Almamy Suluku was a formidable Limba ruler who used excellent political strategy to keep his independence for as long as possible.
The Limba are Sierra Leone’s third most populous ethnic group, after the Mende and the Temne.
They are generally found in the northern half of the country, where they have been for hundreds of years. In fact, the Limba are the oldest inhabitants of what is now Sierra Leone.
According to Sierra Leone history, until recently, the Limba were one of the communities least affected by colonial and post-colonial development, and they were noted for their dedication to traditional values and traditions while opposing change or innovation.
Many African kings and queens have made significant contributions to history of the continent. Their incredible accomplishments and stories have made them formidable.
Ancient African kingdoms relied heavily on their warriors and military for safety and growth.
Many African kings and queens were formidable warriors and powerful leaders who wisely and strategically governed their people. Sierra Leone’s Almamy Suluku was one such ruler.
Almamy Suluku was the son of a Biriwa leader, a Sankailay. As a young man, Suluku became the Kurugba, or army commander, and Biriwa grew to be one of Sierra Leone’s largest kingdoms under his military leadership.
Born in 1820, he governed the Biriwa Kingdom and maintained his independence by political tactics for a long period.
When his father died, Suluku was crowned Gbaku (King) over a kingdom that now included about 10% of Sierra Leone’s hinterland.
Almamy Suluku, being a charismatic leader, was not satisfied with just territory, so he set out to make his country affluent as well.
Suluku was clever, as seen by the manner he managed politics in Sierra Leone during British control.
He’d express affection for one side while discreetly supporting the other. When warrior king Samori Toure and his Mandinka soldiers besieged Biriwa in 1884, for example, Suluku feigned to cooperate while “sending urgent letters to the British warning of a disruption in trade if the Mandinka did not evacuate,” according to Sierra Leone Web.
He encouraged the trade in gold, ivory, skins, and food that traveled through Bumban on its route southwest to Freetown, and he provided excellent police protection to the traders in his domain.
King Almamy, like Captain Tomba, despised the entire European slave trade and barred his subjects from participating in it.
His progressive reign impressed the British authorities in Freetown, and they sent him annual gifts during the 1880s as a mark of respect.
When Samori Toure’s Mandinka forces captured Biriwa in 1884, Suluku pretended to help while sending urgent signals to the British warning of a trade disruption if the Mandinka did not evacuate.
Suluku’s arguments were accepted by the British, who persuaded the Mandinka to leave Biriwa country.
As a result, whereas successive Sierra Leonean kings faced costly setbacks in useless military resistance, Suluku was able to rule solely via political tactics.
As British influence grew in the 1890s, Suluku pursued his own autonomous strategy while convincing the British that he was a faithful ally.
He sent frequent messages of friendship to the British Governor and royally entertained every British delegation that came to Bumban, but he did whatever he liked. Suluku’s duplicity was suspected by some lower-ranking commanders, but Freetown was assured of his allegiance.
When the 1898 hut tax insurrection erupted, Suluku dispatched warriors and weapons to Bai Bureh, however, when the British objected, he responded with a note expressing his support for their stance and offering his services as a peacemaker.
The British planned to divide Suluku’s kingdom into minor chiefdoms once the Protectorate was created, but Suluku’s followers refused to cooperate as long as the old Gbaku remained alive.
A British officer urged Almamy Suluku to pick his successor under the new and closely controlled colonial administration when he was quite old, instead he replied, “Suluku will never die”.