From the Editor’s Keyboard

Why insult Bai Bureh and Sierra Leone?

3 May 2008 at 01:52 | 922 views

Commentary

By Gibril Koroma, PV Editor/Publisher

I heard, with utter dismay, that one of the "lanterns" in the recent lantern parade in Freetown which formed part of our country’s independence celebrations depicted one of our national heroes, Bai Bureh, in a cage,watched over by white British guards.

I could hardly believe that the organizers of the parade and indeed the "lantern builders" who are undoubtedly all Sierra Leoneans could make a mockery of the place of the great Bai Bureh in our national history. The builders even went further to distort history by putting Bai Bueh in a cage, when in fact the late warrior merely surrendered to the British, was brought down to Freetown and sent to Ghana.He was later brought back to Sierra Leone where he died peacefully in his village, among his people.

For those who don’t know, Bai Bureh was one of the warrior chiefs in the north of the country(Port Loko district) who gallantly fought against the British colonial authorities in 1898 when the latter imposed what they(Bai Bueh and other traditional rulers) correctly viewed as a nefarious and illegal Hut Tax; in much the same way the Americans launched their War of Independence a century earlier, arguing that there should be no taxation without representation.

Bai Bureh and others fought hard,guerilla fashion, inflicting heavy casualties on the colonialists but had to surrender due to the superior arms(which they used to destroy villages and stockades from a distance) of the enemy and other reasons.

In fact the British never captured Bai Bureh in battle, he came out of the bush willingly and surrendered because the British were murdering non-comabtants and destroying livestock and other food items(scorched earth war strategy) leading to general starvation in his chiefdom. He surrendered because of compassion and love for his people who were suffering too much because of the war. He was a great guerilla leader.

I fail to understand why and how some of my compatriots could have such a warped sense of history, why they could insult themselves and all Sierra Leoneans in such a barbaric way when they should know that the crimes commited by the British Governor and his men in our country in 1898(burning of villages, killing of women and children etc) would have qualified them for indictment and trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity in today’s world. Perhaps we need to to revisit the history books. I for example have read a lot of nonsense and rubbish about Bai Bureh in some of the history texts being used in our schools.

One historian, writing for primary school pupils, has the temerity(or is it utter ignorance?) to present Bai Bureh as some kind of coward, begging the British for mercy. And this is a so-called Sierra Leonean historian!

A "historian" who obviously did not understand what kind of person was a warrior chief in pre-colonial Sierra Leone or even the role of secret societies in the war history of Sierra Leone. The Minister of Education has to urgently look into this matter. What sort of national history is being taught our children? Where is our patriotism and national pride?

I respect freedom of speech and expression and respect the creative work of our people but should the lantern parade organizers allow such disgraceful work, a creation that will make us a global laughing stock? Over to you readers. What do you think?

Photo: Bai Bureh. Credit: Wikipedia

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