Reprinted from Sierra Leone Studies, June, 1957
The origins of Sierra Leone's most troubled district...

The Foundation of the Luawa Chiefdom
(The Story of Kailondo and Ndawa)1

By the Rev. W. R. E. CLARKE
 





It was whilst I was resident in Kailahun during the 1930's that I had the privilege of obtaining most of what I am going to say to you to-night from three old warriors; Chief Tεngbε of Ngiyehu; Yajawa of Yandohu and Sengbe of Bandajuma. We spent a most interesting week together - talking about the days gone by, and it was interesting to see how these three old warriors lived again through those early days!

In the days of which we speak there no  Paramount Chiefs as we know them today and there were certainly not so many towns, and even they were few and far between. A town of about 150 houses would be the largest, and probably the majority of "chief" towns would be under the 100. Each town would have its own chief who would, perhaps, rule over a few outlying villages, his position depending upon his prowess in war or the prowess of his warriors. Farming was the chief occupation with Hunting and Fishing, and the spasmodic gathering of palm kernels. War served as a kind of interlude, waged either by an angry chief or one who was anxious to increase his prestige. Raids would be paid upon neighbouring tribes, who, in their turn, would raid for themselves. Thus in Luawa there would be raids on the Kissis, Balus, Gbandis, Konos; and they in turn would raid Luawa.

On the whole there does not seem to have been much fighting between the Luawa chiefs themselves, although one or two instances are on record. It was rather, perhaps that they united against a common enemy, or perhaps a threatened chief would appeal for help, such help being willingly given on the payment beforehand of six country cloths and one gown. In such wars the spoils were not inconsiderable, and an enterprising chief could quickly become rich and his prestige amongst the chiefs increased. Slaves, women, cattle were the common spoils of war in those days and would be shared according to bravery in the first place and position in the second. In this connection it is interesting to note that if a chief desired to call a truce, he would send as his ambassador a woman of light-coloured skin (nyaha gowole) with a white country cloth, a

1 A lecture delivered to the Sierra Leone Society, 7th January, 1957


gun and salt to intercede on his behalf. She would probably be his daughter, or at any rate one of his most valued women, for she automatically became the wife of the conqueror.

For the most part these wars would be waged during the darkness. Guns were freely used, but as they took a long time to reload they were not much use after the the first volley. Swords and spears were the main equipment, also a sort of shield called "Kafa-lowoi" or fork of a Kafa tree which was very hard. Strips of iron were fastened across the fork and the whole shield was used to ward off blows of a sword or the flight of a spear. Apart from these necessary weapons there were the numerous charms hung over every part of the body. Charms chiefly procured from the Muhammadans to guard the life of the wearer, for it was believed that even a shot from a gun was made harmless by them.



There does not seem to have been much actual training for warfare, as the methods then adopted guarded against, to a great extent, the novice entering the firing line. To elucidate this it will be necessary to explain the methods of warfare adopted when a town was attacked. The attacking forces were composed of the following:

    1. The Miji (Needle) or jumper-down (Hitεm
ə)
     2. The Fande (thread) 
     3. The Kanyεi (wax)
    4. Hakahoumə (holder of the ladder)
    5. Four Kokoyagbεbla (drivers from the fence)
    6. Kəgugbanga (warriors)
    7. Ngəmbuhubla (men in midst of battle)
    8. Gbamai (ordinary men - sort of reserve)
    9. Kəjokoliisia (war-sparrows; young recruits who were carriers and might be called upon to fight)

The order of attack was arranged as follows: before the fight the
Kəgugbanga were called upon to range themselves among the Miji, Fande, Kanyεi, or Kokoyagbεbla. There does not seem to have been any definite number for each leader, but perhaps the average would be about twenty, depending, of course, on the size of the force. If the Miji thought that not enough men had chosen to follow him, he might choose from those left. As the fighting generally happened in the dark, two watchwords were given, say, two names such as "Vandi" and "Buakai"; this if two men met and one said "Vandi", the answer was "Buakai"; if no answer was forthcoming then he knew it was an enemy. The town was approached as silently as possible and if there were two or three stockades to get over (as was generally the case) the Miji led with the others following close behind. As they approached the last stockade,the Hakahoumə would rush forward with the ladder which he would hold firmly for the others to ascend. The Miji was the first to ascend and then on his own, had to jump down calling out at the top of his voice his name; he would quickly be followed by the others - the Kokoyagbεbla splitting into twos and going around the inside of the stockade to prevent anyone from escaping. Until the warriors heard the Miji cry out  "a wa-o" (all come), which was the sign of victory, no one was allowed to partake of any looting. It was of course impracticable for all warriors to ascend by means of the ladder, but once the leaders were over, the rest followed as best they could. All this would take place very quickly, and the Gbamai and Kəjokoliisia were allowed to do what they liked and follow when and how they could. The Chief - known as the "Kə-mahεi" (war chief) did not take any part in the actual fighting, unless things were going wrong.

