Who is Bai Bureh|the leader and ruler of Military Strategies born 1840

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Who is Bai Bureh|the leader and ruler of Military Strategies born 1840

Bai Bureh was born in 1840 in Kasseh, a village near Port Loko in Northern Sierra Leone. His first name, Bai, means Chief in the Temne language. Bureh’s father was an important Loko war-chief and his mother was a Temne trader from Makeni.

When Bureh was a young man his father sent him to the small village of Gbendembu in northern Sierra Leone, where he was trained to become a warrior. During his training at the village, he showed that he was a formidable warrior and was given the nickname of Kebalai which translates as ‘one who doesn’t tire of war’. When Kebalai returned to his home village, he was crowned ruler of Kasseh.

During the 1860s and 1870s, Bureh had become the top warrior of Port Loko and the entire Northern Sierra Leone. He successfully fought and won wars against other villagers and tribal leaders who were against his plan to establish correct islamic and indigenous practices throughout Northern Sierra Leone. In 1882, Bureh fought against the Susu people from French Guinea (now Guinea) who invaded Kambia, a town in northern Sierra Leone. Bai Bureh’s fighters defeated the Susu, pushed them back into French Guinea and returned the land to the local Kambia people. After winning several major wars, his popularity spread. The people of the north felt they had found a warrior who would defend their land. In 1886, Bai Bureh was crowned as the chief of Northern Sierra Leone.

The significance of Bai Bureh’s war against the British is not a matter of whether he won or lost the war but that a man who had none of what could be called formal military training was able to show that for a significant number of months he was able to take on the British who were very proud of their great military successes across the globe. The British troops were led by officers trained at the finest military academies where war is studied in the same way that one studies a subject at university. The fact that Bai Bureh was not executed after his capture has led some historians to claim that this was in admiration for his prowess as an adversary to the British.

The tactics employed by Bai Bureh in his fight against the British are very much the forerunner of tactics employed by guerilla armies worldwide. At the time these tactics were very revolutionary and he “succeeded” for the good reason he had expert knowledge of the terrain across which the war took place. Bai Bureh had pursued the war not just with sound military brain but also a sense of humour. When Governor Cardew had offered the princely sum of 100 pounds as a reward for his capture, Bai Bureh had reciprocated by offering the even more staggering sum of five hundred pounds for the capture of the Governor.

There is a very large Statue of Bai Bureh in central Freetown. He is pictured on several Sierra Leonean paper bills. A Sierra Leonean professional football club called the Bai Bureh Warriors from Port Loko is named after him.

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