.
However, the French officers posted in the area of the Western sudaan wanted to prove themselves to be worthy of consideration. They came from very poor families, for the most part, and served in the army for payments made to their families to replace the children of aristocrats and the middle-class businessmen as before according to the selective method of drawing lots. This practice was the norm; universal military service becoming more or less effective in France only in 1872. The officers in Africa thus wanted to gain as much glory as possible, and they did not have any intention of following the orders sent from Paris. In that, a circle of very motivated leaders and metropolitan financiers was ready to guarantee sufficient support to them in order to regild somewhat the coat of arms of the army and/or to establish the widest possible network of trading centers and Catholic missions in Africa.
The collusion of interests marked its political strength by the invitations to the Shah of Persia, the Bey de Tunis and the “negro kinglet” diina ‘ sAlifu to take part in the 1889 World Fair. It also played a determining role in the signing of Franco-Congolais treaty of 14 August 1894, of the law of annexation of Madagascar of 8 August 1896, of the Franco-German agreement on the Togo of 23 July 1897, and especially in the organization of Merchant mission in the valley of the Congo and the Nile which led to the Franco-British war in Fachoda in July-November 1898. Overtaking the instability of the governments, it helped largely to create the profiles of “European power ” and ” second world colonial power ” of France at the time when the First World War broke out in 1914-18.
On March 29, 1886, the son of sAmori, jawlen ‘ karamOkO, signed a treaty of friendship with the French — kEnyErakura — he was to be invited to visit France, later. The treaty established the borders of the jUlA state at the minor river tenkiso. It suggested that the sAmori state benefited from the opening and the securing of the trade routes by the French for horses and armaments, coming respectively from the northern region and the Atlantic Coast. However, the inconsistency of the decisions taken in Paris, as much as the desire of the colonial officers to carry out territorial conquests, emptied the treaty of its substance. sAmori immediately had a first and deep doubt as to the sincerity of the French. Written or not, he held any word given and expected the same attitude from the colonial military heads. For them, obviously, sAmori merited neither confidence, nor the political status of leader; he was a sanguinary enemy and vicious to cut down at the first good occasion. In 1886, the signing of a treaty of friendship and trade took place, however.
sAmori then prepared the countryside of gEnEdugu and the siege of sikAso-solokAn; he needed time, provisions, armaments, and counted if not on the support of French, at least on their neutrality with respect to cEbA taarawele. sAmori was brutally surprised when the French denounced the treaty unilaterally. He received an ultimatum from Paris asking nothing less than his kingdom in to be integrated as a French protectorate in West Africa, which demonstrated to the other European nations the importance of French hegemony. He continued several more or less happy military campaigns, for sAmori and the French. The negotiations finally began again between February 14 and March 26, 1887, when the mission of the Captain Peroz reached bisAndUgU, the capital of sAmori.
A new treaty was negotiated and signed between March 23-27 1887. But, it did not remain in force for long since the French version placed the kingdom of sAmori under protectorate of France without sAmori’s agreement; then, the quarrelsome Colonel Gallieni used this excuse for finally penetrating the province of sigiri. The confrontations began again and it was only in February 1889 that the treaty of nyAko made it possible to re-establish peace, temporarily.
Meanwhile, sAmori had developed a total lack of confidence in the French. The latter had made their recommendation to the explorer Binger, who had visited the region of the Western sudaan before and who had suggested the advantage for the Europeans of removing any West African leadership. According to Binger, when a African head is called damEl, braak, nbuur, mansa, AlimAmi or nAbA; once that he has authority over a population of more than twenty-five thousand people, he must be eliminated; if not, he destroyed instead of organizing and revitalizing his state.
Thereafter, sAmori’s diplomatic action was deliberately directed to the traders and the British colony of Sierra Leone. He sent his emissaries there, insisted on his desire to trade, required that the heads of faabAw and kAfow treat the British merchants and intermediaries with even more benevolence, and let it even be heard that he would sign a treaty of protectorate with the United Kingdom. Such reports were very convenient for the British government; who saved on the training and the defense costs of Sierra-Leone, then he increased the volume of his local trade. On sAmori’s side, these same reports were precious, particularly those which raised the purchases of rifles, ammunition and powder.
