The Sierra Leone Web


(ca. 1540)

Farma Tami was a great warrior and is regarded by the Temne people as their founder. He is said to have organised the TemneFarma Tami into strong kingdoms and established their importance in the country. According to tradition, Farma Tami came from the east with a great army, conquering and destroying all opposition in his advance, until he reached the estuary of the Rokel River. He established his capital in what is now Koya Chiefdom at the town of Robaga, near modern Freetown. Temne elders say that Farma Tami ruled when there were still no guns or swords—only spears, shields, knives and bows and arrows.

Historians tell us that Farma Tami was one of the leaders of the Mane invaders, probably ancestors of the modern Mandinka, who came in the early 1500s with advanced concepts of government, elaborate chiefly rituals, and improved methods of weaving and iron manufacture. The Mane soldiers wore fearsome war shirts covered with feathers and fetishes. They carried spears, bows and arrows, knives strapped to their upper arms, and shields made from tight bundles of reeds. The Temne elders still recall that Farma "taught people the art of war", and they still regard the town of Robaga as a sacred place. Indeed, every paramount chief in Koya must make a pilgrimage to Robaga and the shrine of great Farma Tami.


(ca. 1650-1720

Mansa Kama was a great Koranko warrior who led the first major push of the Koranko people into the heart of present-day Mansa Kama Sierra Leone. He was the founder of Kamadugu, formerly a chiefdom and now part of Sengbe Chiefdom in the Koinadugu District, and of Kholifa, which constitutes a chiefdom in today's Tonkolili District. Mansa Kama's dynamism is largely responsible for the Koranko influence found among the Temne of Tonkolili today.

Mansa Kama lived from about the mid-16th to the early 17th century. He is said to have been descended from Sundiata Keita, a ruler of medieval Mali in central West Africa, and was a member of the Kargbo clan (another name for Keita). Mansa in most Mandinka-related languages means ruler; and the name "Kama," meaning "elephant," was given to him because he was a great hunter and killer of many elephants. His real name is believed to have been Yira.

Towards the end of the 16th century, Mansa Kama moved into the extreme northeast of the Sierra Leone interior from Sankaran country in what is now the Republic of Guinea. He travelled with an alfa (Islamic scholar, charm-maker and teacher) of the Sesay clan. He stayed for a while with Mansa Morifing in Morifindugu before moving southwards with Morifing's blessings. He next stopped close to the northern reaches of the Rokel River where he founded the town of Kamadugu, named after him (dugu is a suffix meaning "town," usually added to the name of the founder).

By the end of the 16th century, Mansa Kama had fought his way from Kamadugu to reach the coast. He finally returned northwards to make a new base at Rowala at the centre of what became Kholifa country. There he stayed as a ruler of this new Koranko country until his death. He is said to have returned periodically to Kamadugu where his son, Momori Kalko, founder of Kalkoya, one of the oldest towns in Kamadugu, still ruled. When Mansa Kama died, he was buried at Rowala where he left all his charms and regalia of office.

About the 19th century, the Temne took over Kholifa, and they have retained a strong Koranko strain in their culture at Kholifa to the present day. They have also retained the name of Mansa Kama as the title of their traditional ruler, whom they call Masakma, a fitting tribute to this powerful and adventurous early leader of the Koranko.