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That 1788 Treaty and its still current ramifications

11 September 2020 at 04:07 | 1194 views

That 1788 Treaty and its still current ramifications

By Kortor Kamara, USA

The 1788 treaty between the original Krio settlers on the peninsula of Sierra Leone and King Naimbana of the Koya Temne, which purportedly ceded some lands and allegedly forms the foundational legal document and basis for establishment of the Freetown settlement has been the subject of litigation, legal interpretations by legal scholars and historians over successive generations.

According to the 1899 Chalmers Report, the colony initially originated from the purchase and subsequent cession of lands by King Naimbana to Captain John Taylor evidenced by the treaty signed on August 22, 1788.

Chalmers however further contends that “from the foundation of the colony down to the latest treaty made in 1895, the character of the Chiefs as the owners and sovereigns of territory and as independent contracting Powers is unequivocally and universally recognized”.

The most recent iteration of these settler claims, appears to be the press release notice of the filing of suit by the Krio Descendants Yunion
( KDY ) and Krio Community against the government of Sierra Leone.

While the recent KDY suit seeks to have the 1960 Provinces Lands Act declared unconstitutional and ultra vires the 1991 Sierra Leone constitution, the perennial sometimes adjudicated and latent issues of the legality of the original 1788 treaty, the question of whether Creoles are a “tribe” and what if any stumbling blocks prevent Creoles from acquiring and developing lands in the former protectorate require legal and historical disposition.

However, before addressing the current budding KDY litigation, it is necessary to peruse the historical record of prior litigations.

Specifically, the public relations efforts and litigation in London by the now defunct Settlers Descendants Union (SDU), to derail a united and coterminous independent Sierra Leone requires study and highlighting for uninformed current and future generations of Sierra Leoneans.

What was the SDU?

The Settlers Descendants Union (SDU) was a Creole-based organization, whose sole objective was the establishment of a separate independent country for the Creoles in the then colony of Freetown.

Membership was restricted to mostly the following six groups of settler descendants, viz: the original settlers of 1787; the Nova Scotians of 1792; the Maroons of 1800; Paul Coffee and members of his group from America in 1815; ex-slaves from Barbados in 1819 and liberated Africans from the high seas, the recaptives between 1810 and 1824.

Leadership of the Settlers Descendants Union (SDU), comprised its leader, J.C Zizer and its Secretary, E.J Macauley. However, following the deaths of both Zizer and Macauley in 1959, Dr Prince Gustavus Buck, the deputy leader assumed leadership of the organization.

In her publication titled “Crowning the work of Wilberforce “, Melanie Torrent discusses the activities and litigation strategies of the SDU and their various public relations petitions and resultant colonial office responses.

According to Torrent, the leadership traced their origins to the first settlers as follows: Dr. Prince G.E Buck was a great grandson of a Nigerian settler who had married in the colony; Jonathan Christian Lucan, SDU President, was a grandson of a Jamaican settler; Jonathan Michael Rose was a grandson of a Nova Scotian settler; Samuel Balogun Palmer , Eldred Williams and Jonathan Manuel Banjoko Thomas were descendants of liberated Africans from the high seas.

The organization became very prominent and virulent in 1956, following the realization that the British government was determined to proceed with independence for an amalgamated protectorate and colony in the present territory of Sierra Leone.

Thus, having failed to convince the colonial administration to have the colony separated from the country, the SDU changed tactics and resorted to the British courts in London for relief - to effectuate their separatist independence agenda.

In their 1960 lawsuit, which sought to have the proposed Sierra Leone independence constitution declared illegal, the SDU opined in their plea that “the fusion of ex-colony and ex-protectorate was a breach of the trust established in 1788 between the British crown and the African settlers, whose descendants should be entitled to their own government “.

The fact that the SDU based its legal position on the 1788 Treaty culminated in the colonial office issuing a dismissal of this assertion by stating that the British Crown was never a party to the 1788 treaty and could thus not be held accountable to its provisions.

The SDU case was finally disposed of with a dismissal at the English Court of Appeals in London in 1965.

Illustration: An artist’s illustration of King Naimbana or Naimgbana ( A corruption of My name is Gbana. Gbana is a shortened form of the name Gbanabome.)