One could note that the circumstances were not overall favorable to sAmori. Several village and provincial chiefs in the north of the Sierra-Leone were rather intimidated by the rise of a powerful jUlA state at their borders. They feared either its intervention in favor of the jUlAw layers of the colony, or its attempt at pure annexation of the area. Indeed, in 1884, didn’t the sAmorien troops have to carry assistance to the head of kAliyere, in a fight with his rival, seewa of fAlAbA? The soofAw organized a very effective blockade then, condemned seewa to famine and finally pushed him to jump with his powder keg. They also made multiple incursions into the provinces of kisi, kOnO, kurankO, lenbA and even to the provincial capital of Scarcies and Sherbro County, Port-Loko. They were known to be frightening and capable of military prowess. Finally the signatures always renewed on the treaties with France sowed doubt with British colonial authorities in Sierra-Leone. The British were not convinced of the independence or the sincerity of sAmori.
For example, the treaties of friendship and trade with France of 1886 and 1887 negatively influenced the British policy of commercial opening in favor of the jUlA state. They caused a misunderstanding between the Amiraute and the Intelligence Division of the British Ministry of the War. Amiraute, who managed the town of Freetown, made the idea prevalent that this strategic naval station of West Africa was at the mercy of soofAw feroces, and allies of French. The Intelligence Division , much more in tune with the facts of the intentions and movements of sAmori, succeeded with great difficulty in suggesting that the mandenka leader did not have an interest in destroying his principal source for the supply of rifles; the guarantee of his independence with respect to France. Instead of an immediate action of the colonial authorities of Sierra-Leone in favor of sAmori, it was decided to send an emissary by the name of Festing to invest. The soofAw, trading with the arms manufacturers of Freetown, had passed information that sAmori was not a pawn of French.
Festing met sAmori at hEErEmakOnO in 1888. Festing completely misled sAmori. He engaged, but had never received the mandate, to arrange the signing of a treaty of friendship and trade between sAmori and the authorities of Freetown. He asked in compensation the provision, for himself, of a concession of construction and exploitation of the railroad through the sAmorien kingdom. Festing died on the road home, in August 1888. Not up to date on the status of the emissary — for investigation — of Festing and not informed of the news of his death, sAmori wasted very precious time awaiting British political support which he needed, for some hypothetical batch of fire arms, which would never be delivered to him.
In February 1889, at the time of the signature of the treaty of nyAko with the French, rumor had it in the northern provinces of Sierra-Leone that sAmori had just died. Certain chiefs attempted to be free of mandenka supervision then, but, the soofAw brutally stifled all inclinations; in particular in the provinces of sangala and kurankO, where they killed or sent into slavery a great number of people. By this time, sAmori didn’t have any more illusions about an unspecified possibility of peace with the French. He refused to close his trade route in the direction of Sierra-Leone, denounced all treaties signed with France and sent, in April 1890, a message to Freetown requesting British protection. In the interior of his state, he increased the rate of mobilization of the soofAw, required more and more contributions of the faabAw and kAfow, reduced to slavery those who were opposed to the exactions of the army. Many became exhausted and died with the intensive cultivation of cereal , the extraction of iron ore for the official forges for the mass production of copies of imported rifles.
Unfortunately for sAmori, the British colonial authorities could not create a precedent by supporting the unilateral decision of an African leader. It was extremely possible that French caused the rebellions in the other British colonies of West Africa in return. London was conscious of that, and did not want it. This engaged the colony of the Sierra-Leone only to delay the implementation of the general agreement of July 1890, which related to the restrictive sales of weapons and alcohol to Africa. This agreement was voted on as part of the decisions of the conference of Brussels of 1889, which related to trade in Africa and the illegal but still existent trade of slaves. Until 1892, the soofAw of sAmori were authorized to buy weapons and ammunition from arms manufacturers of Freetown. In terms of local policy, sAmori found supporters in two influential European merchants, Hemming and Alfred Lewis Jones, who were openly in favor of a strong and autonomous African power in the area.
The French colonial troops occupied hEErEmakOnO in February 1893. From 1894 to 1898, sAmori concentrated his efforts on the relocation of his kingdom more to the south in forest area. He built a new capital and named it dAbAkala. His attempts at alliance with the kings of sikAso-solokAn and kOn to the East were unsuccessful. He continued, however, to buy horses for his army in these two large commercial towns. The rise of sAmori had caused, it was true, a problem of status and survival for the royal courts of sikAso-solokAn and kOn. cEbA taarawele, king of gEnEdugu, did not see an evil eye in the French offensive which would lead to the attenuation and/or the defeat of sAmori. The siege which failed in sikAso-solokAn between May 1887 and August 1888 was, besides everything else, bringing up the danger that the sAmorien state represented. As for the leaders jUlAw of kOn, they belonged to the Moslem brotherhood kadiriya, which by tradition scorned the members of the tijaaniya brotherhood to which AlimAmi sAmori belonged. According to them, the tijaaniw were not as good at the reading of the Koran and the interpretation of the Faith; thus they did not merit a position of leadership. Lastly, any undermining of the economic foundation of the sAmori state equaled, for the two competitors, less competition for the control of trade routes and the jUlAw network of the region.