Such, then, we
re the methods of warfare in those days and I hope they will help us to understand the story which follows - the story of Kailondo and Ndawa.

Kailondo (or Kai as the people lovingly called him) was the son of Dowi Kəmεi of Lukənə in the Wunde country across the Moa river, and Kefue Mambε of Komalu, near Mano Sewalu, at which town they both settled and where, about 1845, Kai was born. He was brought up a typical Kissi boy and as a young man he left his house and enlisted as trumpeter under Nyangbe of Mεndekεlεma, near Small Bo (Blama), and, in the war against Nəngəwa (Kεnεma), he came to the front as a warrior (Kəgugba). As he won fame so he became rich, and the time came when he returned and settled down at Məfində, a town which he built, naming it after a town in the Njaluahu chiefdom which he had visited and which had pleased him. From Məfində his fame spread as a mighty warrior and it was not long before the great test came.

Ndawa was born at Manjo (near the 13th milestone from Segbwema). As a young man he apparently


had angered the head of this town and was sold as a slave to the people of Tikənkə, near Bo. While there, he proved his worth in war, and very soon, as was possible in those days, he won his freedom and he too became known as a mighty warrior. During this time Gbenya of Blama carried war to Tikənkə, harrying and ravaging the country round about. Ndawa swore revenge against him and, putting himself at the head of a fierce following he marched on Blama, only to find that Gbeny had left to harry the towns to the east. Thus began what was known as the "Kpove War" or "Kpovεngəi", about the year 1880 (the word "kpovεngəi" is derived from the words "kpo" (dung) "vε" (pot) "kə" (war) "the war of the dung pot" into which cowardly warriors would be cast). Eventually Gbenya reached Kənə country closely followed by Ndawa.

When Ndawa reached Kεnεwa (near the 14th milestone on the Pendembu-Kailahun road) he summoned Kai to him in order that they both should prepare war against Gbenya in Kənə - Ndawa to be the Kə-mahεi and Kai his Miji. Together they set out burning and ravaging the whole country. Gbenya, however, escaped and Kai determined to return home to Luawa, especially on account of the many quarrels which arose between his followers and those of Ndawa. Ndawa apparently had thought nothing of them, but Kai refused to go with him any further and, gathering his men together, he set off back to Məfində, destroying all bridges en route to prevent Ndawa following him. The enraged Ndawa determined to teach Kai a lesson and made preparations to carry war into Luawa.

At this point let me give Mr. N. C. Hollins' account of Ndawa as contained in Sierra Leone Studies, No. 14: "Ndawa was of middle height and strongly built with powerful arms. His face was copper-coloured and his eyes were amber; a sword cut scarred his forehead. His dress was of cloth dyed in reddish-brown with sasswood, and he wore a black cap with strong war-charms in ram's horns about him. His sword rested in a bark scabbard well rubbed with bees-wax. He had no beard and his voice is said to have been small." Ndawa at this time would have been about twenty-five years old and Kai ten years older.

From Kənə country Ndawa set out for Luawa, burning and laying waste the Wunde country, returning via Fobu to Sakabu - the old town upon which Kailahun was later to be built. From there he retired to Ngiyehu (half-way between Pendembu and Kailahun) and called upon such chiefs as would to join him.



When Kai heard this news at Məfində, he immediately set out and crossed the Moa and by marching along the northern side, he re-crossed the river, thus gaining Mano Sewalu, from whence he went to Gbondo (a town between Mano and Bəwəbu on the Dodo road). There he was joined by Bondo of Danyahu and a number of other chiefs. Bondo, acting as their spokesman, approached Kai with a white cloth, a goat and some rice. Putting a little earth on the cloth he said, " Bi Ləlεi gbe he! Ndεlεi ji magawo, he! Baa lo hei ji aa mu wie" (Behold your country, strive for it, do not remain idle and let this come upon us). The cloth with the earth was then given to Kai and he promised to drive Ndawa from the country "Nya lima Ndawa gbεma ndəlεi ji hu". Seven Muhammadans were then shut up in a small house to consider and pray about the war. When they emerged they declared that the name of the war should be "Kanga gəi" (war of rebellion), and having made a ceremony with a snake which all warriors had to touch, Kai, with a considerably increased force, set out for Ngiyehu -  to a town, Ngolahu, about one and a half miles south. Three weeks were taken in preparation for the attack and during this time they harvested what rice there was about the town.

