From Sierra Leone Studies, no. 11, Dec. 1958

New Light on the Origin of the Waiima Affair, 1893
By P. Savin D'orpond

In 1893, a French expedition was sent into French Guinea in order to survey the country south of Kissidougou and to discover what might be the best natural boundary between Sierra Leone, Liberia and what is now French Guinea - at that time known as French Sudan.1

Consequently, on the 13th November of that year, Lieutenant Maritz left Kissidougou en route for Kono country with instructions "to delimit exactly the English and Liberian boundaries".

On the 15th of the same month Major Richard, Commandant of the southern region of French Sudan - actually French Guinea - wrote from Kankan to Captain Valentin in Kissidougou and ordered Lieutenant Maritz to settle the frontier-line as soon as possible. He added:-
   "...You know that our British neighbours are not inactive and that they are seeking to expand towards the South East. It is therefore essential that we should be sure of their real rights so as to establish our own without risk of diplomatic clashes, which Paris wishes to avoid at any price...Do not allow the English to put you off: protest energetically against their presence in the Niegueli...2 and demand a formal acknowledgement of your protest. The validity of our rights is perhaps questionable but we have been appealed to by tribes who have never acknowledged British protection and this constitutes a right, at least for the time being."3

On the 21st November Captain Valentin wrote to Lieutenant Maritz:-
   "Try to win over the Kono and Mende chiefs if possible, be consistent in what you tell them and, if you can, have them sign a treaty placing themselves under our protection. At any rate tell them that under us their land will always remain their own and that we will protect them against the Sofas and the English..."

    1 Cf. Article II of the Convention between Gt. Britain and Liberia, 1885
   2 A treaty had been signed between France and Mamadu Soulaye, Chief of Porpon, and Fango Laye, Chief of  Kurubonla, placing the country under French protection.
   3 Cf. Memorandum, Sierra Leone Govt. Archives, Aborigines Native Affairs Confidential Letter Book, 1889 - 98, 7th December, 1893, "Captain Lendy's suggestion as to expedition against Sofas - Resume of and remarks on," para. 12 :- "Considering that we do not know exactly the boundaries of the sphere of British influence ourselves..."

It is worth while noting, however, that in a fragment of a letter (date missing) from Major Richard to Captain de Bouve the writer says: "It would be quite out of the question to fight the British."

Lieutenant Maritz was by now in Kono country: "A country," he writes, "where no European has been before and which belongs logically to the first occupier." He signed treaties with every chief he met. He found the Konos were afraid of Porequere1 and tired of having their villages continually plundered and burned down, their men and women butchered or taken as slaves, and fearful also of the British, whom they believed to be in alliance with the Sofas and to be likely to fall upon them with the Mendes. And so, on the 1st December, 1893, six Kono chiefs met at Waiima to sign a treaty with Lieutenent Maritz. They were:-
   Kouroua Ouara of Soa, Mamina of Farandala, Tamba Oua of Waiima, Daguiri, Koumbana, Kontonde.
      Famatoro of Sando, Koulibloi and Fashuluku were also represented.

The treaty runs:-

Entre le Lieutenant Maritz representant le Gouvernement Francais et Kouroua Ouara, chef du Sewa et grand chef du Kono, il a été reconnu ce qui suit: - attendu que la pays du Kono a été envahi et devasté par des bandes de Sofas de Samory ennemi de la France, que les Sofas se sont intallés dans le pays avec l'intention d'y rester pour pouvoir se ravitailler en armes et en munitions qu'ils tirent de la colonie de Sierra-Leone, attendi que le Kono est trop faible pour se débarrasser seul de ses ennemis, le Chef de Kono parlant au

1 Porquere or Poquere, Alimamy Samory's lieutenant. Samory was a Mandingo who conquered and ruled over most Mandingo peoples between the Tinkisso and Upper Volta. His armies raided to obtain slaves, and he resisted the French from 1882 - 98. In June, 1893, the Superintendent of Native Affairs, Freetown, wrote to Porequere asking him to leave the British sphere of influence. Porequere replied that what the Sofas wanted was "a 'road' to Freetown and to see the Governor as now they had no other friends than the English government" (Lendy's memorandum, para. 12). On 13th August the Governor in Freetown wrote to " in Kuniki and to all the faithful Muslims that are with him to inform them that ...the Kunikis and the Korankos with whom he has been fighting and taking slaves are the Queen's people and ... that the government can make no talk about a road to Freetown until he has taken his war back over the Niger". This is possibly one of the letters found by Maritz at Tecuyema (see narrative and note below) (Sierra Leone Government Archives, Arabic Letter Book, 1893 - 94 N.A. No. 358).

