Yoko (c. 1849–1906)

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Yoko (c. 1849–1906)

Queen of Seneghun. Name variations: Madam Yoko; Madame Yoko. Born in 1849; died in 1906; married the leader of Sierre Leone (died 1878).

Yoko, born in 1849, was the head wife of her third husband, a powerful chieftain for the Mendeland. In this position, she became involved in local government issues. When her husband died in 1878, Yoko took his place as chief. She used her clout to build local alliances and proceeded to develop a large confederacy. Yoko then negotiated for protection from the British. With their help in the late 1880s, she destroyed her main political rival, Kamanda, the final hurdle in her ascent to power. After Kamanda's death, Yoko officially became queen of Seneghun, in Sierre Leone, West Africa. She then extended her territories, once more employing support she had garnered from the British after she had helped quench the Hut Tax insurrection in 1898.

Yoko, one of only a handful of women who owed their position to the British government, managed to reach that status despite her aversion to missionaries and her refusal to convert to Christianity. She continued to wield power through politics and some minor warfare and remained the dominant figure of the Kpa confederacy. In 1906, when she died, it was rumored that she had committed suicide because she was unable to face growing weak with old age.

Susan Wessling , freelance writer, Worcester, Massachusetts