Written by Hadi Bah    PDF Print E-mail
Falaba, Koinadugu District was a favorite destination in the 19th century
News - Discover Sierra Leone

Falaba, the capital of the Sulima Chiefdom in Koinadugu District, Northern Sierra Leone was a favorite destination for explorers, diplomats and traders during most of the 19th century.

Situated at a major crossroads through which cattle, gold and hides must pass on the way south to market, Falaba became important to British colonial officials anxious to keep trade routes to Freetown open. In 1822, Alexander Gordon Laing was sent on an embassy to Sulima by Gov Charles McCarthy. Following the Rokel River due North, he acquainted chiefs along the way of Britain's good intentions and desire for open trade routes.

William Winwood Reade with financial and logistical assistance from Gov Arthur Kennedy was the next envoy to Sulima in 1869. When he returned to Freetown, he urged British officials to extend stipend payments to more chiefs in order to keep the trade routes open. Reade made two trips to Falaba in 1869.

blydenIn 1872, it was the turn of former Liberian Statesman Edward Wilmot Blyden to visit Falaba on behalf of the Freetown government. Blyden's route took him through Limba and Susu country in Kambia and Koinadugu Districts. Upon his return to Freetown, Blyden not only impressed upon British officials the importance of the stipendiary payment system to chiefs, he also urged the colonial government to build a railway line to Falaba. Blyden figured that the commercial benefits derived from trains moving goods and passengers could bring an end to the inter-tribal wars that plagued Sierra Leone's interior at that time.

In 1879, J. Zweifel and M. Moustier, French explorers on the way to the head of the Niger River (also known as the Joliba) passed through Falaba.

Falaba remained important to Britain throughout the 19th century and was the headquarter town of the Koinadugu District until 1896. After Britain ceded Heremakono then in Sulima territory to French Guinea in boundary treaties, the district headquarter town was moved to Koinadugu, a village in Sengbe Chiefdom.

Today, Kabala is the capital of the Koinadugu District. Falaba, universally made famous when an Elder Dempster Lines ship of the same name bound for Sierra Leone was sunk by a German submarine in 1915, has been relegated to a distant shadow of its glorious past. Most of the town, surrounded by its defensive perimeter of majestic cotton trees had to be rebuilt after burning and pillaging Revolutionary United Front rebels passed through during Sierra Leone's civil war.

Falaba is in one of the most economically depressed regions in economically disadvantaged Sierra Leone.

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