nom de tous les chefs du pays, demande aide et protection au gouvernement francais. Il s'engage en retour:
   1) à aider et
à favoriser dans son pays le commerce et l'établissement des dioulas francais1 et cela à l'exclusion de tout autre commerce.
   2) à ne se lier par aucun acte politique, ni commercial avec une autre puissance sans l'assentiment préalable de la France.
    Fait en double expédition le Ier Decembre 1893
Kouroua Ouara, Chef du Kono

Le Lieutenant de Chasseurs a Pied
E. Maritz.2
This treaty, of which Maritz was very proud, was the cause of the following events, and in the end, of Maritz' death.

Taking a well-earned rest in Waiima, Maritz wrote to Captain Valentin in Kissidougou, explaining the treaty and describing the Konos and their country;-

   "This country is very rich, with fields of guinea corn, cotton, rice great quantity...The

houses are made of palms. There are many rectangular houses and I have seen one which is nearly 60 feet long and 18 feet wide. The people are somewhat primitive, and although there is plenty of cotton, they never wear trousers. The favourite weapon is the sword, but there are also many rifles... Kouroua Ouara has a large cavalry sabre... The Sofas are still in Tecuyema3 and they ignore my presence here because all roads are shut by order of Kouroua Ouara. Porequere's base is composed of a central diarsa,4 which he uses as his private enclosure; a second encircling the first encloses the houses of the Sofas and their wives. A third encloses women captured in the country and guarded by a body of Sofas. Porequere has eight horses and each morning he summons his Sofas and organizes small revictualling expeditions. The rest of his troops stay under arms prepared for any attack from the local warriors.

I have not found out much about the Mendes, but I do know

1 dioula: Malinke word for trader.
2 By the end of November, Captain Lendy knew that the French intended to fight the Sofas although he himself had previously suggested an expedition against them as early as 31st May (Lendy's Memorandum, paragraphs 9 and 24).
3 In Gbane chiefdom about 8 miles west of Gandorhun.
4 A Malinke word for wall or fence.

that there are no English in Kuniki or Mende country.1 It seems that a Mende chief, Nyagua friendly with Porequere. He seems to be an important chief, who, to avoid his own  destruction, helped the Sofas to settle in Kono country..."

A fortnight before Koura Ouara had spent several days in Tecuyema as a guest of Nyandemokui, the Kono chief, and it must have been from him that Maritz obtained his information about the Sofa fortifications.

Maritz's mission was, however, primary topographical and he continues:-
   "I was expecting to find some sign of probable limits of the British sphere of influence which would serve me as a basis for my reconnaissance of the frontier...If they have no definite area of influence where is our difficulty? It is easy to find a frontier to Sierra Leone in the West, but in the South, towards Liberia, how can one decide? The Kono and the Mende are not part of Liberia, where is the line to be drawn?"

   " I think that we might very well claim as the frontier the course of the Bafing, Bansonkolo and the Bagbe. The Bagbe, I am told, does not run into the Makona2 but into the Sewa whilst the Makona flows southwards into the sea (see map).

   "(The British)...have no rights at all on the Makona and its tributaries, because every person whom I have asked assures me that this river flows South East towards the sea...I do not know what rights the British have in the districts crossed by (the Sewa)."

Meanwhile Kouroua Ouara, fortified by his treaty, had assembled some thousand warriors, and he  now came to ask Maritz to march upon Tecuyema, though the latter had only one African sergeant and twenty riflemen. However, the opportunity of smashing Porequere with the help of the Konos was too good to be missed and we read in a letter of the 5th December, 1893, from Maritz to Captain Valentin at Kissidougou:-

   "I have the honour to inform you of the capture of Porequere's diarsas...Leaving Waiima, I soon found the roads blocked and the villages destroyed. I was expecting to be joined by a detachment of 25 riflemen from Faranah, but I had heard  nothing of them. I therefore left Waiima on the 4th, my advance guard seizing two sentry posts, and I did not halt until nightfall... The march was

