King Nyagua: The Mende King From Sierra Leone Who Defied Orders From British Colonialists, Arrested For Treason And Sent Into Exile

In celebration of Black History Month, we celebrate King Nyagua, who was a wise, friendly and well respected Mende king who defied orders from British colonialists, thus making him one of the few independent kings of his time.

He covered much of the territory between modern Kenema and Sefadu in the Eastern province. By all indicators, he was a good king who reigned with strength and justice. He conquered many outlying districts to enlarge his domain, though some came under his control voluntarily.

King Nyagua built an impressive village called a village in eastern Sierra Leone, Panguma and would have a large number of slaves and even about four hundred wives. With the rise of the British powers in the hinterland of Sierra Leone, he realizes that he does not have the strength to resist. He, therefore, conform with the British on several occasions by signing many treaties of friendship, but saw himself as a friend and not a servant of the British. King Nyague was one of the few independent kings who felt he should be respected and he deserved to be a sovereign ruler.

When a travelling British Commissioner invited him for a meeting, which was abruptly organized without the consent of King Nyague, King Nyague refused to attend the said meeting. Upon hearing that King Nygue had declined the meeting with the British Commissioner, the British Governor at that time sent an order to King Nyague to conform to the orders of the British Commissioner, he replied that he must let his people know about it as custom demanded and he would not do anything that which his people had no idea about and agreed on. This bold and brave move by King Nyague had the British officials start to see him as arrogant and troublesome. Despite his friendly relationship with the British, on the opposite side, the British had a different but evil view of him. At the height of the 1898 hut-tax war resistance against the British led by Bai Bureh, the British colonialists ordered his arrest.

Upon his arrest, the wise King Nyague ordered his people of Panguma to keep calm for their protection. But his loyal and die-hearted followers couldn’t keep calm the flame of agony and distress, so they attacked the British colonialists. King Nyague alongside Bai Bureh was taken to the British colony of Freetown and charged with treason. He was later sent into exile.

After they had sent King Nyague on exile, the British officials attested to the fact that he had committed no hostile havoc, but they felt his influence and popularity among his people was too strong for him to remain king which would have been a thorn in the throat for the British colonialists. So they eliminate him by sending him to exile, which he never came back.

King Nyague was a man who put respect and love for his people before anything else. A King who insisted on dignity and respect from the British colonialists and the least they could have done was to respect his sovereignty. King Nyague will always remain one of the greatest and independent Kings and rulers Sierra Leone has ever had. He was very reluctant in taking abrupt and disrespectful orders from the British colonialists.

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