Africa, Earth, Sierra Leone, Western Africa

Sierra Leone – Bai Bureh

Sierra Leone 1000 leones banknote date 2013

Bai Bureh, the great Warrior of Sierra Leone, is named and featured on our 2013 banknote of Sierra Leone.

To me, his image on our banknote is quite striking, more so than the images of most any other leader on most any other banknote I have observed.  Bai Bureh’s image resembles that of the classic jester of the courts of Europe of the middle ages.  Sometimes it was only the jester that could be sufficiently daring to point out the folly of the ruler; and Bai Bureh, perhaps more than anyone in Africa, caused their overlords, the British to turn in circles.  At the end of this post, the reader will find the only known photograph of Bai Bureh, taken in 1898 as he sits peacefully, under arrest, with his unmistakable impish grin.  One can sense that his guard adores him.  He is revered to this day in Sierra Leone.

In his youth, his father sent him to a nearby small village for training in the craft of warriors.  His training elders recognized in young Bai superior innate abilities.  They named him Kebalai, the Warrior who never tires of War.  Not long after his return to his village he was named ruler of the village.  In succeeding years he defeated this and that territory and led his followers to victory over invaders and afterwards restoring the territory to the rightful inhabitants.  The people recognized in Bar Bureh a true leader and rallied around him and crowned him leader of Northern Sierra Leone in 1886.  He was 46 years of age.

As the British extended their power and during the Scramble for Africa, Bar Bureh continually resisted and evaded them.  He refused to acknowledge their treaties and he refused to pay their taxes.  Bar Bureh wanted the British to go home to Britain and let the Sierra Leone’s manage their own affairs.  Soon the British sent the military after him, but his superior knowledge of the terrain and innate brilliant skill allowed him to evade the British time and time again.

His humor delighted his followers and appears to have charmed his enemies.  Upon the British governor’s offer of 100 pounds for information leading to the capture of Bai Bureh, Bureh issued an offer of 500 pounds for the capture of the British governor.

The story is told that upon his capture, the British treated him as a political prisoner, rather than a military captive.  Subsequently, rather than executing in the manner routine in that era, he was sent into exile in a neighboring country, some historians suggesting that all of this treatment indicated the respect of Mr. Bai Bureh by the British army.

Today, Bai Bureh is considered by many military historians as the pioneer of modern guerilla warfare methods.

 

Sierra Leone

 

Bai Bureh, seated, upon his arrest in 1898

 

The photo at left is the only known photo of Mr. Bai Bureh, the Great Hero of Sierra Leone.  A remarkable and delightful article on the recent discovery and authentication of this sole photograph is online here, and I certainly urge the reader to read that article.

The photo at left if from wikipedia and attributed as follows:

By Lieutenant Arthur Greer – http://www.sierraexpressmedia.com/archives/57097, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28429122