Early life and career
Manga Sewa was born in Falaba, Solimana chiefdom, in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone to Yalunka parents. His father was a Yalunka chief of Solimana, a prosperous state whose capital, Falaba, was on the rich trading routes leading to the coast. Manga Sewa's father had a number of wives and dozens of children. In February 1884, the Mandinka army of Samori Toure swept down into north-east Sierra Leone bent on conquest. N'fa Ali, Samori's general, destroyed many villages in the Yalunka Kingdom and ultimately laid siege to the capital, Falaba.
The Yalunka held out for five months and, in the end, were reduced to eating rats and the boiled leather of their sandals and mats. Sewa finally sent his younger brother, Dugu, on a secret mission to obtain aid from the Kuranko people, but Dugu was captured and executed on a nearby hill in full view of his country-men. Some[who?] say that Manga Sewa lost heart and declared his intention to surrender, but that his son, Sewa Saio, insulted him so bitterly that he chose to take his own life. But others[who?] tell a different story. They say that Manga Sewa had a magical war gown called muunka-tinya — "waste of ammunition" — because no bullet could pierce it. The king could not be destroyed and would not surrender, and his people were ashamed to submit to the enemy. In this version, Manga Sewa took his own life to give his starving followers a chance to flee or surrender.
Manga Sewa called his elders, his wives and the community into the powder magazine and then plunged a flaming torch into the great barrels of gunpowder. An enormous explosion shook the town, and the Mandinka breached the walls and charged inside.
- Hargreaves, J.D. "Winwood Reade and the Discovery of Africa." African Affairs 56.225 (Oct 1957): 306-316.
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