From the Editor’s Keyboard

Romarong is More Than 222 Years Old

By  | 14 March 2014 at 09:52 | 1760 views

My attention has been drawn to a very historically inaccurate statement by the current Mayor of Freetown who confidently stated recently that Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, is now 222 years old. I am surprised that we can still have this kind of statement in our country after over 50 years of so-called independence.

For the sake of Sierra Leonean children in and out of the country who have been fed and continue to be fed mostly with a wrong, inaccurate and sometimes very insane and reckless History of their country, I hereby present the facts about Romarong, the place the British renamed Freetown in the 18th century:

1. Freetown (once known as Romarong) has always been there; centuries before the Portuguese (1462), French (1495) and finally the British (1562) ever came there. There were people living there all the time. They are known as the Themnehs, Sherbros, later joined by the Lokos, Fullahs, Limbas, etc. Later, much later, the British resettled their brothers and sisters that were kidnapped and sold in far away lands where they were treated so badly it was almost unbelievable. Of course the Themnehs, Sherbros and others living in Romarong welcomed their brothers and sisters from Sierra Leone and other parts of Africa that were brought back by the British and gave them land to rebuild their lives. Nobody sold any land to anybody; the local people merely took token gifts (as was and is still being done in many parts of Sierra Leone) and gave the land freely because in Romarong and the rest of what later became known as Sierra Leone the land belonged to the community, not even to the King or Chief who has no right to sell it to anybody. The best the rulers can do is to lease it. Any Chief that sells the community’s land is just asking for dethronement or worse. So the Themneh traditional ruler in the area, called King Naimbana by the British, did not sell any land to the British and there is no record saying a sale had taken place. It was not even the British government that negotiated for the land, it was some traders from Britain. Naimbana’s actual name was Gbanabome or Gbana for short. Asked for his name by the British traders he pointed to himself and replied: "Name Gbana", now corrupted into "Naimbana." The government and the Mayor of Freetown have a lot of name-changing to do.

2. The people of Romarong (let’s call them Romarians) of course did not know what had happened including the fact that their town had been renamed and that the British had become the new rulers. Romarong (Freetown) was burnt down twice by the enraged Romarians (who had gradually lost most of their land) and the rest is now history. Some of that history is however highly distorted and will one day be re-written. It should be noted that the Romarians never considered their black brothers and sisters as strangers or foreigners although the returnees who were born outside Africa had lost most of their languages and cultures and only had the language and culture of their oppressor but they managed to live side by side, for centuries, with their brothers and sisters who, by a stroke of luck or other circumstances were never kidnapped and sold in foreign lands and had maintained their languages and cultures.

Other brothers and sisters kidnapped in their farms and homes and taken abroad had sadly died and were buried in foreign lands after terrible suffering. That’s what we should all remember and pay homage to, the resilience and good nature of the African. The ability to rise from extreme suffering, rebuild and get on with life. We should therefore not be busy perpetuating carefully crafted myths by self-serving and unscrupulous colonial adventurers and their agents.