1 Colonel Ellis was already en route for Panguma.
2 i.e. The River Moa

resumed at 1 a.m., always through very difficult country, surrounded by swamp.1

Arriving at dawn before Porequere's diarsa, I endeavoured to muster the hordes which Kouroua Ouara was bringing up behind us. I had only succeeded in drawing up some 50 warriors when a Sofa, coming out of the diarsa, raised the alarm.2 Forced to hasten the attack, I sent my detachments towards the gateway, but it was very strong and to scale the diarsa, which was at least 18 feet high, was unthinkable. The Sofas had begun to put up a heavy fire, and their numbers were being rapidly reinforced. I then fell upon another gateway, which we carried... The second and third diarsas were forced and fighting was carried into the village, whilst Sergeant Oumar guarded the entrance. The village is very large, composed of big mud houses joined together by lines of stockades...Sergeant Oumar N'Diaye, wounded in both legs, succeeded in killing the horses of the two chiefs who had taken flight. But I had only seventeen effective riflemen and it was impossible to stop the general flight. However, we succeeded in securing Chief Farakeressoro (Porequere's right hand man)...Chief Koumba Birama also surrendered. Messengers were sent immediately to demand his surrender. He has replied that he will re-muster his warriors and will surrender tomorrow. I do not know whether the outcome will be as final as that but his defeat has placed Porequere in a very bad light. The whole countryside is against him...He must either surrender or disappear. Farakeressoro's men are going to surrender (100 Sofas), Chiefs Moussa Cisse and Baina were killed at the gateway. I have counted thirty dead Sofas besides charred bodies found in the smoking ruins of the huts. According to Farakeressoro there were 300 Sofas in the village. Many sacks of country cloth have been brought to me...loud explosions indicate that they did not carry off their powder. I have been brought a barrel and a waterproof bag of powder, some local guns, six magazine rifles, many swords, a revolver...

The village was fortified in this way:-
   A first wall, very solid and unscalable, with a sentry walk; a second wall with sentry emplacements every 24 or 30 feet with,

1 Lt. Maritz passed by Kambadu, Kanendu, Sumbaidu and Mandu.
2 This man was actually not a Sofa, but a Kono named Siko, whose descendants still live in Tecuyema

near each of these emplacements, revetments for riflemen, made of stone or of large blocks of wood, leaning against the stockade with a platform above for a second line of riflemen. Finally a third wall, 1,200 feet in circumference, encloses the village where the houses are joined together in groups either by the walls or by the stockades.1

Near Porequere's hut I found a letter from 'L'administrateur de S. Leone' (August) discussing the evacuation of the Kunike and Kouranko, but not of the Kono nor Mende country.2"

Returning to Waiima, Maritz wrote again on the 9th December saying that the Konos had fallen upon Porequere and forced him to flee in the direction of the Bafi river. But the bridge had been cut down, so that the Sofas were wandering about in the bush without provisions, having suffered heavy losses. He adds that because of the four-year-old hostilities existing between the Mende and the Kono people he has given up the idea of penetrating Mendeland as far as the Makona because his arrival with Kono allies would make the Mendes think that he had come to punish them for their alliance with the Sofas.3 He resolved, therefore, to return to Manson, where he hoped to find further orders awaiting him.4

He found the order he hoped for, whilst the riflemen from Faranah had also arrived. His original plan was to set out for Kissidougou - for he considered that he had carried out successfully his topographical mission. But messengers arrived from the Kono chiefs seeking his assistance against Porequere who had taken to arms once more. At first he was inclined to refuse; his troops were exhausted and his orders explicitly demanded that he should return with all speed to Kissidougou. But Kouroua Ouara reminded Maritz of the treaty which he had just signed, and told him that the Sofas were only two days march to the south, in Waiima. Maritz allowed himself to be persuaded.

