Gambian village Chief takes up his post from Leeds

The new Nuimi Lamin Alkalo, Aboubacar Sanyang, took his new role whilst on a family visit to Leeds during Covid-19 lockdown, due to the death of Alako Malang Marong. We want to share this historical moment with others.

An Alkalo is the village leader or chief who has the role and responsibilities of making decisions which may affect the whole village. They also take care of the finances and welfare of the villagers ensuring everyone knows where they stand. They are the eldest male in the village so when the previous Alkalo passed away the responsibility was passed on to the next eldest man in the village. The Alkalo will always have a female leader who works with who is also the eldest woman in the village.

In the Gambia the Alkaloship often causes various problems and feuds among families and villagers, unlike Nuimi Lamin where the system is a peaceful and seamless transfer of power.

We interviewed Aboubacar Sanyang, the new Nuimi Lamin Alkalo, in Leeds UK:

He came on holiday (before Covid-19) and made sure he informed the former Alkalo. When he told him the Alkalo said “There is a chance you might not see me again.” After one month of being in UK the Alkalo passed away, which then meant he had to be the next alkalo because he is the next oldest male in the village.

He likes the fact that Leeds is clean and tidy and the way people socialise with each other. He’s happy that he was able to see his sons and daughters and also the majority of his family who are here. His favourite foods are Chicken Wings, Spaghetti Bolognese and Kebabs.

“A lot of the young black kids in the UK were born here, however their parents were born and raised in different parts of Africa. I want all the kids to never forget their origin and maintain a link with their heritage including their with their parents.”

He is looking forward to going home when airlines reopen. He said he has seen all of his family and seen the city Leeds. He thinks it’s about time he goes back now.

He was 25 years old when the Second World War started which was also the date his younger brother was born – 1939. He described how the village chief would come with white men and enlist the strong young men in the army by force. He describes whilst they were selecting which men were to go forward and join the army, a swarm of flies attacked them, but they did not hurt anyone from the village, only the white men. This allowed a lot of the young men to escape, however three men Kitabu Sawo, Kutubo Darboe and Sajaa Jata weren’t able to escape so were therefore taken to fight in the UK.

As the new Alkalo, he said that first and foremost he would like to unite the village when he got back as this is very important. Secondly, he would like to ban drumming on Friday and Monday nights if the other men in the council agree. Lastly, he would also like to create a border and install pegs between Nuimi Lamin and other villages because other villages sometimes cut down the trees without permission. He will then consult the council and if they agree, this change will be implemented.

We are writing this because we are descendants of Nuimi Lamin and want to share this unique history with the people of Leeds. Citizens of Nuimi Lamin have always been on the right side of history and fought for the freedom we all enjoy now.

Nuimi Lamin is a rural village located in Upper Nuimi District in the Gambia. Nuimi had a long trading history owing to its favourable geographical position. It had been a source of salt of people to the east and south east. By the 18th century, it became a centre for the Atlantic slave trade.

Nuimi Lamin is located in the northern part of the Gambia two miles away from Juffereh and James Island, a former slave island and a mile away from Tubabkolong where a battle took place in 1861 between British forces and the local religious leader (Marabou) and his followers.

Lamin It is made up of three clans Sawo Kunda, Sonko Kunda and Darboe Kunda who came together to form Nuimi Lamin.

Here are some historical facts about Nuimi Lamin

  • The 2 district Chiefs (traditional leader) hailed from Nuimi Lamin- Grandad Chief Sawo and Grandad Chief Dodo Sonko.
  • Our granddads Suntu Sawo, Kawsu Sawo and Bano Sawo were among the founding fathers of People Progressive Party (PPP). A party that delivered independence to the Gambia in 1965.
  • Men of Nuimi Lamin fought in the Second World War, sadly one of the great sons Kutubo Darboe died in action in France. He gave his life for our freedom.
  • From 1996, citizens of Nuimi Lamin stood with the United Democratic Party (UDP) and fought dictatorship in the Gambia until the man Yahya Jammeh was defeated in the 2016 elections by a coalition of 7 parties.
  • The sons of Nuimi Lamin, as part of the British armed forces, have taken part in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The current member of parliament-Hon Omar Darboe for upper Nuimi District hails from Nuimi Lamin.


This post was written by Sarata, Lolly, and Ramou Sawo

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9 Replies to “Gambian village Chief takes up his post from Leeds”

    1. Lovley piece of history shared I’ve been to The Gambi lovley piece of Africa

  1. Asalam alaikum warahmatullah wabarakhatuh. Thank you very much for this excellent and remarkable enlightenment you brought for all of us to benefit as a citizens of Nurmi Lameng village.
    You guys stands to be best tools for us and the future to uplift and maintain the statusco of our history.
    We are definitely proud of you guys. This proved to us that you will always be a signing stars in the sky directly reflecting your light to your Route Lameng and infact bored hopes that you will do more by coming together you all out there under one umbrella to showcases many engagement which gives Lameng its best name
    We once again appreciate your this gesture and prayers for ALLAH swt to bless you all with good health,Long life and happiness. Ameena. Thanks.

  2. Congratulations Ba Alkali May you Allah grant you long life good health and a lot of wisdom to lead your people.
    I am not a descendent of Nuimi but May I also humbly suggest the to the Alkalo to

    1. form a youth (men & women) task force funded by the village who will be sensitised, and empowered to champion the environment. They can in turn sensitise the culprits and spread the ideas to the neighbouring villages.

    2. Work with the village council/committee (both Gambia & diaspora) to encourage people to alternative ideas of earning a living as opposed to cutting trees.

    3. Finally if this is successful you not just the Alkalo but the entire village will become a blueprint & inspiration for the whole country.

    I was born in Brikama but parents from Kiang so I have seen how cutting trees affect communities where forests in both places have been cut to grass.

    May Allah reward you abundantly for your intentions to bring people together & save the environment.

  3. Wow, this is so enlightening. Eventhough I am in the Gambia, I feel a new sense of belonging to my home village of Nuimi Lameng. Kudos to those who penned down this brilliant exposè and look forward to another great article about successful citizens from Lameng.

  4. Regarding the cutting down of trees it should be put into place that anyone cutting down trees is reprimanded and heavily fined and ordered to replant a minimum of 100 trees as his/her duty imposed by the Alkalo.
    It’s well known that briquettes can be made from rubbish like charcoal, coconut husks, sawdust etc and compacted and these can be used for cooking instead of wood. I believe the Alkalo can introduce a tree planting exercise in his village and pass on the idea of briquettes and tree planting to other nearby villages.
    We as a charitable organisation in the Gambia see it as a way of going forwards not backwards. We have a few other ideas regarding development in the Gambia so you can contact us if you want progress.

  5. Congratulations Ba Alikali of Lamin Village. I am Darboe from Sika. Lamin village is only village that have this system and its works well. Keep it up

  6. wonderful piece if history The Niuminkas are very hardworking and dedicated sons of the Gambia.Congratulations to the new Alkalo, may Allah strengthen him.

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