Sankanu’s exclusive audience with his Namesake the Grand Marabout of Gambissara



By Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu, Sotuma Sere, Jimara, URR, The Gambia

To keep my promise of promoting communal cohesion and emboldening our common “xawancha” bond, I spent two days interacting intensively with the current Grandmarbout of Gambissara, Alhagie Mpakay (Bubacarr) Conteh and his prominent spouse Haja Nana Hydara in their “xoje” compound.

Just like with President Jammeh, my access to Alhagie Mpakary (Bubacarr) Conteh was repeatedly blocked by nefarious people who believe that I have no right be in The Gambia or contribute my quota towards national development according to my conscience. They however forgot that the common bond between Gambiassara and Sotuma Sere communities are, despite some normal human irritations, stronger than political covenience or hypocrisy. Sotuma Sere and Gambiassara were one big settlement till 1933 when my visionary great grandfather, Fodie Sere Sankanu, decided to create a new progressive settlement in a strategic location between River Gambia and the Trans-Gambian Highlway on the south bank. 

I am legally named after the current Grandmarabout of Gambiassara Alhagie Mpakary (Bubacarr) Conteh for a very sacred reason! He is my extended grandfather and his spouces including Haja Nana Hydara are my extended grandmothers. When our ex-Jimara chief Hagie Kule Camara claimed that the man would not wish to see me on the eve of the last Presidential meeting at Gambiassara, I knew he was not telling the truth. Personally I know I can meet Alhagie Mpakary Conteh whenever I am ready as long as he is not too ill, sleeping, travelling or in mediation.

To prove it, on Saturday July 6, 2013 I left Sotuma Sere for Gambiassara and straight into the “xoje” compound of the Grandmarabout. I met his son and aide Sara Conteh who is my extended uncle. He welcomed me and went inside. Within minutes he came out and told me to meet the Grandmarabout. I passed by helpseekers and other commoners waiting under the veranda and in the public audience room and went straight into his private chambers. The symbolism and value can be compared to a visit to the Pope in Rome when he welcomes you into his private chambers.

As part of the usual pleasantries, I asked about the health of his eyes. He said they are fine now. The last time I visited him in Kanifing when he came to the Kombos for eye treatment we could not talk much when tycoon Basiru Jawara stepped as I was exchanging greetings with the Grandmaroubt. I decided to give him priority to be with the man and I left. His eyes are healthy now but he uses darks eyeshades to control the sunlight.

The Grandmarbout said it was indeed a very long time since we sat quitely and chatted. I said yes. I told him, since returning to The Gambia people have been blocking my access to him and President Jammeh. He then told me “you are free to meet me even after midnight!” I felt very much honoured. We had a very intensive family exchanges and I was impressed by his sharp memory with the way he was asking about my expansive clan members from my grandfathers down to my generation.

My visit was meant to refresh, renew and further consolidate the historic common bonding between the descendants of our three great men of Sarahuleh nobility and sprituality namely, Fodie Musa Conteh of Gambissara, my maternal grandfather Hafiz Alhagie Muhammed Sirakoli Touray and my paternal great grandfather Fodie Sere Sankanu of Sotuma Sere.

Alhagie Mpakary asked if I still practise journalism for a living and what happened that am not  on TV.  I told him I stopped the classic media practice. I just do social commentary as public intellectual. I am more into behind-the-scene work of the film business that has TV components too. It is were other countries I would be on TV as well.

I am in the Gambia to contribute my quota towards national development but I am facing a lot of envy, sabotage and blockade. I am also one of the most misunderstood prominent Gambian intellectual celebrities alive. Those who oppose Presdent Jammeh are creating the false impression that I sold my soul while some of the people in the Jammeh system, both APRC party and Government machineries, are thinking that I will take their jobs and privileges. So I am being made to smell blood. Alhagie Mpakary Conteh then told me “have no fear! You are named after me. Tell them that.” I thanked him and added that I am a Sankanu Kagoro warrior Prince. Fear is NOT part of my DNA. He added that “Jammeh’s Government is your Government too. Treat it right and…”

From the private chambers of Alhagie Mpakary Conteh, I moved into the beautiful living room his prominent spouce Haja Nana Hydara. I do call her “mama”, Sarahulleh for grandmother and she calls me “nkina”, Sarahulleh for, my husband. Her daughters call me “mpaba”, Sarahulleh for, my father. Alhagie Mpakary himself calls me “toxora”, Sarahulleh for namesake.

Haja Nana was very pleased to see me after such a long time. She did not like the fact that I am no longer with GRTS or the Jammeh Government. After narrating some background facts, I told her, my fear is betrayal. With the kind of attitudes in The Gambia, it is very difficult for one to perform well in public office. If your colleagues do not drag you into their infights, your detractors will be calling you names or you will be having undue interference from your superiors. I am just pleased that I have NO problem with Presdient Jammeh and all the difficulties am facing are part of a learning curve since being a pioneer is not an easy thing in life.

