History tells stories of many African kings and queens who have done a lot. Their accomplishments and extraordinary stories made them great. The flourishing ancient African kingdoms largely depended on their warriors and military for their protection and expansion. Many African kings and queens were fierce warriors and mighty rulers who ruled their people with wisdom and strategy.
Almamy Suluku from Sierra Leone was one of these kings. Born in 1820, he ruled the kingdom of Biriwa and managed to retain its independence for a long, long time through political strategy.
Suluku was a great Limba ruler. The Limba are the third largest ethnic group in Sierra Leone, behind the Mende and Temne. They are mainly found in the northern half of the country, where they have lived for hundreds of years. In fact, the Limba are the oldest inhabitants of what is known today as Sierra Leone. History of Sierra Leone said that until recently the Limba were one of the groups least affected by colonial and post-colonial development and were known for their commitment to traditional values and ideas as opposed to change or innovation .
Suluku, who was born in Kamabai, Biriwa, in the northern province of Sierra Leone, was the son of Sankailay, chief of Biriwa with the capital Bumban, near present-day Kamabai. In his youth, Suluku became the Kurugba, or war captain. And under his military leadership, Biriwa became one of the greatest kingdoms in Sierra Leone.
Over time, Suluku was crowned Gbaku (king) over an area that comprises almost 10 percent of Sierra Leone. But Suluku was not content with just territory as he also sought to enrich his state. He encouraged the trade in gold, hides, ivory and foodstuffs that passed through Bumban en route to Freetown, offering police protection to traders in his kingdom, according to him. Sierra Leone Web. This made his kingdom one of the largest and one of the richest in Sierra Leone.
Suluku was smart, and it was evident in the way he handled politics amid British rule in Sierra Leone. He would show affection for one side while silently supporting another. For example, when the warrior king Samori Touré and his Mandingo forces occupied Biriwa in 1884, Suluku pretended to cooperate while “sending urgent messages to the British warning them of a trade disruption if the Mandingo did not withdraw.” , according to Sierra Leone Web. .
The British, after paying attention to Suluku’s messages, persuaded the Mandingo to leave Biriwa. And as British power increased in the 1890s, Suluku pursued his own policy of independence while making the British believe he was their staunch ally.
“He sent frequent messages of friendship to the British Governor and received royally all the British delegations which arrived in Bumban, but did exactly what he wanted. Some lower-ranking officers warned of Suluku’s deception, but Freetown was convinced of his loyalty, ”writes Sierra Leone Web.
During the 1898 uprising against British rule led by a Sierra Leonean chief and military strategist, Bai Bureh, Suluku sent warriors and weapons to Bai Bureh. However, when the British raised concerns about it, Suluku sent them a letter supporting their position and even asking to mediate.
Overall, while other Sierra Leonean kings have suffered defeats in military resistance, Suluku has been able to work his way through political strategy alone.