But in Waiima, instead of the Sofas, there lay a British force under Colonel Ellis and Captain Lendy. In an interview given some

1 In Tecuyema all that may be seen now is a circle of cotton trees and the remains of trenches.
2 This letter, and others in Arabic were sent to Kissidougou, but unfortunately we have not seen them.
3  The Konos who had been originally driven from Tecuyema took refuge in Panguma. When they returned, after Porequere's flight, and found their town in ruins, some of them moved and founded the town of Gandorhun.
4 Manson; Neya Chiefdom, Koinadugu district (see map).

weeks later to a local newspaper,1 the Colonel declared "...He (Maritz) with a force of thirty

Senegalese and one thousand warboys2 proceeded from Koodoo and got within half a day's march of us. He again started about midnight and reached Waiima about five in the morning of the 23rd December. It was a rainy, cloudy, and gloomy morning. The French force at once commenced firing on our sentries.3 I got my men into position and returned the fire. The firing lasted about forty minutes; up to that time, I had been under the impression that we had been attacked by the Sofas."

Lieutenant Maritz's bugler had been killed at Tecuyema and so, when Maritz realized that the enemy were in fact not the Sofas, he endeavoured to sound the "cease-fire" himself. But he had hardly begun when he was mortally wounded. He was brought into the British lines soon after, where he died, but not before he had made it clear to Colonel Ellis that he had supposed the British detachment to be Sofas.

When the news reached Kissidougou, Captain Valentin at once set out for Manson, and, arriving at Kondo, he sent a message to the British Colonel, whose troops were then engaged in Bagbema. In his report, dated from Kissidougou on the 18th January, 1894, Valentin said:-

   "I endeavoured to secure Kouroua Ouara, who was the sole cause of this incident, and who, well knowing that the English were occupying Waiima, arranged to set one force upon the other and so to join himself with the victors. It was a favourite method of his and had served him well hitherto. Thus he had used Porequere's Sofas against the Mende, Lieutenant Maritz against the Sofas, and the British against the French...By dint of patience, I succeeded at last in laying hands on him. He pretended to have believed in all good faith that the Sofas had indeed been in Waiima. It is impossible that a chief such as he, obeyed as he was throughout Kono country, should not have known immediately of the presence of such a strong column of troops in his own district.

   The whole country is devastated and the population has taken to the mountains. The Mendes and the people from Kunike have

1 Unfortunately only a cutting from the paper has been discovered, and this gives no date and no title. It is possibly from the Sierra Leone Times, February, 1894.
2 The French report says 200.
3 It is now certain that the French troops answered the fire of the British sentries, who, doing their duty, had fired at the unknown armed force so as to raise the alarm.

invaded Kono country in the wake of the British and have laid waste and burnt everything...

Meanwhile, finding Kouroua Ouara guilty, I had him beheaded at Koridougou. Fatamba is now chief of Kono and he is our friend..."

With this execution all hope of a French settlement in Kono country ended. A few years later the Franco-British frontier was delimited, cutting in two the Koranko and Yalunka country and leaving within Sierra Leone part of the Kissi and practically the whole of the Kono people's territory although their racial affinities are more, in the main, with the tribes of what is now the French western Soudan.

The year 1894 saw the end of Sofa domination. Colonel Ellis, in his interview from which we have already quoted, also said:-

   "We...marched across a tract of country about 90 miles in extent, entirely devastated by the Sofas about a fortnight before...nothing at all but the dead bodies of victims of the Sofas; men, women and children slaughtered and butchered  indiscriminately. Some with their heads off...On the 31st December we got to Kayimah, a Sofa stronghold with five fenced towns. They had left this place three days before to join their chief at Bagbema...At the gate...we saw a pile of dead bodies about ten feet high, with poor women and children at the top who had been wantonly slaughtered...four or five days before...At three in the morning of the 2nd of January, we got to Bagbema, where the Sofas were; we took them by surprise...The town was taken in 20 minutes. We found from 400 to 500 captives, Konos, Mendes, Falaba people...whom we have sent to their homes."

SLS Editor's note - Colonel Ellis' force consisted of some 600 men, Jamaicans and Barbadians, of the 1st Battalion of the West India Regiment and one company of the Sierra Leone Police Force. Besides Lt. Maritz, French casualties included 35 other ranks killed. British casualties were: Col. Ellis wounded, Capt. Lendy and four other ranks of the Sierra Leone Frontier Police killed, and Lt. Liston, 2nd Lt. Wroughton, C.S.M. Carvisher, eight privates, and one drummer of the West India Regiment killed. In 1902 France paid an indemnity of £9,000. See Sierra Leone Studies, O.S. xix. French Correspondence is to be found in the Archives at Conakry and at Dakar, Dossier D.3.