History of Niani: Oral Account By Jali Banna Kanuteh

SunjataTune in to the illustrious history of Niani by the late Jali Banna Kanuteh on Tuesday. The griot master of Balafon player will narrate the founding story of Janjan Bureh, McCarthy Island or George Town. Jali Banna took us through a journey explaining how the founders of Niani settled there and the later disputes and battles that ensued in a four episode narration.

Jali Banna also did a single episode on the earliest settlers of Janjan Bureh. Natariko (our history) program which aired on Kairo Radio every Tuesday will relay part 3 and 4 of Niani history and also that of Janjan Bureh all day Tuesday.  Niani’s earlier Kings refused advancements by Burr Jollof to annex it. The resistance was captured in a famous Wollof song, ‘Niani Banyena’ meaning Niani resisted. A famous Mansa (King of Niani) who led many resistance against foreign invasion was Kemintang Camara. Below is a short account of Kemintang Camara’s life. Don’t miss the Natariko show with Suntou Bolonba Touray.

Kemintang Camara (1770-1844)

From 1834 – 1844, Kemintang Camara successfully kept out the British colonial traders and their Bathurst allies from his jurisdiction. He resisted British pressure to open up his state to the traders, missionaries and treaty seeking colonial officials. Kemintang maintained the independence of his people until his death in 1844. He opposed African Bathurst (Banjul) based traders who refused to pay taxes to him as much as he resisted the desire by European merchants and missionaries to set up base in present day Sami and Niani districts.

Kemintang was a great warrior of Niani in the Central River regions of the Gambia River who killed his uncle Namory Sabally King of Kataba to ascend to the throne. He soon proved to be a thorn in the flesh of the British because he also wanted to control the lucrative trade in the middle river in goods and products like wax, grains and imported goods. On several occasions he was forced to attack traders under British protection who encroached into his territory.

In June 1834, the tension came to boiling point when he ordered the arrest of the schooner the “Oro” at the Colonia port, one of the towns on the river side of his territory loaded with goods worth 600 pounds belonging to Saloum Jobarte, a rich Bathurst merchant. The merchants immediately came together and wrote to the authorities in Bathurst asking for assistance and protection from Kemintang.

Ndungusine the residence of Kemintang was situated about thirty miles inland from the river and two hundred miles from Bathurst (Banjul).

In the subsequent fight, Kemintang defeated the British force which attacked his fort at Ndungusine and became the undisputed ruler of upper Gambia. The British later sent one Mr. Sall as an embassy to Kataba and Ndungusine.



  1. Good oral history. Wish I had time to listen to all of it. May I request for a repeat version.

  2. Quite educative about the forgotten history of Niani. Well narrated

  3. Mohamed Njie

    This is great! We definitely need more,though it would be more guiding to know the date of broadcasting as well as the day.