1849 was the birth year of a great leader who would help to change the future for her people in Seirra Leone. Madame Yoko’s birth name was Soma and she was a member of the Mendeland Gbo Chiefdom of Sierra Leone. Soma would officially change her name to Yoko during her Sande or initiation ceremony within her culture; she would also become known as a one of the most graceful dancers amongst her people. Madame Yoko would marry a man named Gongoima but would eventually leave the marriage. She would next marry Gbenjei Chief of Taiama; despite Madame Yoko not barring any children for Chief Gbenjei she was named his great wife and this title gave Madame Yoko Economic power. Sadly Gbenjei would die and Madame Yoko would take a third husband Gbanya Lango a powerful Chief of Mendeland. In 1875 Gbanya was incarcerated by British Colonial officials, Madame Yoko immediately appealed to Governor Rowe for the release of her husband. Governor Rowe was impressed with Yoko’s appeal and ruled to have Gbanya flogged then released.
Because of Madame Yoko’s noble actions Gbanya made her his head wife and begin involving her within the local governmental issues. Madame Yoko managed to gain economic power, political power and become a great influence upon the Mende society. She would become the leader of the women’s secret society, as the leader she made political alliances by marrying the younger women of the society into the families of the Aristocrats and persons of influence. In 1878 Chief Gbanya died and Madame Yoko would become the Chief of Mendeland. Using all of the political power she collected she was able to negotiate with the British to help protect and defeat her rival Kamanda. With the death of Kamanda Madame Yoko officially became Queen of Senegun. One of her first acts was to expand her territories as well as helped to suppress the Hut Tax Insurrection of 1898. The Hut Tax Insurrection was the fellow Chiefs of Mendeland opposing the taxes imposed on them by the British. Madame Yoko used the British government to help gain her position of power while suppressing the influence of Western missionaries and Christianity. She was able to remain in power until her death in 1906; many sources state that Yoko committed suicide to escape the reality of old age. This is a story of a woman who used her political intelligence to secure her lands and defeat her enemies. She became the ruler of her lands and helped to change the history of Sierra Leone forever. Madame Yoko, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Click Here to join our mailing list