One night towards the end of the three weeks, Gbogboŋ, the
Hakahoumə and Nεnεməi (Spy) was sent to prepare a pathway towards Ngiyehu. Returning in the early hours of the morning he informed Kai that all was ready and at the first crowing of the cock  (a hala lεhinεi gokole gbelei) they reached the walls of Ngiyehu. Stealthily they crept over the first two stockades , and then the ladder was set for the final scene. Kai ascended alone, then suddenly jumped down, calling out at the top of his voice: "I am Kailondo, I have jumped" ("Nya le Kailondo, ngi wilia"). At the sound of his voice, Ndawa rushed out and cried "You have met Ndawa now" ("Bi Ndawa malea naa") and immediately they engaged in combat, each seeming confident of victory. Round and round they circled, their swords beating a wild tattoo on the ground as they waited for an opening. Suddenly it came, and Ndawa rushed in and dealt Kai a fierce blow on his right arm. Quickly changing his sword to his other hand, Kai smote Ndawa on his forehead making him drop his sword, but, refusing to take advantage of this, Kai threw his sword away, and the two leaders wrestled together. Although Kai's arm pained him, he managed to throw his adversary and falling on top of him, he cried out "Come, I have caught him" ("Awa, ngi houa"), but at that moment he was wounded by one Gboŋgiso, who in turn was wounded by Faba Təndo. Ndawa cried out to Kai, "Spare me, a famous warrior does not kill his fellow famous warrior" ("Ndakpεi gbe nya ma, Təwəgbua εε ngi mbaitəwəgbua wa"), whereupon Kai asked him, "If I spare you will you depart?" ("Nga gbe bi ma, ba lilə!"). Ndawa was forced to agree and that same morning he and his warriors left the town, but leaving behind in the hands of Kai, his wife Landawulo and his son Kpundε. Kai, however, mistrusted Ndawa and followed him and drove him across the Moa at Manowa and then returned in triumph to Ngiyehu.

Following on this victory, Kai called the chiefs to him at Ngiyehu, where he asked them to ratify their



promises to give him the country. Again, Bondo spoke for them and putting earth on the white cloth he said, "Since you have striven for us, the country is yours; we will never rebel against you" ("Kailondo, ji bi mu gbi magaoa, famia, bi wo lə a ndəlεi, muεε ganga abie kumafə va"). Each Chief in his turn swore his faith in Kai, and so it was that Luawa passed over into the hands of Kai. Before they dispersed, Kai distributed twenty slaves and spoils of war amongst the chiefs and each returned to his own town well satisfied with the outcome of it all.

Kai was thus left in peace at last to face the problems of the consolidation of his new chiefdom. On the site of Sakabu he built a new town, calling it Kailahun or "Kai's Town", choosing that position as most central in his chiefdom. He was "seized" of what is now Luawa, the three British Kisi chiefdoms; the Wunde, the Mafisa and Kama Chiefdoms in French Guinea; and Kisi Tenge, in Liberia. Kailondo then divided the country into sub-chiefdoms, which divisions remain until this day (Sierra Leone Studies, 14).

Mr. Aldridge, the first Englishman to enter his chiefdom about eight years after the events recorded, wrote this of him (The Sherbro and its Hinterland).

"Kailondo was a man of small stature but large intelligence, beloved of the people for miles around,
who used to speak of him...as their father. He was every inch a chief, with immense power and influence in the country...He had a very great objection to any ostentatious display either on himself or on any of his numerous wives...It was splendid to see him get into his hammock which was simply a country cloth tied at both ends to a pole, in which he was closely covered over by a coloured cloth. He was surrounded by a lot of his boys, who were very fresh and in the best possible humour and who raced along the path with him, all of them seemingly exceedingly proud of their chief, as well they might be. Men, women, girls, boys all followed in the wake, running, dancing, laughing, joking as they went along under the beautiful tropical vegetation and brilliant sunshine. It was a splendid sight to see so much happiness displayed by these people."

The reverence of his people for him continued throughout the whole of his life and even today he is spoken of in awed tones as if his influence still existed, as to their minds it undoubtedly does. The people of Luawa have been, and are, justly proud of him and to them he was the greatest of all warriors and chiefs.



It was on the 7th April, 1895, early in the morning that this great warrior passed away at Lukama, the home of his father. Serious complications had set in and death was eventually brought about by a severe attack of dysentry. The same night he was buried at Lukənə, and, as was their custom, his people placed about 12 in the grave together with many country cloths, brass bowls, and boxes. Kafula of Wunde and Fa Gbunde buried him, but when the latter had left for Kailahun, Kafula, thinking perhaps that he might return and take away the body, had it dug up secretly and conveyed to Sakona intending to have it buried there. But seeing some of Fa Gbunde's people there, the body was taken still further to Magbalu where it was buried in the presence of his mother's people. However, when the father's representative had departed, the mother's representative took the body again and this time brought it across the River Moa and buried it at Komalu, Kai's birthplace; for where the body was there also would be its spirit to bring many blessings.

In the language of the Mende people Kai "was finished". He was not only a great warrior, but also the founder of a state much of which remains to this day. He was a man of vision and according to his lights, a chivalrous fighter and a good friend to his people.

Speak of him today to any of the men who knew him and instant is their praise of him, a man who was "the darling of his people".

The Luawa Chiefdom today is one of the largest in the whole country and Kailahun its capital town increasing in size and importance, and as we walk through its streets today we remember Kai its Warrior and Founder.




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