By Osman Sankoh (Mallam O.)



In the heart of Sierra Leone’s most popular village of Warima in upper Koya Chiefdom, Port Loko District, eleven miles from Masiaka town (formerly called Mile 47) and 80 miles to Mile 91, Osman Sankoh’s life unfolded in the polygamous household of his father, Pa Alimamy Wusu Sankoh.

The Sankoh compound was an exciting community in itself, with five wives of Pa Sankoh living together — Ya Mabinty, Tha Kady, Tha Yeabu, Tha Fatu, and Tha Amie. The  titles “Ya” and “Tha” were commonly heard, signifying respect for the elder and younger women, respectively. Ya Mabinty, the eldest and first wife, held a special place in the family. Tha Iye, Osman’s mother, and Tha Yabom, had left Pa Sankoh.

Pa Sankoh, a tanker driver with other lorries in his ownership, brought apprentices and drivers into the fold. These individuals, along with their wives and children, also lived in the same Sankoh compound.

The complexity of relationships and connections in the Sankoh home painted a picture of affluence and unity.

Ya Mabinty took on the role of a nurturing figure, guiding the two boys of Pa Sankoh as other stepmothers joined in contributing to their upbringing after their mothers had left. It was an incredible shared responsibility which oftentimes does not go well in polygamous homes. Osman’s affection for Ya Mabinty therefore grew over the years, and he dedicated himself to her well-being until her passing in 2014.

Growing up in a polygamous home had its challenges, but Osman found love and support in usually unexpected places. The remarkable women in his life, stepmothers who handled the complexities of sharing a husband, his father, played crucial roles in shaping his character.

During Muslim festivities and lantern parades, when Pa Sankoh would generously buy clothes for his wives, jealousy would sometimes rear its head. To mitigate this, a unique dynamic emerged – several of the younger wives showed respect for Ya Mabinty. She often played the role of mediator, determining who should receive what from their husband during these special occasions. Ya Mabinty’s influence became a stabilizing force, tempering envy and fostering a sense of unity among the wives.

To gain her love and consideration, several of Osman’s sisters were named after Ya Mabinty, like Big Mabinty, Small Mabinty 1, and Small Mabinty 2. Each name reflected a connection to Ya Mabinty, creating a wonderful relationship that changed the conventional understanding of of mates.

A unique character in Osman’s childhood narrative was “Member,” a loyal male dog that played a protective role. Member was more than a pet; he was Osman’s guardian, ensuring that no one dared to touch Osman’s food even when he was left alone. His love for dogs is touchable even today.

As time unfolded, four decades after the passing in 1983 of Pa Sankoh, Osman’s sense of responsibility endured. He continues to care for his surviving stepmothers. He built houses for several of them in Warima.

Osman’s story and the legacy of Ya Mabinty’s strength and the respect she commanded continued to shape the narrative of the Sankoh family, creating a richness of love, respect, and the interconnectedness of a polygamous home. What a blessing it was! Osman heard about jealousy and rivalry in many others among the wives and children and suffering of children left behind by their mothers.


Copyright –Published in Expo Times News on Monday, January 29th, 2024 (ExpoTimes News – Expo Media Group (expomediasl.com)