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Brufut Ghana Town: A Look Back At The Birth of A Little Slice of Ghana in The Gambia

Tuesday 1st September | Yero S. Bah

The year was 1960 and a group of Ghanaians numbering 36 set sail from ‘Akunfi Imuna’ village in the country’s central region. They sailed 1,676 kilometres northwest to the then British colony of The Gambia.

Among them was a young girl called Essi Achefoe, who left with her uncle to join his father who had moved to The Gambia, months before.

The first batch of arrivals settled in the coastal town of Bakau, before moving to Brufut. Their move from Bakau to Brufut was facilitated by one Mr Lamin Jammeh, a resident of neighbouring Tanji. He left the group under the guardianship of Marrfang Kunda elders. Marrfang Kunda is one of the six sub-kabilos that constitute the Brufut Manneh clan.

Brufut Ghana Town is now home to about 1,300 inhabitants

Bringing the Ghanaians to Marrfang Kunda was perhaps by design rather than coincidence; for at that time, another two Ghanaians were already settled in Brufut. One was a gentleman everyone called “Mr Coker.” Like the newly arrives, he was hosted by Musaring Manneh, in Marrfang Kunda.

Though he was not from the same area of Ghana as the fisherfolk, they were able to communicate. His ability to serve as a translator between the newcomers and the host community helped in allaying any unease Brufutians might have felt about their new guests, recollects a current Brufut elder; Mr Dodou Manneh. He was a young man at the time.

Now a community elder, Mr Manneh told GunjurOnline that, another Ghanaian, arguably the first known Ghanaian to settle in Brufut was Mr Makuwah. He was an employee of the then GML [Gambia Mineral Mines Ltd]. In the 1950s, Brufut was the headquarters of a British mining company that mined beach sands on the Kombo coast - an area with large deposits of sands with heavy concentrations of ilmenite, zircon, rutile and gangue minerals. These sands were exported to Britain. Mr Makuwah was one of skilled personnel brought to the Gambia by the then British Colonial Authority. He drove the trains that ferried the sands from the mines in Tujereng, Batokunku etc to the mills in Brufut.

Mr Makwah’s contribution to Brufut was quite significant. For in addition to his job with GML, he volunteered in mobilising and offering free tuition to the local children from his base in Marrfang Kunda. His perseverance as a volunteer teacher subsequently culminated in convincing the community elders to build Brufut Primary School in 1960. Years later the Gambia authorities took over responsibility of running the school and made him the first headmaster.

Sitting on a wooden stool and leaning over a low table filled with kneaded balls of flour to be baked into pancakes, 73-year old Essi recounts that journey of a lifetime from Nkrumah’s country to The Gambia.

“I was just a young girl and my concerns were all about our family profession which is fishing. We are maritime nomads if you like…moving from place to place for better catches” she explains.

She tells the GunjurOnline that, 60 years is more than a lifetime and now she cannot ignore an inescapable fact that comes with moving from her native Ghana to The Gambia, a country which was still a British colony.

“Now, I see myself as Gambian; all my children were born here, they don’t know Ghana even though they visit relatives frequently” she adds with a tinge of melancholy in her voice.

“That journey from Ghana was one of no return. And although I have visited many times since, my sense of home is Brufut Ghana Town, and that is true for the rest of my community” she points out.

Essi says while on their journey, they had made a three-month stopover in Dakar, Senegal before sailing into The Gambian, and eventually settling in Brufut.

“The 36 Ghanaian citizens who first settled in Ghana Town came from different families, but all hailed from the same place: Akunfi Imuna village in Ghana where fishing is the main occupation” she further points out.

In echoing Essi, Mr Manneh laments the passing of that original pioneer group. Though that sadness is lessened by the continued presence of their second and third generation descendants who continue to live in the settlement.

The arrival of the group coincided with the Alkaloship of Kutubo Sanno in Bru