Thus, if he could no longer take the risk of a frontal attack against gEnEdugu, sAmori did not deprive himself of taking kOn to restore his provisions and to reinforce his cavalry with the horses taken. It was on May 18, 1897. sAmori managed the most serious internal political crisis of his career as statesman. His soofAw did not benefit any more from their characteristic superior training; the cavalry lacked beasts and the desertions were numerous. They were impotent when the French crossed the river jolibaa and headed quickly towards sikAso-solokAn, where they succeeded in making cEbA sign a new treaty of protection. sAmori thus lost the accesses to a significant market for provisioning. Between 1890 and 1897, the French sent seven missions near to cEbA, in order to guarantee his loyalty and also to intimidate sAmori.
On April 15, 1898, the situation in gEnEdugu however was totally opposite the desires of the French colonial officers. bAbEnbA taarawele, brother of cEbA and the new king, came to denounce the protectorate of France and declared the independence of his kingdom. He then found himself besieged by a colonial force of 1,300 cavalry, infantry and artillery soldiers. During the two weeks, of April 17 to May 1, 1898, the artillery bombarded the fortress city of sikAso-solokAn. When it ceded to the attacks of the French troops, finally, bA bEnbA jumped with his powder keg, by proclaiming the mAlien creed “sAyA ka fused nor mAAlo ye” (” Rather death than shame “) which he adopted. On the side of the colonial troops, sixty-three soldiers were killed by the defenders of sikAso-solokAn, and more than 200 soldiers were wounded.
Already in 1896, sAmori finished the transfer of his empire to the south. But, if the region were covered with thick forests, security was much worse there because of the many French incursions, lanced as much in the valley of the jolibaa as very close to Ivory Coast. The possibilities of autonomous survival were reduced; traditional farming techniques of the mandenkaw were not being completely adapted to the climate. The provisioning of the army was even more difficult. The men, as well as the public resources, reached their limits. All sections of the population of the kingdom had made a contribution during the transfer to the south. The army had assumed the greatest responsibility. It had been divided into three large branches. The first branch, which was best the equipped, contained the French troops, badgered them and slowed them down in their advances. The second branch had penetrated the forest area, to know the terrain and prepare for the arrival of the populations of the jUlA state who were moving. The third branch escorted and protected the subjects of sAmori in their exodus. The efforts of design, organization and execution of this huge operation finished by consuming the last financial resources of the state jUlA.
After the French captured the city of bo ‘ jUlAso, and then kOn in January 1898, it did not take long before they reached the borders of the new state. September 29 of this same year, a French reconnaissance mission surprised and stopped sAmori at gelemu. The soofAw had confused it with a commercial column because of the thick fog. The jUlA king was sent in exile initially to kAyi, situated on the river sunungaal, in company of his griot, morifinjaan jEbAgAtE and some members of his family. Then, he was sent to njole, on an island of the ogwe in gAbOn, on December 22, 1898. It is there that he died of broncho-pneumonia, on June 2, 1900. After his burial, morifinjaan, as companion and loyal griot, dug his own tomb besides that of AlimAmi sAmori ture, requiring that his body be carried there in the evening of his life. It was thus. It was more than half a century later, at the request of the first president of independent Guinea-Conakry, sekU ture, that the ashes of sAmori and morifinjaan were repatriated to native soil.
‘mi mana kEE, o de bE fO,
‘mi mana fO, o de bE kEE!
nka, den’ bEE tE jAmAAlakuma dOn;
kuma ka gElEn, wa a ‘laseebAgA jAlAkI ma ngon!
hAkEEto bE nI kAn,
That which is past, it is that which will be said,
Which is said, it is that which will be done!
But, any child does not know how to express itself in public;
The Word is difficult and it is easy to blame who reports it!
With all our excuses)
La Commission Ad-hoc “Centenaire de l’Arrestation de sAmori ture”/mAliWatch
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