Haja Nana Hydara still wondered why I am not back on GRTS screen since my return to the Gambia on March 08, 2013 with all my natural competence for that field. I just told myself the Gambian free-to-air TV market is closed from free market competition. If not by now I would have been an anchorman for alternative TV stations operating in the domestic market. One is for now at the mercy of the current monopolist when dealing with the local television content development matters.

Wen I told her that I will be returning to Germany in the last week of July. She asked, what for? I told her I need to be shutting between Gambia and Germany and since my time is being wasted, it is normal that I fly out to take a break.

She said I am from a very good family and noble background. No matter how much I try to go astray or wayward, the baraka blessing and nobility will always pull me back into the fold.

She then told her aides to give me lunch. The food was very delicious and I could not resist thanking and flirting with the beatiful lady who cooked the meal! Haja Nana and I had a very rich grandmother-grandson day of interaction. I was treated with due respect as genuine Prince from the House of Sankanura-Kagorta and at the same time pampered as a grandson.

She thanked and prayed for me when I wanted visit the new Jimara district Chief Kawu Banta Tunkara,. She said it was unfortunate that I was betryed, blocked and sabotaged out of the last Presidential Dialogue With the People Tour. They were expecting me on the day of the Gambissara meeting.


As I and my adies reached the compound of the new Jimara district chief, Kawu Banta Tunkara I was taken  into a big and beautiful parlour. Yes my Sarahulleh people are not just building houses in the Kombos, they putting up faboulous villas and storey buildings in their rural Upper River Region (URR) settlements with unique designs. The era of monotonous line houses for renting and simplicity seems to be over.

We later moved from the storey building into a traditional hut due to some customary values I won’t explain here! It was prayer time, we went to the nearby mosque and prayed. On our way back, I called one of my uncles in Angola who is an ex-school mate of the chief so they could speak on the phone.

We went back into the hut and had great discussions. We emphasied on the common bonds between his Tunkara Kusata and our Sankanu Kagoro lineages dating back to the days of the ancient Ghana Empire as well as Gambissara and Sotuma Sere. I assured him of my full support and loyalty based on the tuth, reason, conscience and principles.  I told him I am a fighter for the just cause and would not wait to fight for him in the name of justice and reason. I then left the chief and his people to concentrate on the preparations for his inauguration the next morning.


It is just unfortunate that the inauguration of Kawu Banta Tunkara on Sunday July 7 was wasted by the lethargy on the part of officials and the general Gambian lack of respect for time. The event that was to start in the morning, ended of being a late afternoon one. The URR (Upper River Region) Governor Alhagie Omar Khan, the Chieftaincy Affairs Minister Momodou Aki Bayo and their delegates arrived very late.

When I entered Haja Nana’s living room in the morning of the chief’s inauguration, she called the URR Governor to know the exact time. He said around 2 PM instead of the morning. So we waited. Haja Nana, her daugthers and aides were busy doing  backup preparions. I was being pampared as a Prince and the only male in the team with the exception of some interruptions by people coming to greet or seek help.

When it was close to 3 PM, Haja Nana told her daugther Maimuna to call the URR Governor again and pass her the phone. It was her third call to the URR Govenor that day. Gambissara and Basse are just 14 kilometres apart and the journey takes less than 40 minutes but the officials were no where to be seen. People suspended their farm activities and were kept waiting for hours for no sensible reason.

Haja Nana Hydara told the URR Governor that the Grandmarbout wanted to take his siesta but he has been waiting for him longer than planned and he is tired. As usual the URR Govenor said they coming. As we waited again, Haja Nana and I started to joinly count the hours in a lovely grandson-grandmother style. I told her a lot of money was wasted by the lost of time since time is money.

After 4 PM the URR Governor, accompanied by the Chieftaincy Affairs Minister and other officials floaded into Haja Nana’s living room. They were served good food. I greeted the URR Govenor and introduced myself as SANKANU.

As the people were taking food, the clouds were turning black and windy. Heavy downpour was on the way. The URR Governor Alhagie Omar Khan got up and started telling people in the Wolof language “let us go, it is raining.” I shook my head, looked at him and told msyelf: why this last-minute actionism when you had 6 hours of good time, clear skies and motivated crowds to make the event a success!

