Battle of Kolkoto Sutu, 1855
Monday, November 19, 2007
Soninke rulers of Kombo were oppressive and harsh towards the marabouts beyond endurance. This affected the muslims to rebel against the Soninke authority. According to historian Mamakay Bojang, Most of the Soninke villages were destroyed and the local chiefs fled to Bathurst.
The British feared that the existing political situation might force the muslims to follow up on their success by crossing the river and attacking Bathurst. Urgent appeals were made to the British authorities in Sierra Leone, and French Authorities in Goree and St.Louis, in case of a sudden attack from the Muslim village of Sabiji (Sukuta). By 1852, brave warriors, scholars, and generals of Gunjur and Sabeji deposed all the traditional rulers of Kombo, and established a new marabout kingdom, a theocratic state. This new kingdom, was headed by Foday Ebrima Kombo Sillah Touray of Gunjur.
The deposed Soninke rulers were Mansa Kolly Bojang of Brikama, Mansa Tomani Bojang Junior of Yundum, and Mansa Suling Jatta of Busumbala.
As the threats of crossing to Bathurst intensified, Governor Mcdonald found it necessary in 1847 to issue a proclamation warning persons in Bathurst territory against supplying arms or ammunition to the Marabouts of Sabiji. At the same time, he informed the home government that it was obvious that sooner or later the British would have to intervene in the quarrel between the Soninke rulers and the marabout minority.
The Governor tried to keep the villagers quite by using a small force, who was defeated instantly. In 1853, he sent a large force comprising of detachment from HMS Teaser, the three West Indian Regiments, and the Gambia Militia. They succeed in penetrating the village on June 1st 1853, and the leading marabouts were arrested and jailed for a while. These marabouts, after their released, launched a one and half year preparation for a major war.
In 1855, Governor O'Connor mustered every available man and set out for the village of Sabiji with 260 men fully armed. The two forces met at a thick belt of the forest called "Kolo Koto Sutu" lying from Jeshwang to Lamin Creek. An intense battle followed in which the British suffered heavy casualities.
They had 23 killed, including the Army general, and 50 were wounded. At this battle, the golden sword of the general was also seized. Even Colonel O'Connor himself sustained two injuries on the chest and leg.
Eventually, the Colonel ordered his forces to retreat to Cape St. Mary and wait for reinforcement from Sierra Leone and from the French in St. Louis and Goree. By August 1855, the combined Anglo-French arrived and marched to Sabiji. The town was strongly fortified, but after a weeklong mortar attack the walls started to crumble consequently, the village was destroyed and the villagers were forced to surrender. What was the biggest mosque in this part of Africa at Sabiji was destroyed by the British forces.
As might be expected, they were forbidden to rebuild the village, and as a result of this, they moved to what is known today as Bakoteh. The British made a ring fence around their former village, and no one was allowed to go near it. This prohibition was kept in force for many years.
Author: Hassoum Ceesay