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I Cannot Support "FULA JONGO" Mballow’s Strong Views and Omar Bun Jeng’s Rejection

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Commentary | Lamin Darboe, Leicester

I Cannot Support " FULA JONGO" Mballow’s Strong Views and Omar Bun Jeng’s Rejection

When Mballow emitted this foul phrase, we were all indignated because of the noxious allegory it attempted to portray.

Mballow according to some old friends like Bamba Mass really meant what he said and backed it by action. He never supported Barrow's presidential campaign as he went on to abdicate his membership of UDP and joined GDC.

He could not bring himself to vote for a PERCEIVED SLAVE, ADAMA  BARROW. That means Mballow meant business and was true to his Fula tradition.

See how God work mysteriously, now the same Mballow is working for Barrow as political adviser and I wonder who is the slave.

Today I try to rationalise the scenario and ask why would a human being regard another human inferior and less human than him or her. Are there any traits to show a person is a lesser person?

As I agonise over this questions, my mind went unto another Badibunka friend who was refused a marriage offer by a fellow Badibunka because he was from a slave section of the community. This guy was a good lad by many standards.

Now after all what happened in Gambian politcs in the past three years after the ascension of Barrow to the presidency, I am beginning to phantom why Mballow had some premonition about Barrow being “Jungo”.

My enquires led me to certain distasteful explanations which to me are abhorrent. Sage man retorted, don't you observe that, the so-called JONGOs all have the following traits:

1. They  are lazy

2. They have wide hands for scooping and are greedy 

3. They want to show off if they have wealth

4. They don't keep their words 

5. They have no shame and self-worth 

6. When given food they "foofooreh"

7. When given position, they abuse it

8. Betrayal is nothing to them.

9. They like women

10. They don't take care of their children 

11. Begging is common to them

He went on and on and much to my changrin this sage seem to be very convinced all these traits are inherent characteristic and was very adamant on them. He would never marry his daughter to certain surenames.

Now do we have all these traits in president Adama Barrow. If so, don't we also have such traits in the so-called Fooroo, freemen?

No human is slave and no human shall impose slavely on another human. As Omar Bun Jeng rightly said at a Badibu Gunjur Kaamo, the person who fought and capture another person is the lazy one who thinks he can't feed himself and had to rely on other’s sweat. Its an abomination to subject another person to bandage and Iive off their labour. He said the only distinction for humans is good character and righteousness.

 In The Gambian culture, its a taboo to call someone "JONGO" meaning SLAVE  even though in some traditional setups or custom some surnames are reagarded as SLAVE therefore relegated to the fringes.

They are looked down upon and in Badibu and URR especially among the Sarahuley tribe, the notion of slavery persist in the most despicable form.

Slavery is abolished in the World and prohibited by Islam, yet some people still cling to it because of personal prestige and ego.

To the extent, people regarded as SLAVES have their own burial ground and are not allowed to marry a FREE WOMAN called "FOROO" in Mandinka. I have seen this in Badibu and many may have heard about  a court case in which a man perceived to be a from a slave clan burried his son in a freeman area of the grave yard and was asked to dig him up and he refused. The people of Badibu Keewwa brought the case to court to demand that the grave be transferred to the slave area.

I also notice in Dippa kunda grave yard, the Jaitehs from Ghadi Omar Jaitteh's family line, were buried in the same section of the graveyard and foreigners are burried at the rear end towards the old garage. I have seen this with my own eyes when a neighbour passed away. This is an inequity and has the potential to create communal tension.

The Slave/Freeman social stratification exist among all tribes and regions in the Gambia albeit with different manifestations and rigour.

It is still very strong in Badibu (my in-laws) but almost non-existing in Kombo especially Kombo South, East, North and central.

When I lived in Banjul, I heard in conversations that certain big government official with certain surename is "LAWBEY" meaning SLAVE or "JUM" in Suruwa language.

My fula friend and classmate once referred to another friend as "mudjo" meaning SLAVE in Fula. I was amazed when he said, "back home we don't eat together and we don't inter-marry. I thought he was just making fond of the other friend called Barry.

I could recall, when I applied to marry my Badibunka wife, my prospective in-laws from Njaba kunda bluntly asked me whether our family is regarded as slaves. Those days, with my tasbih on my neck and my immaculate white kaftan, my indignation could not be masqueraded, I felt my self-worth and dignity was put into question.

It never occurred to me this type of sentiment could be expressed in front of a person bluntly, with much seriousness without repercussion. With my " maashallahu" attire, my sweat rained profusely and l could hardly control the pitch of my voice.

I replied, in Gunjur, we don't know about this “JONGO” stuff, what I know is, I am a Muslim and I do my five daily prayers. My inlaw replied, "we know that but in our tradition, we don't marry our daughter to a slave. He went on, we will call Omar Bun Jeng and enquire about your background. I said well we were the host of Bun Jeng when he came to Gunjur so l don't think that would be problem but you must realise I am son of Lang Sona Darboe.  The pre-eminent General of Kombo Sillah, whose parents established Gunjur was indeed power behind his throne. The surprising thing was, when the history of Gunjur is narrated, this fact hardly future.

Even though my friend and Badibunka emissary called "SILLA NYATONG KO"  from Farafeni tried to pacify the hot encounter and made me feel comfortable, I was really tested and swore never return there.

We took a taxi back to Dippa Kunda and we never spoke to each other. I was really hurt. I abandon the whole project untill they came after me. They asked, why did you not return or visited us like you used to? I replied that, the reception I got hurt my feelings and therefore decided to give up. They encouraged me and talked me up to reapply since they got positive cleareance from Bun Jeng raheemahullah. 

And that such hurdles are very common and should never be the reason to give up. Bun Jeng told them, this man is from good clan and they are my host in Kombo Gunjur.

A more disappointing twist was, my friend and " sila nyatong ko" went behind my back to tell my prospective in-laws that they should not marry their daughter to me and instead he was a better candidate since he was from Badibu as well.

He further went on to say that, even him being my good friend does not know my background and that kombokas cannot be trusted. Wow, those insinuations killed my spirit and inclination to trust  fellow humans.

I got even more disappointment as a result of some tacit rejection when I went to Badibu to greet some distant in-laws. All the time my kombonka pedigree was given an overriding consideration than my person. And my deen too hardly got noticed even though those days, I always adorn myself with maashallahu dress.

I am not suggesting that all Badibunkas subscribe to this backward cultural stratification but my experience may not be unique. In Kombo Gunjur we don't know this, we give preference to foreigners over our ownselves. My grandad, Alakali Nyanku Darboe may Allah have mercy on him, married his daughters to Fula, Jola, Lebey, kaabunka etc and even gave them land as a source income.

The point is that, human cultural evolution and progress had really missed some societies or tribes in the Gambia and to them islam is just a formality and its tennets are optional. You can practice it when it suits your interest. That is tantamount to hypocrisy.

We must all fight traditional slavery starting from legislation to giving support to those who suffer from the stigma.

To conclude, MBALLOW was dead wrong and Allah Has unequivocally rejected his belief by proving him wrong.

All of us are slave of God and we shall all die and return to him. In fact our prophet Muhammad sallahahu alaihis wasallam loved to be called a slave and Allah Himself addressed him and nearly all prophets in several verses of quran as "our slave" or "my slave". What a honorable title from the creator of the universe.

The paradox lingers on, why would Mballow who harboured such strong views turn 360 degrees to embace Barrow and make him believe he is credible? If his beliefs were right at the first instance, the he is wrong now, if he is right now, he was wrong then. 

Lamin Darboe



Editors Note:

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