BY Emmanuel Kwarteng, 12:00pm September 27, 2022,

Kissi Kaba Keita: the African warrior who resisted French conquest

Man believed to be Kissi Kaba Keita. Photo: Facebook

Several countries on the African continent have experienced wars and invasions from European powers in one way or the other, especially in the 19th and mid-20th centuries. From the period of colonization to modernization, it is worth noting that Africans have and continue to endure varied treatment from these world superpowers. 

It was a great deal for chiefdoms and warriors to stand the test and defend their territory even with the last drop of their blood. 

Kissi Kaba Keita was a warrior and a chief of the Kissi tribe—identified as the fourth largest ethnic group in Guinea—who led his people to battle in resistance to the French conquest in 1892. He was able to unify numerous Kissi chiefdoms under his rule and withstand French occupation for a protracted period of time.

Suleimani Leno, a descendant of Fadaka, was the father of Kissi Kaba Keita. In order to establish his claim to the throne as a purported descendant of Sundiata Keita, he took on a Mandinka name. 

Kissi Kaba and Asana Leno, the son of Sépé of Korodou, came into direct combat as a result of throne-related intrigues. With the help of his adopted father Soulemani Savané, his accomplishments led to his coronation. As a result, he expanded his domain to include Soulemani Savané’s border. 

The Kurankos of Morige and the Leles of Yombiro were united under his rule. When forced into combat, he would assemble an army with divisions under the command of their place of origin; the Faramayan troops from his place of origin, divisions from Buye and Nbelto, and the Kurankos under Kourani-Sori Mara. 

Masa, Uri Mano from Bendu, and Bampo Tenkiano from Nende Lane served under his general Dawo Leno. He had mostly tried to conquer Bendu, Fermesadou, and Tenkin with this army.

He had to leave the largely independent chiefs of the various areas to defend themselves when the French invaded in 1892. Due to French technological supremacy, Kissi Kaba mostly used guerilla tactics. 

His men would hide near rivers or in woodlands and wait for French troops, then surprise them by attacking with the primary objective of kidnapping or killing the French officers. 

They would also destroy all liana bridges—a suspended bridge made from liana leaves—to impede the French advance. 

However, Kissi Kaba is believed to have surrendered to the French in 1893 after realizing his fight would be futile.

The French identified him as the northern Kissi territory’s chief as a result. But as his relationship with the French deteriorated, the French began installing his competitors in a number of his chiefdoms, and eventually, he was put to death at Siguiri.

The cremated remains of Kissi Kaba were finally transported from Siguiri, where the French colonial authorities had shot him, to Kissidougou in 1978—eighty-five years after his assassination. 

Kissi Kaba claimed to be related to Sundiata Keita, the ruler of Mali, despite being recognized as a Kissi (son of Suleimani Leno, son of Fadaka).

This relationship was recounted by some griots during the ritual for the return of his ashes. Other accounts said that Kissi Kaba was a descendant of Naré Maghann Konaté’s first son, Mansa Dankaran Touman. 

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 27, 2022


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