The peoe ran out. Haja Nana and I waited but we later sprinted out into our vehicles and drove towards the chief’s compound. Upon arrival we remained in the vehicles due to the rains and followed the events from inside. The flag was hoisted and everyone sang the national anthem. As the rains stopped, we stepped out. I held Haja Nana hand and her dauthers surrounded us. Status indeed counts in our society. Imagine the scene of Prince Williams or Harry of the UK holding the hands of Queen Elisabeth II accompanied by female royals and walking into a public event. This was how were were looked at and treated. Praise singers and help seekers were saying all sorts of nice things to us.

When reached th canopied areas, Haja Nana and her daugthers and sat.  A paramiltary officer recognized me. He shooked my hand and gave me a very good place to seat but I left with an elderly man who wanted to sit down. I stood and was well protected. The politicians and other officials gave their usual boring speechs. People lost interest and were complaining to me in Sarahulleh that since in the morning, the waited and waited only to be washed wet by the rains. They did their best but the officials from Basse or Banjul did not respect time and local organizing efforts.

Later Haja Nana Hydara wanted to patronize the various praise singers, cultural groups and help seekers with cash donations but for security reasons we dropped the idea. I told one of the wondering peoples, “ we told you to line up or give us space but you did not listen. We are going back home with the bulk cash. You are not lucky today…”


When it  was time to pray Zuhr on the day of the inauguration of the chief, I went into the house of the Grandmarabout as advised by his spouce Haja Nana Hydara. The Grandmarabout was sitting in the public audience area surrounded by his brothers and heads of the various branches of their Conteh clan. They alreaday prayed. Guest and helpseekers were coming and going.

I entered and greeted. I was immediately recognized and asked to be seated. I sat near the Grandmaroubt. One of his younger brothers who was in the Democratic Republic of The Congo with my late father recalled the old days and said I was a kid then.  We exchanged plasantries and many strangers were surprised by the way I was feeling free in the company of men of high status.

As the exchanges deepened, the subject of that commentary on my Sarahulleh people came up. I told them what  I told Sara Conteh, the son of the Grandmarobut, before: that I am an intellectual and social critic who does not shy away from taboo topics. I have no control over the way people interpret my sayings and writings. Some hypocrites who are determined to  cause  discord will just pick one or two things and exaggerate them.

The Grandmarabout then told me he heard that I dropped “BUBACARR” from my name. I told him “toxora”, Sarahulleh for the person one is named after, I took out my passport and  showed it to him. I also showed it around and asked the people who could read to say the written names “PRINCE BUBACARR AMINATA SANKANU” loud and then did. I told him I am proud of being legally named after him.

I told the Grandmaraoubt “you see, most of the things you people hear about me and my crazy writings are exaggerated lies.” I just modified my names to refect my true personality. I am according to credible research into my genealogy, a pure “Kagoro, Tunkanleme”, or Prince. The “Aminata”  which is the first name of my biological mother represents the African matrilineal heritage that I am proud of.

The Grandmarabout then told me “the nature of your profession requires you to speak the inconvenient truth and pose tougher questions to leaderships of societies and nations….!!!!”

The assembled elders momoured in agreement. This statement from Grandmarabout Alhagie Mpakary (Bubacarr) Conteh, does not just CLOSE the debate on my that commentary but furrther serves as spiritual endorsement of my uncoventional braincells and intellectual craziness!


In the evening while waiting for my people to collect me, I had another intensive one-one- chat with Sarah Conteh, the son and close aide of the Grandmarout. I told him Gambissara badly needs a new and bigger multipurpose complex as the “sangabera” that is being used for presidential gatherings is no longer convenient. Even the space before the compound of the new Jimara district Chief Kawu Banta Tunkara is tight.

I added that money is not Gambissara’s problem. It has one of the largest concentration of silent millionaires within our wealthy Sarahulleh communities. They just need people with the will, vision and smartness to see my proposal through. Sarah Conteh agreed with me and explained some of the obstacles involved but they can be addressed if the wealthy sons and daugthers of Gambissara endorse my idea.

Sarah and I also reviewed my participation in the last Presidential Dialogue With The People Tour 2013 and how I was betrayed and blocked. He said I should not have allowed that. I told him and am still new in this country but am a fast learner. He said they were expecting me the compound of the Grandmarabout on the day of the Gambissara leg of the Presidential tour.


He added, the fact that my “toxora” the Grandmarabout of Gambissara Alhagie Mpakary Conteh met me twice without protocol, appointment and unecessary delays confirms my relevance, importance, social standing and how much he and his family hold me in high esteem. I thanked him and asked him to once again extend my sincere gratitude to the Grandmarabout, his spouce Haja Nana and everyone else.


I arrived at  our compound in my Sotuma Sere community after Magreb prayers. My mother told me she was worried that I could have fallen victim to the machinations of wicked people again. I told her I was in very good hands this time. She thanked God.


Xa Nawari




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