Home Opinion Tomorrow is another day- Gambia Diary, Day 3

Tomorrow is another day- Gambia Diary, Day 3


_We get on the boat to St James Island. There is an Oyibo couple already seated. We exchange pleasantries and move on. The waters are calm, not as calm as my boat ride to Creek Town from the Marina in Calabar a while back but they are very calm, and the ride smooth. The River Gambia stretches across these parts too. We arrive at St James Island 20 minutes later, and our tour guide gives us a little talk. “The Portuguese came to The Gambia in 1456. This place you see (referring to the slave port) was three times larger. Initially, the Island was named after one of them – St. Andrew, but he died of pneumonia. The spot where this cannon is (he points to a different spot about two metres away) was where he was buried. “Trade was very good and word soon got round. The Latvians, (Baltic Germans) came in 1559, and then the British in 1661. They fought the Baltic Germans and won. The Island was then named St James Island, after James the Duke of York. The Island was later attacked by the French in 1779, but the French were unsuccessful. It was finally abandoned in 1829, years after the abolition of the Slave Trade in 1806. James Island is the final destination for slaves before they are trafficked abroad. Slaves are gathered from all over Africa transported to the Elmina Castle Gold Coast (Now Ghana) and sent on to St James Island. “Where we stand now used to be a storey building. The security occupied the top floor, and the ground floor was used as an admin block.”

We were shown what was left of the courtroom, the governor’s  office  and  other  top  officials.  All  this  serious business for the trafficking of slaves – human degradation in their own land…God dey!h And then, the most gruesome part – the dungeon where slaves were kept like sardines before they embarked on the journey to the unknown. This dungeon from my estimation could not have been more than 12m2. In this place were kept at least 50 slaves. In this place they ‘bonded.’ They ate…actually no, they barely ate. Water was passed to them through a hole that overlooked the corridors of the ones who forcefully governed them in their own land. In this place was their toilet and bathroom; many died from the stench of their insides.

_“We need to preserve this site,” our tour guide said. “The place is gradually being eaten by erosion. The Government is doing something about it, but not enough.” Perhaps for the first time I wished I was Government. Preserving this would take a whole lot more than viewing Banjul from top of the city gate. I also wished I had the cash. Alas I am not Government and I have no cash…at least not the kind of cash needed, but I can write the vision down and make it plain on tablets that he may run who reads. “I  wan stone these Oyibo people  wey dey here” a  visibly emotional Ndidi says. “Na dem cause am? They may be full of remorse you know,” I said to her. “In fact na true you talk my sista, wetin come happen to our people wey dey sell our peopleh?” She responds “Ohok…” I answer back.

We head back to the boat our countenance obviously very different from the way we came.  I start this chat about the tours with the Oyibos. We all agree that it’s an emotional experience. Apparently unlike us, this is their second time in The Gambia. They had been six years ago.

On our way back the Oyibo woman gives the little boy in the boat with us – a poor Gambian boy a bag of Harribo. I think that’s so sweet, the little boy is happy. He looks at her, she waves at him and he smiles. I think, how sweet, until my evil twin inside of me rears her head. “Yeah right…and one packet of sweets is supposed to make up for centuries of robbery in his land I think…. The Holy Ghost instantly rebukes me and I repent. Yes indeed… it’s a new dawn…

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