Hello and a warm welcome to another edition of your weekly history corner, 'know your towns and villages', the column that permits you to know where you came from so that you know where you are heading to. In today’s edition, we bring to the lime light the tales of a remote yet profound community in the Baddibou area of the North Bank Region. Despite the distance from the highway, this community stands out to be among the biggest in the Badibbou geographical zone, in fact it was one of the biggest communities in The Gambia during the colonial era and still maintaining its size.
The community is also the home of many illustrious Gambians among who was of one of the most profound opposition figure this country has ever produced-the late Sheriff Mustapha Dibba. This community is no other than the famous Salikenni, a community known primarily for the opposing political ideologies of its inhabitants; and the hospitality and confidence of the inhabitants who are not only associating themselves with the community but are also possessing the zeal to go through the rigor of a tertiary work. Please relax and read on to find out the interesting historical rite of passage of this community.
During our chat with the elders of the community of Salikenni amongst whom was Momodou Kenda Dibba the current Chief of Central Baddibou, we could not ascertain the actual date of the establishment of the settlement. What is authentic is that the community has gone through the pleasure of age; it is believed to have been in existence since the period of empires in Western Sudan.
The community was named by the founders as Mori Bolong but this name quickly disappears from use due to circumstances in history. Its new name, Salikenni is a Mandinka phrase meaning the praying ground. Sources say the community got this name because during the early days of settlement, it was realized by the founders in consultation with their Marabou that they have slightly lost the prophesied place for settlement; what should have been used as the actual home was then used as a praying ground; based on the advise of the Marabou, the early settlers then decided to move upwards to inhabit what was previously left for their spiritual obligation and because of this process, people through their Mandinka parlance refer to the settlement as the praying ground, and hence the name Salikenni.
According to our sources, the founding of the settlement of Salikenni began in the Far East where one Walimang Dibba, a hunter who would later be associated with the founding of this settlement, migrated in search of the treasures of life. Another version of the tales has it that this Walimang Dibba had a confrontation with the king of the Far East at the time and in order to protect himself and his family from being assassinated by the king, he fled for his life, a journey that brought him to The Gambia valley.
In The Gambia valley, Walimang, first established a settlement that later came to be known as Farafenni; details of the foundation of Farafenni would however be featured in our subsequent editions. After establishing the community of Farafenni, Walimang moved further inland to establish a settlement called Jobanjahet, this community is now in Senegal. These two settlements however fall short of the land prophesied to Walimang by his Marabou to become a suitable home for habitation.
According to our sources, Walimang Dibba was told by his Marabou Kerenfenyi, that his settlement lies in the east on a riverbank; he was further told that at this site he would find a 'bumbaun' tree surrounding a keno tree, and under it would be three eggs from a bird. Our sources went on to say that the Marabou told Walimang Dibba that whenever he came across the above mentioned signs, he should know that that place should be where his first Bantaba should be; it was left to Walimang some twenty years after the establishment of Farafenni to search for this prophesied settlement.
After laying the foundation for the settlement of Salikenni, Walimangf left his son at the new settlement to return to Farafenni but on his way back, he also laid the foundation of a settlement called Buranyaa. Walimang later returned to Salikenni but did not stay there for long. Soon after this he left his son and crossed through Basum to Foni where he established Bukting Gibbakunda, Swelbaa and Swel Mulump, before passing on to the land of the ancestors.
In the genesis of the settlement, Walimang Dibba was believed to have been accompanied by the Ceesay to carve the settlement. This is why the Ceesay is also considered as an aboriginal founder of the settlement of Salikenni. As time passed, the family of the founding Dibba was also sub divided into four different families namely Saikou kunda, Tamba kunda and Arfang kunda; these individual names were derived from the people who headed the sectionalised families.
As the settlement advanced, more people migrated from left right and center to keep the aborigines company in their new home. Our sources revealed that at one point in time, the community of Salikenni was divided into twelve wards (kabilos) and this was later reduced to nine. Today, the community of Salikenni continues to be one of the biggest in the land of Baddibou.
Just like many traditional African communal settings, the community of Salikenni puts emphasis on the traditional philosophy of lineage. Succession to the thrown of Alkalo was entirely the affair of the founders, and they passed the traditional regalia to each other based on age. However, political development in the community has put to the grave this old good traditional philosophy as it leads to the shifting of the seat of Alkalo from the house of the founders to that of the Kanteh. Suffice it to say, the Alkaloship of the community of Salikenni is in the hands of non founders; this is as a result of the development of modern political currents.
It is obvious that no traditional African society exists with out a traditional ideology which revolves around belief in spirits, deities and the like. The community of Salikenni was also premised on traditional African practices. Our sources pointed out that the community was organized on the principles of age grades; community work was also in high spirit and there existed identified sites for rituals particularly in times of drought. Singing, drumming and dances characterized the collective conduct of the people as they approach these ritual sites to pray, to overcome their plight, or in demand of a common good. These places were also said to be safe havens for both men and women, and society collectively restores them in times of need.