Virtual Kollage: The pre-colonial political organization of the Mandingo ethnic group of the Gambia

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The pre-colonial political organization of the Mandingo ethnic group of the Gambia



THE PRE-COLONIAL POLITICAL ORGANIZATION OF THE MANDINGO OF THE GAMBIA
Introduction
The Mandingo ethnic group can be found in many parts of the West African sub-region, including Mali, Guinea, the Gambia and Senegal. In the Gambia, the Mandingo constitutes about 42% of the entire population, thus making them the largest in the country. They are believed to be the remnants of the descendants of former Malian Empire.

POLITICAL ORGANIZATION
The State Chief (Mansa)
A pre-colonial Mandingo state was made up of many villages. The highest political authority of the state was held by the Chief of the State called “Mansa”. The ultimate authority of the state resided with him. 

One of his major functions was to provide protection for the villages that fell within his state. His other functions were to adjudicate in disputes and to try very serious crimes.

He relied on the advice of his family, the Commanders of his army and selected village elders but the ultimate decision was his to make.

Head of Village
Several villages constituted a Mandingo state. Each of these villages was headed by Village Chiefs. The Village Chief was usually the oldest male descendant of the original founder of the village.

The Village Chief led the people in the performance of the traditional rites of the village. He also settled disputes among the members of the village.

The Village Chief was assisted by a Council of Elders. At Council meetings, important issues pertaining to the village were discussed. However, the final decision was left to the Village Chief to make.

Family Head
The lowest level of political authority among the pre-colonial Mandingo ethnic group was the Family Head. This position was occupied by the oldest surviving male member of the family. 

One of the functions of the Family Head was to settle disputes among the members. He had a major stake in matters of marriage of a family member. His input was very crucial in funeral rites taking place in the family compound.

SAMPLE QUESTION(S)
1. Describe the pre-colonial political organization of the Mandingo in the Gambia.

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