The Monuments and Relics Commission (MRC), in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and other stakeholders, on Thursday 13th June 2019 proclaimed the gravesite of the hero of the 1898 uprising in Sierra Leone, Bai Bureh as a National Monument at a solemn and auspicious ceremony in Kassei Chiefdom in the Port Loko District at which event the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu Pratt, disclosed in her keynote address that President Julius Maada Bio is determined to make all Sierra Leoneans proud of tourism as one of the growth sectors.
She articulated that the country is losing millions in the tourism sector but is optimistic that when revived it would bring money and wealth, create jobs, infrastructural development, promote culture, encourage the people not to forget their history reiterating that tourism has helped develop the economies of many countries and recalled the recent Sierra Leone Investment Conference in London where a lot of people promised to invest in the country which means that Sierra Leone has to prepare for them and even to accommodate local tourists.
The Minister went on to assert that the Bai Bureh Memorial would attract a lot of people who have read his history but yet to visit his gravesite underscoring that the proclamation would send the message to the world that his grave is real adding that even students would visit the site to conduct research and that the ceremony would encourage others to invest in eco-lodges, guest houses, hotels as well as learn about Bai Bureh.
Dr. Pratt furthered that after the proclamation ceremony, the grave of Bai Bureh would be constructed and that locals would be taught his history while the chiefdom cultural groups would also be developed emphasizing that tourism goes with entertainment and culture and underscored the need for peace before development affirming that the monument would serve Sierra Leone and the world.
The Tourism Minister also commended the family of Bai Bureh whom she underlined have an important role to play and acclaimed the Paramount Chief for his passion for Bai Bureh disclosing that a public lecture on Bai Bureh would soon be launched.
The Minister also donated 3 bundles of roofing zinc and Le1 million to the family while the Proclamation Certificate was presented to the Paramount Chief.
Earlier, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Mr. William Robinson, who chaired the ceremony, described the day as great for the people to honour their son who challenged the British colonialists for not paying tax or consulting them on governance issues and guaranteed that Government would ensure his memorial is made a national issue.
The Paramount Chief of Kassie Chiefdom, Bai Bureh Sallu Lugbu II said the day is a great day in the history of the New Direction Government of President Julius Maada Bio, revealed that Bai Bureh died in 1908, that nobody cared for his gravesite until when he was elected into office in 2002 when he made efforts to construct it by appealing to the Monuments and Relics Commission.
He continued that in 2016, a committee was formed after which government declared his gravesite a National Monument and commended Government for honoring Bai Bureh who was not only a warrior in Kasseh but one who encouraged other Sierra Leoneans like Mansa Kama of Koronko land, Faomansa Matturi of Kono and Alimamy Suloku, a Limba man reiterating that the monument would serve the entire country.
The Paramount Chief of Kasseh Chiefdom enlightened that the reasons for the rebellion in Kasseh Kingdom at the time were general resistance to colonial domination of the protectorate and resistance against white colonial rule but that Bai Bureh did not kill missionaries.
According to Paramount Chief Bai Bureh Sallu Lugbu II, there were five districts in the protectorate at the time with two systems of administration headed by the District Commissioners and Paramount Chiefs but lamented that the latter were subordinates who were even arrested and jailed and that people from none Ruling Houses were appointed Paramount Chiefs.
The Chairman of the Monuments and Relics Commission, Mr. Charlie Haffner disclosed that he visited the village eight times before the ceremony and informed that a major road in Freetown was named after Bai Bureh, Bai Bureh Hall at Fourah Bay College, Bai Bureh Warriors Football Club in Port Loko District, the 1,000 Leones denomination with the portrait of Bai Bureh, the Bai Bureh Festival held in the district as well as the Bai Bureh Foundation.
He also described Bai Bureh as a symbol of unity, steadfastness and resistance and appealed to the people to safeguard his gravesite intimating that the Commission would discover more monuments and relics in the country to inspire the young generation to do more adding that the Commission would also sensitize the public about its functions and encouraged all to visit the museum to see the pictures and read the history of Bai Bureh.
Milton Kamara, who represented the family, revealed that Bai Bureh was an icon and that for recognizing him the family would repay President Bio reminding all that there are specific days to visit the gravesite and appealed to all to always consult with the family for the right thing to be done.
According to Milton Kamara, the British history of Bai Bureh is different from that of the family intimating that he commanded his sword when he was in the battlefield and disappeared thereafter.
Hon. Moses Edwin, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Tourism asserted that the Bai Bureh Monument would attract tourists.
Other dignitaries who made statements included the Resident Minister, North West, Haja Isata Kamara.
Highlights of the ceremony were traditional performances by cultural groups, pouring of libation at the gravesite and Proclamation of the Grave and Presentation of the Proclamation Statutory Documents to the Port Loko District Authorities.